Arequipa

It seems the fates are doing their utmost to make me dislike Arequipa.

I have come down with a stonking sledgehammer of a cold, been attacked by a crazy-eyed dog, lost a load of work on my phone and been shivering and damp fairly constantly since arriving at 4am yesterday. But despite all this, I think it is a wonderful city.

Yes, it has been cold and raining with a consistency I would normally only expect in western Scotland, and yes, I feel like someone has my head in a vice which they are gradually tightening as each hour passes, but I cannot blame Arequipa for either of these misfortunes.

Arequipa is simply gorgeous. Even under thunderous grey skies.

Known as the White City, its historic centre is largely built of a light grey volcanic rock, unsurprising given its position just 17km from the summit of the still active giant, El Misti.

The buildings have a colonial loveliness unmatched by any cities I have yet seen on my South American travels. Most open into pretty central courtyards, often set around a fountain. The centre is awash with enticing places to eat and drink.

The Peruvians know how to cook. They have taken influences from all over the world – Spain, China, France, Japan – and created their own distinct brand of deliciousness with lomo saltado, ceviche, papa rellena and rocoto relleno.

I had easily the most amazing hot chocolate of my life about four hours ago. Its rich velvety chocolate flavours cut through with a mild saltiness which rendered it ambrosial.

The city’s proximity to many cocoa farms means puts its chocolate on an altogether higher level.

It also abounds with enticing panaderias. Walking around the city centre one is constantly taunted by the sweet scent of freshly baked bread and pastries.

Another delightful eccentricity in Arequipa is that the dustbin van, which does its round each afternoon, does so to the cheerful tune of Under The Sea from Disney’s Classic The Little Mermaid, bringing smiles to every street it passes.

Arequipa is a perfect place to eat, drink and enjoy.

Imagine how glorious it would be in the sunshine.

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