I arrived in Arequipa at 5am, tired and bleary eyed after a long and cold bus journey from the sunny sand dunes of Huacachina. As with many overnight journeys that I’ve had on the trip, I wanted nothing more than a hot shower and a bed on arrival, but once again it wasn’t to be. Instead I asked for a blanket and resigned myself to snuggling up on the couch at my B & B until the sun rose and I could find somewhere that would serve me coffee and eggs.
Once it got to about 8am I ventured out from my cosy corner under the blanket and out to Crepesimo, a small cafe near the main square where I had a warm and delicious ham and cheese crepe with a fried egg on top. After this, I joined a walking tour around the city, where I paid a small amount of attention to the history of Arequipa and the tour guide explaining the reason why there are SO many guitar shops in Arequipa, but mostly just marvelled at the beauty of this city sitting in the shadow of the volcanoes and noted down places I wanted to eat at over the next few days. Oh, and had a second breakfast from some ladies on the street selling the most delicious pastries. These nights of interrupted sleep are not good for my waistline! Our tour ended with a shot of Pisco sour at a club that had a lovely view, which thankfully was around the corner from my B & B as it was definitely time for a nap.
In the late fternoon, I took the hot tip from our walking tour guide and ventured out to the main square to secure a spot at one of the rooftop restaurants to watch the sunset over Arequipa and the mountains. I didn’t want to pay the astronomical price to have a meal there, so I just ordered a Pisco sour and settled in for the show – everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing so I didn’t feel too bad. It was a really amazing view – Arequipa is certainly the most beautiful city I have visited in South America! After that I went to Zingaro for dinner, where I had my first taste of alpaca. I really enjoyed it, I thought it was was similar to beef or lamb, maybe a little sweeter. Although I am a medium-rare sort of girl and and this steak was cooked a little too rare for me, so I didn’t quite finish it.
After dinner, I was still really awake thanks to my mega nap earlier in the day. I headed over to Chaqchao, the craft beer and chocolate bar that the walking tour had started earlier that day that was set to be my new favourite place on earth. They had a large selection of Peruvian craft beers, and they made their own chocolate and desserts in house. Over my couple of days in Arequipa I tried a chocolate ale, a capsicum IPA and a number of other delicious darker beers. My favourite was an IPA by a brewery called Barbarian that I tried in the recommendation on the bartender that was so hoppy and aromatic – yum!
The next day I wandered up to the Yanahuara lookout, where there is a nice view over the city to the Misti volcano. I thought the lookout itself was a little overrated, but the walk up there was really pretty and saw some interesting Peruvian security measures outside some fancy houses along the way. On the way back I stopped at a local restaurant, Salteneria Roma, that our walking guide had pointed out the day before for super cheap saltenas for lunch. Saltenas are a baked empenada that traditionally hail from Bolivia, and theses ones were filled with a slightly sweet and very juicy beef sauce – sitting down to eat it at a park bench I got it all over my hands! Worth every bit of mess though.
After getting my fill of baked goods, I walked back to Chaqchao for the chocolate making class that I had signed up for after a few beers the night before. The class was taught by a Peruvian chef who had studied in Canada, and it was both parts informative and fun. We learnt about the cacao bean, the role of cacao mass and cacao butter in making good quality chocolate and practised picking good quality cacao nibs and grinding them up. We also rubbed pure cacao butter all over our arms and faces which felt pretty lush, although made us a little shiny! After the learning we were off to make some chocolates of our own, selecting from a range of ingredients including quinoa, chilli, banana chips and nuts and topping our molds up from a never ending liquid chocolate tap. Heaven! While our chocolate was setting in the molds, we went back upstairs to try a bunch of different kinds of chocolate and guess whether they were real of fake chocolate. You could tell the real chocolate because the taste evolved in your mouth, while the fake/sugary chocolate gave you a quick hit then dissolved into nothing. Once class was done I grabbed a seat on the balcony to enjoy one last beer here with my fresh chocolates.
Once all that excitement was over, I wandered over to the Mercado San Camilo because I had lost my padlock for my bag and I needed a new one, and also because markets in South America are just such interesting places to explore. This market did not disappoint on either account – I bought a padlock and found aisles filled with fruit and veg (including a whole potato section), olives, meat, fish, flowers, handicrafts and much more. My favourite was the row of juice stands – I can’t even imagine how one city could need that much juice supply every day!
That night I had dinner booked at one of the nicest restaurants in Arequipa, Zig Zag, which is famous for its ‘Alpandina’ cuisine – a mix between Alps and Andean cuisine. It’s located inside a beautiful old house, with an iron staircase in the middle that was designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame. I really splashed out here, and it was one of the best meals I have had in South America. My starter was perfectly cooked asparagus with silky smooth smoked salmon and Parmesan, while for the main course I had beef, lamb and alpaca steaks served on hot volcanic stone and accompanied by three cheese quinoa risotto, vegetables and four different sauces. I was given a rather oversized bib to protect my clothes from the sizzling meat, which made me feel a little silly sitting by myself but I was quite grateful for once I saw how greasy it had gotten. I enjoyed this alpaca a lot more than the one from the night before -it was a bit more cooked and less chewy. For dessert I had a three chocolate mousse (because I hadn’t had enough chocolate that day) that came with a bit of passionfruit sauce which really hit the spot.
On my last night in Arequipa, after I had returned from an exhausting two days at the Colca Canyon, I had an easy and quick dinner at a popular pizza place called Las Gringas, just downstairs from Chaqchao. They also had a great range of craft beers, and I had pizza with pork and berries and a crust made of purple corn which was really interesting and enjoyable. After the pizza and beer I was ready for bed after the long two days of hiking I had had – but more on that in the next post!