May 18th – May 31
We arrived in Sucre to beautiful weather, which warmed up our frozen Andean limbs and soul. Here, we met with my friend France – which whom I worked with in Montreal (she was the English to French translator). She’s the one that pretty much convinced me to go to Bolivia, and now I understand why she always comes back to Sucre; it has to be one of the nicest cities we’ve been to so far!! They call it “Sucre – the White” because all of its Colonial/Baroque buildings are painted in white. When the sun shines of it, it makes the city glow… it almost seemed like it was a coastal city, as if you could find the sea right next to it, but alas Bolivia had lost its access to the sea in the late 1800’s. Anyway, we stayed there two weeks, which was almost not enough. We rested well, ate like royalty, climbed a mountain and I even saw the president!
I usually don’t talk about our sleeping-facilities, but the place we resided in – La Dolce Vita guesthouse – was one of the best, most luxurious stays we’ve been in (and for 12$/night for a private!) Our room was nicely decorated and actually had lots storage space for our luggage. The gas-powered showers were super hot (a luxury in Bolivia) and we had access to a kitchen, with an OVEN! We totally took advantage of that and made a delicious Tartiflette (a French dish from the Savoie region). I know it’s not Bolivian, but we had found reblochon cheese in the supermarket, and we were extremely excited. Check out the photo, and you’ll see why:
Tartiflette (A doomsday meal)
- 1 reblochon cheese, sliced in 4 (once horizontally, once vertically)
- If you can’t find reblochon – a nice soft cheese with a crust, ask your cheese merchant for a replacement
- 1 kg potatoes, peeled and sliced
- 1 1/2 cup white wine
- 200 g bacon
- Olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp heavy cream
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of pepper
- Leaf of laurel
- Slice the bacon in tiny pieces and cook them in a pot which you can close with a lid.
- Fry the onion in the bacon fat until it turns golden. Turn oven on to 250 Celsius.
- Cover potatoes with white wine, salt, pepper and laurel leaf and boil, covered, for 12 minutes
- Take an oven safe dish, grease with olive oil, then place half of the potato mixture in the bottom. Add heavy cream and half of the reblochon cheese on it.
- Add remaining potatoes and cover with the rest of the reblochon cheese (crust facing upwards).
- Cook in oven for 30 minutes or until potatoes are done, and cheese is melted and golden.
- Enjoy with the remaining white wine!
We found a great metal bar called Rockerz, which served nice beer. The walls are plastered with old metal posters, shrines to bands (Iron Maiden, Kiss, etc) and they had tabled painted with metal logos. We went there twice – and on the second time, I offered them my DJ services haha. It was quite interesting as they never had that in their 9 years of opening; usually they just play music from a computer, or do small concerts. I spinned tons of stuff, but unfortunately the people at the end were getting drunk and asking for really shitty songs (think Power Metal or effeminate glam ballads!) which I had no choice but to put them (according to the bar staff as they wanted to please the crowd). I did have my limits though, and had to get angry a few times for them to understand that what they were asking was far from metall! Grrr!! And some drunk guy wanted to kiss me at the end, but I got to escape the bar just in time hahaha!! So yeah, overall it was an ok experience, and I got to discover a few new bands… among them being the 70’s prog rock band WARA:
And here is what the bar looked like inside:
Beside that, metal-wise, there wasn’t too much happening in Sucre. They had two pseudo stores, but all they carried were usual metal shirts and CD-R bootlegs… they are therefore not worth mentioning.
May 25th is Bolivia’s independence day. They signed a treaty in Sucre, and therefore now they celebrate that day by doing many events; a military march, free concerts, and other kinds of rallies. I went to check out some parts of the military march, which featured the president and vice-president of Bolivia. Sadly, all I got was this crappy blurry photo… doesn’t he look like Elvis?
I also saw some pretty cool looking corpse-painted motorcycle-clad army guys:
A bit further in the march was some traditionally-clothed women and men from Jalq’a, showing off their artisanal work:
I ate a salteña (Bolivian empanada) while watching the march, but little did I know that it was full of yummy but burning sauce; one bite and the juices fell all over my hands and feet. A nearby lady laughed, and told me that I had to separate it in half and then split the juices equally from one side to the other so that there is always sauce when you take a bite; and that way you don’t make a mess. Or you can just sip it like a juice, and then eat the middle part. Anyway, it was really really good; the best empanadas I’ve had so far – even better than in Salta!
A few days ago, we climbed the recoleta mountain, which has been transformed in some sort of holy path (via crucis). It was surprisingly high, but the view from it was fantastic! We climbed it with France and her friend Waira… and Waira told me that back when the Spanish came, they had imprisoned an Inca chef in some passageways under the mountain and had asked the locals to fill an entire room with gold as a ransom. I read about this happening in Peru, but didn’t think they did it in Bolivia as well! Apparently, the passageways are still there, but whoever entered them never came back out alive…
We then went to a coffee place and had some nice freshly-squeezed juice. The place also had a weird tree, which upon close inspection, I found that it was a pink-pepper tree!! The locals don’t eat pink pepper, but I thought it was pretty cool to see:
We visited a few museums, one of them being the ecclesiastic museum; which had tons of old religious artefacts. My favourite one was a death bed; check out the cool paintings on that one! (I wasn’t supposed to take photos of it hehe)
We also got to celebrate our birthdays in Sucre. For that, we went to the best restaurants in town. For my own 25th birthday, we went to El Huerto (the orchard) for a lunch in their lovely garden. We had the speciality, freshly made chorizo, and for our main meals, François had Titicaca trout with capers and I had bbq’ed roquefort/walnut stuffed chicken fillets smothered in mango sauce and served with gigantic fries. All of that for 24$, paid by my parents as part of my present! Merciiii!!! We were too stuffed for dessert; instead I had a cheese cake later on in the evening haha
Two days later was François’ birthday, and to celebrate it we went to La Taverne (the tavern), the restaurant of l’Alliance Française. I had filets mignons wrapped in bacon and topped with mushrooms, red wine sauce and bleu cheese, and François had Titicaca trout once again. For dessert I had a flan, which was a bit disappointing, but still ok. We had fresh juices (tumbo and strawberry) as well as another caipirinha for me haha. Our bill ended up being 20$ there! Incredible!
My friend France also invited us to a Quebec-style brunch, which included some… MAPLE SYRUP! I was craving maple syrup for so long, and she made us pancakes. I swear, maple syrup never tasted so good. I missed it so much!
We didn’t even have time to visit everything we wanted in Sucre; the cemetery, the odd European-style castle… but that means only one thing; I guess we’ll have to come back one day!
May 31 – June 2nd
Located at 4100 meters, around 3-4 hours from Sucre (depending on how many stops the bus makes!), Potosi is surrounded by rainbow-colored mountains and was founded in 1545 after discovering silver. Its mines made it one of the wealthiest cities in the late 18th century – but unfortunately the same mines were employing indigenous people and African slaves under really, really bad conditions (millions of deaths occurred). To protect them from the hell below, they worshipped the devil (tio), drank 90%+ alcohol and chewed on coca leaves. The mines are still active nowadays and it’s possible to visit them (miners are still working with primitive tools – most of them die 10 years after entering the mines), but we weren’t interested in a visit. Instead, we went to one of South America’s finest museums, the Casa de la Moneda. The city itself is quite a chaotic colonial mess, but it has some really nice architecture nonetheless.
Constructed in 1753 (taking 15 years to accomplish), La Casa de la Moneda is Potosi’s biggest and oldest colonial monument, and is also home to religious art, ancient coins, wooden minting machines and tons and tons of skulls and mummies!
Check out those weird skull shapes, they were even more impressive in real life. Skulls were deformed according to ranks:
These mummies were taken from a 18th century Spanish cemetery. They are small children, and still have their original clothes on:
Today we went to the Ojo del Inca lake, which are natural hot springs. I know, it’s the third time we go to hot springs, but it’s so cold around here that it’s really nice to be able to bathe in hot water, haha. But of course, what made it so special is the location… we were surrounded by beautiful mountains and puppies!
So now tomorrow we will be going to Oruro for a short stop, and then we’re spending a week in Cochabamba. Talk to you all later!