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During one of our online research sessions, we stumbled upon an elder who runs a Mayan school to teach young Mayan children – Mayan math, astrology, medicine and spirituality. The school is his dream; and part of his continuing efforts to pass on the Mayan culture and teachings from his abuelos (grandfathers) to his grandchildren. His name is Rigoberto; and he lives in Momostenango.
After getting in touch with him to make arrangements to visit him, we planned a 2-week trip out to leave lake Atitlan and stopover at Guatemala’s second biggest city – Xela.
Our host in Xela was a Dutch man by the name of Thijs, and he runs a guesthouse, “Casa Renaissance Guesthouse” just 2 blocks from the central park. Casa Renaissance Guesthouse is a (at least) a hundred years old colonial style house, restored and converted into a guesthouse by Thijs in 2010; and it is his dream.
“This place is my dream. I have literally dreamt of myself, sitting in this exact chair, in this exact house, growing old…I was living in my dream. Actually, I am living in my dream!” Thijs said with a laugh when we asked him about his dream and Casa Renaissance:
When we first wrote to Thijs asking if he would host us, he replied with:
And when we finally arrived in Casa Renaissance Guesthouse, Thijs showed us our room…
The moment we got to Xela, we started piling on our jackets and windbrakers. At 2357 metres above sea level plus the rain… we were cold. Thijs brought us to the kitchen and offered us a cup of tea:
That night, it kept raining… and we sought comfort in the (very) hot showers, a hot nourishing meal and Thijs’ warm hospitality:
“When I came back from my shower and saw the thick blankets on my bed newly placed on the beds by Thijs, a warm and fuzzy feeling spread through me. It felt like thoughtfulness… and kindness, too.” – Val
Other than the high-speed, stable internet that allowed us to get plenty of work and research done before meeting Elder Rigoberto in Momos; our favourite place in Casa Renaissance was actually the kitchen, and for good reasons, too!
In fact, Thijs takes “well-stocked kitchen for communal use” to a whole new level with:
…and the following items were so unexpected (and made us so-very-happy) we had to post a close-up photo:
Over the next couple of days, we “made ourselves at home” and got spoiled with home-cooked hometown dishes, that actually taste like they’re from home (click on the thumbnails to read the photo-story):
Xela was cold. And the nightly rains were bitter. Yet, we were far far away from being miserable because of Thijs’ warm hospitality. In fact, Casa Renaissance is so popular that it’s always almost fully-booked. We had to ask Thijs, “Why did you agree to take a room out of your business to host us?”
“Before this journey started, I had stayed in numerous hotels because of work but had remembered none of them. All I could remember was me blasting the television to make up some sort of ‘company’ whilst I tried to sleep alone in the room. This journey has allowed me to see another side of hotels, hostels and guesthouses – that there is a spirited human being behind these structures. They gave life to these structures. Now whenever someone mentions Xela, I think about Casa Renaissance because I remember you, Thijs – the owner of Casa Renaissance who offered us a place we can call Home in Xela.” – Tay
Opened Doors, Opened Hearts – Our Hospitality Sponsor
“A wonderful undiscovered gem in the heart of Xela. Our amenities include a lovely shared kitchen with complimentary tea, coffee and purified water, hot showers, a beautiful courtyard for relaxing or socializing, wifi, a computer for guest use, a quiet, helpful and friendly at-mosphere and Poepie, the sweetest dog ever. English, Spanish and Dutch spoken.” For more information about Casa Renaissance Guesthouse in Xela, Guatemala, click here.