Thursday 6 August 2015

Restaurant Reviews: Guatemala

Guatemala was one of the highlights of the Mayan Explorer tour we took with Kuoni, but our journey in the country end in the most comfortable way. We had been warned that the road would be bumpy but as we travelled through a small town we saw that the road... ended. Instead there was a dirt track with huge stones and pot holes and we spent about an hour and a half bumping up and down on the most uncomfortable journey I have ever experienced! The relief when we got to the border crossing - and a proper road - was wonderful, but the whole experience was worth it.

Tikal National Park

We visited Tikal National Park, the ruins of an ancient city 575 square kilometres big. There are apparently thousands of structures in the park; from a distance many of the buildings are surrounded and partly hidden by trees which make it very atmospheric. We had a guided tour which even included covering some of the distance between temples in an open-topped jeep but the paths are easy to walk along.

Temple I cannot be climbed any more (the steps are quite worn away and in the past there were a few accidents) but you can ascend Temple II - which luckily has a proper wooden staircase with handrails. It's a fair climb - 124 feet- but it's easy to stop and catch your breath and the view from the top is great.

 Temple III is another one that you can't climb and if I recall correctly is partly covered by the jungle - but it's Temple IV that is really the one to see. Known by Star Wars fans as the Rebel Alliance base:

Image result for star wars temple iv

 It was quite something to be able to stand in the exact same spot and take the same photo! Here's a slightly closer-up view:

Again there are wooden stairs with a handrail so it was a much easier climb than I was expecting; it's incredibly high at 212 feet and once you're at the top, there's a wide ledge - ledge isn't really the right word as there is plenty of room and you can stay well back from the edge if you are nervous (with solid rock behind you because you are not literally on the top of the structure). This temple is thought to be the tallest erected by the Mayan people.

There were other temples and structures to see; we saw a few brave people climbing one but then really struggling to get down again, no wonder when the steps were worn away and looked like this!

Tikal is near the coast so is popular with cruise ships (or so I've read); by road it's a fair way from any of the other main tourist sites but it really is a must-see.

We had lunch at a restaurant on site, I didn't get its name. It was a set meal for our group, of chicken and gammon, flour tortillas and rice followed by banana cake and tea or coffee. We were all very hot when we arrived so were glad to be given wet flannels by the attentive staff!

We spent two nights at this hotel that was probably the best one we stayed in during the tour (though that isn't saying much) - it was a nice looking hotel with different areas to explore including its own docks and a free sunset boat tour.

There are a lot of steps - I can't vouch for whether they have disabled access but to get down to the pool (which we didn't use) or the boat there were several steep flights of steps. There were several power cuts during our stay but they only lasted a couple of minutes each.

We ate in the restaurant both nights since we didn't have transport; service was very slow both times.

One evening there was a group of about 20 people (a private party) outside, and only 5 couples inside, and it took 40 minutes before we got our drinks and an hour after ordering before we got our food – even though the big group had already been served their food when we ordered. The serving staff seemed far more interested in them than they were in us.
The food was quite posh, with small portions, but in terms of quality a bit hit and miss. For our first dinner, m boyfriend had beef medallions with chipotle sauce and I had fish wrapped in a plantain leaf with a sort of tomato salsa on top, with two tiny pieces of potato and some tiny pieces of vegetables.

They didn’t have a printed dessert menu but told us they had chocolate cake, apple pie, cheesecake or crème caramel. My boyfriend had the chocolate cake which turned out to be a chocolate fondant with melting middle which looked nice though he said it tasted like it was out of a packet. I had the cheesecake which was a small circle and tasted very good. The bill came to US$70 (£45) including tip and two glasses of wine, making it one of our most expensive meals. on this tour.

The fee one hour boat trip around the lake to watch the sunset which is really nice. I think it was at 6pm though we were late starting as a group - the ones who we would later see eating in the restaurant - turned up gradually and the boat waited for them all. There isn't a vast amount to see on the lake but the sunset is beautiful and you can buy drinks on board.

Our second dinner in the hotel restaurant was OK but nothing special,;y boyfriend had grilled chicken with rice while I had chicken enchiladas.

He had the chocolate fondant again for dessert (mainly through lack of choice for anything else he wanted) and I had the tres leche cake which is a cake soaked in condensed milk; it was quite nice but very, very sweet.

Breakfast was OK, we had a choice of fruit or juice, and eggs or pancakes, and the pancakes came with maple syrup.

We stopped here for lunch after visiting Yaxchilan (in Mexico, though the restaurant is in Guatemala) and the food was OK but not great and the service the same. I had breaded chicken breast with French fries – small pieces of chicken in breadcrumbs, bit overcooked and very dry. They misunderstood the order of three people in the group (despite the menu being in both English and Spanish), including my boyfriend which he wasn’t very happy about      


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