Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Cathedral Museum and Restaurant Fory Fay, Arequipa, Peru

Our first stop is back at the Plaza de Armas and to the museum attached to the cathedral complex. Managed by ICOM (International Council of Museums) the Arequipa Cathedral museum has five themed rooms and more than 250 pieces from its religious heritage past. Because ICOM works at eradicating the illegal trafficking of artifacts to prevent black market commercialization, they assist in identifying authentic religious pieces uniquely tied to Arequipa and Peru’s history and the result is a magnificent and eclectic collection. All the tours are guided and we were told that while we could take photographs in the cathedral and from the belfry, no photography was allowed inside the museum itself. This is unfortunate because the artifacts on display are quite simply, sensational. The tour starts inside the Basilica Cathedral, where our guide explained the origins of the main altar which is made from Carrera marble brought from Italy, the chairs made from cedar wood and the images of the Virgin and Saints. We then made our way up a flight of steps to the museum and we were captivated. From the first room with its fabulous display of colonial artworks to rooms that house the most remarkable collection of statues, crowns, chalices and other liturgical items made from gold, silver, many encrusted with precious and semi precious stones with intricate detail and quality. Some of their art is truly priceless. In yet another room there was exhibits of a varied collection of ecclesiastical clothing pieces woven from satins and brocades, embroidered with gold and silver threads and adorned with jewels. Many of these items are still used on certain religious days while others are destined to obscurity. The final room features a collection of paintings by Francisco Laso. Whilst these are just some of the beautiful pieces on display, ICOM is still working to add to the collection and have several more pieces undergoing restoration so that when they are integrated into the display they will be in as perfect a condition as those seen now. The last addition was an image of Franciscan martyr, San Juan del Prado which was originally donated by the Goyenche family in the eighteenth century. From the museum our guide took us through the upper level of the church with gorgeous views from behind the organ down the entire length of the cathedral to the main altar. Then this tour which we had thoroughly enjoyed went to another level, figuratively and literally, when we were taken to the bell towers. Accessing the roof of the Cathedral up a fairly steep and winding stone staircase, we were able to see the two towers with their huge bells and walk around the roof surveying the plaza and city scenes far below us. This last part gives a spectacular view of the city with the Andes and the three volcanoes which surround Arequipa. The tour which takes about 1 hour is well worth the cost (about $20.00 including the guides tip) and time. From the museum, we walked to Cevicheria Fory Fay for lunch. Touted as being a local restaurant and with the supposed best ceviche in town, we figured we would give it a try. Through the small doorway, the restaurant seemed as though there were only about 5 tables and all were taken but off to the left is another larger room and there was still a couple of tables available. The crowd was a mixture of local and tourists, heavily leaning toward the local side. Simple tables, no tablecloths, paper napkins, this is definitely a no-frills place. We ordered the specialty of fish ceviche with a glass of house white wine for me and a Cusquana beer for Tom. Our waitress who spoke no English was charming, polite and efficient. The ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice) was served in a large bowl with a mildly spicy sauce and garnished with red onions and seaweed. She also brought another smaller bowl filled with very spicy peppers which Tom loved. The food was delicious. Since this is the only ceviche we have tried in town so far we don’t know if it is the best but it was definitely fresh and flavorful and the price was reasonable. A great lunch time spot, we would come here again. Oh, and its name is the phonetic spelling of how Peruvians say “45” in English.

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