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"5 and a Half Days on the Ground"

Making the Most of My Friends' Visit - a Mini Vacation Peru Style

DSC_0368.jpgI still can't believe that Melissa and Lisa left their families and flew all this way to visit me in Peru! From the minute I received an email confirming their flight info, I saw the Cusco area in a different light. Putting back on my "North American glasses", I scoped out the really cool cafe's (with clean bathrooms), less crowded markets, and tourist sites.
I wanted them to love this place and to get a taste for our life here. I was giddy with the prospect of spending precious time with them. But how to make the most of their five and a half days??? In the end, I shouldn't have worried. These ladies know how to seize the day! I got to be part of a joyful three amigas celebrate Peru experience. Here is our story.

Day One -- Arrival and Visit to Pisac

Melissa and Lisa had a crazy long layover in Lima and arrived in Cusco at 6:30am. I met them at the airport and immediately whisked them off by taxi to Pisac (lower altitude). They were remarkably lucid, considering, and we managed to check into our hotel (the charming Pisac Inn) and seek out breakfast at "The Blue Llama". We even explored the market!
PISAC INN:
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PISAC MARKET:DSC_0119.jpgDSC00118.jpgDSC00108.jpgDSC00059.jpgP1010007.jpgDSC_0136.jpgDSC_0137.jpgDinner at the Inn was lovely and then we crashed out pretty early.

Day Two -- Pisac, Ollantaymbo, and the Train to Machu Picchu

After enjoying breakfast in the sunshine and watching the vendors set up their booths (they assemble and break down the market EVERY day), we set out to explore the town. Although this was my fourth time in Pisac, I got to experience it (especially shopping) in a whole new light. We talked to local artists, purchased beautiful hand-made textiles (Melissa), found Peru soccer jerseys (for Lisa's boys), saw alpacas and guinea pigs in the local jewelry store . . . all before noon.
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The Train!

In the early afternoon we headed to Ollantaytambo (train station for Machu Picchu) and boarded the Peru Rail Vistadome. We lucked out with the weather and got to enjoy the passing scenery and meet some of the other passengers. Melissa and Lisa took lots of photographs and we all enjoyed the ninety minute ride.IMG_1599.jpg9544BEAE2219AC6817B737AF6212249A.jpg
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Our arrival at Aguas Calientes was a little hectic as we navigated through the crowds to our hostel, the eclectic and interesting "Gringo Bills" but we soon settled in to our triple room and happily connected to the wi-fi. DSC_0332.jpgDSC00628.jpgFinding a cool place for dinner was challenging because none of the restaurants we walked by really appealed to us. Thanks to Lisa and her handy guidebook, we decided to check out a place called "The Tree House" which was off the beaten track but got excellent reviews. What a find!! We got a table right away and had a delicious meal in a peaceful, lodge-like atmosphere.

Day Three -- Machu Picchu and Return to Cusco

The next morning we were up really early, left our bags at the hostel, and headed off to catch one of the buses up to Machu Picchu. DSC_0340.jpgDSC_0356.jpgDSC_0357.jpgWe arrived just a couple of minutes before the doors opened and got to experience the place "wake up". Here are just a few of the photographs we took in the first part of the morning:
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After some exploring and more picture taking, Lisa headed off to "The Inka Bridge" while Melissa and I began our ascent of this "Big" mountain:DSC00438.jpgDSC_0421.jpg
Lisa had a great climb, ran into a pack of llamas, and took some amazing photos.
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Melissa and I were glad we started early because we didn't have to contend with anyone coming down while we were going up. They only allow 400 people a day to make the climb and we were in the first group. It was a great hike! There were many stone steps to climb and lots of exploring to do near the top. Here are some photos:
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IMG_1636.jpgJumping1.jpg Returning from our treks hot and hungry, we splurged on the buffet lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge Hotel - Pisco sours too! Afterward we hired a guide to give us a tour of the ruins - he was great, and we learned a lot about Peruvian History and Culture. DSC_0613.jpgDSC00568.jpg270_DSC_0634.jpgDSC00492.jpgDSC_0661.jpg

Return to Cusco

Our return train trip was considerably more subdued considering the time spent in the sun and hiking around the ruins. We were thrilled to arrive in Cusco and check Melissa and Lisa into their fancy hotel, the Palacio Nazarenas. I returned to our apartment for the night and arranged to meet up for lunch the next day.

Day Four -- Cusco Exploring

We met the ladies at their hotel and got a tour. What an amazing place!! There is a reason the Palacio is a five star establishment! The reconstruction took years and the authentic details mix perfectly with luxury. They even have the only heated pool in Cusco! It was like stepping into a whole different world. This was not the Cusco we were used to - but the escape was awesome.DSC_0745.jpgDSC00756.jpgIMG_1643.jpgIMG_1644.jpgDSC_0709.jpgWe decided to check out the Museo Inka and had a great time exploring the many rooms of artifacts and the historical building itself. DSC_0713.jpgDSC_0754.jpgOf course Alex and Leah speed walked their way through with their sights set on lunch. We decided to head to a cafe near the Plaza de San Blas so Melissa and Lisa could see our apartment afterward.DSC_0776.jpgDSC00661.jpgDSC_0772.jpgDSC_0792.jpg
From there I packed my bag for a two night sleepover!! Leaving Noah and the kids to volunteer without me, I embraced my girlfriends luxury time wholeheartedly!! We decided to visit the cathedral and then enjoyed happy hour and people watching on the balcony of Norton's Pub. 3569C6482219AC6817458976DA9DF58E.jpgDSC00684.jpgDSC_0821.jpgNext thing we knew it was time to get ready for dinner.
We had a nice meal at "Incanto" (recommended by our trusty butler at the Palacio) right near the Plaza de Armas. Lisa was brave enough to order and eat the cuy! Melissa and I stuck with pasta dishes. We went for a post dinner swim in the amazing pool at the hotel and took loooooong baths/hot showers afterwards!!! What a day!

Day Five -- Lisa's Birthday and Carpe Diem

We were served a multi-course poolside breakfast including fresh fruit and fruit juice, coffee, cheese, bread, meat tray, and eggs made to order. The whole staff sang to Lisa and presented her with a special Birthday treat. DSC_0715.jpgDSC_0842.jpg3563297D2219AC681722DFE40412DE84.jpg
As a special treat, we all visited the hotel spa. Lisa and Melissa both had massages and I had a manicure AND pedicure (much needed). The room for massages had authentic Inka waterways running through it. Here is a photo: DSC_0858.jpg
It felt great to be able to chat in Spanish for an hour with my manicurist. 90_DSC_0885.jpg90_DSC_0873.jpgFresh from our relaxing morning, we set off on a shopping mission. We got treated to a local lantern parade, my kids came over for an early evening swim, and we all went out for a Birthday Happy Hour at "Fallen Angel". The table that was a bathtub with real fish in it was awesome!DSC_0893.jpgDSC_0908.jpgP1010083.jpgDSC_0902.jpg. Dinner saw the three of us enjoying a gourmet meal at the hotel restaurant with a bit too much complimentary Birthday champagne. A great day all around!

Day Six -- Fond Farewells

Too soon I had to say goodbye as my friends headed back to their homes. Five and a half days wasn't nearly enough time - but I am grateful for every minute!

Posted by annevl 18:49 Archived in Peru Tagged mountains animals food accommodation peru hotel train shopping museum friends cusco pisac machu_pichhu Comments (1)

A Day in Our Life

A Glimpse at What We Do and Experience During a Typical Cusco Day

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It has been a month since we first arrived in Peru - a month packed with new sights, sounds, experiences, and learning for us. Each day continues to provide unique moments and discoveries but we are also striving for some sense of normal. I can't promise you exciting - but here is a snapshot of a day in our life.

Good Morning!!!

On weekdays we wake around 7:00am, get dressed, use the munchkin bathroom etc. Showers are especially exciting. There is an electrical heating unit in the shower head that provides between 4 and 7 minutes of warmish water - depending on the strength of the pressure. We found that if you touch the knob with wet hands you get an electric shock. We now keep a dry washcloth nearby to use, much like an oven mitt.
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Alex and Leah are not always super excited to get out of bed (it IS cold in their room). Note: there ARE 2 beds . . .
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Breakfast

No surprises here. Breakfast is our most predictable meal. It looks exactly like this every day:
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Our host family provides rolls, jelly, margarine, manjarblanco spread (toffee flavored), juice, tea, and coffee. We have bought ham, eggs, and yogurt to add to the selection. Gluten free eating is very difficult here - white carbs (potatoes, rice and bread) are an integral part of most meals.

On Our Way

By 8:10am we are out the door and looking to catch the eye of an approaching taxi driver. With Noah in the front of the taxi and the kids and I in the back, we embark on the 10-15 minute ride to school. As our Spanish improves, so does our conversations with taxi drivers. They are always surprised that we are staying in Peru for more than a couple of weeks and that we have not been to Machu Picchu. We have yet to meet a driver who has heard of Seattle - but there is always tomorrow. The rules of the road are still somewhat of a mystery - we only know that they involve invented lanes of traffic, horn blowing, and no turn signals. The trip costs 4 soles ($1) and saves us 45 minutes of walking uphill through the fumes of the morning commute.

School

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There is a lovely view of Cusco from our classroom window. Classes begin at 8:30am. Noah and I are enrolled in group classes. The school is international but our current group includes fellow American Gabby (high school student from New Orleans) and Andrew (professor at UPenn). We are with one teacher 8:30am -10:20am and another from 10:50am -12:30pm. Lessons are a mix of grammar and conversation with some peruvian culture and history thrown in as well. Class begins with a review of the homework and questions from the previous day. New material is introduced and we have reading, writing and speaking activities.
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Alex and Leah have a teacher to themselves and are in class from 8:30am -10:20am. They really like profesoro Alfredo who makes balloon animals, does card tricks, and keeps them learning Spanish. Noah and I meet them at the break and share a snack. They are then given either a math or writing assignment for the remaining time while we return to class.

Lunch

After classes our first priority is finding a place to eat. Our family home is too far away and the school serves lunch only to residents - so we are on our own. There are at least 30 cafes to choose from within a couple of blocks. We've discovered that our best value option (besides Chinese food) is to find a good menu of the day.
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At this cafe we each got fried wantons and a big bowl of soup as an appetizer, a main dish, a drink, and fruit salad for dessert. Total bill for 4 =40 soles ($16) - YUM!

Homeward Bound

At about 2 or 2:30pm we head out in the general direction of home. Any walk in Cusco involves at least a few stairs . . .
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and diversions . . .
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We usually stop at a market to pick up more water and/or other essentials. This one is our favorite because it is well lit, inexpensive, and close to our host family's apartment.
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Afternoon & Evening

By the time we get back we are quite tired and tend to relax for the first hour or so. We check email and facebook, do our Spanish homework, watch the Olympics, read, etc. The four of us tend to hang out in one room (the warmest). Here is my view:
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Dinner is served by our host mom between 6:30 and 7:30pm. After dinner we get organized for the next day, read, play a game, or choose a movie to watch as a family. Bedtime is around 9:30pm - which is quite early by South American standards but works for us. Ah, sleep . . .

Thanks for reading!
All the Best,
Anne

Posted by annevl 15:29 Archived in Peru Tagged food peru kids spanish school budget cusco Comments (7)

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