Visiting Peru was like getting a color slap in the face and I cannot resist the urge to show you why… Yes the country of lamas is filled with magic landscapes, delicious food and diverse climates but what really rejoiced the seamstress in me was its rich fabric, wool and embroidery culture… Shall we?
I barely unpacked that I already feel restless again. Best remedy for that kind of problem? Going back yes, but before that, let’s review why Peru should soon be on top of your bucket list…
Here is a best of 5 lessons learnt there…
Lesson n°1 : play the Inca culture specialist card
When the Pizarro brothers landed from Spain to
slaughter discover Peru, Quechuas brought countless wonderful pieces of clothing as offerings.
Yes clothing, not gold. Because to them, this was of real value.
I won’t dwell on how it was received, but… Let’s say Europeans of the time had different priorities in mind.
It is said that the Inca, master of an Empire ranging from Colombia to Patagonia would burn his own clothes after wearing them to prevent anyone from spoiling them. That tells you a little on how important fabrics and attire is in the country !
And indeed this emphasis is easily seen everywhere you will go to in Peru : embroidery, colors, hats… everything is garnished to the point where you will end up finding your own european clothes very boring in comparison !
Lesson n°2 : stroll along the local markets
If you manage to get away from the Kitchest tourist trap items, you will be able to find handmade wonders for your future sewing creations. Well that is if you are not frightened by a little color.
Si vous parlez l’espagnol (même un petit peu) demandez aux vendeuses comment elles utilisent telle ou telle fanfreluche.
Those elements are then found on skirts, hats and others :
And then it is your turn to choose how to interpret this into modern, slightly toned down wearable fashion !
Lesson n°3: the art of snapping peruvian grannies
I confess, I was obsessed by them. In some countries it is children, in Peru grannies are the super stars. Each corner you turn you will come across a beautifully carved by age, wind and sun face. They are like little bonbons you want to collect.
Stooooooooooop. Wrong turn !
The secret is to abandon here and there your ill bred caucasian habits : you will NOT jump on them without asking.
Imagine you are strolling Paris, London or NewYork and a tourist, let’s say chinese to be in stereotype full mode, blinds you with his flash 3 millimeters from your face. Annoying hin? Well I confess that’s kind of what I did in the beginning….
I love sur le vif clichés, the ones that don,t look like your subject is aware you are taking a photo. I usual have my camera in hand, ready to strike at any moment.
I even complain loundly if someone daaaares to photobomb me!
Voir même, je râle si un pecno a ôsé s’interposer entre mon sujet et mon appareil photo.
RRÂÂÂââââ tourists !
As if I wasn’t one of them…
And yet you will have to behave in Peru where it is VERY impolite. The thing is, the people you will come across are generally speaking well… adorable. So if you want to avoid the shame of your life by being told of in the middle of the street well, be reasonable.
If you can be very discreet from afar yes. If not simply ask, you might even have a lovely smile to show for your efforts :
And don’t go for the “I don’t speak the language” card, Buenos Dias senora, puedo tomar una foto ? is possible even for French people, probably the worse People at foreign language so try it !
O and don’t forget the tip too. Having discussed with the lovely lady below made me realise she don’t dress up like that just for fun. Kind of like if I ask you if you would go to work in your wedding dress. I guess not. Well same for her, she puts on a nice attire for tourists to enjoy so don’t be cheap and give at least a sol or two for each one you photograph.
It wonderful on picture so do contribute !
O and they are very polite and won’t always ask so offer before they ask…
Lesson n°4 : go hug an alpaca (or 10)
It won’t be hard, they are everywhere. Even in tropical Machu Pichu where their fur is kind of not ideal.
Wool for knitting is everywhere to be found and many will help you recognize real bébé alpaca from cheap synthetic. hint : real wool has a “cold”, almost “wet” feeling when touched.
If you have expansive tastes, you will even be able to touch and buy vigogne, the softest hair there is :
And before the Peta adorer among you complain, its skin is very tightly regulated : no hunting no breeding of vigogne, only using the skin of already dead in the wild animals. Hence the hefty price.
Lesson n°5 : surrender to the hat fever
Peruvians are crazy about hats. And it is not a show they put on for tourists this time, you will see all kinds of shapes and sizes to protect everyone from the blaring high altitude sun.
I chose this one I encountered on many peruvian heads:
You can also buy the panamas we see everywhere but what’s the fun in that?
Great succes with mine I can tell you…
- A rooftop in Cuzco : Marcelo Batata
- An Alpaca steak in Arequipa : Zig Zag
- A terrasse to sip a Pisco Sour in Arequipa : Tanta
- A typical local market where to buy interesting souvenirs : Pisac in the sacred valley
- A fresh juice in the main markets of Cuzco and Arequipa anyday
What about you, already been to Peru? Want to go now ?
More pictures of my trip on Instagram: