Discovering the White City

Cathedral at dusk
Main Cathedral at dusk

As soon as the Inca Trail was over, it was onto the next stop, Arequipa.  With only 11 days to work with for this trip (2 of which were spent in transit), having already spent 2 days in Cusco, we were ready to see another part of Peru.  We long debated whether to go to Arequipa or Lake Titicaca, as we’d only have time for one, and ended up opting for Arequipa over visiting the floating islands because I really wanted to check out Colca Canyon.  That would be tomorrow, and today would be a slow day spent off the feet, exploring the relatively small city center of Arequipa.

We took a 9am flight from Cusco to Arequipa, so we were situated and checked in at our hotel La Hosteria by 11am.  Many of the airports in South America use dogs to sniff out drugs and other illegal substances, so I was pretty surprised when a cute golden retriever jumped on my bag.  Uh oh…I don’t want to spend my life locked up in a Peruvian prison like they always show on TV!  Thankfully, it was because I had previously had an apple in my backpack, and for whatever reason, these dogs were trained to sniff out produce too.

Known as the “white city,” Arequipa is best known for its white buildings, constructed using white sillar stone found locally from its 3 neighboring volcanoes, El Misti, Chachani, and PichuPichu.  Because of its porous nature and ability to naturally absorb heat, these stones were also commonly used in local cooking.  We got to experience this over lunch at a restaurant called Zig Zag, where Doug and I ordered various meats and fish grilled over this stone which was fantastic.

Fun little homemade bread basket with parsley butter
Fun little homemade bread basket with parsley butter
You'd think we were sick of soup by now, but I was really craving pumpkin soup and this did not disappoint
You’d think we were sick of soup by now, but I was really craving pumpkin soup and this one was DELICIOUS
Really pretty caesar salad
Really pretty caesar salad
Doug's assortment of meats, grilled over volcanic stone
Doug’s assortment of meats (beef, lamb, alpaca), grilled over volcanic stone.  Served with some delicious mashed potatoes (I could get used to Peru’s potatoes!).
My assortment of fish (salmon, tuna, paiche -- Amazonian fish) served flambeed with pisco.  No smoke detectors here!
My assortment of fish (salmon, tuna, paiche — Amazonian fish) served flambeed with pisco. No smoke detectors here!

The remainder of the afternoon was pretty much all spent wandering the city and looking for a good 1-day tour to Colca Canyon tomorrow.  We originally wanted to go for 2 days, but liked the idea of relaxing locally on our last day and not dragging our luggage with us on the bus.  Since these tours were quite the commodity, it was challenging trying to find the “right” one that would pack the most in our itinerary although I’d guess most followed the same format.  And boy were these tour operators competitive – most of these guys were congregated around the main square (also called Plaza de Armas) trying to yank us into their stores!  After a little back and forth, we decided to go with Colonial Tours, as they’d had a good number of reviews online, and the itinerary and pricetag fit our needs.

The Church of St Francis of Assisi, one of the many colonial style churches in Arequipa
The Church of St Francis of Assisi, one of the many colonial style churches in Arequipa
Facing the main Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas
Facing the main Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas
Another one of the many churches, the Church of the Company of Jesus, on the other side of the Plaza de Armas
Another one of the many churches, the Church of the Company of Jesus, on the other side of the Plaza de Armas
Cool archways flanking the sides of the Cathedral
Cool archways flanking the sides of the Cathedral

Knowing we had another day to explore Arequipa now, we decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing since we hadn’t done too much of that yet on our trip.  We enjoyed our first real happy hour in an alleyway right behind the main Cathedral and I learned that guava flavored pisco sours are terrific.  Though we loved all the Peruvian food we’d sampled, we also craved some familiar flavors from home, so tonight we decided to have pizza.  It was surprisingly good! (actually not really surprising since we are convinced Peruvians are great at cooking everything now)

Pretty neat sunset
Pretty neat sunset that looked even cooler against the white walled buildings
Within the walls of the Cathedral
Within the walls of the Cathedral
Inside the cathedral was very...yellow.  It actually had some really cool sculptures along the walls.
Inside the cathedral was very…yellow. It actually had some really cool sculptures along the walls.
Peruvian pizza at Pizza Piazza - chicken, bacon, onions, the works
Peruvian pizza at Pizza Piazza – chicken, bacon, onions, the works

It was also today when we discovered one of our favorite little shops, located at the Plaza de Armas.  Otherwise known as “alfajor-land,” Antojitos de Arequipa was a little bakery that sold about 10-12 different kinds of mini-alfajors, ranging from the traditional caramel sandwich cookies to exotic flavors like almond, guava, lucuma (Peruvian fruit), elderberry, chocolate, mint chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, and countless others.  Being huge alfajor fans from our trip to Argentina, Doug and I were kids in a candy shop!  We bought about 10 boxes to split amongst ourselves and family…time will only tell if it actually makes it to family…

Vacation tradition = finding local ice cream.  The Plaza's gelato did not disappoint, with Tres Leches, Cinnamon, and Blackberry topping our list of fun "local" flavors
Vacation tradition = finding local ice cream. The Plaza’s gelato did not disappoint, with Tres Leches, Cinnamon, and Blackberry topping our list of fun “local” flavors.
Counting inventory.  We *only* bought 9 boxes of alfajors!
Counting inventory. We *only* bought 9 boxes of alfajors!

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