Eat, Drink, Man, Woman

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La Paz is a city of extremes. At an altitude of 4000m it is the highest capital city in the world (in more ways than one). Whether travelling by bus or plane you enter the city from above giving you the chance to view the entire cradle of craziness built at the bottom of a steep canyon with snow-peaked mountains overlooking the action on all sides.

In the city itself you are never on flat ground as you find yourself either striding down a steep slope or struggling up a sharp incline. And everywhere you go you are surrounded by market stalls.

La Paz is basically one big street market where you can buy anything from second hand washing machines to dried llama foetuses (they bring you luck apparently).

Lucky llama foetus - the gift that keeps on giving

So what did we do on our first night in this extraordinary city? Go to an Irish pub of course!

To be fair, it was St Patrick’s Day and said pub was across the street from our hostel. We proceeded to get very drunk, very quickly off pints of strong lager and spent most of the night chatting to an Irish couple (who happened to be staying in the room next to us) and a large, over-friendly gay, bearded Irish man who kept on stroking my two-week beard admiringly.

Manna begrudgingly partook in the first couple of drinks shaking her head in disbelief that we were in an Irish pub in Bolivia. But her spirits lifted in remarkable concurrence with the spirits in her belly. Before long she had forgotten that she was trying hard not to enjoy herself and got into the Irish spirit, even doing a little jig with our bearded friend at one point.

Suffice to say, St Patrick’s Day hangovers are the same the world over and ours were no different. But they were eased by the marvellous lomo steak sandwich we ate for lunch that cost just €2 in a supposedly posh diner. It was then that we knew we were going to like La Paz.

We ventured around the many market stalls enjoying the sunshine and the many different products on offer. But before we could purchase anything we were halted in our plans by another quirk of the city – the interchangeable weather. It went from sunshine and blue skies to rainclouds and thunderstorms in a matter of seconds and we were not prepared for it. We trudged home in our t-shirt and shorts remembering to bring raincoats with us on our next outing.

Manna's head proved too big for even the largest genuine Bolivian lady's bowler hat.

The next day we hit the shops again this time with more success. We were on the hunt for alpaca wool jumpers, gloves, socks and scarves in preparation for our Patagonian adventure. After working out how to tell the difference between the fake and real alpaca wools we eventually stumbled upon a stall run by the lovely Lucy Fernandez.

I wanted to buy a 100% alpaca jumper but found that the only ones for sale anywhere were emblazoned with llama prints. Anyone who has travelled in Peru or Bolivia will know that llama print jumpers are ‘de rigeur’ for the young traveller and it is not uncommon to see groups of gap-year girls awkwardly adorned in the same jumpers, socks and hats.

I, however, was looking to avoid this travellers’ uniform and instead just wanted a plain grey hoodie, mainly because the alpaca wool is so soft and comfortable and the nights in Bolivia were so cold. You would not believe how hard it is to find an alpaca jumper without a llama printed on it. That is, until we met Lucy Fernandes.

“No problem,” said Lucy, “I’ll have my father make one for you.” But surely a bespoke 100% alpaca wool jumper would be rather expensive, I thought. “How much?” I asked. “120 Bolivianos” she replied happily. Bargain – €12 for a bespoke jumper. But of course I had to haggle anyway and in the end got it for the princely sum of 100 Bs (€10).

Alpaca Hoodie

I then became fashion designer choosing which exact shade of grey, whether to have buttons or a zip (i went for zip) and where to put the pockets. Picking it up the next day I was delighted with the results. It was, literally, made for me.

Manna and I both bought scarves from the same shop and Manna bought some thick woolly socks that I would get very envious of later in our adventures.

As you can probably tell La Paz was all about drinking, eating and shopping and we did the city proud over our four days there but still never managed to break our budgets. Empanadas were eaten and Cuba Libres consumed and we could have stayed in the city for a long, long time. But we knew that Bolivia had many other treats to offer and the Salt Flats of Uyuni were calling our names.

mmm, empanadas

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2 Responses to “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman”

  1. cynthia cutler Says:

    Very nice Marc suits you Manna looks really well.

  2. darren Says:

    I see you can only take so much culture and history before you resort back to everyones favourites shopping,eating and drinking (thats my bro)

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