Mercado Rodriguez

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Vast, winding and sloping, Mercado Rodriguez is a network of cobblestone streets where everyday items such as vegetables, spices, meat, kitchen utensils, clothes and toys can be found. There’s also quite a nice collection of health food shops, selling whole wheat bread, herbal supplements, quinoa powders, cereals and so on.

This is a real market, not a phony witches market for tourists, so keep in mind that vendors may not appreciate you getting in their face with your giant camera. Still, it’s a great place for a stroll, and a good opportunity to see the kind of things normal Bolivians buy and sell. People are usually friendly if you treat them with respect, so don’t be that gringo who haggles aggressively over every penny. Everything is cheap as it is, and in my experience, I’ve never been ripped off.

Location Mercado Rodriguez begins at the intersection of Zoilo Flores and Admirante Grau in la Zona de San Pedro, one block from the Plaza San Pedro (also sometimes called Plaza Sucre).

Opening hours The streets are closed off to cars on Saturdays and Sundays, and the market is busiest on Saturdays around mid-day. Don’t bother coming super early, as La Paz is cold in the morning and it doesn’t really get going until at least 9.

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Street Art in Sopocachi

All over La Paz you can find graffiti, mostly consisting of political slogans or tags, scribbled haphazardly over every available surface. Among and beside these are works of beauty, whimsy, surrealism and child-like humor: in European, indigenous, American and intergalactic styles.

The relatively wealthy neighborhood of Sopocachi is a mix of cultures, diverse cafés and restaurants, and quirky shops. This is the perfect setting for an original mix of fantastically colorful street art, some commissioned, some not.

Most of these works are found on Calle Ecuador and 20 de Octubre. Also, the tunnel connecting Sopocachi and San Pedro is a continuously changing mural that’s worth a look, despite the dust and smog from the zooming cars.

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Potosí

I was surprised by Potosí. I didn’t expect to like it, but I did. I didn’t expect the people to be so friendly and helpful (and I can’t for the life of me understand why, considering the hordes of tourists that descend on the place). I didn’t expect to be going on a mine tour, let alone enjoying it. And I certainly didn’t expect to see so much lovely architecture. But considering that during the 17th century Potosí was one of the wealthiest cities in the world, I shouldn’t really have been surprised.

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A postcard from Cementerio General de Sucre

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You don’t have to be a goth teenager to enjoy a stroll through a cemetery. They’re beautiful because they’re meant to be, especially the Cementerio General de Sucre. Unlike the Cementerio General in La Paz, which is fascinating, but not necessarily peaceful, the one in Sucre has manicured grass and full plots with tombstones, combined with the more morgue-like vaults for those who can’t afford more space. On the benches along the main path there are blind people you can pay to say a prayer for the one you lost. Children work for tips, bringing ladders to those who wish to leave flowers, children’s toys, bottles of whiskey, cans of Coca-Cola or photos for the departed on the higher rows.

How to get there From the center, walk southwest down Calle Junin for about 15 minutes.

Cost It’s free, but you can pay a young child about 10 Bs for a tour.

Hours 8:00-11:00 and 14:00-17:00.

Christmas in Bolivia

We escaped La Paz and its rain and wore T-shirt and shorts on Christmas day in the colonial ‘white city’ of Sucre. Our cosy hostel was full of lovely people who cooked a wonderful Christmas dinner. We drank, we ate, we had a good time.

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For New Year we headed even further south to Tarija, where we got alternately sunburnt and soaked with rain. We drank some more. A lot more. We ate cheese and serrano ham and really great mayonnaise. The kind of things you can’t get elsewhere in Bolivia.

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On our way back to La Paz, we stopped in Potosí for a bit of acclimatizing. It was as cold as La Paz, but the people were a little warmer.

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Stay tuned for upcoming posts about our Christmas road trip. Happy 2013 everyone!

Valle del Encanto

Sometimes my favourite places are the ones I never know exist until I visit them. We stopped off in Ovalle with the plan to do laundry – a visit to the Valle del Encanto was just a way to use up our time. But it’s ended up being one of the highlights of our journey so far.

You can read more about our visit here.

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Buenos Aires

People rave about Buenos Aires, so I didn’t want to like it. Yes, I’m that contrary. But when we arrived I couldn’t help but feel happy. The graffiti, the Carnaval parades, the faded red velvet seats in wooden subway carriages, the chaos of people at Retiro station, the dirty streets. It felt like a real city; the people looked tired just through sheer will of having to live in a place like this. It was like a sunnier, more colourful London. I almost felt at home.

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