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Buena Vista's Ignacio Perez Borrel enlivens ancient Antigua

Casablanca has Ricks Caf_and Antigua (Guatemala) has Rikis Bar. At Ricks, Sam reluctantly plays As Time Goes By for Ilsa and is later forced to repeat the performance for the anguished Rick. Rikis features Cuban drummer Ignacio Perez Borrel, billed as a member of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club, performing Chan Chan and other Buena Vista classics for a mostly college-age crowd. Sam revives memories. Borrels quintet stirs the blood. Passionate Salsa dancers take to Rikis floor, and the tiny, smoke-filled room almost vibrates with sensuality. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, why would Borrel choose Rikis? Possibly because it is in Antigua, a beautiful ancient city with cobblestone streets, sprays of bright bougainvillea bursting from collapsing ruins, and pastel-colored houses topped with terracotta roofs. If Borrel came to Antigua for the waters, some might say he was misinformed. Lago de Atitl_is further west, an enormous, spectacular lake formed by an incredibly massive volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Today, Atitl_s placid water is surrounded by immense inactive volcanoes, creating what the astounded Aldous Huxley called an impossible landscape. Or perhaps Borrell wasnt misinformed at all. Antigua itself is bordered by volcanoes, the most impressive being Volc_de Agua (the Spanish word for water). In addition to its impressive architecture and natural beauty, Antigua has many fine restaurants. One of them, Restaurante Las Palmas, is described by Lonely Planets guide to Guatemala as a popularly romantic dinner spot. The guide recommends the fettucine with goat cheese, a meal that would be perfect with a bottle of Moza, Guatemalas tasty bock beer. The cheeses source might prompt an appropriate toast: Heres looking at you, kid.

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