Santa Cruz, Guatemala in April 2015
After just a 3-hour flight from Houston, we arrived in Guatemala City!
Then a driver, hired by the lodge, took us on a 4-hour drive to Lake Atitlan. Andres met us with the boat for a 20 minute ride across the choppy lake where we recognized the exotic looking lodge we'd seen pictured on the Groupon site! Yes, a Groupon deal brought us to this incredible hideaway!
A Welcoming Staff
Mary in her festive outfit, met us on the dock when we arrived. She gave us fruit drinks and a tour while Andres and another staff member carried our bags to the room. During our 3-night stay we were continuously greeted with smiles and warmth and lots of Spanish! Rudy, (pictured right) was the only employee who spoke English quite well. He was a gracious and intelligent host. We listened to his stories about growing up in East Guatemala, where many still don't appreciate or even acknowledge their Mayan roots. His enthusiasm for the culture made us even more eager about what we might learn in our 2 week adventure.
Sheba was the sweetest hotel dog you could ask for. She was sleeping outside our room when we arrived.
The other "animal" that guarded our door, was less friendly. The odd, wooden creature startled me a few times when I opened the door and spotted him! And speaking of doors... we had a great carved one for Room #5. Our room was called The Quetzal Room and the carved bird on the door was as close as we ever got to seeing Guatemala's National bird. I think you have to go to a special reserve to see one. The tiny splash of yellow you see hanging from the door knob is a carved jaguar head. You have to love a place that gives you little masks to use as DO NOT DISTURB signs!
Piece of Eco-Heaven!
I'm thinking we got the best of the 6 rooms! I liked being on the third floor with the best view and a vaulted ceiling. The interior made me feel rich and pampered, but it was all guilt free luxury! The adobe walls, (made from local clay) kept the room temperature cool. The curtains, bed runner and pillow shams were woven by residents of the nearby Mayan village. The lampshade was made by locally produced maize and the clock was water powered.
The room was spacious and the the bed and linens were comfy. There were fresh flowers in a vase and a pitcher of filtered water with a weighted, cloth cover to keep the flies out. (That was our only bug issue)
Only 1 Complaint
The bathroom was roomy and clean, with double ceramic sinks and a large shower with solar heated water. There were fragrant botanical soaps and shampoos with oils of citrus, mint and lemongrass. But once again, I must gripe about the big glass window from the bathroom into the guest room. (You can spot it in a previous photo) This trend in the last 15 years drives me nuts. I guess I should start packing a little travel curtain.
This photo only shows half of our fabulous balcony. There was a desk on the other half. I could have lived out here. We actually moved the couch and table so it faced outward to enjoy the view. We did move it back before checking out, since our housekeeper was rather tiny and I pictured her trying to move it herself!
Keeping an Eye on Things
Men at Work
I loved the balcony with its peaceful lake and mountain view, especially at sunset. But I was just as delighted by the people viewing! Just around the dock and palapa was a pathway that followed the lake's edge towards the village of Santa Cruz. We saw the staff arrive early morning on foot. We watched the egg man arriving with his basket of eggs and a white dog at his heels. We watched a shuttle boat pull up to pick up some children who live nearby, to take them to school.
We also watched various other workmen. Luckily I was entertained by the men repairing the pool and didn't care that we couldn't use it. It was a funny shaped pool and a funny way of working with buckets on ropes, emptying the old pool water into the lake. I loved watching el cayuko (hand carved boats) in the early morning when the water was calm. We saw numerous fisherman using nets and cages and even their own hands.
There were lots of other hotel areas where we could relax, but we made little use. The area above the dining room had chess boards and sitting areas and even a large flat screen TV with DVDs. But we never had time.
It's hard to tell in this photo, but the table and hammock area was built at the highest part of the hotel. I tested the hammock for a while, but I did not test the 2 nearby pieces of exercise equipment. I shut my eyes so the equipment couldn't make me feel guilty as I swayed.
During the day, the bar and cafe was all open air with a pleasant breeze.
At night the staff pulled down the glass windows and tossed wood into the stone fireplace. It was pretty cozy eating beside the cracking fire.
I've never had breakfast by candlelight, but the flickering flame was supposed to keep the flies away. I was just glad there were no bees or mosquitoes.
Burning the Calories
We actually burned our calories before breakfast. The sun came up early and we made use of the hiking trails around 6 am. First we headed up the stone stairs and then up into the private reserve area above the lodge. It was a good hike for those of us used to sea level strolls. But there was a reward waiting!
Time to Rest
There were amazing views to reward hikers! Hazy mornings made it hard to see the volcanoes across the lake, but they were there.
On the third morning our legs muscles rebelled and we had breakfast first. Then Don made use of Lake Atitlan for some swimming. And I made use of the dock... for sitting. After 3 days, we were relaxed and ready to take on a less luxurious "family stay" for the major portion of our 2 week trip.
All in all, I will remember the unique feel of Laguna Lodge... a relaxing resort, the size of a B&B! A Groupon lured us the first time. Our memories will have to bring us back!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!