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Travel Diary: Arequipa, Part 1

August 29, 2013

Today starts my “photo diary” series. After almost three weeks on the go, I’ve barely been able to scratch the surface of what I’ve been up to, but this series should give you a better idea, from touristy fun to amazing food, local customs, and incredible architecture.

We’ll start in Arequipa, against this pink wall, with our dear friend Cat (at left). Vamanos!

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This yummy looking thing served by an adorably-outfitted Arequipian gal is an all-natural local ice cream and favorite midday treat in called queso helado. It’s created in a giant iced vat and sprinkled with cinnamon before you chow down.

We picked some up just before heading into la Apacheta cemetery.

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Here are a few shots of the (beautiful) aforementioned cemetery. Some of these graves date back to the 1800’s. The cemetery spans on and on like a labyrinth as you walk through.

Families tell life stories by placing a myriad of objects and photos behind glass panels in front of each grave. It’s extremely sentimental and special. Then of course, there are epic mausoleums for wealthy families, dating hundreds of years.

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After paying our respects, we crossed the street for a pastry commonly devoured on the weekends: picarones! This “Peruvian donut” is light, crispy, and drizzled in a a kind of molasses syrup. We each ate a plate of three.

Yes, three donuts in one sitting. That’s how good they are!

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A walk through Arequipa will leave you completely awe-struck. A good place to start is the Plaza de Armas, where you’ll find 8 billion pigeons, very tall palm trees, and more Arequipian emblems than you can shake a stick at.

The surrounding streets are a maze of 500+ year old monestaries, epic houses, churches, and passageways to explore.

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The countryside, Characato, where many hard-working AQP’ns spend their weekends, is a mere 20 minute ride by taxi (for about 28 soles, or 10 bucks). Here you can eat authentic Arequipian cuisine in outdoor picanterias, which are open for the most epic meal of the day here: lunch.

After stuffing yourself and having a cold Arequipeña beer, you can take a stroll through green fields, see farm animals grazing, and watch the sun go down over the beautiful scenery.

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Above, one of my favorite dishes native to Arequipa: Rocoto Relleno (stuffed peppers) served with pastel de papas (a potato and cheese pastry).

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It’s impossible not to mention the Misti volcano, which overlooks Arequipa and can be seen from pretty much anywhere you travel in the city. It sits between the Chachani mountains and the  Pikchu Pikchu volcano.

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For shopping (and not at the typical street vendor price), head to the Feria del altiplano open market, where you’ll find food, music, textiles, and a whole lot of stuff you didn’t realize you need… like a massive garbage bag full of animal crackers and little stuffed llamas.

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For entertainment, there are concerts and festivals happening almost all the time (like in any other city). On our first night, we saw tunos serenading a massive gathering in the center of the city. On another night, we caught Los Chapillacs (a rad chicha band from Arequipa), The Wailers, and Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. It was also the eve of Arequipa’s anniversary, so we took in an epic fireworks show.

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All of the above was within two days. We don’t mess around. I want to share more, but we’ve got mere days to go before we fly back to New York, so I am going to make the most of each minute!

Heads up for part 2…

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