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Welcome to the “Off-White” City
We did not really plan to come to Arequipa right now, but because of problems in Puno we are forced to detour through the city in southern Peru in order to get to Bolivia via Chile. This ends up not being so bad at all. Arequipa happens to be the launching point for nice trips to the beautiful Colca Canyon and condor viewing.
|View of El Misti as we roll into town|
|Pigeons at the main plaza|
|Healthy drink stand|
The Santa Catalina Convent is considered the most important colonial structure in Arequipa. It was founded in 1579 and the nuns were selected from the wealthiest families. The ladies pretty much went about their business until 1970 when the mayor of Arequipa forced the nuns to open their doors to the viewing public. I actually find this part quite amusing because I am really not sure how you get a bunch of nuns to open their doors after 391 years. The only thing that I can come up with is that the mayor threatened them with a bill for four centuries of back property taxes.
|Inside the walls four centuries later|
|Prisoner of choice: A nun's cell|
|An old painting|
Arequipa seems to have a lot of shops selling goods made from the fine wool of baby alpaca. So it makes sense that the city is also home to Mundo Alpaca - Alpaca World. With a stroke of luck our hotel happens to be just three blocks from Mundo Alpaca, a family friendly place (though I think kids will be bored senseless) that teaches us about the entire wool collecting process from the animal’s back to yours -- in the shape of a sweater.
|Alpacas on display|
The museum has some good written info about wool, all types of machines on display for processing wool, old photos of alpaca wool processing, and an art gallery with paintings that have nothing to do with llama or alpaca wool. Mundo Alpaca is free for all Andean camelid connoisseurs and the just mildly curious.
|Sorting alpaca and llama wool|
Since it is our last night in Peru we decide that we will pass on our usual less than US $2 meals and splash out for once. We choose a restaurant, ChiCha, that is owned by celebrity chef Gaston Acurio. He has fancy restaurants all over South America, but this is like his more casual place. The restaurant is located in a beautiful 18th century mansion, but I can never shake the feeling that I am in a Las Vegas locale. Maybe it is the modern decor and color scheme.
The menu is mostly Peruvian fare with many comfort food options making it kind of like the numerous restaurants opened across the USA the past decade selling fancier renditions of home-cooked favorites like mac & cheese or meatloaf. The meal presentation is beautiful which is fun. The food is good but not great. Even though there seems to be a wow factor missing this is still a nice way to end our first visit to Peru and tomorrow we’ll take our full bellies to Chile.
|For those North Americans in need of their own comfort food|
McDonalds is "now in Arequipa"