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November 13, 2002
Asunscion and Juan Griego

It seems as though we our visit to Margarita has just been running around from one event to the next. On a whim yesterday, we inquired with a taxi driver how much the fare might be to get to the island's capital, Asuncion. A mere $6,000 Bulivars (or $4.20 US) for the forty five minute ride up into the hills. So we agreed with Viva! that that would be today's adventure. We had heard such great things about it, and were certainly not disappointed when we arrived.

The cab dropped us off at the center of town in front of the main church and square. What a refreshing change from the coast we'd seen so far. If it weren't for the occasional modern cars and people's dress, it might be difficult to put your finger on what decade it was exactly. Narrow streets wind off from the main town, each lined with brightly painted walled residences. Trees and shrubs adorned the sidewalks and hung in a genteel way over the walls. Actually, I was surprised to find I wasn't put off by the forboding walls backed up against the sidewalks as I would have expected. On the contrary, as we walked past, the front gate or perhaps a portal type window would be open, and afford us a peek in to the warm and beautiful little courtyards that were the center of their homes. Dogs and cats were sleeping just out of reach of the sun under the shade of the red tile ceramic awnings. From the tables, chairs, couches, and bookcases lining the courtyards, it seemed that they must spend a great deal of their time with their doors open to the patio, and I imagine there is little distinction between indoors and out for them.

As we meandered the streets, an elderly woman in front of a bookstore introduced us to the arts festival in progress this week, and we were able to find our way to a beautiful, stately white clay government building with a myriad of work by local youth and adults on display. From there, we were drawn into another handsome white building reading "Artesan Galleria" with a handful of shaded tables on the sidewalk out front. Local crafts were for sale: hammocks, woven rugs, baskets, jewelry, ceramics and the like. As we passed further into the building, it opened up to a courtyard in the middle with a parrot standing watch from his open cage. A shaded corner was set up with couches and a coffee table, and in another, coffees and pastries were for sale.

After such a pleasant morning discovering this quaint little town, we didn't want the adventure to end, so we found another cab to take us to the seaside town of Juan Griego in search of a nice spot for lunch. The trip there was just as entertaining as we'd find the town to be, if not more so. We passed more villages and got to see more of the local way of life. The landscape reminded us so much of Mexico, but not quite so much without hope. Most people seem to live in proper houses, and they're pretty in their own way. I'm not sure why a lime green house with melon colored trim is charming here, but would seem hideous and out of place at home, but somehow- it works.

Juan Griego was nice as well, but being a holiday destination honed into the tourist trade, it lacked the warmth and old world charm that Ascuncion has. Shops are absolutely everywhere, selling every conceivable thing. All the streets seem to end at the waterfront, where a cobble stone road follows the shore. Steve and Pam led us down the beach, and we passed the fishing fleet where boats were being built by hand on shore. We chose a beachside restaurant and enjoyed an absolutely delicious meal (at a price that made us feel guilty) while we watched the fishing fleet sort out their nets before going after an afternoon catch.


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