I have fallen in love with this city known as the White City because of its buildings created from white volcanic rock. It is utterly charming.
I also cannot say enough good things about our hostel, Hostal Solar, (which is more like a hotel); it is centrally located, super clean, has great showers, big fluffy towels, comfy beds, they clean your room daily, they have friendly and helpful staff and a great buffet breakfast every morning for a price of $46 CAD per night.
Today is a bright sunny day. After breakfast John and I went to St. Francisco Church and Cloisters. After seeing the church, they called an English speaking guide to take us around the cloisters, library, vestry and other rooms.
The streets are gorgeous with vibrant colours and architecture, but I was totally blown away by the main square, Plaza de Armas. I swear it is the most beautiful square I have ever been to.
The stunning Basilica Cathedral, is situated across one side, with colonnaded buildings around the other sides. A pretty fountain is a centre piece of the plaza. The square is filled with benches and a large assortment of people frequent the area both day and night.
I could have easily stayed there all day with an ice cream watching the cast of characters, both tourists and locals. On one bench were two older gentlemen, one watching and giving advice as the other typed out a document on an old fashioned typewriter. Later the same bench was utilized by three men rather inefficiently trying to change a baby's diaper. Meanwhile, in another part of the square, a couple of young kids ran through the grass sprinkler while their mother tried to keep an eye on them and sell trinkets at the same time. A big dog walked onto the road around the square and laid in the middle of it for a nap while cars drove around him.
While photographing the square, we ran into George and Phil, two gentleman from the States who had been on our Colca Canyon tour. They decided to join us on our next visit...we were off to see Juanita, the ice maiden.
Juanita is a nearly perfectly preserved teenaged girl who was a human sacrifice from the Inca period. She was discovered in 1995 when a melting glacier took away the top layer of her tomb and her frozen body slid down the mountain face. This discovery along with the surrounding artifacts led to a greater understanding of Inca sacrifice practices. We were able to see her still frozen body in a darkened room. We had a guide that took us through this museum and we learned so much.
After saying goodbye to our US friends, John and I headed to the local market where you could buy just about everything...they even had a witch doctor section where you could buy medicines (dried alpaca embryos) and shaman products.
On our way back to the main square we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. John had a delicious vegetable and bean salad and I had guinea pig. Both were good but very large portions.
We went through a few other buildings and passed through the square (the dog on the road was gone) before arriving at an organic chocolate and coffee cafe which was the starting point for our 3pm free walking tour.
Our guide was wonderful. So passionate, knowledgeable and proud of his beautiful city. The tour lasted about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Time well spent. We went to many historical places and learned so much.
On the tour we returned to Plaza de Armas where our guide took us up to a restaurant terrace for a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains with the square below. The dog was back, sleeping in the middle of the road. We all sampled Chicha (purple corn beer). It was quite good.
The tour ended at sundown. I would highly recommend this tour of the city centre.
When the sun sets, the temperature drops dramatically. John and I went back to our hostel to change and went out to see the city at night.
Still full from our huge lunch, I didn't want a full meal for supper. We picked up a bag of popcorn from a street vendor. She was popping it in a pot of oil just like my parents did when I was little.
We went back to the organic chocolate place where we had a cup of hot chocolate and shared a piece of chocolate cake.
We checked out the Plaza at night I noticed that the dog on the road was gone. We took some pictures, checked out a few alpaca stores and headed back to our hotel.
TIPS and COSTS
Hostal Solar- $46 CAD per night- www.hostalsolar.com
San Francisco Church- 5 soles each (about $2 CAD)
Museo Santuarios Andinos- (Juanita)- 20soles per person (about $8 CAD) plus tip for guide
Free Walking Tour - highly recommended- just google free walking tour Arequipa