My friend, fellow teacher Amy, and I decided to splurge a bit and try what seems to be a fairly unique restaurant, not just in Arequipa, but in South America. Sonccollay is located on the Plaza de Armas and is listed as a “pre-Inkan” restaurant, serving the traditional foods of the Andean region. I was most interested in the cuy–local guinea pig. I’d had it earlier in the week, but it was fried and I wanted to try a traditional roasted dish.
Amy and I had each met the owner, while we were on separate free walking tours. The tour ends at the restaurant, which has an impressive view of the plaza below and the surrounding mountains. The owner is personable with a commanding voice, but seemed quite disheveled and stressed both times I saw him. He seems to run the restaurant almost entirely alone!
While I had a good time (mostly because of good company) and enjoyed the food, I’m not sure if I can recommend the restaurant. It was a bit over-priced and we waited almost 2 hours to eat, despite being one of the few diners. They also took almost all my cash, since they had “trouble” accepting credit cards, though the menu had indicated that they did. I also felt the owner was openly disappointed with our orders–we hadn’t spent enough money to satisfy him. I won’t go back.
Do not expect beef, chicken, garlic, onions or cilantro when eating here. The main meats are alpaca, cuy, duck and “river shrimp.” And everything is a little charred, typical of the use of stone and wood logs. Most of the reviews I read simply raved about the food, but I thought it was good, but not fantastic. Of course, I’m really put out by being expected to wait a long time to order and receive food in what was clearly not a busy night. I also felt I was slightly over charged based on the menu prices.
There are highlights, however. The restaurant seats diners on a second story balcony over looking the Plaza de Armas. It’s great for people watching and we even observed the ceremony to take down the flags in the courtyard. The owner will give you a brief tour of the kitchen, which should not be missed. And the view from the roof is simply spectacular.
I’m doing a LOT of walking while I’m here in Arequipa–trying to get between 2-4 hours of walking each day. It’s part of my training for the Annapurna trail in Nepal in November. But I do more than walk–I see the city, too. Sometimes, my walking includes visits to my favorite plaza, such as the Plaza de San Francisco. There’s a small, free museum there that I also saw this week.
The Municipal Museum of the city of Arequipa focuses on informing visitors of the history of Arequipa, but you may want to brush up on your Spanish before visiting. There’s no English signage. But it does cover, though briefly, architecture, ethnology and art of the area.
The exhibition is divided into seven wards: Prehispanic Hall, Room Emancipation of the Republic Hall, Room Vinatea Reynoso, Room Naval Architecture Hall, Room Arequipeños Illustrious and the Pinacoteca.
My favorite was the last room, displaying landscapes of the area, most with a view of Misti in the background.
The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa takes up one entire side of the square Plaza de Armas of the city of Arequipa (located in the province of Arequipa), Peru. It is the most important Catholic church of the city and perhaps the largest church of the area. The cathedral is also considered one of Peru’s most unusual and famous colonial cathedrals since the Spanish conquest.
I’ve set out to see the cathedral at least three other times, but the Plaza de Armas is also a popular spot for protests, which always close the church. There’s a fee of 10 soles to enter, plus another 5 for a guided tour, which is well worth it.
I couldn’t take photos of the museum, which has previous silver and gold object, some decorated with semi-precious stones. The most notable pieces included a “bread holder” in silver, shaped like a swan feeding her young from the exposed heart (in red stones) on her chest. The guide’s English was quite good, but she kept referring to the bird as a pelican. There were several crowns, made to adorn statues of the Virgin, most silver, coated in gold and covered in colored glass or semi-precious stones. The most impressive was the solid sliver monstrance, with over 1000 diamonds.
The City of Arequipa was founded on August 15, 1540 by Garcí Manuel de Carbajal. The Cathedral started construction on this very date. In the “Act of Foundation” of Arequipa, it can be read: “…in the name of its majesty Governor Francisco Pizarro, founded the beautiful village in the valley of Arequipa, in the Collasuyo section, above the river edge, in his name he put the cross, in the location signaled for the Church; He put the pike in the Plaza of the village, which he stated would do in the name of its majesty…”
This impressive building has weathered, sometimes unsuccessfully, many earthquakes, so there’s been lots of rebuilding. The entire edifice has been reduced to ruble more than once. The last major earthquake was June 23, 2001: The 2001 southern Peru earthquake measured 8.1 on the Richter scale. The left tower was destroyed and the right tower suffered major damage.
Those who follow this blog probably also know my slogan: “Traveling the World, one bite at a time.” I’ll taste almost anything at least once. This week, I’ve crossed two more culinary milestones off my list: Cuy and Alpaca.
I’ll start with the Alpaca. It was a steak filet (lomo), grilled (asado) and served medium with a fresh vegetable sauce and french fries (papas fritas). Alpaca is a very lean meat, much like deer, so roasting needs to be slow. Overcooking could quickly dry out and toughen this meat. Fortunately, my chef was an old hand and I suffered neither issue, though it seems to be a naturally tough meat and I neede a knife to cut it. Despite the outward resemblance to deer, the meat was mild with no gamey taste. It was much like beef, frankly, and I’m not sure I could tell the difference. It was flavorful. I can recommend it!
The cuy was not quite as I was expecting. First, let me explain that cuy is guinea pig, native to the Andes and once a staple in this area. I was ordering from a menu entirely in Spanish, so sometimes I’m a tad surprised by the resulting dish. Good thing I’ll eat almost anything. I’d expected the cuy to be roasted, which is traditional. This was deep fried filets, dipped first in cornmeal. I suspect the same cornmeal is used for trout. Tucha is very popular here and it’s usually deep fried. I detected a fishy smell with the first bite, which was disappointing. This turned out to be a very fatty piece of meat, so deep frying made for a somewhat greasy, heavy dish. After a few bites, I pulled away the breading and fatty skin and just ate the small amount of meat remaining, which, tasted like dark meat chicken. Isn’t that always the way? The saving grace to the meal was the creamy “Andean herb” sauce. It looked like it might taste too “green” but proved mild with a hint of mint. I used a couple of the ubiquitous french fries to sop up the last of the sauce, though I left most of the fatty skin and breading.
I’m going to have to give cuy another try, but find a roasted dish. I’m dining with a friend Sunday, so may try it then.
The short version is that I wasn’t enjoying the school here in Arequipa. There were broken promises, which I’ve discussed. I had a 33 teaching hour work load, 15-20 additional hours of preparation, the worst classroom in the school (for a second month in a row), and a cold that was making me miserable. No amount of discussion seemed to be able to improve the classroom (three of four light bulbs needed replacing, but nothing was ever done) and I’d asked for a lower teaching load (this was promised, but I had the same number of hours on the next schedule). The final straw was an all day Student’s Day event we were required to “volunteer” for. It was even assumed that all teachers would be participating, even serving on at least one soccer/volleyball/basketball team. I’m not interested in sports and have no ability in this area.
Possibly, I should have tried to discuss a more reasonable compromise. That does seem like the adult thing to do. Except 1) I’d had no success with previous communications or promises, 2) I’m not getting paid much for my work anyway and 3) I was so sick I just didn’t care anymore. I turned in my books on the third day of classes and gave up. I slept for most of the next two day, and awoke feeling better and much less stressed. I should have done it earlier. Don’t get me wrong, this school isn’t any worse than most of the others, but I’m just tired of allowing myself to be treated badly. And I simply don’t want to work on a tourist visa with a contract that calls me an “intern.”
In the meantime, I’ve recovered from the cold and am dealing with a large block of uninterrupted time for the first times in years. I’m truly efficient with small blocks of time. I fit the saying, “When you want something done, ask a busy person.” I know how to schedule my time and get things done under pressure. But dealing with a large swath of free hours with no plan each day is new to me. And a little overwhelming. Lazing around for a day or two is probably good for all of us once in awhile, but a month or more and I fear I’ll fall into a deep depression. To combat it, I’ve set myself a daily “to do” list. The major categories are exercise and Spanish study.
The exercise is quite practical. I’m in training for a hike of Nepal in November. I’m already at high altitude (2,335m or 7,661ft) here in Arequipa, though I’ll have to deal with much higher in Nepal. I fly into Kathmandu, which is at 1,400 metres or 4,600 ft. So far, so good. But it’s 18 days, hiking 4-6 hours most days and climbing to Thorung Phedi, 4450m/14600ft. High altitude has been difficult for me in the past and I’ve never experienced anything like what I’m facing. So while I really want to do this, I don’t expect it to be all pleasant. That’s why this week, I’m doing a combination of stretching, strength exercises and walking with a light pack at least 2 hours a day. I’ll increase the walking next week.
I’m also spending more than 2 hours a day studying Spanish. Some is online (I’ve finished the DuoLingo course and am now using Tiny Cards), two different video lessons (one speaking and one listening), vocabulary review on my own, and I’m about to finish a grammar book I started in Mexico. Today, I was able to do some bargaining in Spanish, reducing the price of gifts for friends and family. I also ordered alpaca steak (my first) entirely in Spanish!
Also on the to do list, practicing my ukulele and drawing. I’m really terrible at both, but enjoying myself. In addition, I do some reading and watch Netflix and of course exploring the area. This week, I found a little plaza near me, tasted alpaca steak, located the traditional market, and bought a few gifts. It’s relaxing and I feel productive. Besides, it’s just a month.
The photos are from my walks over the last couple days.