Getting Sophisticated in Sucre

We rocked up in Sucre after a horrendous 10hr bus ride. Having hardly slept we sat in the bus terminal and drank cafe negro. Before long, Gerard, the french man we had spent the last 3 days in a jeep with strolled past the cafe entrance. He had come to Sucre after the Salar tour, but on a different bus. We had agreed to meet once we all arrived in Sucre for a meet up. I was a little skeptical as I thought we just wouldn´t feel like being sociable after the long bus ride. However, chatting to him actually made both of us feel better and really excited about our impending trip around east Bolivia. He confirmed thoughts we had on how to deal with life and traveling. Various examples he gave us of how things just fall into place when you don´t force them or go looking for things definitely reassured us that we were on the right path to long term happiness. After a great chat, we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. Al and I embarked on the mission to find a cheap place to stay. After trying a few places in our tour book, we ended up settling for the place that tourist information had recommended us at the bus station. Basic, shared bathroom….same same but different (as you would say in India). The hostel was directly in front of a huge sheltered 3 storey market. Al and I set off to explore and acquire a morning saltena, becoming a clear breakfast favourite in Bolivia. The market was immense, so many stalls, predominately food, juice stalls and whole areas where you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sorted! Wondering around the city, we both really like it. White washed buildings, very colonial Spanish, with the best plaza I have seen so far. It had immaculate shaded gardens with fountains, and plenty of people watching opportunities. The population on the whole is young and appear to be predominantly misito (with Spanish blood) as apposed to campesenos (indigenous). There seeems to be a massive student population, with kids and teenagers in uniform everywhere. After a brief look around and a visit to the tourist information in town, we head back for a well deserved nap. The information tells us about a student area which is cheaper and has a lot of places to eat and drink. We decide to leave it until the following day and stick to the town centre for the the evening. I had been bugging Al for a mexican for ages, so with a Mexican written up in our tour book we headed for it. It killed the craving, but I have realised that the best Mexican food is at home, where I can have as much guacamole as I desire! It was a nice evening, where we shared a bottle of our favourite Bolivian red wine (Campo de Solana) and hit the sack. It turned out that although our hostel was at the cheaper end for Sucre, it was home to a huge group of load inconsiderate teenagers on a college trip. I haven´t figured out exactly where they are from, but all I can say is that they speak spanish, the girls giggle, the boys yell. They also think that 5am is a suitable time to start making noise. ARghhh! We were beginning to wonder if we would ever not be feeling nackered in the day time!! Particularly unimpressed was Al, who, if you know him well enough, you will know he is not a morning person at the best of times. We escaped to the market as soon as we could. The loud giggling was unbearable. After scoping around in the market we found our usual saltena as well as some sweet ones and sat down upstairs with a cafe negro. It was a great view, as you could look down and watch the buying and selling below. Butchers carving huge carcasses of meat was directly below the mezzanine we were sat on. Intermittently we would spot rival butchers slinging bits of scrap fat at each other. Ladies frying amazing looking sausages for butties definitely caught our eye, and we both agreed that at some point we would have to indulge! The buzz of the place was really great to absorb ourselves in, with ladies trying to sell their menu del dias, shout over their neighbour, setting tables as people passed their stalls showing the vaguest interest. We must have hung out here for at least an hour or two, just watching and taking it in. Our plan for the day was to do some life maintenance. We were all out of underwear, and our clothes very dusty after the Salar tour in the jeep. We got our laundry done, making advantage of the rails in the sun that surrounded the courtyard of our loud echoey hostel. Most importantly was making the most of the city and getting to an internet cafe to update blogs, have an internet day´as Al would put it. So to mix pleasure with chores we walked to the student area we had heard about (about 1hr casual walk), intending to spend the day in this area for internet, lunch, dinner etc. As we approached the student area it was pretty obvious. Swarming with 20 somethings, with uni buildings and posh looking student digs concentrating the streets. In between all of this, there were some really nice looking houses…Al and I were really impressed and excited to find such a beautiful and vibrant city. This are was on a hill to the side of town, so after a bit of a climb up some steep streets we were rewarded with a good view on Sucre. We reached the main road in the area, which was wide and modern with benched and green areas on islands in the road. Quite a contrast to the white washed colonial buildings in the centre. We located an internet cafe and got stuck in. This place had the fastest internet connection we had experienced during all of our travels, so it was for once a satisfying 2hrs rather than a frustratingly slow and tedious experience. With only 10Bl in our wallet, we were limited to how much time we could spend in there before seeking out lunch. I was more than happy to have htis excuse to have a break from the computer. 2pm, we surfaced, but Almuerzo was finishing up in all the restaurants we could find…so we ended up on the main road with Silpancho and a beer. Silpancho was a local dish we had on our ´to eat´list, consisting of a snitsel type piece of meat with tomato salsa, fried egg and rice. Definitely hit the spot and was washed down with a cold Pacena (cerveca). Sat under an awning, Al was working up to running up the road to get our next installment of cash out the ATM. However the weather had other ideas. Thunder and really hard rain approached and even a bit of hail continued for a good 30mins. It felt tropical, and the sun soon came out again with the same heat as before. Al legged it up the road, and I enjoyed a totally Spanish conversation with the lady working in the restaurant. It was nice as she was super friendly and clearly didn´t have it in for us gringos. It was obvious that tourists don´t usually venture this far away from the centre, so I think she was appreciative of our custom. She ended up asking us to write our names down for her, so in her expenses book, she now has a little note from us. We headed back to the internet cafe for another couple of hours, feeling really happy to have met such a nice lady in our lunch break! The afternoon shift´was a bit more labourious as it was FULL of teenage boys playing world of war craft. For 2hrs we had to endure yelling and shouting. It was pretty horrendous, so when we escaped we headed somewhere for a beer. Out of the bar window we watched some guys to break dancing on a polished pavement on one of those island in the middle of the road. The main street was lined with fastfood joints, and like India, they are popular and seen as a treat to eat in, rather than ´dirty greasy food´in the UK. We fell into what appeared to be a chicken and chips joint. The system was rather different to the normal fast food place we are used to. Once we had ordered, paid and had a recipt, we were told to sit down. A waitress came and took our ticket and set the table for us and brought us our food on plates. It was a weird mix of fast food and table service. It also ended up being a bit comic as my food came, looking how we would expect in…but when Al´s came (he orders the large option) it was HUGE. We soon realised that the large option was actually a family meal…it also was not chicken, but deep fried pork strips that were pretty fatty. I was in hysterics, it was just way too much food to even contemplate finishing. Luckily, the place supplied a doggy bag service, to we trotted off with a plastic bag full of left over chips and fried pork…yum! Before catching a cab back to town, we decided to make the most of the super cheap off license, and buy a couple of bottles of Campo de Solana. However, after purchasing these, we couldn´t resist entering a bar with load music just for one before heading back. The place was full of students drinking something bright green out of a massive bucket and playing drinking games. We soon found that this place was cheap as chips and a cubre libre was only a quid. Turned out they make their drinks stronger than Al does. We both realised we were going to have to be very careful not to get carried away. Neither of fancied having issues in this area. The bar staff looked hard as nails and as if they were used to dealing with trouble. Nevertheless, even they were playing drinking games. At only 9pm, our imagination was wondering what sort of debauchery would be kicking off in a couple of hours time! So after soaking up the student vibe for a few cubre libres and watching the cool kids get progressively legless, singing along to all the bolivian hit tunes, we fell into a cab and left the area. We noticed on our departure that there was a big police presence and as we drove off we saw about 6 police with batons approach a group of guys. We had enjoyed our time in this area, but I was glad to leave before the copious alchohol consumption led to things getting ugly. After a life maintenance day, we were keen to explore the city. Tired after yet again having been woken up intermittently through the night by the obnoxious college kids, we started the day with a cud of cafe negres. I enjoyed some homemade jam and bread, whilst Al had the left over fried pork sarnies. Well, we thought, we will have to wait 5hrs for the digestion to see if that was a bad move! Turned out to be ok, and kept Al from hunger all day. Sucre is full of churches so we selected a couple of interest and planned our day around their opening hours. Everything comes to a bit of a standstill from12-3pm during almuerzo. In this time, we weren´t really hungry for lunch so we soaked up some rays on the pain plaza and enjoyed a bit of people watching plus a passion fruit ice lolly for 10p. We also decide to make the most of our time by visiting a tour agency and tourist information. We acquired information about places surrounding Sucre with the intention to make a staggered trip using public transport to Samaipata. Directly this journey takes about 20hrs, but we wanted to go via Icla, waterfalls and cave paintings promised. After acquiring relevant advice and a good map, I was ready for food. Al not being massively hungry, he agreed to come find food for me anyway. Within 2mins of walking down the road we stumbled into a courtyard where a cake fair was being held. My idea of heaven!! I couldn´t have thought of a more perfect lunch. There were all sorts of cakes with cream or liqueur fillings, along with a savoury chicken cake. Never heard of this before, but is definitely a concept I want to recreate in the future. Layered savoury sponge with chicken and mushrooms, it was surprisingly delicious! It´s name: Torta Salada de Pollo. Now, 14:30, it was time that the next church should be onpen. We particularly wanted to go to this one, San Felipe Neri as it was supposed to have a great view from the roof. We reached the interest to find the huge doors still firmly shut. We sat in the little gardened square in front of it and decided to check out the city´s cemetery instead. This was a walk to the edge of the city. The weather was so beautiful, it was really nice to stroll through the city past some beautiful colonial houses. Al and I noticed the fact we had not seen one estate agent in the whole city as we wondered how much a place would cost us out here. As we entered the road towards the cemetry it became lined with flower stands with amazing flowers. Lilies and fusias predominantly. The cemetery was the grandest and most well maintained I have ever been in. Filled with tall pine trees and manicured bushes, we at first walked down the main path which was home to very wealthy and important Bolivians. The tombs were fantastic, they included royalty, presidents, head of justice etc. Off the main path there were high walls which what looked like fancy microwave doors with inset cavities in the wall. Each cavity was someone´s shrine with flowers, photographs, prized possessions. The walls were like something I had never come across in Europe. They were something else, fascinating pieces of architecture in their own right. We wondered around the mazes of these walls in the afternoon sunshine. The light filtering through the pines and illuminating the beautiful shrines. Some of theme even had their own little awnings. Wonderful! I am not big on Christianity, especially Catholicism, however this place was really interesting to compare in regards to the religious places we spent time in India. Places to remember ancestors and reflect on life all have a immense aura about them. Having thoroughly enjoyed our outing to the cemetry we headed back to town with the hope that the church was now open. Our legs were dropping off after our culture tour of Sucre and I was have hoping the church wasn´t open. I wasn´t sure if my legs would carry me up any stairs at that point. Well, my wishes came true, and in Bolivian style, the sign with the opening times didn´t reflect reality. I guess the priest had fallen asleep in a confession box or something. With our destiny made up for up we spent an hour trying to get our photos copied to a CD for safe keeps, then found ourselves sitting on a balcony in the sun looking over the main Plaza with a cold beer. Actually it was a bit of a weird beer, called Inca beer. It was as dark as Guinness and sweet but only 3%. Later we learnt it was a mix of half beer and half malt. We opted for Pacena next and enjoyed a beautiful sunset with a back drop of palm trees in the square and a colonial white washes political building. Being saturday night, the young population were all hanging out on park benches. Al and I watch the weird courting behaviours of teenagers for a couple of hours. All trying to impress, the girls non stop giggling and the guys looking far too cool for school. I think it brought back memories for both of us! Al being the romantic he is wanted to treat me to a nice meal. Once a little glammed up, we went in search of a few different options on our map. The first, a steakhouse, had a smashed window and was clearly not open. The second option turned out to have gone bankrupt. By this time we were ready to go in somewhere. We ended up falling into a place called Florin. It turned out to be Dutch owned with an odd mix of international food on the menu. It wasn´t quite what we had in mind, but we ended up having a corker of a night. We sat at the bar and ate bitterballen and cheese soufles (2 dutch classics I am very fond of) as well as some llamma meat snacks. We enjoyed some cocktails and Al invented a really nice cocktail which he named Sucre Sour for Lekker Laura. I am not going to give away the recipe cause I think he is onto a winner!

With headaches and another rude awakening from the students in our hostel, we stumbled to a juice stand to get the all important vitamin C. The juice stands are so amazing here. Fresh juice for 40p, can´t go wrong. Having had a fix of goodness we went to a place called El Patio with the reputation for the best saltenas in Sucre. There always seems to be a queue outside, full of locals. We each had one carne and one pollo. I can safely say they were the best I have had to date. They have so much gravy in them that it is a real skill to eat them without a tarentino explosion, but we both managed feeling like sassy locals…with a headache to match those of the locals I think! Unfortunately for Al, whose hangover was becoming unbearable (old man syndrome) we had some ´chores´to do. We hopped on a micro (public min bus) to the bus terminal to suss out how to get to tarabuco. Tarrabuco is a small pueblo outside of Sucre famous for it´s indigineous traditions. It is to be the first stop on our staggered journey to Samaipata via Icla, Zudanez, Tomina, Villa Serrano and Vallegrande. We sussed it out pretty quickly, learning that we could catch a micro for 2.5 BL in the morning time. With Al flagging, we got a cafe negro then a micro back to town. Al had a nap whilst I battled through more blogging and enoyed a mooch through the market with stops at jewlry stands and other such girly things that Al would usually be uninterested with! I checked on Al late afternoon and convinced him to get a chorizo sandwich with me and have a beer on our new favourite balcony. He was feeling like a new man after the sleep, so we able to consider dinner. Funnily, we found the ideal restaurant that we had been searching for the night previous. We endulged in fantastic steak and wine. Including starters our whole bill came to GPB9 each. Incredible value for a top end meal. Full and tired we fell into bed at 9pm. Lucky for us we got a few hours in before the students created the most noise so far. Between 1- 3:30am we had to endure more screaming, yelling giggling and slamming around. Earplugs just about soften the abuse. With a delightful wake up call from them, we were up showered and dressed by 9am desperate to escape and enjoy our final day in Sucre. Our last day was spent trying to get all the blog stuff out of the way so we didn´t have to step inside an internet cafe for at least a week. We had our usual coffee in the market, a frustratingly slow 2hrs in an internet cafe, then back to the market for the chorizo meal with salad and potatoes that we had been eyeing up for the entire week. It did not dissapoint. With the knowledge that pueblos in Boliva can have limited food options, we stocked up on packed noodles, instant potato mash and other dried items with the hope we will have the oppertunity to cook for ourselved in the following weeks. Back to an internet cafe for another painfully slow connection, now desperate to enjoy the evening sun and a last beer on the balcony. Well, this is where it leaves me. Goodbye for now folks, next time you hear from us we will hopefully be in one piece in Santa Cruz after some waterfalls, cave painting and jungle treks!

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