Archive for the ‘Tourist Stuff’ Category

This post was done without the help of “Google Translate,” but does have an assist from my Spanish tutor, Fernanda.

The Most Typical Scene of St. Paddy's Day in Lima

Para el día de San Patrick, nosotros queríamos cocinar un desayuno tradicional de Irlanda. En Irlanda, un desayuno tradicional consiste de huevos (normalmente un huevo frito), tocino, salchichas de morcilla (o salchichas normales), los frijoles (blancos), tomates y panes. Para beber, hay te fuerte, no el tipo de té que se pone en Starbucks. En EEUU, este tipo de desayuno se llama “El Desayuno Irlanda” pero en Europa lo se llama “El Desayuno Completo.” Fue un poco difícil para nosotros encontráramos los ingredientes Irlandeses pero yo pienso que ella cocinó una buen aproximación al desayuno tradicional. En Perú, por ejemplo, hay muchas variedades de las salchichas y nosotros las usamos en nuestro desayuno.

Irish Dancers, all of which are Limenos or Limenas


Tradicionalmente, los Irlandeses comían los desayunos grandes porque, especialmente para los obreros, ellos solamente comían dos veces, en la mañana y en la noche. Ahora, por supuesto, los Irlandeses comen igual que en otras partes del mundo occidental. Dicho esto, la mayor parte de Europa y EEUU toma un desayuno mucho más grande que aquí (a excepción de España, por supuesto). Normalmente, en EEUU, durante el Día de San Patrick muchas personas comen “corn beef” (una carne que tiene muchas sal) y berza. Por lo tanto, en Lima, a mi me parece que “carne de vacuno” y berza no existen aquí. Nosotros estábamos contenta porque a ella no le gusta carne de vacuno.

An Irish Band, full of actual Irish


Después de hicimos el desayuno, los amigos llegaron a nuestra casa. Cuando ellos llegaron, yo estaba viendo el partido de futbol (era de mi equipo favorito). Después del partido—que terminó antes de la primera mitad porque un jugador tuvo un ataque al corazón—comimos bocadillos y bebimos tragos. Muchos irlandeses creen que el día de San Patrick es un día donde EEUU humillo a Irlanda y están siempre hablando de tragos. En EEUU, hay muchas personas creen que ellos son totalmente Irlandeses. Esas personas llevan camisetas verdes y siempre están tomando tragos. Los verdaderos irlandeses llaman a esas personas “Irlandeses de plástico.”

A las tres, salimos del departamento a una festiva Irlandesa en el Cricket Club de Lima. Primero, es muy raro que el festival sea en un club de cricket. El cricket es un juego que uno asocia con Inglaterra, los antiguos colonos de Irlanda. En Irlanda, que juegan un juego llamado “hurling”, que es un poco similar al hockey sobre hierba. Por supuesto, nadie juega este juego pero los Irlandesas.

The Gang

Pero, en este festival había Guinness (la cerveza de Irlanda) y que f ue una mejor razón por la que fuimos al festival. ¡Había una escasez de Guinness en Lima! ¡Que horror, que horror! En general, el festival fue interesante porque era una fusión de Perú y Irlanda. El festival fue una fiesta en la piscina, donde hijos y padres llevaban trajes de baño. Había algunos bailarines (ellos no eran Irlandeses, pero ellos eran buenos) y una banda irlandesa. En cuanto a la comida, había salchichas y helados. En total, el Día de Santo Patrick fue interesante.


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The Sacred Valley

The day after our visit to Cusco we had a trip through the Sacred Valley that ended in a train trip to Aguas Caliente, which is a popular way station on the trip to Macchu Pichu. The basic routes from Cusco to Macchu Pichu for what many call the Gringo Trail (some of the locals express their thoughts on the issue with the commonly seen graffiti tag Inca$). I need to begin by declaring, in all honesty, that I don’t have the language to describe the natural beauty and power of the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Valle Sagrado de los Incas). Give me the chaos of a city; I can (sorta) describe that scene. Maybe it’s my affinity for steel and concrete, but whenever I try to write about nature I feel like somebody cribbing the best (or the worst) from the Naturalists. Yet even for me, as someone who feels the futures presented by cyberpunk fictions are not all that dystopian, the Sacred Valley was beautiful. Purely and absolutely beautiful. Without a doubt it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced.

Sacred Valley, near Pisac

I’ve always had an affinity for the idea that beauty, especially natural beauty, has a purposiveness without purpose. Basically, this means we that normally we can divine object’s purpose due to the goals or activities that object is supposed to achieve. Yet, an elemental part of the joy we experience when looking at beautiful objects found in nature we feel that they have a purpose—since they have the a symmetry and organization of aesthetic elements or qualities—but in reality the object has no discernable purpose geared towards aesthetics. A wonderful valley is not designed for its aesthetic qualities, but is the product an ongoing process of natural occurrences. Natural beauty, for me, creates a frame where all the elements are composed for the vista, the view, yet I know, deep down, that it is just a happenstance of biological development. It produces a feeling that “damn that’s purty” without being designed to be “damn purty.”

Pisac Market

The first stop was the opening to the Sacred Valley, which provided a great view of the entire landscape. It was a designated stop along the Gringo Trail where many of the tour buses unload and people take pictures. Like any stop on the Sacred Valley that attracts tourists, this area was packed with women and their children selling various trinkets or posing for photos (note: if you take pictures of any locals, be expected to pay for the photo). Every site along the Sacred Valley has its own economy of tourist-centric merchandise, basically various Inca themed textiles, hats, and curios. The view from the is cliff overlooking the valley was tremendous, it had a sense of unreality to it that made it seem like it was some painting transposed into the technicolor of real life. The day of our visit, it was a bit misty and overcast, which provided a great background to the mountains and river. It was amazing.


From this stop, we travelled to a Pisac, a small town (in the Sacred Valley, they all seem like small towns) with wonderful Incan ruins. Pisac, in relation to the town, is a nice pueblo village with a decent number of restaurants and a thriving market. As a part of our trip, we visited a jewelry store for a little presentation about jewelry craft in the Sacred Valley and how to spot fake silver. Like any tourist-centric destination, the Macchu Pichu-Cusco-Sacred Valley is a haven for cheap knock-offs of the typical handicrafts of the local people. If you take a trip to Macchu Pichu-Cusco-Sacred Valley, expect to hear people talk about how their sweaters or caps are real baby Alapaca and soandsos sweaters are “Maybe Alapaca.”

Pisac Ruins

The ruins of Pisac are stone houses and temple built directly into the mountainside. Also, it has one of my favorite features of Incan architecture, the terracing of the mountainside. It’s an impressive site, but pales in comparison to some of the other mountainside buildings constructed by the Incans. Quite a few Incan ruins are built on the mountainside, so in order cultivate enough crops the Incas terraced the mountains. When we visited the ruins of Pisac, it started to pour down rain. One of the most interesting elements of Pisac, and the Sacred Valley as a whole, was verdant character to it all. Everything is green on green, with a slate grey sky hanging close to our heads.



From Pisac, we had a brief stop at a local bar know for its chicha. Chicha is a sweet fermented drink made from a traditional fermentation process. I already knew that the Incas used spit to help the fermentation process, however, I was a chicken and didn’t ask the proprietor of the bar if she still followed this tradition. Oh well, it tasted fine. Although chicha does have a very mild alcoholic percentage, in order to give the drink some punch many locals mix chicha with beer (Cusquena Dark seemed to be the choice the day we visited). Chicha has the taste of fruit juice, but the fermentation process does alter the flavor in an unusual (for foreigners) way, as it doesn’t remotely taste like wine. If pressed, the closet thing to chicha would probably be a lambec or one of the many fruit-flavored craft beers. Also, it’s quite different from the chicha morada that you find all over Lima.

The last major stop for the day was Ollantaytambo. If I thought that Pisac was an impressive ruin built into the side of a mountain, the ruins of Ollantaytambo were fantastic and exceeded the bar set by Pisac. There are two major parts to Ollantaytambo, the large terraced temple that stretches high up the mountain and a series of buildings carved into the opposite mountainside, and they sit even higher then temple and are perched on a dizzyingly steep angle. While standing on the left side of the valley and looking up from the top of the terraced temple, you can see the large storehouses, which were built to store grains and other perishables, and the house of the engineer of Ollantaytambo.


The house of the engineer is build basically on top the third massive monument in Ollantaytambo: the face of Tunupa. Built on the more severe of the two mountains are the houses and, incredibly, this face of Tunupa, a mythical messiah figure to the Incas, juts out from the side of the mountain. Tunupa was a blonde haired and blue-eyed figure that helped the Incas unify and, before disappearing, promised to return to the Incas to bring about a golden time. It didn’t happen. Instead, a bearded Spaniard came and, in his own way, transformed the society and community of the Incas. There is a substantial debate among experts as to whether or not this face was carved by the Incas or just a happy byproduct of nature. Either way, it adds another spectacular level to the site.


When you walk up the steps of Ollantaytambo you are provided with a great view of the entire archeological site. First, you get to experience more the insanely accurate walls of the Incas, with stones that fit perfectly together without the use of mortar, like a giant heavy Tetris game played by the gods. Also, according to our guide, many of the large smooth stones that make of temple are of Ollantaytambo come from a quarry many kilometers away, which means the stones were hauled one helluva distance. Second, you also get a wonderful view of the town and the valley as well. For any trip to the Sacred Valley, I would highly recommend a trip to Ollantaytambo.

We probably spent a good hour or more at Ollantaytambo, and it was a wonderful experience. Like much of the trip, hiking up these monuments, along with the pressures of the altitude, really took a lot out of our group. Once we all packed on to the train, it was a relief to sit down and relax. In the next post, I’ll talk about Macchu Pichu and how my experience of the beautiful became an experience of the sublime.

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This will be the first in a series of posts about my vacación to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and así sucesivamente (ugh, Spanglish is for everyone). The university is on break so, like many Peruvians, I went on a trip with friends and family. Our group was relatively small and was pretty diverse in terms of age, with a range of 30 to 65+. This trip was the capstone to almost a month of visitors that turned my apartment into a makeshift hostel. So, while my level of great experiences with great people increased, there was also a concomitant drop in productivity (including writing for this space). However, despite the raging academic guilt that is often present in my head when I spend any time not directly related to producing work, I wouldn’t change a thing (with a special shout out to Karen, Steve, and Bailey!).

The trip began very early in the morning, as we all stumbled, like bleary-eyed drunks, into a van at 4:30 am. From there, it was, mercifully, a quick trip to the airport, which was surprisingly busy for such an early time in the morning. I’m told that Lima’s airport is busy late at night/early in the morning due to the winds off the Andes; it causes dangerous conditions for outgoing flights. The flight to Cusco, which was the first step on our trip, was quick and painless.

Cusco has many of these charmingly narrow streets

Cusco is an energetic little town tucked up in the mountains with charmingly narrow streets and an abundance of hostels, pubs and restaurants. Cusco is, and yet not, a resort town; yes, much of the industry of the town revolves around the tourist trade, but the town still has a rough-around-the-edges feel. It’s a town that appears geared towards backpackers, not jetsetters. Like most of Peru, the weather really damages the town, as rain, earthquakes and the altitude wears down buildings, treating the concrete to one crushing blow after another. My guess is that you either like this beaten-down charm or you don’t. I think our group was split.

Central Plaza

Truthfully, we didn’t spend much time in Cusco and most of our first day was spent acclimating to the altitude. Any travel book or website will tell you about the horrors of the altitude in Cusco, and they’re all right. Every single one of them. It’s no joke. I don’t think I really appreciated the changes to my body caused by the severity of the differences in altitude between Cusco and Lima. Not only was I often out of breath, but also my legs ached and I had stomach cramps. I tried to follow the rules provided by various travel sites, such as drinking plenty of water and purposefully walking at a slower pace, but I still felt pretty much like how Mickey Rourke looks. In other words, I was a big bag of mashed-up asshole.

Our tour of Cusco began with the town’s main plaza—the Plaza de Armas—and the main cathedral, Santo Domingo. As anyone familiar with Latin culture can attest, the plaza and the cathedral are always connected, forming a conjoined space that represents the merger of a community’s secular and spiritual interests. Cusco’s plaza is one of the more charming ones I’ve encountered: compact and lively. Outside of Santo Domingo, there is another impressive cathedral, Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus, in the plaza. Both cathedrals are best viewed from the second stories of the many pubs and bars that encircle the plaza. For our visit, the hustle and bustle of the plaza included the arrest of some thieves by the police, which compelled a couple of youths to yell when the police van was safely beyond the plaza, “Hijos de putas” and (I think) “pedazos de mierda.”

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo is a large Baroque cathedral that features a unique blend of colonial and Andean religious iconography. For instance, many of the church’s paintings of the Virgin Mary depict her as having what our guide called the “triangle shape of Andean mothers.” The real showpieces are the large canvases from the Cusquena Escuela that best exemplify the merger of Catholic and Andean cultural symbols. From a postcolonial perspective, it would be easy to signal these canvases as moments of hybridity, which they probably are. However, these murals also present how hybridity can be contained with the larger symbols of empire—a framed hybridity. The colonial space and pictorial symbols enclose and dominate the Andean influence in the paintings. Or at least so I thought.

From Santa Domingo, we travelled to the outskirts of Cusco to some of the Incan structures that exist in the hill country. The first was Saqsayhuamán, a large temple that stretches out over a plateau in the mountains above Cusco. The view provided by Saqsayhuamán was tremendous, the site offers up a picturesque vista of the city and the surrounding mountains. The long rock formations that compose Saqsayhuamán form a zig-zag pattern that our guide suggested was meant to signify a lightning bolt. The archeological site was our group’s first exposure to the two main elements of Incan architecture: astronomical symbology and precise masonry. The main wall of Saqsayhuamán—the “bolt” of lightning —has blocks of smooth granite so precisely placed together that it reminded me of a giant Incan game of Tetris. Every block, most of which were not uniform, was so snuggly placed against its partner that the wall gave the impression that it wasn’t made from blocks at all, but was one solid piece carved to represent the shape of brick of wall.


The other memorable monument at Saqsayhuamán has a more modern history than the rock wall. Cusco has a decent number of Arab immigrants who, according to our guide, have been more or less tolerated by the local (highly Catholic) population. In one of the less tolerant periods, the Arab community offered the citizens of Cusco a gift to help express their commitment and gratitude: a large white statue of Jesus in the vain of Rio’s Cristo Redentor. The statue comes at the point of Saqsayhuamán lightning blot, if you will, and is illuminated at night as if it were keeping watch over the city.


The second Incan monument, we visited was Tambomachay, an aqueduct placed at the top of a small, but very steep, hill. The end of the aqueduct leads to small fountain underneath four of ceremonial nooks or, as we called ‘em in kindergarten, cubbyholes. These nooks are trapezoidal with the base being slightly larger than the top. They can be found many Incan monuments and are believed to have held mummies or gold-plated idols. Also, they’re another example of the precision found in Incan architecture, as each nook is the same size and the same distance separating each hole. The fountain at Tambomachay is a traditional spot for the citizens of Cusco to have marriage ceremonies where the bride and groom each drink from the fountain.

After Tambomachay, honestly, the rest of Cusco was numbing blur due to the altitude and general travel exhaustion. We ate a restaurant, Incanto, which was okay (though I have the terribly snobbish gustation of a true Limeño). I think everybody in our group, myself included, was asleep by 9:30 or so.

Cusco at Night

Essentially, my experience in Cusco and it’s surrounding areas left me wishing that we’d spent more than just a day in the area. One of the downsides of being a part of a guided tour is spending the trip on rails, being led from one destination to another like the character in an old Nintendo game. Of course, there are upsides to a guided tour and it was probably for the best since I was the only person who could, at times, pass for a reasonably coherent Spanish speaker. My role as translator was, as my teacher would say, good for my Spanish but annoying for everyone else.

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Since I don’t meet with my employers or the realtor until tomorrow, I decided to hire a driver and take a tour the major districts of Lima. It was a bit of treat to myself and would hopefully give me some idea about the different districts in the city.


Before I talk about the districts, I want to take a moment to pimp my tour guide, Renato, and his company TaxiLima. He was prompt, knowledgeable, and a great ambassador for Lima. Some of my comments here are derived from his explanations about the various districts. He also answered general questions about apartments and living conditions for me as well. On to the city, then! (Grain of Salt Warning: These are just my initial impressions after my tour. I’m sure, as I become more experienced with the city, my understanding of the neighborhoods will change).

The first stop was Miraflores, which many travel books will tell you is the “heart of Lima” and many Limeños will tell you is the “pocket book of the turistas.” Either way, it’s a very nice and bustling neighborhood. It has great access to the beach and several well-coiffed parks (including ones for your pets). While not as swank as San Isidro–to my eyes–it’s still very high-end with a bunch of hotels, restaurants, bars, and fancy-looking apartments. San Isidro seems to have a more old money vibe, whereas Miraflores is packed with new money snowbirds. I was told a story about a Canadian couple, retired, who purchased a 100,000 USD condo that they use for only 6 months out of the year.

The views of the cliffs are pretty breath-taking, even though the water is always cold. There was rough seas today and the waves had a soothing crash against the cliffs. This is one of the areas we may settle in, the only issue being that it’s probably a good 20/25 minute drive to and from the university if the traffic is good. (Spoiler Alert: Traffic in Lima is never good).


After Miraflores we moved on to Barranco, which is the district just up the coast. Barranco is the bohemian district of Lima and it’s readily apparent to even the most white bread of gringos. There are fewer hotels in this area and more hostels. It seems to cater to the backpack across South America crowd that want to live cheaply, to grow their hair out into dreadlocks, and to party heavy. Most of the restaurants become nightclubs after dark.

There is a small alley that was just bars or nightclubs, one sandwiched right up to the next. Each one was large, often with multiple stories that each play a different type of music. It has the look and feel of place that can get pretty raucous and more than a bit rowdy.


Our trip continued to Chorrillos. It’s the fishing district of Lima and marks the end of the normal tourist corridor of San Isidro, Miraflores, and Barranco. Although it’s a bit, well, rustic, Chorrillos is not a favela per se (though it’s connected to one). It’s a mixed neighborhood of middle class to poor residents, sometime separated by less than a block. That said, it was one of the more interesting stops on the tour. The fishing “village” was unlike any other place I have visited with its sea-worn anglers, multiple tiny cevicherias (often just an old lady and one small stove top), and its begging dogs and pelicans. Pelicians, by the way, can be pretty intimidating when the give you the stink-eye. It looks like they’re mentally saying “Gimme some fish or this enormous beak is going where the sun don’t shine.”

From the fishing village we went up to the hills to see Lima’s own Christ the Redeemer . It was given to Lima by some Brasil oil or gas companies as a show of solidarity between the two nations. It’s a bit odd, I think, to build the exact same monument, especially one so heavily branded, in another city. Kinda like the equivalent of giving someone your favorite movie for their birthday.

The final stop was Central Lima. Traffic was doubly intense, the space was crowded with businessmen, lawyers, street vendors, bureaucrats, tourists, and some homeless. We stopped by a few museums, including the Museo De Gastronomia and La Casa de la Literatura Peruana (which is dedicated, in part, to Mario Vargas Llosa). Central Lima was overwhelming in the amount of traffic and people. I guess it was a pretty rough place not too long ago, though the government has done quite a bit of renovation to make it more a showplace for

Central Lima

the country, though it’s still not a place to be at night when all the shops close and lawyers leave. A quick couple of final notes, in the area of Central Lima there are 40 churches, all of which looked pretty darn big. Also, there is a statue of Pizarro that was donated to the Spanish government, which Peruvians didn’t really want. They suggested placing it in front a church, the church rejected it. They suggested placing Fransico in front of the Presidential Place, that got shot down real quick. Eventually, they put the statue in a dump–that has since been renovated into a nice park–because Spain would only take the statue back if Peru paid all the transport coast. Pretty funny story.

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