Tottenham v Man City was on in the hostel breakfast room. Watching this was quite a good way to spend a Sunday morning. Ossie Ardiles has often been made fun of in the UK for his pronunciation of his former club, Tottenham, or Tottingham as he says. Well according to the South American commentary that would appear to be the standard way to say it in these parts. I was going on the free walking tour at 1pm so went to a bar to see Burnley v Arsenal. I wouldn’t normally drink alcohol at 11am on a Sunday morning but having already had three coffees and as I try to avoid sugary soft drinks, nursing a beer was the only option. Following the excellent first game, Burnley v Arsenal wasn’t the best spectacle. A bit of a damp squid as many of the football summarisers often mis-say!
The Plaza de Armas main square seemed to live up to its name as there was some sort of military parade happening. Apparently this happens every Sunday morning in Cusco. As main squares go, it a great one. The main buildings are the impressive cathedral and the Church of the Society of Jesus. The fountain and benches are flanked by preserved colonial style buildings, now home to many big companies, although the integrity of the exterior has been maintained. The walking tour met in the next square over, San Francisco Plaza. There seemed to be some sort of walking tour war happening in Cusco with rival companies attempting to steal customers. It’s even got as far as guides wearing similar uniforms to their competitors in order to tout custom. Today I saw lots of pointing, gesturing and eventually arguing between staff of two different firms. This eventually required the intervention of a policewoman. I opted for what appeared to be the most relaxed and placid of the two! This was Angel (Ane-gell, not Ang-hell), from Cusco.
The tour itself was a good one. Angel took us around a food market that contained lots of nice looking fresh food. He advised us to avoid fish due to the fact that we’re nowhere near the coast and there could be some storage issues that may lead to an unpleasant next day. Also in the market was a kind of freaky aisle containing pretty much what you’d expect. It absolutely stunk too! It was then onto the main square. Angel explained that inside Cusco Cathedral is a painting that is a Peruvian version of The Last Supper, by Marcos Zapata. For the authentic Peruvian feel, Jesus and the disciples drinking chicha and eating cuy guinea pig, possibly the most overrated food item that exists. We then walked up some lovely colonial side streets before ending up at a bar with fantastic view of the city. Here we were given a free pisco sour, something that appears to be customary at the end of Peruvian walking tours. I actually had two pisco sours on account of knowing that Leonardo da Vinci painted the original version of The Last Supper.
Cusco is by far the most touristy place I’ve seen in Peru. Many of the visitors favour a particular dress style which makes them stand out a mile. Typical backpacker attire would include an entire outfit of weaved textiles (although I’m sure a lot of it comes out of factories), including hats and shoes. The thing to me that look the most ridiculous are the clown-style trousers which seem popular among the Gringo ladies and even a few of the men. I prefer to stick to the jean and shirt/t-shirt combo, as favoured by the Peruvian gents.
As well as appealing fashion, another unfortunate by-product of Cusco’s booming tourist industry is that you tend to get pestered quite a bit here. Naturally western tourists attract some of the worst elements of society such as drug dealers. Another common industry is the sellers of art prints who insist on showing you their full collection of pictures. My standard rebuttal of, “No casa amigo,” usually got a bit of a confused look. Also if you walk around Cusco with even remotely dirty shoes you’ll get hassled by a shoe shiner. A polite, “No, gracias” was usually regarded as a prompt to bring the price down. Even the fact that I was wearing fabric trainers also wasn’t enough to put them off! There also must be loads of dodgy money going around here because, as was also the case in Lima, any bank note with a value of more than £2 is highly scrutinised by cashiers. Despite such relatively minor hassles, Cusco seems like an interesting place and it’s good to be have a few more days here to look around.