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Sept. 22: Columbia City

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

throwback: La Paz, Bolivia

I've been too busy to sketch in the amazing weather we've had in Seattle lately, so I wanted to share some drawings I made last year on a trip around Bolivia and Chile. This post is about La Paz, Bolivia, the most visually interesting of the big cities we went to; its topography is extreme.=!

March 2017

After a tedious 3 flights from southern Chile, we landed in La Paz super early one Monday morning and caught a couple Zs in the airport lobby until the sun rose. Our Airbnb was deep in the valley of La Paz, while the airport is on the high plain, El Alto, above the city; the taxi drive down the scary-steep canyon roads was stunning and terrifying. The city is characterized by its elevation: at over 2 miles above sea level, many visitors get sick from the altitude, but for some reason it wasn't bad for us (I had more trouble acclimating in Denver, a mile above sea level). 

 It’s convenient to take in the stunning landscape of this city from their new public transit system of Telef√©ricos, or cable cars. Seattle Metro really could learn a thing or two from this place; I feel like it makes much more sense to have aerial transit when your city is so hilly – less rock to drill through.

My travel partner & artist friend Emily and I got up around sunrise every day to sketch/paint from our home base: a penthouse in the middle of La Paz, with several balconies looking out over the valley (your US $ goes really far in Bolivia, it wasn't even that much of a splurge to rent such a nice place). One day I took the opportunity to borrow some of her gouache supply for a study of the block below from our balcony. 

A typical landscape in La Paz: the rim of the canyon, cliffs, masses of aesthetically identical brick box-like houses (many without glass in the windows). On this day the clouds were especially epic. 
In the bottom right of this photo you can see part of the big Cementerio General in the middle of the city, which I think is an amazing design for an urban place. much more practical than our typical grassy sprawling lawns, arguably a waste of space in a densely populated city.

Rain usually accompanies the early-day cloud cover, so on another morning I stayed inside to draw – still with an amazing view. In La Paz, the wealthiest residents choose to live as low in elevation as possible, apparently to take advantage of milder weather. Interestingly, most other cities I’m aware of have the opposite tendency. We were in the more upscale central valley, which takes advantage of the surrounding canyon walls - shielding its residents from the high winds of the plains

Diesel Nacional: one of the coolest bar interiors I’ve ever been in – it has a very industrial and grungy vibe, a very particular aesthetic unlike anything I've seen. The fixtures were all custom  metalwork, even in the bathrooms!, with brass instruments hanging from chains from the ceiling. Highly recommend visiting if you’re in La Paz.

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