Arequipa (the white city)

Trip Start Jan 24, 2011
Trip End Mar 31, 2011

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our flight to Arequipa was fairly short and very early... We were greeted by our guide (Norma) and driver which was nice since we were fairly comatose after getting up at 3:20 am for our shuttle and departure from Lima. The day was quite sunny and clear and Norma suggested we visit city in the morning rather than that afternoon since they were predicting rain for later that day.

We were dropped at our hotel (Posada el Castillo) and were able to drop our bags, freshen up and head back out for the tour. Since we were a tired Norma suggested some coca tea which we had shortly after. Coca is everywhere in Peru and people drink tea infusions, chew it or drink alcoholic concoctions using it. It's definitely does the trick to wake you up and give you energy as well as settling your stomach and helping with altitude sickness (soroche).

We started our tour with the cathedral of San Francisco and then progressed through to the main cathedral on the main square. Note, cathedrals named after male saints have one tower while cathedrals named after female have two towers. The city is called the white city because the volcanic rock used to build many of the buildings is actually white. The city is surrounded by three volcanoes and is at 2300m (about 7,800 ft) above sea level. The city is Peru's second largest and one of the more touristic destinations.

Sylvia and I have been in many churches around the world but each are unique in their own ways. The churches here are more colourful than most. Peru had many gold and silver mines and some of the churches originally had very ornate gold and silver alters which over time have been plundered. That being said, they are still very unique. (see pics)

After some coca tea and a empanada or two we visited the Convento de Santa Catalina (from the Spanish era of the city). Described as a city within a city, this beautiful place with its colors, flowers and little streets will make you feel like you are back in time. This is a must see if you visit the city. (see pics) We then visited a few of the alpaca shops where they sell fine alpaca wear. This is *the* place to purchase alpaca and Sylvia ended up with a very nice new soft baby alpaca sweater... After our three hour guided tour, Norma left us to walk the city by ourselves.

We had lunch at a trendy spot recommended by our guide (Wayrana) we had a pisco sour and Escribano and for mains we had a lomo saltado and Corvina fish (a speciality here). A big lunch but we were hungry... It was about 2pm and we wanted to see some more of the market area and ended up getting caught in the rain. At first we thought it would only last for a short time so we went and shopped, but the rain kept getting harder. There were torrents of water in the streets. It was crazy rain..

We needed to catch a cab back to our hotel. Now, the funny thing about Arequipa is that there are literally 1000's of cabs. But when it rains, you have a hell of a time getting one. We waited for at least 30-40 min before we could get a cab. Then in you have to bargain with the driver before getting in. You have to tell them where your going and have them quote you a rate before you get in. (not easy if you don't speak good Spanish) At any rate, we made it back to our hotel and rested a bit. The hotel had cable and we watched HBO until our power went out because of the rain. About 45 minutes later, we got power back but we were also hungry.

Sylvia really didn't want to go back downtown in the pouring rain for dinner. Somehow I convinced her to go and the hotel called us a cab. Cabs are very cheap here. To go about 2 - 3km distance costs only 3 soles (1 USD) but if it's raining they double it. Still, try getting a cab anywhere for 2 bucks... We ended going local for dinner that we saw earlier in the day. We ended up having soup, salad bar, a 1/2 chicken with potatoes and sparkling water for two. The total cost, 18 soles ( about 6 USD for dinner for two ! ) Wow... If you don't mind dining with serious locals in a tight little place watching soccer you can eat for cheap ... That was it for today... Tomorrow we get up early and take our trip to Colca Canyon.
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