Arequipa is not a well-known destination among Peru's international tourist circuit as Lima, Machu Picchu, and Cuzco often take the spotlight. But we were lucky enough to have a friend who decided to hold her wedding in this cute hometown of her family. Arequipa is actually the second largest city in the country, guarded by not one but three formidable volcanoes (one of them, El Misti, is still live). Earthquakes regularly visits this region - it survived 11 big earthquakes from colonial times (~1,500 AD) to the latest one in 2001. The strong foundation of baroque buildings grafted out of the local white volcanic sillar rock, has so far withstood most of what mother earth has thrown at it. August is the festival month of Arequipa (when the city was founded). Arequipa people are very proud of the city's heritage and often consider it as an independent state from the rest of Peru.
Our 6-hour stopover gave us a chance to have an express tour and lunch in Lima. We chose to go check out the popular Miraflores area. Lima has always been known as the Garden City, and Miraflores has a long stretch of parks situated along the costal cliffs high above the Pacific Ocean. At Antonio Raimondi Park, we saw a couple of hang gliderstaking off from the cliffs of Miraflores. Miraflores is also a trendy area that houses some of the best restaurants, stores, coffee shops, and art galleries in Lima. We had a great lunch at this seafood restaurant called La Mar Cebichería.
ceviche trio appetizer
squid & octopus hot pot
hang gliding along Miraflores cliffs
delicious shrimp dish
a delicious shrimp dish
rooftop with a nice view of the volcanoes
We toured the local market, Mercado San Camilo, with Chef Arthur of Arthur Restaurant (also our teacher of Peruvian Flavors Cooking Class). It's largely a fruit-and-vegetable market but we also saw a few special local delicacies such as dried frogs and even cow testicles. Chef Arthur is a true local so the most fun part of the tour was when he gave us a tasting of many exotic fruits native to Peru. We couldn't remember some of the names but our favorites included cherimoya, tuna fruit, lucuma, tumbo, and a few others.
Ceviche (a raw seafood appetizer) is a staple food in Peru. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with ají or chili peppers. It is like a South American twist on Japanese sushi. We had ceviche at almost every meal during our trip and absolutely fell in love with this local dish. So we were excited to how to make ceviche with Peruvian Flavors Cooking Class. Interestingly, ceviche is not raw but freshly cooked in salt and lime juice. We also learned how to cook a main dish called Lomo Saltado Alpaca - stired fried alpaca chunks with onions, tomatoes, and native potato fries (sounds really fancy right?). Chef Arthur taught us some "top-chef" cooking skills such as Flambé.
Casa Andina Private Collection Hotel is restored from an old “Casa de la Moneda” (old Mint), a national historic landmark built in 1794, which makes this place more a living museum than a hotel. It's an easy walking distance from the main attractions: 2 blocks from Santa Catalina Monastery, and 5 blocks from Plaza de Armas. We stayed in a gorgeous senior suite (#102). Its simple yet elegant furnishings were perfectly fitting for old stone walls, and its high ceiling gives off a very grand feeling. The bedroom is elegant and spacious, and the living room is just as large.
a view of Basilica Cathedral on the rooftop
a view of Plaza de Armas from Cathedral of Arequipa
a cute alley filled with shops and cafes
a tour inside the church
a tour of the church's rooftop
giant bells on the rooftop
the almighty El Misti volcano
Santa Catalina Monastery is a must-visit in Arequipa. It is the biggest convent in the world. It's like a city in a city with streets inside the monastery having their own street names. It was founded in 1579 (39 years after the founding of Arequipa). Rich families used to send their second daughters to the monastery as a way to ensure a place in heaven for the families when they turn 13/14. Not every family can afford that because the admission required a dowery of 2,000 silver coins (~$15K in today's money). The daughters, after two years of novice training, become nuns and are never allowed to leave the monastery again. Each nun gets a spacious apartment inside the convent which typically includes a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and even a servant's room (families sent slaves as servants with their daughters to the convent). At peak, the monastery had 80 apartments that can accommodate 200 nuns (some apartments have 2 or 3 bedrooms). Today, only ~20 apartments survived the multiple earthquakes in Arequipa and there are still ~15 nuns who voluntarily live there (dowery is no longer required to become a nun). The monastery is painted in bright orange and bright blue colors, adorned with ornaments, flowers, and wall paintings inside. The well-preserved apartments give a good sense of how the nuns lived in the past.
Peruvian folk dance
Peruvian folk dance