If You Are Traveling to Arequipa Peru, Check This
Marmelita and I are traveling to learn more about promising Peru. Right now we are in Arequipa, which has grown from it’s founding in 1540 to Peru’s second largest city. We are taking our turn as tourists, learning the history, customs, and cuisine of a different region and having fun.
Casa Andina Hotel
We made reservations at the Casa Andina Hotel. They advertised wi-fi, and gave us a $20 discount. The room is comfortable, and quiet, with hot water, cable TV, and good lighting. The breakfast is a buffet with plenty of variety. When we first checked in the wi-fi was a problem, but I am happy to report the staff made a priority of fixing the internet in our room.
The San Francisco Cathedral and the Santa Catalina Convent are an easy walk from the Casa Andina, so we started our tour there. The cost to enter Santa Catalina is S/30 and was well worth the price of admission. We were immersed in history for 3 hours and left wondering about many things…
Santa Catalina Convent
Santa Catalina Convent and Monastery was founded in 1579 less than 40 years after the Spanish arrived in the city of Arequipa. Santa Catalina is a miniature city within the city of Arequipa, where rich young spanish women were sent to assure their honor and the honor of the parents. After 390 years of silent prayers, contemplation and seclusion, Santa Catalina was opened to the public in 1970, for it’s historical and architectural significance, with it’s many archways, vaults, domes, buttresses, patios, and small rooms, appropriately called cells.
The French Alliance and the restaurant Crepissimo, previously called Zig Zag, is across the street from Santa Catalina. We snacked on crepes, rested, and climbed the famous staircase designed by Eiffel. We learned that in the evening they fire up the charcoal grills and cook Alpaca steaks over the coals.
We walked on toward the Plaza De Armas and stopped in at Wayrana Restaurant and Café, nice with a water fountain, to order the famous Arequipa regional specialty, rocoto relleno with shrimp, and an Andian potato casserole from the oven. The food was spicy and delicious, washed down with a large glass of iced lemonade, total cost S/ 47.
We walked around impressed by the grand Plaza de Armas, and then took a taxi back to Casa Andina Hotel for S/3.
San Camilo Market
The second day after breakfast, we took a taxi to the San Camilo Market where we marveled at the many variaties of potatoes, giant avocados, live fat guinea pigs ready to butcher, dried beans, flowers, bread, and cheese. Too full to sample, we decided to return in the morning and have breakfast at the market.
Company of Jesus Christ
Of the many historical cathedrals my favorite was the “Compañia de Jesus”, or the Church of the Company of Jesus Christ, rebuilt after an earthquake in 1650. It showcases 66 canvases from the Cusco School of Art, fantastic baroque golden alters, plus the highest door knocker I have ever seen. A twelve foot giant could not have knocked.
El Montonero Restaurant
I highly recommend El Montonero Restaurant. We took a taxi for S/3 to 123 Alameda Pardo St, across the river from the main part of the city. Write down that address, don’t miss it. Our meals were the best we had in Arequipa. We enjoyed the Chupe de Colitas de Camarones, Herbed Alpaca Steaks with a smoky wine sauce, and rich, creamy mashed potatoes from the Andes. We drank Chicha de Jora, fermented corn juice mixed with fruit juice, and black beer, followed by a pitcher of fresh iced lemonade.
I took a nap after our big lunch, while Marmelita explored the Santa Teresa Monastery Museum, founded in 1710, and opened to the public 2006. She came back very enthusiastic. I wish I had gone with her. She bought a bar of fragrant rose petal soap that the nuns make from their rose garden and was full of stories about the history of Santa Teresa Convent.
Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas
The Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas is very impressive, not only for it’s bulk, but also for the beauty of it’s neo-classical interior design. I have a problem, this is where Jesus and Mary are the whitest most blue eyed I have ever seen. The statues of the disciples and prophets are classically greek. There is nothing of the Middle East inside this structure, certainly no hint of any Andean Incas, Quechuas characteristics, nor even Spanish traits. What gives? It looks German, Scandinavian, Northern European.
I guess in the last three days I have seen too many paintings and sculptures depicting the agony and ecstasy of Christ on the cross, and of Mary dressed as a queen. Wondered too much why rich Spanish conquistadores would want to preordain their daughters to a convent where they would live in silent contemplation for the rest of their lives? This cathedral is too huge, cost too much, depicts the wrong images, is in the wrong country…What do you think?
To change the subject, you may not find this information in any travel guide. I have not researched or confirmed these statistics, so it is admittedly sloppy journalism. This is what a taxi driver told us so it must be the gospel. There are 120 taxi companies in Arequipa. The two largest companies are Taxitel, and Tourismo Arequipa. They each have approximately 1200 to 1500 taxis. The total number of taxi cars in Arequipa are 30,000, of which 20,000 are owned by companies, and 10,000 are owned by individuals. City hall has determined there are too many taxis and have not given a new permit since 2006, which only increases the number of illegal taxis. I can verify that most taxis have horns, they are loud, and honk a lot.
We ate bad meals at Nina Yaku restaurant, sign said gourmet. We are on a rose petal trend. We ordered the arugula, rose petal salad. There was no arugala but unfortunately there were lots of rose petals. I didn’t like the food or the waiter.
Breakfast at the San Camilo Market
Our most fun meal was breakfast at the San Camilo Market. Fresh squeezed mixed fruit juice, home made crusty bread, deep fried pork, about half fat, yummmmm gourmet, boiled Andean potatoes, onion tomato cilantro salad, (no rose petals, ja,ja,ja,), complimented by a spicy rocoto pepper sauce.
Arequipa is an interesting city so we are going to spend at least one more day here to take an organized city tour and go to the Archaeological Museum, but like most tourists, we want to see more places than we have time to appreciate, so the next day we will try to find our way to Colca Canyon, via the hot springs, with the hope of observing the Giant Condor largest flighted bird on earth. Then on to Puno and Lake Titicaca.
Bill Grimes, Dawn on the Amazon