Sucre, Bolivia

Sucre was founded by the Spanish in 1538, as their administrative capital over a wide area of South America. It is at 2800 metres above sea level and has therefore an agreeable climate

Very much a Spanish city from the colonial era, the narrow streets of the city centre are organised in a grid, reflecting the Andalusian culture that can be seen in the architecture of the city's great houses and numerous convents and churches. Sucre remains the seat of the Roman Catholic Church in Bolivia. For much of its colonial history, Sucre's temperate climate was preferred by the Spanish royalty and wealthy families involved in silver trade coming from Potosí. (at over 4000 metres, Potosi was a less comfortable place to live)

The Bolivian capital changed to La Paz in 1898, when the declining Potosi mine no longer necessitated the keeping of Sucre as the capital. In 1991 Sucre became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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We stayed at the Parador Santa Maria la Real right in the centre of Sucre. I suppose this is the sort of hotel that I would like to find in every city I visit , but seldom do. The owner, whom I met while staying, keeps a firm eye on the day to day running. But the fantastic thing to me was the incredible conversion job that he had done on this old building, to bring it up to modern standards. The architectural details have all been preserved, our spacious bedroom still had a vaulted ceiling. The three courtyards all have rooms leading off. There is a pleasant bar, and breakfast in the comedor was excellent. The only small criticisms I would offer are that our bedroom lighting was not good enough to read by. And when we returned from eating out at 22.50 all the lights in the corridors were out, and we needed a torch to get to our room But these small problems did not put me off. It is an outstandingly good hotel, and I would recommend it without question.

We ate at La Taverne. They serve good food, and by local standards excellent food. It is well cooked and presented. The only criticism I had was that the plates were stone cold, and hence the food did not stay hot long enough. We had their excellent reserve Chardonnay to wash the food down. The atmosphere was very good, the lighting correct, and the service attentive without being overbearing. The owner was at hand to oversee the whole evening

Para Ti Chocolates. We went here twice, once we had their hot chocolate, and on the second occasion the iced chocolate. Both were excellent, and the cafe is clean, bright and cheerful. But it is not quite a cafe. Their specialty is selling a range of chocolates at 2.50 BOB a throw, and very nice they are too. Go and enjoy what they have to offer, but do not expect a full cafe service .

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Origines Bolivianos was energetic and colourful       La Taverne served good food

We took our own walk round the city, then had a guided tour with the bold Roberto, who helped to remind me why I avoid guides and guided tours. Ironically he was at his best in Sucre, and from that low base, continued to become even worse. A strange man, who in fact carried a Russian passport (I never did find out why, I only learned about it when he produced it at a hotel check in later on in the trip) . He really did not enjoy the job of guiding, and treated us like a couple of sacks of potatoes, to be picked up as late in the day as possible and dropped off as early as possible. He never introduced us to the driver, nor did he tell us what we would do each day. Even a (very) stern verbal battering from me on his conduct never really changed his attitude.

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The old administrative buildings set around Parque Bolívar Popular with the children And its Eiffel Tower
  Every city walk needs a pause for light refreshment
Zebra crossing educator Casa de la Libertad exhibition      

Casa de la Libertad. Now a museum, where the Bolivian declaration of independence was signed on August 6, 1825. It has been designated a national memorial and is considered the birthplace of the nation. Oddly we got in free when we explained we were pensionistas. The first Bolivian congresses were held in the Salón de la Independencia, originally a Jesuit chapel. Doctoral candidates were also examined here. Behind the pulpit hang portraits of Simón Bolívar, Hugo Ballivián and Antonio José de Sucre. Bolívar claimed that this portrait, by Peruvian artist José Gil de Castro, was the most lifelike representation ever done of him. The charter of independence takes pride of place, mounted on a granite plinth. A fine inlaid wooden ceiling and elaborate choir stalls are also noteworthy

La Recoleta. Overlooking the city of Sucre from the top of Calle Polanco, La Recoleta was established by the Franciscan Order in 1601. It has served not only as a convent and museum but also as a barracks and prison. The highlight is the church choir and its magnificent wooden carvings dating back to the 1870s, each one intricate and unique, representing the martyrs who were crucified in 1595 in Nagasaki. The museum is worthwhile for its anonymous sculptures and paintings from the 16th to 20th centuries, including numerous interpretations of St Francis of Assisi. Outside are courtyard gardens brimming with colour and the renowned Cedro Milenario (Ancient Cedar), a huge tree that is one of the few survivors of the cedars that were once abundant around Sucre.

Museo de Arte Indígena. This museum of indigenous arts aims to preserve the textile methods and patterns from all the indigenous groups of the Sucre area, focusing particularly on the woven textiles of the Jal'qa and Candelaria (Tarabuco) cultures. It’s a fascinating display and has an interesting subtext: the rediscovery of forgotten ancestral weaving practices has contributed to increased community pride and revitalization.

Parque Bolívar. A short walk north of Plaza Pizarro, the elongated Parque Bolívar is sandwiched between two avenues flanked with trees and overlooked by handsomely imposing government buildings. It’s a pleasant place for a quiet stroll and its strongly European style contains a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower; remarkably, it was designed by Eiffel himself in 1906. The red ironwork structure is not an exact replica of the Paris landmark. The components were shipped over from France in 1908 and assembled by local engineers

Convento de San Felipe Neri. The view from the bell tower and tiled rooftop of the San Felipe Neri convent more than explains Sucre’s nickname of the ‘White City of the Americas’. In the days when the building served as a monastery (it is now a parochial school), asceticism didn’t prevent the monks from appreciating the view while meditating; you can still see the stone seats on the roof terraces. The church was originally constructed of stone but was later covered with a layer of stucco. Poinsettias and roses fill the courtyard, an interesting painting of the Last Supper hangs at the entrance and the stairwell is lined with paintings that prepared the monks for confession.

Origines Bolivianos. You go for the dance not the food. They put on a colourful, high-energy dance show featuring traditional dances from Sucre and the rest of Bolivia. The elaborately dressed dancers act out Bolivian folkloric scenes, courtship rituals and the struggle between good and evil. The dancers perform with enthusiasm, and skill, and in addition look as if they are really enjoying it. The explanations are all in Spanish, so if you do not understand Spanish you would need an English explanation. But even without any explanation, you can sit back and enjoy the show. I would advise anyone going to skip the food and just have a beer, or indeed nothing. The food was mediocre. They charge 40 Bolivinos for a camera. A rather silly, mean charge that is not necessary, and smacks of caning the tourist. However, overall, I would recommend the show, and feel that it is something we will remember

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A hike up the hill gives you a view over the city of Sucre. La Recoleta convent dominates the square
Museo de Arte Indígena. This is a determined effort to preserve the unique weaving traditions of the various villages in the area
Convento de San Felipe Neri. Now a school, offers views from its rooftop over the city

After Sucre, we departed in a 4*4 for Potosi. It is a good road and the trip only took a few hours. Marred only by our guides unwillingness to offer us photo stops, and his lack of knowledge as to where the toilets were en-route. It was only the next day that we discovered that Audley Travel had problems with supplying 2 four wheel drive cars (nobody actually confessed, but I worked out what was going on), one for us and one for Maggie, another of their clients, whom we had met in Sucre and met again at Hotel Luna Salida in Uyuni. They had one 4*4 and one clapped out old yellow taxi. We had the clapped out old yellow taxi the next day, while Maggie had the 4*4 on the Salt Lake, then switched back to the 4*4 when we went out on the lake.

Anyway we arrived without too much mishap at Potosi and the Hotel Colosi

Holiday in Bolivia, Chile and Argentina