Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 34 - Destination: Food

It was good to be back in a place that had hot showers and a sun that gave heat instead of sunburn. Hotel Cactus had our bags stored in a closet, but the towels I had hung to dry on the clothesline were nowhere to be seen. The manager rudely dismissed the fact that she´d lost our towels, all three of them. We moved into the place next door, Hotel Jiminez. Apart from being talkative, the manager of this place was quite nice. I took a two hour nap while Sucharit and Nikhil went to the market to prepare an encore of our last breakfast in La Paz. After I woke up, a trip to the market was necessary for towel shopping.

Lunch beckoned us soon enough. A gruelling uphill climb led us to Yussef, a Middle Eastern restaurant. The Lebanese hostess was gracious and motherly, providing us with platefuls of delicious vegetarian concoctions, ranging from stuffed grape leaves and hummus to yogurt-drenched cucumber and eggplant. It was a fulfilling meal and thoroughly different from our culinary experiences so far.

Soon after lunch, we started our quest for yet more food - more specifically, dessert. The search for the perfect sweet led us to an entirely different part of La Paz. This southern region was more posh. Cafes and pizzerias lined the cobblestony streets. It was on one such street that we found a restaurant with more than ten flavors of succulent, creamy gelato. I gorged down a double-scooped vanilla and coffee gelato in a crispy waffle cone. We walked over to the Plaza Eduardo, where four clowns were entertaining a group of giggly kids and their patient parents. We watched from a distance, not wanting to get to close. Any closer and they would have asked for a tip.

This area of town was definitely better off financially. Men and women in track suits walked their dogs dressed in ridiculous costumes. Most of the eateries were used by the richer locals rather than tourists. Men sitting with wet rags and sloppy buckets were shining cars sitting on the curb. Embassies of different countries stood with tall gates and metal fences. The richer nations had men in uniform guarding their consulates. We walked downhill, reaching a mini-plaza. A statue of Confucious stood tall and alone. Especially in this area, helmeted and camouflaged security guards were standing every few feet. We found out tht this was where the president, Evo Morales, lived. In fact, his bungalow was next to the Confucious statue, on the other side of a stone wall blanketed in dark branches and thick ivy. I sat at the statue. Usually, I´d climb uphill to view the city below. Since La Paz was one big bowl, we went downhill to view the city above. The speckled lights extended far out into the mountains.

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