Monday, July 30, 2012

Cusco or Cuzco or Qusquo

 Cuzco- a bustling city, mish mash of gritty charm and kitchy tourism.  We loved this little city!  We stayed at the Arwanwa Cusco Boutique Hotel just a few blocks from the iconic Plaza De Armas.  We were in walking distance to everything we wanted to see (although each little jaunt felt like a marathon due to the altitude).  With only an evening and one full day,  we had to be strategic about what we saw and did.

Our first evening was spent exploring the plaza and ducking in and out of shops trying to figure out the worthwhile souvenirs vs. the mass produced Cancun-esque crap.  We found a wonderful little art shop where I got a little water color of a llama, several alpaca stores and a tapestry store that we would revist the next day.

Upon the recommendation of a friend, we made reservations in advance at Ciciollina, a Peruvian fusion restaurant.  It did not disappoint!  Probably our favorite meal so far.  We loved the decor, the ambiance, the staff...and the food was AMAZING!  A sweet French couple, Henry and Margo, was seated beside us and we offered them the rest of our bottle of wine (the altitude does a number on your ability to consume safely).  We then struck up a conversation and had the best time- I bet we sat for an hour chatting!  Luckily, the guy new English very well.  His parents used to send him to English speaking countries for school semesters so he could practice his English, crazy right?!

The next day, we decided that the best strategy was to follow the Lonely Planet's walking tour.  It was a great way to hit the city's high points (and low points).  We'll try to expand on the tour mostly in pictures:

Plaza de Armas in the daylight

view of the hills

windy streets

first stop on the walking tour- this is the arch of a female the moment I can't think of her name!

San Pedro market- this market is for the locals.  Consider it their Walmart

juice bars- just pull up a stool and get fresh juice!

our juice lady
finished product! Strawberry, banana, orange :)

This masked man, along with his other masked amigos stand in the middle median and whip people for not minding the cross's sort of scary and pretty darn funny! 
very old pedestrian alley with Incan walls

A lookout point in the smaller Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas

another view from the church

another view of the Plaza de Armas

on our way to the sun temple (I think)
Stop for lunch at Greens Organic 
using my STELLAR Spanish skills to order lunch
trout ceviche
very refreshing chicken soup
grilled alpaca wrap

Spanish built courtyard

Kindle Fire saved us many times!  Handy access to maps and Lonely Planet!

another beautiful view of the city

there's that plaza again!

The Spanish destroyed this Incan temple and built over the top of it, you can see the Incan walls on the bottom and the Spanish influenced cathedral on the top with the colonial style buildings to the right


more terracing

On our way up to San Blas, the artist district (where we found no good art)

We ended our day with another round of shopping and dinner at Marcelo Batata (doesn't rank among our favorites on the trip).

I can't believe we actually did all of that in one day!  The next day we would be off to Aguas Calientes and then on to Macchu Pichu!

Side note: I won't expand because it's quite disgusting, but after our long day of walking, seeing, and eating, I discovered I had contracted a bug.  After a little WebMd,, and wikipedia searching I discovered I had contracted Giardia.  If you want to know more, just look it up...I had every symptom. It's gross. The greatest part is, it takes a minimum of 3 weeks to run its course even with antibiotics, which luckily we carried in our pharmacy arsenal!

Here's a little gem to keep you laughing:
After forcing me to take this picture (and obviously giving it the best smile they've got), the little girl to your right had the nerve to tell Russell and me that the generous tip (if you calculated time spent vs. money earned) we gave her wasn't enough!   

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