Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cuzco and Sacred Valley

The next part of our trip took us to Cuzco, the capital of Peru during Incan times. It was nice change from the hustle and bustle of Lima. Cuzco is 8,000 ft above sea level and we definitely felt the lack of oxygen... as in could barely make it up four flights of stairs to our hotel room with our luggage! 

Church belltower

Main plaza

Famous 12 sided rock

Infamous coca tea

Birds eye of Cuzco

Amazing breakfast sammich concocted by yours truly

Inca emperor statue

The Coca Cola of Peru.. tastes like bubblegum!

We only spent one night in Cuzco before heading to the Sacred Valley (proper name Ollantaytambo). On the bus ride there we saw...


Village women spinning wool

Scenic landscape

Arriving at Ollantaytambo, an Incan archeological site, we toured the ruin and wandered around the town. This is a very small town and we really started to feel disconnected with normality. We really just drank in the simplicity, architecture, and views. A group of us went out for pizza (don't judge!) and called it an early evening. Next morning we were off to Km. 82, the official start of the Inca Trail.

View of the town from the ruin
Incas stored their harvest in storehouses in hard to access places in case of invasion 
Visitors walking around the ruin - notice lack of handrails or guard posts!
Sacrificial altars
Colorful goods in the marketplace

Veggie pizza

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Extraordinary Desserts in SD, Chocolate cake (from Copenhagen)
Princess cake (same), La Baguette

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Peru - part one

Hello world! I'm finally sitting down to blog about my Machu Picchu experience. No good excuse for how long it took, I was very timely with the Facebook album but when it came down to writing it all out I guess I knew it would be such a saga that it wouldn't be a quick and easy post. In any case, I still remember everything like it was yesterday and so this will be a very accurate recap!

Now before I went, I tried to find blogs written by travelers who had done the trip before and found they were scarce. (Blogs, not travelers). So, if my little recount helps anyone at all, that would rock my world.

This was one of the best trips I have ever taken. And I've had the good fortune to travel quite a bit. I choose to go with G Adventures (formerly called Gap Adventures) although there are two reputable Peruvian guides we heard good things about too - Llama Path and Peru Treks.

Our group was a nice mix of Americans and Brits for the most part. Everyone was truly lovely. I think the type of person who would come on a trip like this is for the most part fun loving and easygoing, all of which were traits we found in common. Hands down, our experience would not have been the same without the awesome people we met.

To break this up a bit, I'm going to blog about the trip over a few posts. It's just too much to fit into one and I don't want anyone's eyeballs falling out :)

Days 1 and 2: Lima

We flew San Francisco - San Salvador - Lima on the redeye. Arrived in Lima around 2pm local time. I was so glad I had the foresight to book an airport transfer because we were dead tired and very disoriented. We were met by a Gap employee who drove us to our hotel in the Miraflores district. This is a new, comparatively wealthy neighborhood that borders the coast. After checking in and showering, we decided to go to the other side of town, to the old city, starting at Plaza de Armas.

Plaza de Armas 
Plaza de Armas
The plaza is nice and well, very pretty to look at, but we didn't find much to do in its surrounding neighborhoods. By the time we got there, the cathedrals were closing down and visiting hours were over at most touristy attractions. It seemed to be a popular area for shopping, but mostly local trendy clothing stores which didn't really tickle our fancy. We walked around for an hour and ate dinner at the most populated restaurant we could find (always a good method!). We were totally unfamiliar with Peruvian food, therefore had no idea what "lomo saltado" or "tacu tacu" was. So naturally, I went with chicken :)

My dish came with a grilled chicken breast, salad (which I didn't eat - shunned all raw veggies), french fries, rice topped with a fried egg, and a fried plaintain. Very carb heavy. You can see in the background what the bf got, seafood rice. Honestly these dishes were the only things I recognized.. pollo and arroz con mariscos! His dish was better. But, this was the beginning of A LOT OF CARBS!!! After dinner we walked around some more and called it an early night. We were trying to abstain from alcohol before the trek, therefore, didn't go to any bars.

Breakfast the next day was.....

Coffee and OJ
With our tummies lined we set out to explore the city. The hotel clerk told us about ruins in the area which we decided to check out. After a lot of walking, wrong turns, and disagreements over the right direction, we arrived at Huaca Pucllana. The entire ruin is made of mud bricks which work in Lima because apparently it never rains.

Original mud bricks - you can see seashells mixed in

Birds eye view with the city in the background
This dog was over  40 years old! Apparently this breed lives a looong time

Afterwards we meandered over to the artenesarias, or outdoor marketplace where we filled up on alpaca clothing and various other knick knacks.

For lunch I was a little more adventurous and tried the local favorite, lomo saltado. It's basically beef stirfry on top of french fries with rice on the side. Pretty darn tasty.

Lomo saltado
Late afternoon we wandered down to the coast where we found this shopping mall called Larcomar. It was as if a piece of America was airlifted and dropped onto this spot... completely unexpectedly similar to a shopping mall back home. There was Chilis, TGI Fridays, Tony Romas, KFC, Starbucks, etc.

However there were breathtaking views of the ocean....

Peruvian coast
Someone recommended we try Las Tejas for dinner which was a 5 minute walk from out hotel. It was absolutely delicious! I read Lima was the ceviche capital of the world so we definitely wanted to try the dish.

National drink - Pisco Sour. Tastes like a margarita.
Sauces to accompany our meal.. love sauce!

Mariscos saltado... fish, shrimp, and scallops
The most tender, flavorful ceviche ever
And we called it an early night because it was off to Cuzco the next morning! To be continued in Peru part 2 :)