Arequipa, Peru

Once again, I resume the tale of our trip to Ecuador and Peru from late February to late March, 2011. Sorry for the slowness, and the long absence from blogging about other topics. My new book (you can see the link at right) “Ten Years That Shook the City: San Francisco 1968-78” came out and we’ve been super busy with it since the beginning of June, including having put up a 24-stop self-guided audio walking tour that you can follow online if you like. After this entry on Arequipa, I’ll have another on Lima and finally will reconnect to books, San Francisco, politics, and the usual gamut of topics.

We arrived in Arequipa around 11 p.m. after riding buses all day from Cuzco. It sits in a gently sloping valley and at night the place is all lit up, the urban area stretching for huge distances in every direction. We didn’t realize that Arequipa was so big, even though we’d read it was Peru’s 2nd largest city.

In the center of Arequipa, a colonial city with incredible architecture, there are dozens of these 17th century courtyards that have been converted to shopping centers. Still, really beautiful!

We were pretty tired after the four days on the Inca Trail, and the 14 hours on the bus from Cuzco, so we took it slow and started by finding a great restaurant near our hotel to enjoy some famously great eating.

At Las Conchitas we had incredible seafood meals two or three times while we were in Arequipa.

Las Conchitas sits on a pleasant narrow block between two avenues.

Adriana shows her delicious mariscos while water pours down the window behind her.

These toy fish hovered above us as we ate exotic seafood, the conceit of the restaurant to send water over the window while we dined to make it feel as though we were in an aquarium.

The central plaza in Arequipa, which is ringed with volcanoes but we couldn't see them until our last day in town, as they stayed in the clouds the whole time.

The same main plaza from a different angle, surrounded by beautiful arched colonial buildings.

It was fun to walk around town and enjoy this kind of street scene, quite typical in Arequipa.

I loved the old doors that were everywhere. Adriana is communing with the doorknockers here.

Old Doors!

Still more old doors!

Arequipa is a beautiful old city, but has some forward thinking going on too. Several areas are designated for pedestrians only.

Calle Mercaderes, one of Arequipa's main shopping streets, and nicely closed to vehicles.

Calle Bolivar Sucre is a big boulevard that has been redesigned quite recently to be pedestrian and bikes only.

As it turns out, they really need to restrict car access for people on foot or on bikes to have any hope of getting across the streets. We stood for about 6 minutes in the middle of a crazy street scene across from a museum of alpaca wool.

This is a typical traffic scene in the historic center.

Llamas and Alpacas and Vicunyas, all in the camel family, were on display at this gallery and museum of natural wool.

Interesting place because behind the fancy, expensive garment shop was an actual museum with people working with raw and finished wool.

This display shows all the colors and types of yarns they make there.

Picturesque setting with weaver in the museum.

The most famous tourist site in Arequipa is the sprawling Convent of Santa Catalina. It was founded in 1580 and was a place that wealthy families would stash their daughters, with ample dowries included. Apparently the women managed to maintain a high standard of living in the convent, with servants and even slaves, along with music, parties and more, for a couple of hundred years. Eventually a new reverend mother was put in charge and she cleaned the place up and ended the long practice of comfy living. It’s a gorgeous place, like a small town inside its walls near the city center, covering a dozen square blocks or so. We loved the visuals we found walking around in it.

This is near the entrance, with a large "Silencio" over the arch.

The movement from rust to bright blue characterized our meandering around in the convent.

Corridors turn and twist, arches everywhere. It was like being in a labyrinth of sorts.

Courtyards in every part, and every one with its own charming beauty.

Centuries-old frescoes were in this courtyard.

A better look at the frescoes.

I loved walking around in here.

Adriana enjoys a view of the alley.

The Escher-ish back corner of the convent.

After wandering around a bunch in the city center, we took a day to head off in a different direction and came upon one of our favorites, a big market. We spent an hour perusing the goodies and Adriana chatting up the various vendors, from olives, to fish, pork sandwiches, bread, and even hats!

Talk about rich juicy olives!

Adri chats it up with the bread lady, who was a huge fan of Mexico! (It turned out a lot of Peruvians were fond of Mexico and felt a real affinity.)

Adri got her green hat from this guy who said he'd been selling hats here for 70 years!

Lots of fresh cheese!

Fantastic fish all over Peru.

The view over the market from the second floor.

Peru is the point of origin for potatoes, or at least the Andes is.

She made us some delicious pork sandwiches!


The Peruvian specialty, cui, what we'd call guinea pig.

Finally on our last day in Arequipa, we got to see the volcanoes. We also found this poster on the wall, apparently protesting some local toxic waste dump.

Political dissent! We also saw another flyer for an anarchist evening of films and food, so clearly there's some life in Arequipa. We were pure tourists here, though, and didn't meet anyone.

Here you can sort of make out the snow-capped volcano behind the cathedral.

Finally, we saw one of them clearly in the early morning of our last day!

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