How to Settle in Arequipa in the Andes
Settling into a new country and a different city is always a challenge. Since I have done it a few times I’ve developed a list.
- Find a safe place to live – top priority
- Get a SIM
- Locate a hairdresser
- Look for a manicurist/pedicurist
- Check out the lay of the land
Since I avoid doctors and dentists, that isn’t on my settlement list.
When I arrived in Arequipa, I stayed in a non-descript hotel. From there I searched the Internet and found a place. Llama Spanish school takes in non-student boarders, so it seemed like a good idea. I had a room and a private bath; breakfast and lunch were included.
In the two weeks I was there the dust balls under the bed grew to soccer field size. And if I saw one more boiled egg and banana for breakfast, I was going to lose it.
To block out the noise of the teacher in the classroom next to me I used wax earplugs. It was horrible as the poor student never spoke, he was talked to. The worst thing is that there weren’t any cafes or bars anywhere in the neighbourhood. There was a mall about 20 minutes away, but I didn’t like it at all. I was stuck in the suburbs. Time to move on.
I was downtown with a young Indonesian student and we happened to walk by the Santa Catalina Hostel.
I went in and asked the price for a single room and told them I wanted to make a reservation. Not a dust ball in sight. Santa Catalina is about a 10 minute walk from Plaza de Armas, the heart of the city. Perfect for this uptown woman.
Looking for a new home
Although I would check on the Internet every once in a while, I didn’t find any furnished place that appealed. After Loja, I never want to buy things for a place again. As I’m currently writing pieces for a travel agency, I didn’t have a lot of time. If there is anything you want to know about Italy or Greece, just ask.
When I was going to pay the rent for another week I asked Rodolfo – the manager and my go-to person – how much it would be to stay for a month. He cut me a great deal, so I now have a “home.” The angst of moving again has faded.
My bedroom is small and so is the bathroom, but I just don’t need a lot of space as I live at the desk. Rodolfo brought me a second table so I can spread out.
There is a balcony the size of a USB, but I can sit in the chair and watch the street go by. At the small kitchen downstairs I can scramble eggs and heat up leftovers and/or take-aways. The gas stove is powered with a Bic lighter so it is slow slugging.
There is a charming courtyard for breakfast. And a rooftop deck that overlooks the city with 360 spectacular views.
The staff only speak Spanish, which is good practice.
Leo does a great job of keeping the place clean.
And there are enough restaurants, bars, and museums to keep a person going for years.
My only complaints are that the wi-fi is weak sometimes and the noise from the street from 15:00 to 20:00 is horrible. Why drivers in South America can’t figure out not to cross the intersection if there isn’t room on the other side is beyond me.
And there are too many tourists. After having Loja to myself for four months I have forgotten how to share. I will get over it. Most of the guests here are from Europe.
Although not famous, I am joining the ranks of long-term hotel residents who are. Yes, I have settled and plan to stay here until I fly to Edmonton on 29 May. The only thing left on the list is a SIM, but I have to buy a new phone first.
Getting a boot fixed
The zipper in one of the leather boots I bought in Argentina broke. Rodolfo called a shoemaker he knew. The guy came to the hotel, took my boot, fixed it and then brought it back. The price? $8CAD. I can only think of one place – if it is still open – in Canada where I could get it done. And I shudder to think of what it would cost.
People here still fix things, which is so refreshing.
Founded in 1540, Arequipa has kept its colonial heritage and is known as the “White City” because of the buildings. Trendy shops and cafes are tucked away in massive old edifices.
The streets are cobblestone. And there isn’t a high-rise on the horizon.
I have fallen in love with this place. Like Medellin, it has a magical feel to it.
More photos from around town