Merry Christmas from Strolling South America!

Enjoy these festive decorations from a balcony in Potosí – wherever you are we hope you you have a great time during these holidays!

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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.

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.

Decent Beer in Bolivia

Beer is fairly cheap in Bolivia. It also tastes fairly cheap too, but there are a few exceptions. Here are three that I’ve found that I can recommend if you’re looking for something to celebrate with in La Paz this year.JudasIt’s not amazing, but it’s strong (7%) and has a bit of a bite compared to your typical Bolivia lagers. It really sits in your stomach though, so don’t drink too much of it. Available almost everywhere.

sayaNamed after an Afro-Bolivian dance, Saya comes in at least three flavors: dorada (golden), ambar (amber) and negra (black). Only available in higher end restaurants and supermarkets (in Sopocachi and Zona Sur), it’s more expensive and comes in smaller bottles than regular Bolivian beer. Agencies in Sagarnaga offer tours of the brewery for 80Bs.

lipenaLipeña is made with quinoa. It’s the best beer I’ve had in Bolivia. It’s low in alcohol (3.47%), so it could have been served at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. There’s a slight tinge of honey, and, well, if you read my last beer post you’ll know I’m not very good at describing beer, but trust me, it’s really good! It comes from Potosí, but we couldn’t find it anywhere there. It’s served at the restaurant La Coca, in Sopocachi, La Paz (great food there too) and we’ve seen it in some restaurants in Sucre, as well. If you do find it, cherish it. Or just drink it.

Other: Keep your eyes out for beers from Ted’s Cervecería in Sucre, too.

Happy New Year!

Picana boliviana

After the last post about cuy, here’s a traditional dish I enjoyed much more.

Picana is a slow-cooked soup eaten at midnight on Christmas eve in Bolivia. It is made with various types of meat, beer, wine, potato, corn and other vegetables (recipe here). We ate this one in Sucre last year and it was the perfect meal for a cold evening. The broth was rich and spicy and with all that corn and potato it was certainly filling. I barely had space for the buñuelos that came after for dessert.

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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Interview with The Working Traveller

Ever wanted to know more about life in La Paz (or about me)? Check out my interview on The Working Traveller.

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While you’re there, take a look around their site – they have lots of great resources for working and volunteering while you travel.

A big thanks to Shane at The Working Traveller for inviting me to be interviewed!

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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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.