04 January 2010

A Rapid Quick Peak at Arequipa

In the morning we arrived at Arequipa, having had opportunities to sleep, eat, and watch a movie or two en route from Ica to Arequipa. Most likely due to fatigue from the bus ride and a lack of quality sleep, we chilled at the hotel for a couple of hours in the morning before venturing out into Arequipa. During said chill time, I had already gone out to go get my ticket from Cusco to Lima at the LAN office, noticing on the walk that it seemed a bit more difficult to walk around. Had we gained altitude, or was I just exhausted? Once everyone was ready, we went to the Cathedral then stopped for the apparently requisite late morning Pisco Sours M & S would have. All things considered, and with hindsight to help, we should have stopped for lunch then but forged ahead anyway, largely perhaps because I wanted to get to see the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. This is a Dominican convent from the 1600s where initially the novices were living in comparative luxury, complete with servants, china, and fine linens. Since these were typically the second daughters of rich families, the wealth of the family dictated the comfort of the girls. Eventually the vatican and a strict mother superior changed all of this, but the result is that a beautiful city within a city was created in the middle of Arequipa.

Our late lunch was held at Chicha, part of the Gaston empire of restaurants, in the Casona de Sta Catalina. Given the tardy start to lunch, cocktails were only reasonable. If only I could remember what I had! It was a fruity delicious thirst quencher. After sharing a piqueo de mariscos, I had anticuchines de pulpo over toasted querelles of mashed yellow potatoes. M had a pastel de choclo de maís, a sort of corn quiche/casserole with shredded beef inside. J had traditional arequipeño adobo. S had - surprise! - ceviche. It seems he had been having pisco sours and ceviche everywhere he went for the past several days. It would be discussed the following day that he might consider having something other than ceviche for at least one meal, his digestive system issues might be cleared.

After such a grand almuerzo, we all needed siestas. Eventually around 7 or 8 we managed to work our way back to the streets, obviously with less hunger than would dictate having dinner. I noticed a few places that had queso helado, a traditional arequipeño ice milk. Although I should have just gotten one and said “screw dinner”, I forged ahead not wanting to spoil my appetite. Silly! Eventually we stumbled upon a cheap t-shirt store due to a curiously gangsta mannequin outside and strolled out each a couple of t-shirts richer.

By the time we finished a drink or two at a bar with decent lighting and good artwork, it was already close to 11pm and hard to find an open restaurant on a Monday night. There was a cheap Turkish sandwich & light fare place open that J & I were ok with but then got drawn by the others to a place down San Francisco called Mystica that was still open. The menu of the day looked appetizing but seemed like it would be too much. No one was eating there, but no one was really still eating anywhere except for a couple of pizza places. For some reason, the menu of the day was no longer being served, but one could compose it oneself by ordering a la carte. Tant mieux: who needed all of that food anyway! M & I ended up getting one of the mains from the daily menu. By the sound of it, a promising dish: lasaña of rocoto relleno. Rocoto relleno is a traditional Peruvian dish: somewhat spicy pepper stuffed with seafood & cheese. Deconstruct it and turn it into lasagna, layered with one of the 4000 kinds of potatoes the country is known for. Having had this restaurant’s deconstructed version of it, I’d describe it more as frozen seafood that was overcooked and layered with potatoes and peppers.

Next morning at 8:30 we had a bus to Puno. Repack & prepare for departure!

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