Sucre... time for relaxation & Spanish lessons

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
Trip End Apr 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Casa Al Tronco

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

After our first long trip on Bolivian buses, we arrive in Sucre. Buses definitely aren't to Argentinean standards and again we encounter half finished roads – I’m sure they’ll get round to building the bridges eventually.  But the nine hours pass pretty quickly, entertainment provided by the women and children that jump on the bus to sell food.  A lot of this we weren’t sure what it was but you seem to be able to buy everything from jelly, bread, sweets and entire meals in a bag.  We were only brave enough to try what looked like bread and might have been fresh a couple days ago.  One thing that I won’t be doing in future for entertainment is watching the driver – his driving habits require a bit of fine tuning which seems quite common in Bolivia.  Some small scares include watching him constantly eat oranges while driving, passing his driving glasses to his colleague to be cleaned while driving and taking the racing lines round what look to me like blind corners.  Ignorance may be best when it comes to being passengers in Bolivia.  In Sucre we’re dropped off on the street at the bus agency, not very helpful for finding your way and so we jump into a taxi to take us to our hostel.  Our taxi cost 50 pence each and so well worth it for a twenty minute drive!

We stay at a guesthouse called Casa Al Tronco which is situated in Recoleta which overlooks the city and our hostel has a pretty impressive view from the kitchen and balcony – we lost many hours here pretending to do Spanish homework while really just enjoying the sunshine and the view.  The hostel itself is small with only four rooms and is run by a friendly European-Bolivian couple.  Very easy to relax in as it’s their home as well.  For our first meal we head round the corner to the Hotel Kopling for a good meal with another impressive view of the city.

Our first few days in Sucre are spent relaxing in the sun – a lot of time is spent at Cafe Mirador, which is an outdoor cafe two minutes walk from our hostel and again has a view that overlooks the city.  This cafe proves very useful for two reasons – one, as it saves us from walking down the hill into town for a meal and secondly as we seem to recognise someone from some point in our travels every time we go in. 

Sucre itself is a very pretty town with a lot of white washed colonial buildings and churches.  There are also plenty of bars and restaurants for the tourists and so it is a pretty easy place to spend a few days. Something we quickly realise in our walk around town is that we do stand out from the locals – in a rather humorous encounter, Janette is sure that she heard a bunch of kids shout 'leche leche’ when she walked past – leche being Spanish for milk!  Our first night we head to Joyride for dinner which seems to be a bit of a backpacker hangout but it does good food for both of us for under a tenner.

The next day we bump into Tom and Claire who we first met in our hostel at El Calafate at Cafe Mirador.  Always glad of a familiar face we arrange to meet them for dinner later.  Tom is an artist from Australia and we discover that he has been meeting local residents in Sucre, and agreeing to create street art on their walls that had previously been blighted with untidy graffiti. Locals have been amazed by the art, and the fact that that Tom does if for free – street art seems in its infancy in this part of Bolivia. Examples of his great work in the photos below!

In the square next to Cafe Mirador, a lot of the country folk seem to have come in from the sticks to celebrate the day of San Pedro, which at first sight seems to have a buzzing festival feel.  However once the celebrations are over we come across the one major issue we have with Bolivia – the people (more the people from the countryside, trying not to be too stereotypical) have no problems with going to the toilet just about anywhere (we’ve seen and heard stories of outside the bus, against the bus, on the bus – there are no toilets on the bus, against the church walls and pretty much everywhere).  Safe to say the square is disgusting later on in the day.      

 Most of our time is spent eating and sitting in the sun, so in effort to be more cultural we go to the Casa de la Libertad (House of Freedom).  This holds the constitution of independence which was originally signed in Sucre and makes Sucre the official capital city – however this is a great dispute between Sucre and La Paz and La Paz now holds the government and financial centres of the country – not to mention the title of the world’s highest capital city.  Anyway, a fairly small museum but worth it to see a bit of the history of Sucre.  We meet Tom and Claire and head for dinner in Cafe Florin and catch up on where our travels have taken us.  Florin seems to be a bit more of a mix between locals and backpackers, a fairly lively bar that serves good, fresh food even if Jonny’s order did get forgotten....

For the next week or so we concentrate on our Spanish lessons (I think the Spanish is improving although it doesn’t always feel like it; and Jonny does seem to have all his ‘onion related’ food questions mastered) and enjoy the many different restaurants and bars that Sucre has to offer.  We even watch Bolivia draw against Argentina (a big upset for Argentina).

On Sunday we go to a small town called Tarabuco which is about an hour and a half outside Sucre.  It is known for its market on a Sunday and draws people from all over the countryside and tourists as well.  Jonny and I get the local bus (rather than the tourist bus which runs at fixed times) which proves amusing.  The minibus only leaves when it’s full so we watch while we see Bolivians step on and off the bus at the last minute trying to secure a cheaper fare for sitting on the floor or steps – a lot of negotiating goes on but eventually we leave and hurtle towards the countryside.  We arrive at the market at about 10am and its just starting up.  The main square is full of stalls, we guess mainly focused on the tourist as there is a lot of mass produced woollen wear and a chance to try traditional food.  We walk through the square to the small cobbled streets which are covered with stalls selling everything from clothing to pasta to coca leaves.  The stalls that seem most popular are the dvd stalls that are playing dvds of traditional songs and dancing – this seems to have a lot of people transfixed.  The other vender that seemed to be doing a roaring trade was a guy selling small handheld radios out of a bag – must be the item to have.  The other stalls are selling fresh fruit and vegetables from the local farms or land with what must be the least fortunate woman only selling cut flowers.  The market is buzzing and it is interesting just to watch everyone go about their daily business in very traditional dress – the men are wearing big colourful ponchos with black helmets that were copied from the Spanish army and the women wear long skirts, stockings, cardigans, bowler hats and have their hair in two long plaits.  We don’t feel so bad about just soaking up the atmosphere as the locals seem to find us just as strange – two blonds with blue eyes are not that common here.... A good day out and I even find myself a handmade alpaca hat – a find out of all the machine made stuff.

Our other highlights of Sucre have been finding a good chocolate shop (I’m now addicted and Jonny is under instructions not to let me know where the chocolate is hidden) and a very tasty cake shop where I spend my time while Jonny has an extra hour of lessons.

Then Jon and Jo arrive from Salta and so we have to go for steak to savour the memories of Argentina.  We head to a French restaurant (La Taverne) that has been recommended and enjoy another evening of good steak and wine – this might now be Jonny’s last steak for a while. With good quality filet steaks coming in a under a fiver we cant complain.  

For our final night in Sucre, we go to dinner with Jon and Jo to a very good Italian restaurant called Tentaciones, freshly made pasta and a good bottle of wine later we manage another drink and some more football before heading to bed.  We’ve definitely eaten very well in Bolivia!            
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