Where is the Love?
15 Feb, 2013 | Hayden Aldredge
Hayden Aldredge's guide on where to date in La Paz
Last week, I got a girl’s number. I waited three days (the requisite amount of time, at least where I’m from) before texting her, asking if she would like to get together. The word ‘date’ was never explicitly mentioned, but it was certainly implied. Since she is Bolivian and I am just a transient outsider, I left it up to her to decide where and when we would meet up. But she didn't quite understand this, and the next thing I knew it was my job to decide what to do for our first date. As I sat in my room, feverishly thinking of places to go and things to do, I began to think about all of the nervous souls out there who were thinking that same exact thought. And so, with my decision still up in the air, I decided to tackle this problem and learn where people go on dates in this city.
Photo by Christian Eugenio
This idyllic location (plus pond) is located just a forty-five-minute minibus ride away from the city centre. After the bumpy ride, which offers beautiful views of the surrounding hills and mountains of La Paz, you arrive at Achocalla. If you want a very special date, take your significant other to Flor De Leche, a brilliant (but pricey) restaurant run by the cheese making company of the same name. It's a beautiful scene for a romantic fondue shared outside under cool shade. A short stroll down the road leads you to the pond, where swan pedal boats can be rented for twelve bolivianos (for fifteen minutes). The lake is tranquil, and, more importantly, it’s very private. For a more exciting date, small quad bikes are available for rental on a circular dirt track. I noted multiple couples squished onto these small machines, laughing hysterically as they went onto two wheels around the corner. If that doesn't sound appealing, you can also rent horses to walk around in a very small area. One couple that I talked to, Maria and Carlos, were sitting in their minibus, quietly cuddling. When asked why they came here, they said that it was ‘beautiful’, and a ‘place to fall in love’. It was worth the drive out from La Paz for them, and after spending a day there, I would have to agree with what they said.
From Plaza Humboldt in Zona Sur, catch any minibus with the sign Achocalla in the windshield. The bus will drop you off very close to the small pond, which is a short walk away. (If you want to go to Flor De Leche, then just keep walking up the main road for about ten minutes. The restaurant is down a small dirt road, and the only indicator that it even exists is a small wooden sign at the end of said road.)
The very first thing I thought of doing was going to the movies. But what exactly does ‘going to the movies’ mean in La Paz? It turns out that every Wednesday night, something incredible happens at the Multicine on the Avenida Arce (no, it’s not pronounced ‘Arse’, it’s more like ‘Are-say’), in a large mall with a modern gym, several fast food restaurants (including the ever-popular Pollo Copacabana), a faux Victoria's Secret placed suggestively right next to a mattress store, and eight large movie theatres. The five or so blocks leading to the Multicine were crowded with groups of kids giggling awkwardly, self-segregated by gender, with a few intrepid souls cautiously bridging the small gap to awkwardly stand together. I talked to two couples that night. The first were on their second date. The boy (16), told me that this was the obvious place to go for an event like that. As he said this, his girlfriend (15) just nodded vigorously. I asked the second couple I spoke to —who were in a long-term relationship— what brought them there. ‘What else would we do?’, snapped the boy. While that might not be a ringing endorsement, if you are looking for a reassuringly mainstream date venue, dinner at Pollo Copacabana and a two-for-one film screening is a good place to start. Pro-tip: there’s no way to know what a girl is really like until you see her eat fried chicken with her hands.
Address: Nº 2631, Av. Arce, La Paz, Bolivia
There are some people out there who would like nothing more from a first date than loud music, lots of dancing, heat, body odour, and being squished together with a multitude of drunk and sweaty people. If you also like to be sprayed with silly string and spend way too much money, then Forum is the place for you. Ask the right 15-year-old kid what the best club in the city is, and he will undoubtedly say Forum. Take a quick walk around the inside and you can definitely see why that is. There are groups of teenagers everywhere, holding cocktails in their hands and awkwardly dancing to the music. Judging by their body language, teenage couples don't necessarily come here together, but they certainly end up leaving hand-in-hand (or in some cases, hand-on-breast). By no means is Forum a club just for teenagers, but if you are thinking about taking your date out to a club, I would recommend avoiding this one.
Address: Victor Sanjines 2908, Sopocachi
The Montículo, located next to Plaza España in Sopocachi, has one of the best views in the entire city. The lookout point, a must-visit if you are in the neighborhood, boasts a cute church, beautiful trees, and even a statue of Beethoven. And if you go there at sunset, the light hitting the far hills won't be the only thing that catches your attention. On any given day at dusk, you’ll easily spot at least ten couples, sitting on benches or the surrounding walls, passionately embracing. While the initial draw to the Montículo is the view at sunset, these couples definitely find something else to entertain them. One Wednesday evening I counted thirteen couples in this small space. Of those, only two were not intensely making out. The couples ranged in age, from teenagers to the kind of adults that can no longer claim to be middle-aged. After multiple visits to this lovers’ paradise, I concluded that the Montículo is definitely not a place to go for a first date, but if you want the opportunity to avoid awkward small talk and pursue a slightly more passionate pastime with your significant other, then this is the place for you.
From Plaza España in Sopocachi, walk towards the Northeast corner of the square. From there, climb the steps to get to the top of the Monticulo.
Photo by Theo Haynes
One hour. Fifty-eight Bolivianos. A Jacuzzi, a large bed, a shower, and privacy. Need I say more? Stop Time is just one of many ’motels’ located around La Paz, a large number of them just down the road from Forum (see above). These are discreet businesses that provide clean rooms that couples can rent an hour at a time. The most basic room, which has a Jacuzzi, bed, and full bathroom, costs 58 bolivianos per hour. Prices and amenities rise from there, with the most expensive room running 158 bolivianos per hour. And don’t worry about missing this place: there are five signs announcing it. And at night, there’s a bright red neon sign that hangs above the motel. Not exactly discreet, but it definitely does attract quite a large number of clients. In just ten minutes of waiting in front of the entrance for an interview, I observed no fewer than four couples on their way in and a further two making their way out. According to some qualified experts, this is the place to go after a night out when you just don’t have anywhere else to go with that certain someone.
Address: Go down the street Francisco Bedregal, it will be pretty obvious.
In the end, none of this helped me. A few days after she told me to make the decision, my mysterious lady texted me once again. She had made an executive decision: Our first date will be a nice dinner at her home—with her parents. We are still in negotiations, and have yet to go on our first date.