Santa Catalina Monastery

Okay wow. Been home nearly 2 months… I think it’s about time I finished up with all this! (Except this won’t even technically be the last post because I’ve got some SuNsEt GiFs I’m still working on…)

The last thing we did in Arequipa was visit the Santa Catalina Monastery, which our hotel was situated just across the street from. It had a ~$12 (40 soles) entry fee, and you were expected to use and then tip out a guide, but it was worth it. The monastery– still functional, though on a much smaller scale than when hundreds of nuns used to reside there– was like a small village in its own right, with its own streets, and gardens, and courtyards. Our guide, Ada, was pretty funny in her sometimes irreverent telling of the history of the monastery and its customs. She capped off the experience by offering us a deal on the pisco she sold on the side, but which needed to be kept on the low down because obviously that was behavior unbecoming of a monastery guide. So we winked and nodded when she offered to “direct us to an ATM” after our tour, and followed her to the courtyard of the restaurants across the street after she’d secretly procured the liquor from her locker in the monastery. We’d been meaning to get a bottle anyway, and she had one with a cool bronze label, and we actually couldn’t think of a better way to come into a bottle of pisco.

Then we got a cab from the hotel to the Arequipa airport, which offered us really fantastic views of the Misti volcano we’d caught peeks of throughout our stay.

Oh right, then we flew to Lima, where we drank minibar beer and watched Making a Murderer, then slept and got up and went to the airport and (after a three hour delay) flew to New York. When we were scheduled to get in at 9 pm it seemed like a good idea to go see our friends in New York and sleep for a few hours on a couch before heading back to the airport for our 7 am flight to DC, but when our arrival got pushed back to midnight that plan seemed less sensible. So we spent the night in JFK and it was pretty miserable. Part of it we spent at the diner there, which was allegedly 24 hour, but which claimed to be closed for the first two hours we were there. When they finally let us in the service was almost comically bad, but the booths proved more comfortable than the floor we were on previously, so it was still an upgrade. Then our flight was delayed for nearly an hour– after we’d already boarded the plane. We were so happy to finally make it home, and Mops and Poppy even brought Ollie home to us that very day!

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¡Arequip-Arequip-Arequipaaaaaa!

(As I’m sure you remember from the end of my last post, in the Puno bus station the ticket salesmen-and-women had a cute [and/or annoying, depending on how long you were in the station, I suppose] habit of singing the destinations their booths serviced. ‘¡CUSCO-PUNO-CUSCO-PUNO-CUSCO-PUNO-CUSCOOOOOOOO!’ was another big one, I want to say.)

So we took the afternoon bus from Puno to Arequipa after returning from the lake. This was the place so highly recommended by the Austrian couple we met briefly in line for the bus back down from Machu Picchu. They said it was the most beautiful city they’d been to in Peru. That (plus the write-up it got in our Fodor’s book, and the fact that a Peruvian friend said she hadn’t been there but had heard it was nice, and the fact that we were really ready to be done deliberating over how to finish the trip) was all it took!

We rode Cruz del Sur again, though an agent in Cusco had told us Cruz del Sur didn’t operate between Puno and Arequipa haha. (We learned at some point or another to take almost everything we were told by anyone with a certain amount of skepticism.) Marlon upgraded us to VIP this time (for <$10 a person) so we had nice, roomy seats in which to watch Ant Man.

We stayed at the Hotel San Augutín Posada del Monasterio, named for the Santa Catalina Monastery across the street. We arrived quite late but hungry, so we found some nearby pizza then got some really great sleep. Aside from the nights of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (when we had back-to-back nights in Cusco), our time in Arequipa would be the only time on the trip we spent consecutive nights in any place, and we were really happy to have a home base for a couple days.

It really was a beautiful city, with beautiful architecture and Europe-reminiscent plazas and just generally a lot of character. We spent the first morning wandering the area around (you guessed it) the Plaza de Armas; checking out the fantastic Basílica Catedral, and then the smaller Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús, impressive in its own right on account of its age and intricate carved exterior. The neighboring cloisters have been converted to an outdoor shopping center while remaining quiet and tasteful, so we spent a good amount of time there too.

We wandered around a bit more then got lunch at Istanbul Lounge Bar before heading back to rest up for the afternoon/evening (read: we started watching Making a Murderer— available on Peruvian Netflix!). After a couple hours we convinced ourselves to get up and find some food, and then we got another good night’s sleep.

The next day we did more walking around and checked out the mummy at the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries. Except we didn’t see the main mummy that’s usually there, Juanita. We saw Sara, because they get swapped out every now and then for restoration purposes. They were child sacrifices to volcano gods in the 15th century. Lunch at a place that boasted vegetarian rocoto relleno back in the cloysters; more walking around; pisco sours at a bar with good views of the nearby Misti volcano; more Making a Murderer; then a sort of hilarious but frustrating excursion to find somewhere to have our last meal, where NoThiNg WaS aS iT sEeMeD¡!¡!¡! But we ended up at Casona del Pisco where I got some great ceviche and Marlon finally tried an alpaca steak (he said it was a lot like regular steak. He also never tried cuy while we were there, if anyone was wondering).

We had nearly another full day in Arequipa before flying to Lima the night before we came home, and we spent a good portion of it at the Santa Catalina monastery across from our hotel. But I took a trillion pictures so. This’ll just be the penultimate Peru post.