My first visit to Guatemala did not disappoint. My BFF Wendy and I met at the airport in Panama and took the 2 hour flight to Guatemala City, and then a short 1 hour private van ride to the former capital of the Spanish empire in Central America. It was late evening when we arrived at our beautiful, small, stylish accommodations. Hotel Cirilo is lovingly and respectfully built around the ruins of a church. The seven rooms flow around the ruins, joined by a hacienda-style corridor and salon filled very cleanly with beautiful statues, sculptures and minimalist, but warm furnishings. The owner and designer is on-hand to greet guests and make sure the small, but elegant property runs perfectly. If you’d like to see more on Hotel Cirilo (Cirilo is an old Guatemalan name and one from the owner’s family) you can read my review and others on Trip Advisor. Located only 10 minutes walk from the Parque Central and all of the most historic parts of the city, it’s a calm retreat with easy access to all the Antigua has to offer. In fact, on our walk into town the next morning, Wendy and I stumbled upon a sweet open-air, open-courtyard spa and treated ourselves to hot stone massages and pedicures. Guatemala is famous for handicrafts and it’s a well deserved. We were blown away by the quality, the colors, the variety of options. And the beautiful thing is, for the most part, the vendors are the craftswomen themselves or the shops in which the shawls, bags, belts, table clothes, placemats, napkins, coasters — let me get ahold of myself — are sold represent the co-ops of craftspeople. Allow two to three days to soak up this colonial gem. While I was there I took advantage of taking a cooking class at El Frijol Feliz. I learned how to make the delicious dessert pictured here – plantains stuffed with black beans and CHOCOLATE. As well as a traditional chicken and pepino soup; chilaquilas (queso fresco sandwiched between achiote and fried in an egg-white and yolk batter); and rice with sautéed red pepper and carrots. Thank you Chef Libia. And as a bonus I was able to practice my Spanish. An interpreter is on-site for students who do not speak Spanish. All in all, it was a relaxing getaway. The perfect mix of culture, hedonism and learning. Wendy and I returned back to Panama refreshed and up-to-date on each other’s lives. What more could two BFF’s and world-travellers ask for in a three-day adventure?