Chocolate Chuquiasqeña

5th March 2014, Sucre, Bolivia

I know, I know. I know what you’re thinking. What happened to the cake? What happened to Fridays? Well, I don’t really know. I guess La Paz is a wonderful city for street food (keep your eyes peeled for a future post on the many kinds of pastry you come across being sold from ad-hoc bakeries or little carts on the street) but it just can’t compare to Paris on the cake front. But that doesn’t mean that a ritual should be abandoned (that’s a bit like the ex-Pope saying that Mass doesn’t live up to when he was in the Vatican, so he’s becoming atheist. Well, sort of…) and this little holiday to Sucre was obviously the ideal opportunity to get back on the cake bandwagon. (Possibly the first time that phrase was written in that particular order!)

Now, in some ways, La Paz reminds me of Manchester. (Another sentence first, no doubt!) A bit grimy, rains a lot, lots of hills, in the North… (Don’t know if there’s a paceño Oasis or Smiths, but there really should be!) Maybe that’s why it feels like home? Anyway, where does that leave Sucre? Pretty, yes, sunny, yes, a bit pretentious, full of students… Yep, that’s right, Sucre is Oxford. Even down to having been the capital: old Ox stood in as the base for the Royalists in the Civil War, whilst they named Sucre after the bloke that killed the Spanish monarchists and had it as the capital until they decided that La Paz was a better bet. (Mancunians take note: Parliament could be heading north yet!)

Having established this delightful fact, I did my favourite trick when arriving in a new place: climbed up to get a bird’s eye view! The guidebook led me on a slight dud, to a bit of a dingy church with random tarpaulin over bits of it:

Apparently one of the loveliest church interiors in Sucre

However, all was forgiven once I’d scrambled up the pretty dodgy spiral staircase and clambered out of what was effectively a hole onto the roof. Because Sucre is pretty gorgeous from this height.

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Worth the precarious staircase, no?

So, speaking of views, and excessive exercise, there was then the slog up to the Plaza Anzunes. Now, La Paz has some horrible hills with lovely panoramas at the top, and they still make me stop and smile (and not just from relief at finally making it up there), and so I thought I’d got beyond being impressed. After all, once you’ve seen snowy mountains on your way to pick up your clean undies, you’re a bit harder to please. And then I found this:

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(Sorry it’s getting a bit photo-heavy here, but how else do you describe it, really?)

Anyway… on to lunch: the inevitable ‘vegetarian sandwich’ and the still-not-used-to-it juice-list-tome. As in, you say ‘What juices do you have?’ and prepare for a 3-hour long list of every possible combination you can imagine, most of which flavours are utter mysteries since we don’t have the fruits back home. Settling for a mixture of banana, passion fruit and various other things, I leaned back into a deckchair, dug out my notepad and chilled. Juice, actually pretty good butty (proper roasted veg, big hunk of smoked cheese, toasted, olive, random carrot salad: what more could you want?), and this view (I promise, nearly at the end of the photos! If nothing else, because Bolivian Internet doesn’t appreciate this image overload!):

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And then, finally, sadly, back from the glorious peace, quiet and stillness of this little oasis to the real world of the city of Sucre. (And yes, I know, the ‘real world’ of Sucre is about 10 times more dreamlike than the rest of the known universe, but compared to that quiet little square, coming back down into town was like getting a bus through Cheetham Hill at rush hour.) Fortunately for me, I stumbled across a certain little chocolate shop with three tables and a menu consisting of half a dozen items: hot chocolate (big or little cup), chocolate milkshake, chocolate-dipped fruit kebab, liqueur shots in chocolate cups and Sacher torte. It was a wee bit early in the day for the shots (although it has been a while since I had Amarula and/ or Bailey’s: maybe tomorrow…) and who wants fruit? Why pretend to be healthy in a chocolate emporium?! So I went for the hot chocolate (long) and Sacher torte.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. This was not Sacher torte as Slattery’s of Prestwich do it. On the other hand, I am assured that the Viennese don’t do Sacher torte as Slattery’s do, so we can’t be too picky. And this chocolate concoction could not be accused of being dry. Especially not when served on a plate with yet more chocolate sauce (and inexplicably, some strawberry/ raspberry/ red stuff (not ketchup!): what’s that about?!). Was it authentic? Probably not. Was it tasty? Oh, yes. Especially when accompanied by the rather delicious hot chocolate. The only odd bit was the couple on the next table asking for a guidebook swap (theirs recommended the place, mine didn’t, other than that they were pretty much identical!) and the creeping invasion of my space by a random family. Atmosphere = a little bit surreal. Chocolate = pretty bloody good.

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PS. Apparently, local regulations state that all buildings in central Sucre have to be re-whitewashed every year. Told you they were pretentious!

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