After going to bed at midnight we had to get up around 4 to be ready for our ride to the airport. We had decided to save ourselves some travel time by flying to Arequipa instead of taking a 10 hour bus ride. The flight left around 7am and it had been recommended that we get to the airport 2 hours early. I have no idea why.
Getting to the airport was relatively easy as there was hardly any traffic at all. There was one scary moment when the taxi stopped behind a line of cars and a drunk guy opened up the car door on Susan's side. Apparently he had a bloody face and was quite drunk. I didn't see him at all but it freaked Susan out. The taxi guy shooed the drunk guy away and closed the door and we sped off. Susan took to locking her door every time we were in a taxi after that!
At the airport we breezed through security and everything else. We found our gate on the bottom floor of the airport. It was completely abandoned, not a soul in site. And there we waited for two hours! Oh well.
As we flew south the landscape got drier and drier, almost deserty. But there were still lots of mountains.
|Canyons and mountains from the air|
|volcanoes from the air! There are three or four volcanoes around Arequipa, and one of them has been a little bit active lately. It's the one in the middle smoking away.|
Even though we'd just booked this hotel (La Hosteria) the night before, they were kind enough to send a taxi to pick us up. We did pay for it, but of course it was worth it. It was funny to arrive in this new city and feel out of place and like everything was strange and different. We were still in Peru and not all that far away from Cuzco! But Arequipa is nowhere near as touristy as Cuzco.
Similar to other places I've seen, the entrance to our hole was a doorway in a wall opening into a stunning courtyard with a fountain, trees, and lots of flowers. There were multiple levels with courtyards and seating at every level. I'd love to go back and spend more time at this hotel. There were Roman baths there somewhere, which we didn't have time to take advantage of. The room was lovely too; this would be the perfect place to relax in...if we weren't eager to explore as much as possible!
|View of the hotel courtyard coming in through the entrance.|
|Eating area in the courtyard.|
Looking at the flowering courtyard from the second floor courtyard. There was another deck/balcony on the third floor. So beautiful!
|These birds were all over our hotel grounds. Some sort of dove?|
We settled in for only a few moment before heading out to see the sites. We wanted to see the crafts market, the cathedral, plaza, monastery, and eat dinner - and we had to be back home early to bed because our tour the next day left at 2:45 in the morning!
Arequipa is known as the White City for the white stone a lot of the buildings are made of. There is also a lot of fabulous carving in some of these buildings.
Our first stop was to walk to the Plaza and see the cathedral.
It turned out there was a little tour we could pay for, pretty inexpensive, so we went for it. It was a fabulous tour with a very knowledgeable guide who kept things moving along. We had plenty of time to look at everything and not too much time so we got bored. It was interesting to see all the sites and get the history, and go places in the cathedral that you wouldn't get to go into normally - like the roof!
|The humongous organ.|
|Lots of fancy carvings and statues.|
|Also a lot of images of various saints. I think this might have been Candelaria.|
|This is a hand-carved pulpit that the priests still use from time to time. Very ornate.|
|That's meant to be the devil at the bottom, signifying the word of God (being preached above) crushing the devil.|
|I felt a little silly later wearing my only shirt with words into the cathedral, but it's a good message. ;)|
|We climbed up to a balcony above the organ and got to look down on the organ.|
|There was a room off the balcony where they had cases of the outfits worn by priests, etc. This stuff was massively embroidered and looked really heavy.|
|Bells in the bell tower!|
|The huge ball that makes the bell sound. And lots of graffiti.|
|I thought it would be fun to take a picture of Susan and I in the bell!|
|The bells were hung on these huge beams. It didn't seem like enough to support them, they were so heavy.|
We looked over the wall of the cathedral and saw a lot of activity in the Plaza. We could see some dancing off in the left corner. Something was going on there. After the tour we decided to go check it out.
It's my lucky day! It's a giant ice cream festival!
There were about two dozen entries in this series of tents with mostly women (in fabulous outfits) hand churning homemade ice cream. I have no idea what this was made out of (cow milk??) and I wasn't sure what the flavors all were. Ice cream seemed a bit different down there. A bit more like gelato, but not just like it. I know I had a coconut one and I think I saw one with chocolate chips. When we showed up they were having a sort of beauty contest with a bunch of young women and I think voting on who would be Ms Queso Helado.
Susan noticed someone interviewing one of the ice cream vendors and took a picture of them. They noticed and offered us samples of ice cream. We accepted, and then the TV crew got excited about interviewing us about the festival! So, maybe we were on Peruvian TV that night. =)
We went exploring in a grocery store later... Will you look at the size of that papaya (or mango)? I can never remember which is which. But they were huge!
We found the craft market and bought a couple hats. The market wasn't as big or impressive as the ones in Pisac or Cusco, but it was really nice that no one was chasing us down pressuring us to buy things. They seemed very relaxed about us looking and not buying.
We found this little public square with a cute fountain.
We went back to the hotel to relax a little bit and then went to the cathedral again around 5. We had heard that the organ was only played once a week for an hour on Saturday nights. Lucky us! It was really fun to hear the organ. (This is Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by the way!)
Afterwards we went to a restaurant called Zig Zag which was recommended by Susan's guidebook. It has a wrought iron spiral staircase designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, that guy). Wow. This was one of the best meals we had the whole time.
They brought out this appetizer with herbed butter, the green sauce I have no idea but there was garlic in it and it was incredible, and fresh made bread. It was incredible.
Then they came and put paper napkin-aprons on us, which seemed funny for such a fancy restaurant. I was soon to find out why.
Here was my dinner: a grilled alpaca steak and a quinoa risotto. The little dishes were for the steak: more yummy green sauce, an olive tapenade, something very spice, and more herbed butter. The alpaca is sitting on a flaming hot piece of volcanic rock. It was sizzling away for most of the meal - spraying right onto my bib! So thank goodness for the bib. I ate way too much. It was so good I almost cried.
We went back to our hotel a little later than we planned, but not too late. Here is the cathedral all lit up from our balcony. Early to bed, our tour bus was coming to collect us at 2:45 am for our trip out to Colca Canyon!