Sonccollay, a pre-Inkan restaurant

Amy didn’t really like the idea of cuy and politely avoided looking at it. She ordered alpaca, which she enjoyed. It’s a good thing that she’s a great companion since it took well over 1.5 hours between ordering and seeing our food! We drank a local fermented drink, called chicha de jora, made from purple corn. It was a very lightly alcoholic mixture.

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.

One of the side dishes including tomato, cape gooseberry and avocado.

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!

Here’s the cuy, dusted with herbs and roasted in the oven. As a farm girl from the Midwest, I couldn’t help but think that the cuy (guinea pig) looked a LOT like squirrel. It had been roasted in the oven with a weight on top to keep it flat. There was surprisingly little meat on it and if it hadn’t been fairly fatty to start with, probably would have been quite dry. As it was, it tasted like dark meat chicken. Most of the fat had dripped away, so it don’t think I over indulged, too much. On the other side of the cuy are two small alpaca steaks which Amy said were quite tasty.

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.

This is the land of potatoes, so you’ll usually see them served with any dish. These included three varieties of potato–white, purple and a sweet potato that was tasty, but beige in color. The corn is the local, native variety, called choclo. The kernels are large and it’s not terribly sweet. Honestly, it always tastes a bit like field corn to me.

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.

Misti Volcano is visible from much of the city.
I met Amy on the corner of the park, near the bridge where the alpaca are. I’ve grown quite fond of them. They remind me of a cross between a sheep and a long necked teddy bear.

Sonccollay

  • Address: Portal de San Agustin 149 | Terraza de la Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
  • Location: South America  >  Peru  >  Arequipa Region  >  Arequipa
  • Phone Number: +51 54 281219

Walking tour of Arequipa’s old town

Misti Volcano, between the two towers of the Arequipa cathedral, Plaza de Armas.

I took a free walking tour of Arequipa beginning in the San Lazaro neighborhood. I learned a few things, took too many photos and also got some serious exercise.

To get the the day tour, I had to cross the bridge to the old town section, going through a long narrow, landscaped park. I love this cactus–some are so large they are like shade trees.
This is plaza San Francisco, my new favorite plaza in Arequipa. It’s where the free walking tour would start.

I recently found this great description of the city: “Surprisingly, despite a population of nearly 900,000, the city feels less like a metropolis and more like a compact town, one that’s graced by magnificent Spanish Colonial and Moorish architecture, fancied up with baroque, rococo and neoclassical embellishments. Located at roughly 7,500 feet above sea level in a lush valley between the Andes and coastal desert of southwestern Peru, Arequipa was founded in 1540 by those land-grabbing Spanish conquistadors. The city sits at the base of El Misti, a 19,000-foot volcano that’s bookended by slightly higher and lower volcanoes. But it’s the cone-shaped, seasonally snowcapped El Misti that symbolizes the spirit of the town, which was nicknamed the White City for its many buildings constructed from a pearly-hued volcanic stone called sillar.”

You can see Misti Volcano from the edge of the plaza.
The central fountain wasn’t working, but I liked this detail–the water comes from the frog’s mouth.
This is our tour guide, Johnathan. He is from Peru, but says he’s been traveling the world for the last 8 years. We had a group of about 20 people and I was the only US American. Most everyone was from Canada, and one man was from Tibet.
Johnathan was an OK tour guide. He walked REALLY fast and much of the group had trouble keeping up with him. I did OK, which must mean I’m getting used to the altitude. Dropping another 10 pounds would make a difference, too.
We started our tour in the San Lazaro neighborhood, part of the old historic downtown and mostly constructed of sillar, a volcanic stone mined locally. The San Lazaro neighborhood in Arequipa has narrow alleys like this one. It’s a maze, but once you figure it out, it’s probably fun. Teachers Alina and Drew live in this neighborhood. So far I’ve always had them to show me which turns to take.
I love this wall detail.
This is San Lazaro plaza. Arthur’s (a restaurant some of us ate at a couple weeks ago) and a bar some of us went to last Friday, are in this area.

The guide then took us up the hill to the Parque Selva Alegre (the Happy Forest Park). According to Wikipedia: “Parque Ecològico Alto Selva Alegre. Located in the eastern part of the city, in Selva Alegre District, next to the Chili River. The park and its surrounding areas occupy an area of 1008 hectares of which 460 hectares covering only the ecological park. A part of the park is located in the buffer zone of the National Reserve of Salinas Aguada Blanca.”

There were also a few animals, mostly monkeys, in small, sad cages. I felt sorry for them. The guide assured us they had been rescued and would be returned to their native habitat. I hope so.

This is Parque Selva Alegre–a park that Amy (another teacher) and I found last Saturday. We were allowed in for a quick look by a kind guard at the time, but it was too dark for photos and we didn’t have time for a good look. I feel lucky this was on the tour. It’s only open weekends and holidays.
There were many pictures worked into the walking path. This one is corn. There were also flowers, trees, two bulls fighting and a snake.
The fighting bulls are a tradition here. Instead of a matador killing a bull in the ring, two bulls fight each other. Neither dies. It seems a much better sport.
I love all the designs on the sidewalk. You can see why I keep saying my feet hurt. Most outdoor walking surfaces are cobblestone. Hope my feet toughen up soon.
We were told Selva Alegre park is only open weekends and holidays. It cost 1.50 soles to enter (about 50 cents in the US). This was a Tuesday, but fortunately it was a holiday, Arequipa Day.
The duck pond has a few boats you can rent.
This is in the center of the duck pond (lagos de patos)

Selva Alegre is almost directly across the river from my rooming house. The park is well up the side of a mountain from the Chili River, which you can’t quite see for the houses. This overlook shows the river valley.
You can see mountains from almost everywhere in the city.
Lookout spots are called Miradors. This mirador of the park overlooks the university below.
Choclo con queso, traditional corn with cheese, is a common snack.
The Lazaro church, just outside the park.

Next we got to see the animals!

Lamas and alpacas! The cutie in the middle, facing the camera is an alpaca. To me, they look like long necked poodles.
Lama
Dry. It’s a desert here.
Then guide Johnathan brought us into a room filled with alpaca wool for us to touch.
This is the alpaca wool. The baby alpaca (the first sheering of the baby’s wool) is softer than an adult, though both feel pretty good to me. The softest wool of all comes from the vicuna.
These are the different types of camelids in South America. The Vicuna are wild and a protected species (to the far left). I can now tell a lama from an alpaca!
As a final stop on the walking tour, we were taken to the roof of one of the buildings overlooking the Plaza de Armas.
Plaza de Armas, and a great view!
Misti Volcano, between the two towers of the Arequipa cathedral, Plaza de Armas.
The cathedral of Arequipa on the Plaza de Armas.
Santa Catalina street, from above
Plaza de Armas

We then went down two floors to meet the owner of the restaurant on the building. The restaurant, Sonoccolloy, claims to be the only establishment of its kind, serving Inka cuisine–including alpaca, duck and cuy (guinea pig).

This is the chef, a charming, articulate man who clearly loves his restaurant and cuisine. this voice is very deep and inviting.
He shows us what’s cooking in the wood fired oven.
This is cuy (guinea pig) roasting. One of the guests on the tour was clearly disgusted and couldn’t even look at the roasting meat. The body is laid out flat and a heavy weight is put on top during the roasting process. The weight has been removed for the photo.
This is the bread baking oven
Here’s the dining balcony for the restaurant.
This is billed as the only restaurant in the world that serves Inca cuisine. It’s pricey, so I didn’t go today, but I’m going to try it before I leave.

And now it was time to walk home, almost 2 miles more!

This woman is an artist. Her hats were lovely.
Candied fruit. To the right is figs (higos), but I was never sure what was in the cups. For 2 soles, I bought the cup of orange balls of candied fruit to the right. I asked the vendor what they were, but the word meant nothing to me. She finally told me they were similar to grapes. They were good but anything with that much sugar can’t be all bad tasting.
On the way home, I passed by a group of young dancers, dressed in traditional costumes of the Colca Canyon area. This was a holiday, Arequipa Day, and so there were parades, dances and music.

 

A walk through Arequipa

Today, I was organized enough to start to more seriously explore my new home of Arequipa, Peru. I left my apartment at about 9am for a 4+ hour walk. I took photos along the way, so that you could join me.

This is the entrance to my gated community–which seems to be called an “urbanization,” here. There are LOTS of similar security gates here and I’ve been warned about pickpockets.
So, there seems to be a passenger railroad station very near my house! Everything was all locked up, but I could see people doing maintenance of the groups at the station below. A quick Google search and it appears this is the train station that will take me to Cusco, via Punto (Lake Titicaca). Here’s some details.  Obviously, I’ll need some time to do this, but will try to find a break in the teaching schedule that will allow it. That is, if I can afford it. It’s pretty pricey for one person. But something to think about.
This is the view overlooking the station entrance. Notice the lamas grazing to the lower right. I assume the metal roof is the train station. You can’t see the river, located in the middle of the photo, but you can see the terraced land on the other side, rising to a highway.
Next I enter the long park along Bolognesi Avenue–one of the two main streets I can actually locate. I can’t seem to find the name of this green space–sandwiched between Avenue Bolognesi and the Chili River. I notice from the Google map that across the river is the Parque Ecològico Alto Selva Alegre (Roughly translated, the high happy jungle eco park, I think). I’ve got to check that out in the future. Not yet sure how to actually get there, but with a name like that, I really must try.
This is taken from the park, overlooking the terrace below, Club International, which has a lot of tennis courts, a swimming pool and what appears to be soccer fields as well as other sports. It’s a private club, so I probably won’t ever use its services. It’s bordered by the long narrow park and the Chili River. In the distance is Misti, an active (though fortunately not very active) volcano.
Lots of monuments along the way.
Signage from monument above. Mariano Ignacio Prado Ochoa (December 18, 1825 – May 5, 1901) was a Peruvian army general who served as the 27th (1865), 29th (1865 – 1868) and 32nd (1876 – 1879) President of Peru.

This monument is along Avenue Bolognesi, one of the main streets. It’s located right outside my gated community, and the main branch of my school is located here. Francisco Bolognesi Cervantes (1816-1880) was a Peruvian military hero. He is considered national hero in Peru and was declared patron of the Army of Peru by the government of Peru on January 2 of 1951.

A statue to Francicso Bolognesi Cervantes, located in the park along the avenue of the same name.
At the base of the previous statue. Here’s my rough translation: “The city of Arequipa, in homage to the hero and patriot of the army, Colonel Francicso Bolognesi Cervantes, for outstanding action in defense of the fatherland on June 7th, 1880.”

This is the main branch of my school, a 10-15 minute walk from my boarding house.
There are chess/checkers tables in the park, too. These two men were having a heated discussion, but I didn’t get the sense that they were arguing about the game.
This is a long distance glimpse of today’s destination, over the rails of the park. In the mid-ground is the bridge over the river Chili. Past that, you can see a few tall spires, from buildings in the Plaza de Armas.
There are two lamas grazing in the park (or maybe they are alpacas). I didn’t see anyone keeping them, either. This one isn’t even tied up. Of course, I don’t know the difference between a lama and an alpaca, so I could be identifying these incorrectly. I’ll figure it out. Eventually.
Here’s the second one, possibly the mother of the first, bedded down for a rest. To the upper left, you can just see the small woven structure for them to retreat to.
At the end of the park, Avenue Bolognesi hits this roundabout (called an ovalo grau on my map). Facing this direction is Avenida Ejercito (Army Avenue) the second major street I can locate, so far. It has a couple major stores and a large mall.
…but I didn’t go up hill to the shopping area. I went the other direction and crossed the bridge over the Chili River. This is the left side, showing Misti Volcano and a gentleman cleaning the roof of the swimming pool. It’s very dry and dusty here, so you often see people cleaning.
Another view of the bridge and my first real look at the river.
These are also volcanoes, but dormant, Pichu Pichu and Chachani.
On the other side of the river is this small, but lovely park. It was locked up, but some people were inside building a play structure.
This is the park on the other side of the bridge. That’s the Peruvian flag and a statue of a lama.
I’m walking down a side street on my way to the old center of town, Plaza de Armas. But found this door interesting. This is Church John 3:16.
The gated entrance to Plaza de Armas. Many old Spanish towns have a similarly named square.
By coincidence, there was a protest going on, since today is the date of Peruvian Independence. In 1821, Peru declared independence from Spain.
Here, you can see the protesters, parading around the square…..
….and to the left, to can see the riot police squad that completely ringed the plaza. This was a peaceful demonstration and while I took a few photos, I didn’t stick around long. It never seems like a good idea to be involved in a protest outside of one’s own country, even a peaceful one.
Arequipa is called “The White City” because of lovely buildings like this one. Arequipa’s main plaza is filled with buildings made of sillar--a white, volcanic stone. Impressive colonnaded balconies line three sides of Plaza de Armas. The fourth is given over to Peru’s widest cathedral, a humongous edifice with two soaring towers.
Because of the protests, the museum and the cathedral were closed. But I’ll save it for another day.
On a side street was this lovely church, Iglesia de la Compania (Church of the companions/company of Jesus, or Church of the Apostles). This diminutive Jesuit church is on the southeast corner of the Plaza de Armas. The facade is an intricately carved masterpiece of the churrigueresque style (think Baroque and then some – a style hatched in Spain in the 1660s). The church is dated 1668.
Inside, the central altar is stunning. It’s completely covered in gold leaf, and is modeled after the one in Seville cathedral in Spain.
This is a side altar piece.
….and the other side altar. To the left of the altar is the San Ignacio Chapel, with a polychrome cupola smothered in unusual jungle-like murals of tropical flowers, fruit and birds, among which mingle warriors and angels. I couldn’t take photos of that. I had to pay 5 soles (about $1.50US) but it was completely worth it. There were also gold reliquaries and other church treasures on display, with a little English signage.
OK, so it isn’t just lamas and alpacas I don’t know. Apparently, there are four similar animals for me to learn here in South America.
I stopped in a grocery store and found this fruit I didn’t recognize. The package says aguaymanto. Google identifies it as Physalis peruviana, a plant species originally from Peru. The plant and its fruit are most commonly known as Cape gooseberry. Gonna have to try this. It’s related to the choke cherry (which grew wild on the farm I was raised on in the Midwest) and the tomatillo. It’s a member of the nightshade family.
A quick photo of the Cathedral of Arequipa, on the Plaza de Armas. The protest had moved mostly to the center fountain area, so I grabbed a shot while it was visible.
The Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa is the most important Catholic church of the city and also of the larger Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Arequipa since it is the base of the Archbishop and the Metropolitan Council. The cathedral is also considered one of Peru’s most unusual and famous colonial cathedrals since the Spanish conquest.
This was a mural on the wall. Say the word on the blackboard out loud: “cuckoo”  Honest, this is a good way to figure out words you don’t know. Often they are pronounced almost the same as an English word, just different spelling.
Another interesting mural.
Crossing the bridge again on my way back home. This is the other side and I’m standing in the middle of the Chili River bridge. This is facing the left side, where you can see a small park in the middle left and a major highway on the right. Just left of center, on the horizon, you can see the spires of the Cathedral of Arequipa, on Plaza de Armas, which we are now walking away from.
Middle of the bridge, center. This shows the River Chili, with water moving downstream, toward the Andes Mountains in the distance.
Middle of the bridge, right side. Looks like a pretty rough area. I will not be hanging out here at night.
Everyone’s warned me about the packs of dogs, which seem to be sleeping off the heat of the day.
This city is dry and dusty. Some days the air quality is really poor because of dust. Also, I’ve never seen so many taxis in one city. They all seem to have spots like this one for washing the bodies down from the dust.
Another pack of dogs. Hummm. Remember how they dealt with this problem in Vietnam? Yeah, they ate the mean dogs. Wonder what they do here?