12 June 2014

Peru: Day 3: Arequipa

I got up early this morning and, while S was still in bed, headed out to explore Arequipa a bit on my own. The air was cold, particularly in the shade, so I brought my windbreaker. Arequipa is a rugged mountain town, with most of the old buildings constructed out of white rock flecked with grey ash. I made my way the quarter mile to Plaza de Armas, where the town square was already bustling.

From there, I wandered off in different directions, noting various shops and museums. Even early in the morning, the Plaza was full of traffic, most of which were taxi cabs, each one honking as they passed me, eager for my fare. Tour hawkers were trying to push tours and guides on me, and I got back in the habit of saying 'no thank you' very firmly.

I found a few churches to peek into (not much else is open at 8.30 am), and then I sat for a while on a bench in the Plaza. There aren't many places that don't have at least a touch of American influence, and Arequipa is no different. Women in colorful Andean dresses walked past, with socks emblazoned with he Coca-Cola logo. Rosy-cheeked kids held hands with their mamas, wearing wide-brimmed canvas hats with the Toy Story logo on the top if the head.

I came back to the room as Sarah was finishing up getting ready.

We met R at ten for a walk through town. We started by retracing our steps from last night through plaza de Armas and into a more working-class section of town. R took us through the main market, which was filled with stall after stall of glorious foodstuff. Fruit, vegetables, meat, toys, snacks, milk, cheese... R bought us a bag of cocoa leaves, which I need to remember to get rid of before we leave Peru. The market was beautiful. From there, we headed back to the main portion of town via a couple of churches and viewing spots.

On the southern edge of town was a precarious roundabout (watch out - the drivers are fast and aggressive - more like Italian drivers) that we crossed to get to the Alpaca Museum. Alpacas are indigenous to this area of the world! and their wool is soft and valuable. The museum was small but lovely. We got to meet a few alpacas, watch their wool being processed into yarn, watch the yarn be weaved into scarves, watch the scarves be packed into boxes, and then shop at a few expensive shops.

For lunch, R took us to a local restaurant where we watched the opening ceremonies of the World Cup and met his wife P and son F, who is 2.5 and behaves just like every other 2.5-year-old we know.

From lunch, we headed to the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, a working convent in the heart of Arequipa. The convent covers several city blocks, and while it used to be closed off to the public, now 70% of it is viewable by the public as a museum (the nuns confine themselves to the small 30% during the day). Much of the convent is set up to show how the nuns used to live closed off from the world, with private houses, large kitchens, and churches for prayer. Even now, the nuns are still mostly isolated, though they do have tv, the internet, and the ability to leave the convent for medical care. Different sections of the convent are painted different bright colors, which must be perpetually repainted due to sun-fading.

At one point during the tour, we climbed on to the roof of the convent and got a great view of the city.

Our tour at Santa Catalina finished, we headed back to the room for a little siesta before dinner. S napped while I checked my email, wrote, and watched Brazil cream Croatia in the World Cup.

Dinner was at a restaurant very close to the hotel, one that R recommended specifically as a special occasion restaurant. I had two Pisco cocktails that weren't Pisco Sours and a Rocoto Relleño with freshwater shrimp (a local seasonal delicacy). S had a risotto with the shrimp. Yum. Now, we're back in the hotel with our feet up, doing sewing repair, research, and recharging our batteries after today.


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