A wonderful visit to the pretty city of Sucre

Published: September 2nd 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

We left Potosi by taxi - sharing it with an elderly couple who were going to Sucre to catch a flight to Cocabamba so the man could have more cancer treatment. They were a lovely couple, really cheery and fun. The driver was playing Western music on the CD and our fellow passenger knew every song - he sang along and we had a competition to see who could name the song first. He won! A great drive - as with most of our high altitude travel - very scenic, though desolate in some places. I should imagine that it would normally be very dusty as well though the rain over the previous few days had dampened the earth. Unfortunately though there were too many plastic bags blowing in the wind. We arrived in Sucre three hours later and though the taxi driver took the other couple to their hotel first they insisted on staying in the car until we were driven to our hotel. We had booked the lovely Casa Verde online after great reviews and it was an excellent choice. It was owned by a retired Belgian man, Rene, and was one of the best and most welcoming places we've stayed so far.
Sucre is the city that Devin loves after spending 12 months living there as an exchange student in 1996 and we were looking forward to exploring the area and meeting the family that he lived with during his year on the other side of the world. It is a very historic city, full of whitewashed buildings with terracotta roofs, many churches and squares and was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1991. It was originally called La Plata when it was settled by the Spanish in 1538 and still retains it's very rich Colonial heritage despite rapid expansion in recent years. Today it is the constitutional capital. It is nicknamed the 'White City' and we saw very few buildings in the nine days we spent there that weren't white. After settling in we set off to explore. Our hotel was a couple of blocks from the main plaza which was thronged with people though it was Sunday afternoon and few shops were open. The plaza was surrounded with 18th century buildings, including the Cathedral and the Casa de la Libertad where the Bolivian declaration of Independence was signed in 1825. We enjoyed a lovely
Museo de la RecolettaMuseo de la RecolettaMuseo de la Recoletta

It was from the patio overlooking the city that this photo was taken
meal that evening on a balcony overlooking the plaza. It was still very cool but I guess we were 2750 meters above sea level.
Next day we explored once again visiting some lovely Artisan shops and the covered market (always fun - we discovered a great fresh juice stall which we visited most days during our visit) before Lorena, Diego and Virginia came to our hostel and took us to lunch. It was wonderful to meet them at long last - thankfully Lorena spoke good English and was able to translate for us - and her Mum and brother. We went to a lovely restaurant for lunch which overlooked the entire city and the pink hills which surrounded it. The lookout had a patio lined with white columns and a small plaza, fronting La Recoleta (a 16th century Franciscan convent) which Virginia's grandfather had built. We were to realise that both sides of the family Devin spent time with were very influential and featured in the history of Sucre. Later that afternoon we enjoyed an icecream in Parque Bolivar and admired the miniature Eiffel Tower (once again constructed by the Argondonia family!) and the massive Supreme Court which borders the park. Lorena also drove us around the city showing us many places where Devin had spent time and also the house where they all lived in 1996. Sadly there has been a marriage breakdown in the family and the house is now rented out. That evening Virginia and Lorena took us back to the park where we watched the coloured lights of the Dancing Fountain, a relatively new addition to the park and very popular with local families. A lovely day ended with laughter and wine over a pizza at a restaurant on the main square.
Saltenas (a meat filled pastry eaten for breakfast or mid morning in Bolivia) and peach juice were enjoyed with Lorena next morning before we met Jaime ( Lorena's and Diego's father) who now owns a tourist office in the city. Lunch that day was at Lorena's house which was only 5 minutes walk from our hostel before we left the family and spent an enjoyable afternoon wandering the markets and the pretty streets again. Next morning we planned on visiting the Casa De la Libertad but the museum was closed as there was a parade in the square. We watched many groups of soldiers,
The house where Devin lived in 1996The house where Devin lived in 1996The house where Devin lived in 1996

Typical of a modern house in Sucre - compulsary that it is white with terracotta roof.
some in bright yellow Colonial uniforms, and all carrying the red, green and white Bolivian flag or the multicoloured Quechen flag march around the plaza. We found out later that it was the anniversary of the death of a local heroine who had fought in the Battle of Independence. After another lunch with the family - we returned to the Casa de la Libertad where we enjoyed the guided tour around the very ornately decorated and beautifully maintained museum, which was piled high with flowers from that mornings celebrations. We later trudged back up the steep hill to revisit the Recoletta and a small gallery shop (operated by Museo Textil Indigena which was unfortunately closed for renovations) where stunning weavings from the region were sold. The Tarabuco weavings were very fine, mainly purple and blue shades on a white background, showing scenes of daily life. I couldn't resist buying a few small pieces! Jerry bought a piece of the Jalq'a weavings who only used black and red wool in their weavings. Later that evening we met Lorena and Virginia at Origines, a colourful performance of Bolivian dances, which we thoroughly enjoyed. There were a lot of people there - mostly locals - and Virginia told us that it's a very popular spot for local family parties. They had been there regularly since it opened.

Very early next morning Jaime collected us for a day out visiting the surrounding countryside. He had organised for an English speaking guide to accompany us - Henry was late as his bus (he lived in a village near Sucre) had been delayed by protesters. He was upset because his bus had been stoned heavily as it tried to go through the road blocks. We spent the next few hours walking along the renovated stones of the Inca trail. Very enjoyable despite the fact that Henry insisted on playing music very loudly from his phone, which rather spolit the peaceful surroundingS. We asked him to turn it down which he did grudgingly. After meeting up with Jaime again - he had drive to the end of the path to meet us we drove through very scenic, though relatively barren countryside untill we reached the very impressive Maragua Crater. This crater is 9 klms in diameter and the deep sides were a mass of swirling patterns of rock strata in many shades of colour. It was
New cobblestones being laid in the main plazaNew cobblestones being laid in the main plazaNew cobblestones being laid in the main plaza

The locals are very unhappy as they replace perfectly good concrete tiles! They're upset re waste of money and also totally impossible to walk over them in high heels on them!
formed by erosion though many of the locals like to think it was formed thousands of years ago by a meteor! We visited the tiny weaving village of Maragua within the crater where we watched the women weave the intricate red and black patterned tapestries we saw in all the shops in Sucre. The ladies wanted us to buy pieces worth hundreds of dollars and were upset when we wouldn't. We stopped for a picnic lunch by a river. Unfortunately Jaime received a phone call about a problem in his office and the day was then cut short as we returned quickly to Sucre.

In the evening I read my book in a cafe off the main plaza whilst Jerry spent a happy evening listening to some music students playing traditional instruments at a cultural centre/school he had been told about - coincidentally next door to the cafe!Next day was spent very quietly. We had a long walk before meeting up with Lorena who took us to have lunch with her Grandmother (Jaime’s Mum). She was a charming and very alert 92 year old lady and despite the language difficulties we thoroughly enjoyed our meal with her. She made us very welcome. That afternoon Jerry visited the Miliary Museum which he found very interesting whilst I wandered the shops. Later that day Jerry also watched a performance by three young girls playing the charanga - they were part of a Charanga conference being held in the city. There were some stunning instruments on display which I checked out the next day. I spent the afternoon visiting the Cathedral and Virgin Museum. Stunningly beautiful religious artefacts, certainly one of the best religious collection I’ve seen. The highlight, however, was the Capilla de la Virgen de Guadalupe, which was completed in 1625. It houses a painting of the Virgin Mary which has subsequently been covered with hundreds of precious jewels by wealthy Colonial parishioners. The jewels are worth millions of dollars and the guard stayed very close to me whilst I was in the chapel. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos either…

Lorena collected us early the next morning for another day of local sight seeing. She first took us to visit the Castilla de La Glorieta - rather amazing Gothic pink building set within a military compound 5 klms from Sucre. It was built Jaime’s family (the Argondonas) in the early 19th century. Unfortunately upon our arrival and despite the family connection we were unable to actually visit it. Sadly it appears that a car had come off the road above the building (it is set in a hollow) a couple of days before and impacted the house resulting in the death of the driver so it was temporarily closed. The grieving man’s family were at the gate protesting - Lorena said that they wanted the Military who maintain the Castilla to pay compensation for the car drivers death. So we went on to the delightful little village of Yotala where Devin spent a lot of time during his time here. The Argondoas owned a house there. After wandering the narrow streets and bouncing across the chain suspension foot bridge over the river we sat in the main square and had coffee. Driving back into Sucre we met Virginia for lunch before leaving for a couple of hours in the city. Late that afternoon Lorena took us to visit the local cemetery - a massive Catholic cemetery full of impressive tombs and mausoleums (we visited a couple of Argondona ones!) before laying some yellow roses within the cubicle in front of Vicki’s grave. It was a lovely shaded place and very peaceful after the street noise outside. The perimeter is surrounded with booths selling fresh flowers and we spent some time having an “interesting” local specialty drink at one of the food stalls amidst the buckets of flowers. From there we visited a children’s mental hospital where Devin had spent many hours doing voluntary work in 1996. Most of the children were away so the building was very quiet. Another enjoyable day had passed in this lovely relaxed city.
Next morning we caught a local bus to visit the Campesino (indigenous) market. There were hundreds of stalls lining the streets selling everything imaginable. We had heaps of fun exploring the area - it was a great place to people watch! And no other tourists as it was very much a local market. The only problem we had was finding the correct bus back to the main square - there were constant streams of buses passing through and none of them seemed to be going where we wanted to go!! Eventually we got back and enjoyed a lazy afternoon reading and blogging.
Our last big night in the city was spent at a carnival - the Feast of Carmen. Lorena and Virginia collected us and we had a really fascinating night. It is a tradition at this festival to buy miniature items and there were hundreds of tiny objects to choose from. Airline tickets, university diplomas, cash, cars, shops fully stocked, houses and every item you could put in a house - all in minute sizes. I loved the grocery items - tubes of toothpaste an inch long, tiny boxes of biscuits, mini bottles of coke and alcohol - there was stall after stall of them! The crowds were also intense but everybody was out to have good time so the vibe was great. There was all types of food for sale and Virginia was constantly buying bits for us to taste. In one area there were rows of table soccer tables which were very popular with the young men. We had a fabulous night - it was all great fun…
Our last day in the city was spent visiting the markets in Tarabuco (my next blog) before we enjoyed a final meal with Virginia and Lorena. They had been so kind to us during our time in the city. Wonderful hospitality, lots of laughter, a great guesthouse (the best so far) left us with very fond memories of good times in Sucre.

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