Normally, Ravi appreciates aerial views of cities, but riding into La Paz and seeing the buildings spill from the mountainsides into el centro let me know that we were in for a good stay.
While Ravi tried to book some flights, I wandered around the Plaza de San Francisco neighborhood searching for a place to stay. Thankfully, I randomly wandered into some of our friends from the Inca Trail who recommended a street right by the Witch´s Market for cheap accomodations. Hurrying past dessicated llama fetuses and running out of less than acceptable rooms, I finally found an OK base for the next two nights that had clean sheets, tepid showers, and cool art on the walls.
The next day, Ravi and I checked out the Museo de San Francisco, which houses La Paz´s cathedral. We had an amazing guide who was extremely knowledgeable about literally every aspect of the compound, from the monk´s penance cells to the history of everyone buried in the crypt below. We even got a tour of the roof, in-depth explanations of priceless art (who knew our indigenous friends still assume the Virgin Mary is basically Pachamama?), and descriptions of how to create our own tile roof out of clay. We expected to be there an hour or so, but we spent most of our day exploring the Franciscan´s crib and cathedral. (I also reconfirmed that there is no such thing as a poor Franciscan.)
Ravi has converted me to his love of plazas and city squares, and we both agree that it´s a shame that Chicago doesn´t really have anything like it. That evening, we stopped by the Plaza de Pedro Murillo to see the legislative buildings and do some people watching. Children chased pigeons and played soccer, old people gossiped and enjoyed the weather, and Ravi and I spent some time enjoying the life of the city (and not walking for a bit).
The next day, we encountered a street festival on our way to another Plaza. Lots of different social agencies, cultural groups, restaurants, and musicians set up shop. Lots of Bolivians were out and about, and thankfully, they didn´t mind us enjoying their fair either.
Later that afternoon, we enjoyed the Black Market (which is totally legal, and a great place to get shoes, bananas, hardware, and just about anything else) and checked out the Witch´s Market once more for good measure. Since we´re both vegetarians, we decided against buying a llama fetus, but I did discover that they´re meant as offerings to Pachamama. I wonder if the San Francisco Cathedral´s May Crowning of Mary now involves llamas?
Before we knew it, we were off to Sucre (Bolivia´s other capital), but we definitely enjoyed our stop in this vibrant city.