Good-bye, Arequipa. Thank you for being so beautiful on our last night together. Your Plaza de Armas is spectacularly back-lit by the setting sun, the sky is colored layer upon layer of blues and dusky pinks. The palm trees stand out like lace against the sky, the white cathedral and other buildings are lit with such a cozy shade of yellow... People are sitting around, talking happily... All is right in the world (ask those who were protesting earlier against educational policies if everything’s alright)... I found a cafe that’s as high as you can get on the Plaza and the view was so awe-inspiring that it was photographed a zillion times by a zillion people, including, of course, myself. But that’s no benchmark, as even the boring old bedroom in the Mansion del Fondador was photographed in a frenzy by tens of tourists today... I keep repeating myself, but gosh I’m so sick and tired of this craze! What do these people do with all these photos? Will they watch the videos they took of each and every room of the mansion, will they read the museum inscriptions they photographed?
Anyways, good-bye Arequipa’s horrible traffic and inhumane drivers. You have too many cars for such a small town. The traffic jams never stop. And your people, just as in Lima, while so gentle and kind, all become monsters when they climb into a car. I hate, hate, hate you guys when you become drivers. But that’s something you have in common with Turkey – even my family and friends become blood-thirsty criminals when they drive there. Serge would try to teach Turkish drivers manners during the week he’s pend there and I’d get angry at him. But here, I, too throw myself in front of cars and get angry at them. I have seen the natives get angry at cars, too, but not often. They submit to this reality. And wait and wait and wait to be able to cross a narrow street. I don’t have that patience!
Good-bye, Arequipa’s volcanoes and mountains, You are everywhere I look and each time you make me catch my breath. Just earlier, I opened my hotel room door, and there you were! My hotel, a crummy, run-down place, salaş mı salaş, but so clean, soooo clean... They clean it morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night. The owner must be obsessive-compulsive or the workers must be on some sort of cleaning punishment. It's truly exaggerated. The room costs only 12€ a night and I have my own bathroom. It's pretty quiet, the bed's very comfortable, there's hot water, it's in the city center, I can see the volcano when I open my door. What more could I want? Bye, little hotel room...
Good-bye, beautiful houses with heavy, wooden, elaborate, medieval doors, Inca-style stone carvings, wide street-level windows with fer forgé grilles.... Each time I have to tell myself, you can’t go in through each doorway to look into each courtyard, you can’t turn into each little street, and also, you can’t taste each cake or dessert! A tourist has to make choices... Aaarrrrggghh...
And good-bye, Monasterio de Santa Catalina, the most incredible monastery on earth. It took me hours to see it all. At some point, I was so tired that each time I saw a nun’s bed, I wanted to lie down in it. Again, though, there were those horrendous religious paintings of men and women suffering , bleeding profusely, wailing... How can a person live surrounded by such things? The statues are even worse. They love these mannequins. The nuns made them themselves, dolls of Jesus and saints, perfect material for a horror movie. The ones in the Cathedral are the “best”... Instead of paintings, there are big vitrines holding elaborate mannequins.. look:
The Monastery is a city within the city, with streets and orchards. The richer nuns had their own homes with bedroom(s), salon, kitchen and courtyard. They SOLD each other their houses! Some had pianos brought in at great expense all the way from London. They embroidered, sewed, made mannequins... But maybe life inside was preferable to life outside, where they were obliged to marry the man of their family’s choice then bear children all their lives, without any control over anything, whereas inside they could be promoted, could become organizers... I tried to tell myself all so I wouldn’t scream in horror. It’s beautiful to visit... But to live there for 50, 60 years?
The cupola is very mujedar, Spanish with Arab influence.
I spent my days flâner-ing, wandering aimlessly, having a coffee here, lunch there, dinner in another place, visiting museums, monasteries, churches, alpaca sweater shops. And working at the café of the alliance française, in the garden of a monastery, and in my hotel room. It’s so cool to be able to work while travelling! I resisted buying a beautiful ring and earrings (I’m so glad I did). Today I was a bit tired of being in a city. I took a taxi and went to visit the founder of Arequipa’s mansion which of course is wayyyy outside of the city... At one point all the tourists left and I lay down in the gorgeous garden, in the sun! And there were alpacas!
Then I called another taxi (they’re extremely cheap, and since you negotiate the price before you get in, you’re never afraid they’re swindling you) and went to eat at a very Arequipanese (?) place, again far from the city. I felt a bit out of place there, especially since the waiter stupidly sat me in a corner where a huge, very well-dressed family came (the table had been prepared for them; they had reserved) before I’d finished. I felt so awkward that I asked for the check but the waiter understood my situation (he should have prevented it in the first place) and took me on a terrace on the second floor where I had a full view on Misti, the volcano!
It is NOT guinea pig that I will miss when I miss Peruvian cuisine. It comes way on the bottom of good things I ate! But I had to taste the dish that figures on the famous “Last Supper” painting... That’s done. CHECK.
I can’t wait to be in nature tomorrow. I’ve had enough of cars, pollution, honking, noise. Cafés, restaurants, and spending money all the time.
I should head home (I’m having dinner) and pack. I have to get up at 3 AM L
There’s so much I want to write still… Not about the city, about how it is to travel alone. I’m afraid this article was a bit boring.
Turkish bar and restaurant!: