Sucre: A Stunning Colonial City in Bolivia
Canned laughter reverberates through the halls of a hostel in Santiago; the constant “every line is a joke” dialogue and resulting fake laughter of The Big Bang Theory is making it hard to focus on writing this post about Sucre. It does get me thinking though…does having a studio audience laughing at the perfect time (or just all the time) make everything better? Maybe some canned laughter is what’s holding this blog back from the big time. You can check your mind at the door for this post; I’ll be giving you cues on when to laugh, applaud and say “aww”. Enjoy!
Sucre: The odd city out in Bolivia
I’ve passed through some pretty depressing towns in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador recently. Crumbling buildings, forgotten paint jobs, packs of stray dogs and graffiti (the unartistic kind) are par for the course in a lot of these places. Sucre is different. It’s a colonial gem of a city, home to gleaming white buildings, elegant monasteries and a central plaza made for people watching while eating ice-cream *the studio audience applauds – they obviously love ice-cream as much as I do*.
Churches and Monasteries
It wouldn’t be a Spanish colonial city without churches and monasteries, and Sucre has some really nice ones. Actually getting to see them is a different story though, as there are some strange and inconsistent opening times which seem designed to annoy tourists. After a few false starts we managed to see most places we wanted to. The Santa Clara Convent was fun to look around, even though I couldn’t understand a word the local guide who showed us around was saying. She was nice though, and the interior of the church, particularly the huge organ, was impressive. Annoyingly, taking photos of the organ is forbidden…do they think people are going to be tempted to sell it on the black market if they see a photo of it? *the studio audience explodes with laughter over that organ pun*. We also visited Iglesia Nuestra Senora de La Merced, which has an impressive gold interior, and the Church of San Felipe Neri, which also doubles as a school.
Viewpoints in Sucre
One thing Spanish colonial towns and cities in Latin America consistently lack is a place to see the town unfold from above. Sucre breaks that trend by having several worthwhile viewpoints, including the Church of San Felipe Neri, Iglesia Nuestra Senora de La Merced and La Recoleta, a plaza which sits on a hill above town. La Recoleta is a popular place to grab a drink and watch the sunset – there is a cafe up there or you can join the locals and sit on the walls. We went there to watch the sunset but ended up having an argument about a visa (we eventually had to backtrack to La Paz for a few days for Gia to get her Argentina visa) so we missed the sunset *the audience has sympathy and lets out an “awww”*. You’ll need to pay a few bolivianos (the currency in Bolivia) to climb to the top of the monasteries and churches, but the views are definitely worth it.
Just outside of Sucre lies this strange little museum/quarry that’s home to some dinosaur bones, some fake (but real looking) dinosaur models and a massive wall full of dinosaur footprints. This area was a hive of activity in the distant past, and the footprints are a lasting reminder of both the dinosaurs’ presence and their ability to walk up and down vertical walls, which is something that few people know about *the studio audience is silent, I think they’ve ditched me for the Big Bang Theory*. I’m not sure why the footprints are housed on an almost vertical wall, but if you want to get an explanation and a closer look, you’d better make sure you arrive at noon so you can take the free tour. We missed it and had to look at the footprints from the viewpoint while making up our own theories. You can take a bus from the the centre of Sucre to Cretaceous Park, I can’t remember which number though so just ask a few bus drivers until you find the right one.
Plaza 25 de Mayo
The main square in Sucre is a great place to relax in the afternoon sun. Actually, you’ll want to try and find a seat in the shade, it gets hot there! We spent some time eating ice-creams and people watching in the square, as well as shopping in the nearby fruit market and searching for decent places to eat. Sucre isn’t overflowing with eating options; we did find a Chinese restaurant close to the square but I’m pretty sure the chef wasn’t Chinese, which makes all the difference. Plaza 25 de Mayo also houses the “House of Liberty Museum”, the very building where Bolivia declared its independence. There are some other quiet parks and plazas in Sucre, as well as plenty of picturesque streets to wander down.
Where to stay in Sucre
We were invited to stay at Mi Pueblo Samary Boutique Hotel, a unique hotel close to Plaza 25 de Mayo. The hotel ambitiously tries to replicate a small Bolivian town, including a Chicheria (a bar selling chicha, a traditional Andean alcoholic drink), a chapel, a town square and a restaurant; the staff members also dress in traditional Bolivian clothes. If it’s within your budget and you want some unique historical luxury, definitely check it out (you can read Gia’s review over at mismatchedpassports.com).
Getting to Sucre
We took a night bus from La Paz (and then back to La Paz, because of the visa) and the two experiences couldn’t have been more different. The first bus we took was really nice – it was full cama (the seats reclined far enough to let you get some sleep), the bus was new and the whole experience, for a night bus, was great. The return journey, with the same company I might add, was awful. The bus was old, the seats hardly reclined and it was bone-chillingly cold. The fact we paid more for the bus back to La Paz added insult to injury. Make sure you get some assurances on the quality of the bus if you book with that company (Trans Copacabana).
If my studio audience was still around I’m sure they’d agree that Sucre is a beautiful city, a city you’d be crazy to miss while travelling through Bolivia. There’s one more piece of good news…the Big Bang Theory is no longer playing; order has been restored to the hostel.
What is your favourite colonial city in South America? Do you like the Big Bang Theory? Let me know!
Disclaimer: We were guests of Mi Pueblo Samary Boutique Hotel, all thoughts and opinions are my own.