Sunday, December 11, 2011

El Salvador -- Santa Ana and Juayúa

After almost 24 hours of bus travel, I arrived Friday afternoon in Santa Ana, El Salvador. So far, El Salvador has been a very refreshing escape from some of the tourist-oriented, disneylandified places I've been in the past few weeks. Santa Ana is a very authentic Central American city -- blocks upon blocks of street vendors selling everything from wristwatches to live chickens, a bustling central plaza with amazing street food, and really, really good ice cream, which Santa Ana is pretty well known for. One of the best things about the city, though, is what it lacks -- not a single american-style café with internet access and all that frappuccino mochaccino americano macciato crap. Just little pastry shops where everyone goes in the mid-afternoon to have a good cup of joe, nibble on something sweet, and read the papers. There are also none of those tourist-oriented "artisan markets" that sell "authentic" clothes, backpacks, etc. The markets here sell clothes that people living here would actually wear (not to say that I haven't bought my fair share of "authentic" stuff).

I spent most of Friday soaking up all of Santa Ana's energy -- walking around the markets, hanging out in the central plaza, hitting up some of the pastry shops, and visiting some of the famous sites such as the Cathedral and the Santa Ana Theatre.

One of the rooms of the huge building that holds the theatre. The theatre itself was completely dark, so I didn't get any pics worth posting.

The cathedral. Pigeons were flying everywhere.

Inside of the Cathedral
There was an art gallery inside the theatre, and this was one of the pieces. A kind of grim reminder of the scars that imperialism left on Central America.

 On Saturday I took a trip to Cerro Verde National Park and climbed Volcán Santa Ana (which is not the volcano seen in the below photo).
Volcán Izalco seen from the start of the hike up Volán Santa Ana.

Volcán Santa Ana with a cloud settled right on top.

Atop Volcán Santa Ana. If you aren't careful up there, the wind will blow  you straight over.
This morning, after spending my second night in Santa Ana, I moved on to Juayúa, about an hour bus ride from Santa Ana. Today, as on every Sunday here, there was a huge food festival. So, of course, I spent most of the day eating, drinking coffee, and reading in the park. I started out with a plate of grilled frog and rabbit and some rice and other side items. It was absolutely delicious. After eating, I walked around for a bit then grabbed a cup of coffee and a slice of flan and sat down again and read for a bit. Then, it was time for round two of grilled meat. The day pretty much followed that pattern -- eating, walking around, sipping on coffee, and eating again. I'm just gonna cover the highlights of the foods I tried, because listing everything I ate would be pretty boring.
Frog and rabbit and some other stuff.

One of the many tents under which festival-goers gorged themselves.

To the left is Rigua de Maiz, a corn pastry-type thing with coconut in it and served with a hunk of cheese. To the right is an elote loco -- a grilled corn on the cob smothered in mustard, mexican crema, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper. I rarely meet a food that I don't like, but this dude was pretty nasty. If I run across one of these again, I'll try it for a second time just to make sure, but I think I have finally found a food that I don't enjoy.

Sitting in the central park during one of my many coffee-drinking sessions.

More park sitting. I did a lot of sitting and eating, if you haven't gathered that yet.

This was the last bit of grilled meat I had - some kind of really big snake. It was pretty good, but really chewy.
Just as with Santa Ana, one of the best things about Juayúa is the lack of gringos. The central plaza was packed with people munching on all sorts of delicious morsels, and I was one of only two or three gringos out of the thousands of attendees. Tomorrow I plan to explore some of the waterfalls surrounding the town. Pics of that to come.

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