Slow Food and Clouds: Cerro San Cristobal
Escaping to Antigua at weekends is lush, it feels like a second home and such a contrast from the city, which I also love, but in a different way. The thing about travelling, and partly due to my “seeing good in everything” optimism, is that I talk to people- or they talk to me- and so I find good places to go this way. Most places I end up are due to recommendations, or I go along with people; often places feel “secret” because travellers only want to share their very best recommendations, I suppose ultimately its a reflection of themselves to have good taste and to recommend a discovery, right? You ain’t gonna tell someone to go someplace shit. Slow travelling means I don’t have to have a set list of places I must visit within a certain period of time, so I have freedom to come and go, and to go with the flow.
I’ve banged on several times how gorgeous the architecture is to my friends, but what I also very much like about Antigua now is: sneaking away to the edges of the city for a little bit of quiet.
Cerro San Cristobal is a mountain-side restaurant. Its breathtakingly beautiful, I genuinely did a gasp at the views overlooking Antigua. Using ingredients sourced from their garden, food is simple and delicately done with the freshest of vegetables. And it's quiet.
I visited with Simona who we met at our hostel- she’s really interesting and very easy to hang out with, she’s heading to Costa Rica soon to work at a start-up hostel/hotel, hopefully I will run into her again if I visit Costa Rica. Ryan, my housemate who had been to the restaurant a few times before with his girlfriend Pegga when she was studying in Antigua had suggested the trip. Pegga is away in the US at the moment looking at Grad schools, both of them leave in May for their next life adventure. Anyway- they both have really good taste in food- in our kitchen at home, they’re always cooking up a storm in the evening! Therefore, I trust their tastes enough to take the minibus out of Antigua up the hill to check it out.
Before sitting down for lunch, we explored the garden, with its orchid and cactus house, avocado trees and a large vegetable patch of herbs and vegetables. They grow sage, rosemary, basil, and coriander (or, sorry- cilantro), carrots, onions, various varieties of lettuce and tomato. It’s very quiet up here, and the garden has a shrine to the a man who I guess must be the previous owner and also one for his dog! There’s a fountain/waterfall too.
That mountainside-finca-living-life is becoming even more appealing.
When seeing the menu, the farm grown ingredients are in context. Everything is vegetarian, with the exception of prawns and some cheeses. I had the pesto pasta, made from garden-grown basil and a well picked parmesan, a rarity in Guate, I’ve struggled to find good cheese. Also a side salad of lettuce, tomato, red onion (bloody love red onion) and croutons. There are two house dressings, the tamarind one is so more-ish, and the blackcurrant dressing is quite sweet and quite unique in flavour. Tamarind is the clear winner though.The waiters are so relaxed and friendly, the restaurant is busy, but not overly so, we were encouraged to stay as long as we liked.
We made the most of the scenery from up high, watching the shadows of clouds move slowly over Antigua below, its iso dreamy- I say that I’d quite like to be inside a cloud. Simona said that she’d been in a cloud up a mountain top, its cool and wet. I said that my skin has never been in a cloud- I mean that I’ve been in a car in a cloud but not wandered through one. Ryan points out that fog is a cloud so I probably have actually been through one. I’m idiotically like “Yeah, but that’s a ground cloud, not a sky cloud.” (FYI I”m fully aware that I sound like a dumbass a fair majority of the time).
Simona heads off back down the hill as she wants to do some reading before she goes to Costa Rica. Ryan and I stay up there doing bits of work and listening to the guitar player who’s set up his microphone at the side of the restaurant. I have a second glass of the house red wine, its very good. The bill comes to under £30 for three of us, which in context of other restaurants in Guatemala is higher, but not expensive by any means as a western traveller.
On leaving to get the bus back down too Antigua, I notice a map at the entrance to the restaurant showing further points up the mountain- little aldeas and points to visit, a local man I speak with says its really worth the 4 hour hike. He’s so excited to describe that up the top, you can see over three of the volcano peaks, but if I didn’t want to go that far, there’s a market and with craftspeople and makers too! So there is another secret spot recommendation. Straight from the mouth of a local elder.