Arequpia - Our favourite city

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May 15th 2009
Published: May 20th 2009
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I didn’t know how to write my blog about Arequipa. You see, nobody that we had met had ever raved about it and no blog’s I had ever read said it anything spectacular about it. The lonely planet describes it as Peru’s nicest city and the only place that I found some evidence of what was in store. Arequipa it appears, is a hidden gem. Although there are lots of gringo’s here, if you had never been here before, the high chances are that you would never heard about it before. How many people have ever heard of it but never been too it?

From the moment we arrived we fell for this place. Our taxi took us through the main plaza and I can honestly say I have never seen one so spectacular. All the lights in the square and on the surrounding buildings were orange and made the white lava rock buildings look amazing. Our taxi took us to our hostel where he got out of his car and ran up an down the street looking for our hostel like some crazed man on a mission. He found it, carried our bags inside and wished us a happy stay. We had been warned about taxi drivers trying to take us to other hostels so that they can get commission. Inside the hostel we were asked had we any problems with ours and we couldn’t say a bad word. The only thing strange was how much he wanted to help. We went out that night with a few from our hostel before tiredness set in from travelling and we had to go to bed. Our room was nice but we had to walk through a bathroom to get to it. It felt strange and a few times I had to point out that I wasn’t a weirdo and that the door over there was my room!

The next day we ventured to the local shopping centre as we had heard reports of a KFC on site. It was there alright but again it always fails to live up to your expectations. You dream of the best chicken and instead get two pigeon pieces, more bone and bread crumb than anything else. We had a look around the shopping centre but Penneys has caused an awful problem for us. If its not cheaper than there it’s not worth buying. So far in the whole of South America we have yet to find a shop that is cheaper, even though the countries are poorer. You’d pick up a top, convert the currency and then realise the same polo t-shirt is twice as dear as Penneys. On our budget I’m afraid we cant be having that!

We had also heard of a place called Café y Vino (wine bar) somewhere in Arequipa. We decided to go to it that night and hope that they do tapas and of course good red wine. We got to the street where it was but couldn’t see it. Next we spotted a window for it on the first floor of a building but no door. After a few minutes we knocked on a big wooden door and a security guard opened it for us. Café y Vino? He gestured us in. We stepped through the door to enter into a big hidden plaza. The place was magnificent looking and one can only imagine it’s history behind those wooden doors. We looked around in amazement for a while before venturing upstairs to the wine bar. We sat outside as the views were amazing, looking out over the city. We had the place to our selves other than the people inside. The LP hasn’t got there hands on Café y Vino yet. This means a lot less people there and prices are normal. We ordered a bottle of red from the French owners friends local vineyard and some tapas too. It was a perfect place for the wine bar and although I hope the guy’s business does well I hope it remains a bit like the secret it was to us.

Next day we prepared ourselves for our Colca Canyon tour but decided when we got back we would stay another three nights as there we so many nice/cheap restaurants to try. When we did get back we were asked which room we would like. We both replied the one without the bathroom please! It also turned out their was only one other person there. We had the hostel practically to ourselves which is good in one way but bad in that there is nobody to meet. For the next few days we would explore Arequipa, finding many hidden plaza’s and laneways, full of markets selling local crafts. Put your head around any corner and you’d find something different. Also we tried a lot of the restaurants including a Mexican, Italian and Turkish. We also ate in a few of the very many cake and ice cream shops. On one occasion we both got a banana split each the size of a small boat. Arequipa is a great place but its hard on the waistline!

At the start of the blog I said I didn’t know how I was going to write it. My brain said tell everyone its crap and there is nothing to do so that I could keep it for ourselves and the few other tourists/travellers that have made it here. The other side was tell the world about this amazing city that has just about everything you can want. Great food, friendly people, amazing scenery ( I forgot to mention it’s surrounded by mountains and volcanoes), cool bars, excellent tours, the list goes on. Arequipa is head and shoulders above the other cities we have visited. It has a population of 1 million so its not small. You are advised to stay within certain areas for safety reasons. We always felt secure and never threatened but then we didn’t put ourselves in that position that so many people do. Buenos Aires and Rio are excellent cities and I’m sure some people will disagree with me putting Arequipa ahead of those but for real South American character this Peruvian city wins hands down for me.

In a bit. DH

Song of the blog: The Verve - Lucky Man (Its 8:45am here and they are playing it at the bar near our room)

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