Brunch in Sopocachi

Although it’s one of the wealthier districts in La Paz, Sopocachi’s restaurant prices aren’t too bad, especially when compared to the tourist spots around Sagarnaga. On 20 de Octubre, just by Plaza Avaroa are three places where you can satisfy your brunch fix. All of the following have indoor and outdoor seating.

Alexander’s

alexFor the best coffee in Bolivia, head to any one of the numerous Alexander’s locations, including El Alto airport. The Sopocachi branch is located directly across from Plaza Avaroa. The atmosphere can be a bit noisy and busy, with music videos on continual play on a large TV in the back. But if you can put up with the occasional 4 Non Blondes video, the menu contains creative and delicious choices, like the vegetarian Andina wrap, which contains quinoa and habas (fava beans) as well as a variety of smoothies and milkshakes. There are plenty of breakfast options such as pancakes and huevos rancheros, too.

Café La Terraza

terrazaLike Alexander’s, La Terraza is a local chain. If you’re really hungry, feast on the massive Desayuno Americano. There are breakfasts for smaller appetites (and wallets) as well. The menu also includes a host of sandwiches and paninis. The inauthentic Philly Steak is nevertheless tasty and good value for money. It comes with fries, too.

Blueberries

BlueberriesMy personal favorite brunch spot, Blueberries is cheaper than the above options and also has the most relaxing atmosphere. It gets busy in the afternoon, but before midday it’s a great place to hang out and read, work on your laptop, or pretend to work on your laptop while browsing facebook. If you’re a non-smoker, you’re in luck, because the non-smoking area is also the best place to sit, in the back with a glass roof by the garden. As for brunch, I recommend Desayuno a La Copa and Desayuno Panqueques. The former is a cheap and filling choice, which comes with eggs, juice, coffee or tea, toast and a croissant. The pancake breakfast comes with coffee or tea, juice, and pancakes topped with strawberry and banana slices.

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Trekking the Santa Cruz circuit

The Santa Cruz trek is, literally, breathtaking. With the highest point at 4,750m, the altitude left me a little breathless and very slow as I struggled uphill. Going downhill was fine, but the direction we trekked in (starting in Cashapampa) meant there was only one section that wasn’t an incline. I was constantly taking layers off and then putting them back on as the temperature fluctuated. At night I alternated between sleeping like a log and shivering wakefulness. It was all totally worth it though.

Writing about the mines in Potosí, Bolivia

potosi, boliviaI’ve just had an article published on Matador Network about visiting the mines in Potosí, Bolivia. Although I’ve written previously about our visit to the mines, this article takes a more creative approach and I enjoyed crafting a story out of this experience.

Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Latin American history in 372 pages

Well, it’s actually 329 pages if we don’t include the glossary or index.

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Despite the page count, this book does manage to cover both Central and South America. A sort of Latin American History for Dummies (amongst which I count myself).

I love history. But I’m not so into anything modern, and by that I mean post-Encounter (or as we in Europe tend to think of it as, the Conquest i.e. when all those explorers/treasure hunters sailed off to the New World). This book fills in everything that came after. Which is a lot.

It does this by focusing on three main countries (Mexico, Peru and Brazil), with forays into other places used as further examples or when they deviate from the threads of the story. Of course, there are parts which are skimmed over or mentioned only in passing. But on the whole the book does a good job of showing how the region as a whole developed, as well as giving insight into very specific events and people.

I like this book because it’s very readable – you can fly through a chapter in twenty minutes. At the end of each chapter, there’s a ‘countercurrents’ section which looks in more detail at some aspect that doesn’t quite fit the zeitgeist of the era or that offers a different perspective. So in the Nationalism chapter it takes a look at new immigration, Independence is paired with The Gaze of Outsiders. The book also weaves in lesser-known figures – such as nineteenth century Argentinian journalist Juana Manuela Gorriti, or Paulo Freire who, in the 1960s, worked with impoverished populations by developing a new way to teach literacy to adults.

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There is a lot of politics and economics, but it’s always brought back to the impact on the general population. In fact, the explanations have helped me to understand some economic terms that I didn’t really understand before. This has given me a better understanding of broad patterns of history as well as the current situation of Latin America today.

The one thing that could have been better are the illustrations. Visual culture is hugely important for understanding and images can give us new ways to think about things in addition to making learning easier. It may be an under-grad textbook, but I’d still prefer more pictures.

But I guess that would be asking too much of only 372 pages.