I’ll meet you in the plaza…
comment 2 Written by on November 15, 2008 – 12:17 am

When I first started out on my travel-networking experiment, a reader emailed me to tell me about his own adventures across South America using mylanguageexchange.com. “Let’s see how many times have you found yourself meeting someone at the main plaza, in front of the cathedral,” he joked.

It’s true that this seems to be the meeting place of choice in this part of the world and it still amazes me when it works out.

Yesterday evening, I phoned a Couchsurfer called Jose when I arrived in Cusco. “Meet me in the Plaza d’Armes [ie the main plaza] at 6pm,” he said. “But where? It’s a big plaza,” I asked. “By the water fountain. Ok chau. Hasta luego,” he said and promptly hung up.

A couple of hours later, I was found myself trying to make eye contact with every single guy in the radius of the said fountain. Not ideal, but fortunately, at ten past, up bobbed Jose with a big grin on his face.

Some travel networkers grow on you over time, but Jose was an instant hit. He seemed highly amused by the lost look on my face and we’ve been laughing pretty much ever since.

Since our plaza meet, he’s taken me to the local market where we’ve chatted with some of the traders; he’s guided me on an informal walking tour around the lanes of the San Blas barrio (and to a lookout point that I probably wouldn’t have found myself); he’s introduced me to local delicacies such as “te pitedo” (hot tea with pisco) and tamal (moulded maize, wrapped in maize leaves, resembling a banana); and he seems to be constantly waving to people he knows, which, somehow rubs off on me, making me feel more at home.

But, best of all, he got me out of my hostal. I made the mistake of checking into one of those sprawling great place that feels like a university campus. It’s nice enough (clean, hot water, good facilities), but I don’t think there’s a Peruvian in the place, Arctic Monkeys CDs are playing in the bar, and English echoes off all walls, whether with an Aussie, Irish or Euro twang. With the in-house pyjama party last night, I felt like a gatecrasher at Freshers’ Week.

All good fun perhaps, but no different from any other huge hostal around the world, which is the main reason I turned to travel networking in the first place. If ever I was glad of a local contact, it was last night. Gracias Jose!

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2 Responses to “I’ll meet you in the plaza…”

  1. was the hostel called Loki by any chance?

    By Michael on Nov 15, 2008 | Reply
  2. How did you guess? 😉 It was far, far too big for me. I prefer places where they remember your name at the reception, rather than you having to show your branded wristband to prove you’re a guest.

    By Vicky Baker on Nov 16, 2008 | Reply

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