Christiane's Working Adventure in Bolivia! Spring: Those Little Places

Christiane's Working Adventure in Bolivia! Spring: Those Little Places

By: Christiane Palluau
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In the winter of 2013, SFU Geography student Christiane Palluau trekked to La Paz, Bolivia to work with a CED (Community Economic Development) group. She shared her diary entries with us, which you can now find in four-parts as our Christiane’s Working Adventure in Bolivia series.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013: From 1525m to 5000m

From 1525 metres to 5000 metres, what a difference a week can make. A visit by my sister prompted the planning of a couple of different trips outside of La Paz.

Coroico! The weekend started with a trip with seven friends to Coroico, a town located in the north Yungas region, just 2 to 3 hours away from La Paz, and a great way for my sister to acclimatize to the altitude. Five of us decided to take the option of riding bikes down the infamous Death Road that winds its way from La Cumbre pass (4650 metres high), a short 1hr drive away from La Paz, all the way to Coroico (1525 metres high). 
Along Calle Saganarga in La Paz you can find companies who offer this bike trip. We decided to go with Altitude Biking, a part of Altitude Adventures, located just a few blocks away from San Francisco church on Calle Santa Cruz. Two guides (one who shoots photos throughout most of the trip) and a support van accompany you throughout the entire trip. The van carries food, water and all of your belongings, so you don’t have to worry about carrying any extra weight or about breaking your camera.

Our trip was fantastic! I definitely felt safe and supported throughout our trip. It started to rain as we made our way onto Death Road: a narrow, winding road that features both steep drops of hundreds of metres to one side as well as passings under waterfalls. We were soaking wet through multiple layers of clothing with mud-caked faces yet we were grinning ear to ear. I would recommend bringing two pairs of glasses: a clear pair if the roads are muddy to help keep the mud out of your eyes, and a tinted pair for when the sun peaks through the clouds.

The trip ends with hot showers, a lunch buffet, and pool time at a private resort, complete with a pool, a couple of hammocks and parrilla (a wicked outdoor bbq set up). Although a little away from town, Villa Saracena was a fantastic home away from home. 



3-day salt flats tour during Semanta Santa! 
 Semana Santa (Easter weekend) was spent doing a must see trip to the salt flats of Uyuni and all that this entails: a tour around the flamingo-filled lakes in the south, volcanoes, sleeping in a salt hotel and bathing in hot springs.  Our group consisted of my sister and I, two young women from the United States, and a lovely couple from Australia and New Zealand. Our tour guide Ollalio (or uncle as we affectionately ended up calling him), grew up in the area and provided us with stories from his youth. Although he did not speak English, he connected with everyone in our group and made sure everyone was comfortable. Our cook Livia (or maybe it was Lucia?) was also fantastic. She took care of us like an aunt would. She pointed out the fauna and flora we came across and provided information about the area.  By the end of the 3 days, we had formed a little family with our Tio and Tia. I would highly recommend booking with Lago Minchin if you are looking for a close-knit, well-organized tour. However, if you are not comfortable with your Spanish level, you will probably miss out on explanations about the scenery, though you will be well taken care of.

Thursday, June 20, 2013: Those Little Places That Fne falls in Love With…

Alrighty, so after having spent 4 months in La Paz, there were bound to be a slew of spots that I loved dearly. I could go on and on about so many little places. Tasty breads at Arco Iris, that Api stall next to Plaza Avaroa, the lady who sells blue cheese in the Mercado Rodriguez, the man who offers freshly ground pepper, the lady who always sold me my phone cards: the list goes on. La Paz, your energy and rhythm are still alive inside of me and I don't think that I will ever forget the dance steps to cross your streets. Anyways, I digress. Here is a list (and legend) of some of my favourite spots throughout this city, divided into areas of town. 

Legend:
- “$” a visit will cost around Bs10-30
- “$$” a visit will cost around Bs30-60
- “$$$” a visit will cost around Bs60+

SAN MIGUEL

• Roaster Boutique Coffee – this place has a fantastic coffee selection and you get to choose the method by which it is prepared. My favourite? The Apolo in the Aeropress method. They also serve London Fogs, espressos, cappuccinos, light eats, etc ($ - WIFI)
• Vainilla – a lovely find offering tasty rooibos teas. Their salads and sandwiches are also great. ($$ - WIFI)
• Kitchen & Co – the décor is reminiscent of Californian warmth, and the food will bring you back to the West Coast. From burgers and fresh salads to the closest thing to brunch that you can find in La Paz, this is a fun spot to check out for a bite to eat. ($$)
• Pan Y Patio – delicious Italian inspired food ranging from pastas and pizzas to paninis and salads. If you are looking for a the largest copa de vino in La Paz, I am pretty sure that this is it. A must try. ($$$)
• Bubba’s Chocolates – I have a serious addiction to this gem of a spot. Their speciality chocolates are unique and well paired: passion fruit, pistachios, jasmine, grand marnier, tiramisu, spices (not to be confused with their spicy option that has a subtle kick to it), rum & raisin, … the list goes on. ($-$$)
• Fellini – a large, generic-looking place on calle Montenegro, they are an Italian inspired place that offers pastas and pizzas. The draw? Their pizzas are cooked in a wood-fire oven. ($$-$$$ - WIFI)
• Madame Ulupica – Bolivian ingredients with a twist. The cannelloni is made in house. Their hummus made with local beans is fantastic! Their stuffed squid is divine! ($$$)

SOPOCACHI

• Le Moustache – tucked a block away from la Plaza Isabel La Catolica, near to the Puente de las Americas, this restaurant boasts fantastic French cuisine (and as it should as the chef and owner hails from France). Typically French, the menu is brought to your table on a chalkboard and features the menu of the day with several plates on offer. ($$$)
• La Comedie – a distinct French restaurant, located in a ship-shaped building. One of the first fine-dining restaurants in La Paz, and definitely a fixture in the culinary scene here. ($$$)
• La Guinguette - located in the same building as l’Alliance Francaise, this French bistro boasts a variety of goods ranging from a duck hachis parmentier to raviolis and a hamburger with brie and cornichons. Probably one of my favourite places in La Paz, except for the fact that it is closed on Sundays - but to be honest, that is pretty typical of most places here. ($$$)
• La Coca – Bolivian importance held to “la hoja de coca”, the coca leaf is present in varying forms throughout the menu. A busy spot for their daily almuerzo. ($$-$$$)
• Alexander’s Coffee – a typical Western coffee house that you will find throughout La Paz (as well as other larger Bolivian cities). From omelettes and pancakes for breakfast to sandwiches, salads and wraps throughout the rest of the day, they definitely offer something for most appetites. One of my favourites? Their “salvado light” muffins that remind me of whole-wheat muffins from back home, a rare find here in La Paz. ($-$$ - WIFI)
• Mercado Sopocachi – one of my favourite spots to grab a freshly made juice. Head into the market and tucked on the right hand side are a couple of fruit stands. I always went to the “casera” on the left next to the butcher. (>$)
• La Costilla de Adan – a hidden gem above Plaza Espana, close to Plaza Adela Zamoga. This place is open Thursday through Sunday and serves up a range of drinks. The décor is eclectic and the ambiance is reminiscent of a 1920s parlour with tricycles hanging from the ceiling, stuffed animal snakes places on chairs, and varying masks and hats adorning the walls. ($$)

SAGARNAGA

I haven’t spent much time eating and drinking in this area but here are a few of my favourites…
• Marrakech – located on calle Linares close to calle Santa Cruz, this is a tasty spot to find Morroccan food in La Paz. Aku runs the place and will treat you like gold. The hummus is fantastic, the chicken tajine a great find. Don’t miss out on their mint tea! ($$)
• Baneis – located on Sagarnaga near San Francisco Church, a comfortable spot to grab a coffee and try one of their tasty cakes. ($-$$ - WIFI)
• Café Cubano – a great spot to enjoy a mojito and live Cuban music. Located on Sagarnaga, this place offers up a variety of Cuban dishes with my favourites being the vegetarian platter that comes with yucca and their carne (>>>>). ($$-$$$)

NIGHTLIFE

• Mongo’s - located on calle Hermanos Manchego in Sopocachi, it’s a great spot to meet with friends and enjoy a night out. Top 40 music with mojitos and caipirinhas on offer, this spot will please most. They also have visiting international djs but ask the staff for more information. Please note that ID is required and that one must be at least 21 years old to enter. No cover.
• Traffic – located on Arce in Sopocachi, this spot fills up later at night (around midnight/1am). They offer up live salsa on Wednesday nights. Cover is Bs20.
• Mythology – the newest spot in La Paz, located on calle Goitia near Plaza del Estudiante. Music genre is more dance/electronica. Be sure to get there before 3am if you want to get in. Cover is Bs20.

OTHER PLACES I LOVE

• Tacino Andino – located in calle Jaen near Plaza Murillo, this fantastic shop offers up a variety of leather goods (cow, goat and llama) ranging from wallets and keychains to purses and shoes. They can also do a personalized order and have it typically ready within 4-5 days. Also available are beautiful silver jewellery as well as jewellery made from silverware.
• Coconut – located on calle 21 de Calacoto in the Zona Sur, this shop offers up Spanish-designed clothing for men and women that are made in a factory in El Alto and whose proceeds go back into communities in El Alto to help with youth programs.
• Folk – located in calle Linares, the designer Isa finds inspiration in the textiles and culture of los pueblos and uses typical alloyo textiles in her bags and purses. You can also find her designs in Tienda Frida located in San Miguel.
• Cinemateca Boliviana - a great movie theater located on calle Oscar Soria esquina Rosendo Gutierrez. I caught some Bolivian films here as well as attended a few special events. I definitely recommend checking this place out, even if just to admire the architecture.
• La Joya Spa – located in Shopping Sur on Avenida Arequipa in the Zona Sur, this place is probably the top spot in La Paz for any spa services. From massages and body scrubs to oxygen baths and waxing, this was a luxurious spot that I treated myself to on occasion.
• Cuspide’s Wall – a bouldering gym in Sopocachi, located on Jaime Freyre, next to Plaza Adela Zamoga. It’s family-run by climbing enthusiasts. Fabrizio is a young up and coming climber that I am trying to get sponsored to come and train here in Canada as he holds so much potential – he really lives and breathes for it! His uncle, Roberto, is a well-known alpine guide. If you are into climbing or alpine touring, stop by their shop of the same name, located across the street from the gym.

Beyond the Article

Posted on March 24, 2014