Arequipa was the city we had especially anticipated as Carlos was from the area and assured us that there was no nicer city in Peru. Arequipa did not disappoint, with many more flowers, clear skies, and stunning volcanic vistas on the outskirts. The whole city seemed fresh, alive, and welcoming. We stopped at a viewpoint for fresh squeezed papaya and passionfruit juice as Carlos pointed out active Volcano Misti and nearby Picchu Picchu, the highest peak in the area. Later we wandered downtown for some practical stops at the post office, bank, and famous Peruvian chocolate shop. We had a mix of typical Arequipan dishes for our buffet lunch including alpaca, cuy (roast guinea pig), stuffed peppers, and of course lots of potatoes. According to some guides, Peru boasts nearly 8000 different kinds of potatoes and I think restaurants were conspiring to insure that we tried all of these during our stay as we rarely had a meal that did not include some variety of potatoes.
That afternoon we toured the huge Santa Catalina Monastery, a city in itself with six streets, numerous chapels, and hundreds of kitchens. The entire monastery was originally painted in glistening white but has since been splashed with a variety of colors to attract tourists. The nuns lived in private apartments for most of the monastery's history and they were forbidden from ever leaving its gates. Families could only peer at them through darkened slits in the visitor's gallery. No matter however, being a nun was considered an incredible honor for both the young woman and her typically wealthy family.