29 July 2010

asunción, paraguay

Back to the travels! It feels like ancient history now, but I'd still like to share some of what we discovered. We started our South America trip with Paraguay, which is not an obvious destination but is definitely an agreeable way to pass a few weeks (or however long you have).

Paraguay doesn't boast many tourist destinations, its cities are tiny (and bus rides between them long), and even the food isn't something to write home about, BUT the people are lovely, the music and crafts are unique and lovingly created, the architecture is charmingly colonial and vibrantly colored, and there seemed to be no tourists anywhere. (Unless you count the Argentines, who cross the border to shop because goods are cheaper in Paraguay.)

When we arrived in Asunción, we liked that the airport and city were so small, we could just walk out of the airport and hop on a bus to the downtown.

And one can't help but love a country in which everyone carries their own thermos of tea around with them (hot for winter and iced for summer). Since thermoses are so ubiquitous, you can personalize and find just the one to suit you.

Here are some colorful doilies I've never seen anywhere else:

There are random murals everywhere, like in this park:

Even the sidewalks seemed to have personality:

We enjoyed just wandering around:

It just seemed like everything sparkled with quirk and life. Even our snacks were charming. Here's what a fruit salad and ham and cheese toast look like:

Here's their lovely senate building:

There's a neat blend of old and new in the culture, as nicely embodied in this old red brick mission-turned-mirrored-glass-office building downtown:

And the long bus rides are made palatable by a constant offering of food. When you board the bus, when the bus stops, and at random intervals, people will appear out of nowhere and either sidle up alongside the bus or board the bus with baskets of chipa (chewy, cheesy bread-- yum), sweet pastries, fruits, sandwiches and sometimes even little take-out boxes of meat and rice.

And you can say what you like, but the Irish presence in South America cannot be denied:

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