Saturday, June 13, 2015

Day Five - Cusco

Oh how heavenly it was to sleep in. Jamie and Alex left to explore pretty early in the morning, while Matt and I stayed behind. He and I ate breakfast in the hotel "cafe", which was a delicious omlette with sautéed onions and tomatoes, and cheese, two pieces of whole grain toast, elderberry jam, and espresso....and the highlight of our meal, a carafe of freshly made mango juice. It was cold, smooth, and absolutely heavenly!

After showering, we all decided to meet up in downtown Cusco, since Jamie and Alex had scoped out some of the best places. Matt and I took a taxi down to the Church of Santo Domingo. Upon arrival, Matt paid some Incan women to pose with us and their lambs. The lambs were adorable! Once we caught up with Jamie and Alex, we were approached by an English-speaking guide, asking if we wanted to pay her to guide us through the site. After negotiating a price (we ended up at 30 soles), we paid our admission and got started. The site was amazing. We learned about Incan architecture and how they cut and put the stones together without mortar and how they got the perfect fit. Also within the church was an amazing art gallery, with a lot of art depicting Francisco Pizarro and his time in Peru. I think my two favorite pieces of art were near the end of the tour; a starburst that had a depiction of 365 days in the year and a star piece of art that showed the Milky Way and the animals that are honored by the Inca, including the black llama.

Following our awesome tour, we walked up to the Plaza de Armas.  Apparently we arrived in Cusco during their health festival, so there were a ton of events on the streets including dancers, parades, and an increase in locals that were out celebrating. Off of the Plaza, we stopped at a second story bar, called Papillon. We ordered a small pizza and just did some people watching from the balcony. After our late-afternoon snack, we separated; Matt and I headed back to the Ninos to take showered and Jamie and Alex walked up to the Fallen Angel restaurant to see if we could get a reservation for the
evening. This restaurant came highly recommended both by a coworker of mine (Heidi, who was in
Cusco in March) and my guidebook, which refers to it as "unique and kitschy".  When Alex andJamie arrived back to the Ninos, we all finished getting ready and took a taxi to the restaurant.

The trip to the restaurant was almost uneventful. Our taxi arrived on a street one-car wide, with a car coming toward us, so we had to maneuver into a side street to let them around. Seems....weird, instead of just marking a street as a one way like they would in the U.S.  Upon arrival, we were let in by the doorman, and seated out on the patio near a heater (much needed and appreciated)!  The Welshman that Jamie and Alex had met earlier came over and introduced himself to the rest of us. He was encouraged to move to Cusco by a friend managing another restaurant in the area. He was a great resource for us, and we didn't need to struggle through a broken-English conversation with him. After talking with him about the risks in eating local produce and consuming ice, he assured us that the restaurant used filtered (clean) water for their ice and that they also used the same water to wash their produce, so we didn't need to worry about getting sick. What a relief! We hadn't had any fresh vegetables or ice-cold drinks in a few days. I had two drinks at the restaurant; a Diablo (cranberry juice and vodka with rose petals (pictured) and a Strawberry Daquiri. We ordered appetizers recommended by our new friend, yucca fritters, quinoa balls, and a trout ceviche. They were all delicious. My favorite part was my main entree, which was cilantro sirloin with truffle roasted potatoes. Amazingly tasty!

Once we settled up the bill, we decided to make one more stop for the evening before heading back to the hotel.  We walked back to the Plaza (which had another parade celebration going on) and stopped at Paddy's Pub for a night cap. This pub was typical American - decorated exactly as you'd imagine on the inside, the only "surprise" being the toy train that circled the outskirts of the second floor pub. After a round of drinks, we caught a taxi back to the Ninos Hotel and I called it a night while the others drank some "choice" Peruvian wine.

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