“Take vacations. Go as many places as you can. You can always make money. You can’t always make memories.”
It’s so hard to believe that it’s been 3-months since I had the wonderful opportunity to head to the southern hemisphere – where the seasons are opposite of us and the water swirls down the drain in the opposite direction (it’s the little things that amuse me). I’m fortunate enough to have some great friends that love to travel as much as I do, and it’s because of these trips that I make so many more all around the world and thus giving me reason to travel more to visit them! 😉 This trip started with a 2-hour drive from Cleveland to Columbus…that turned into an almost 3-hour drive and a near miss of our flight! Thankfully we made it with a half hour to spare to our gate! By the time we made it to Miami Beach ( after 3 hour drive to Columbus, 5 hours of flights that include a one from Columbus to Baltimore, then Baltimore to Fort Lauderdale, and finally a short drive to Miami/South Beach), we were pretty pooped so we managed a quick walk on the strip & dinner at Primetime, we quickly headed to sleep.
I woke early the next morning to spend a little time on Miami beach soaking up some sunshine. Then I spent the afternoon biking around town on a photo adventure with my friend Edin (a fellow photographer that I meet somewhere online…gotta love social media for helping connect people all over!), before we headed to the airport and on our way to Lima Peru!
Here’s an iPhone photo of us in flight to Lima! (Yes, I’m looking a hot mess after biking in jeans in 90 degree weather, but happy to be traveling!)
Our first day in Peru we left our wonderful hotel (Hotel San Agustin Exclusive in Mira flores) and spend the day exploring around Peru’s capital city of Lima to the San Francisco Convent and the Catacombs (#AllTheScarySkeletonPiles), the Plaza de Armas, and El Parque del Amor.
Do we really have to wear these name tags around Peru?! :-/
Our Gate 1 Travel guide – Julio
There are sooooo many feral dogs that roam the streets of Peru!
This woman would NOT give up in her fight to sell us Chiclets gum!
That afternoon this not-so-adventuous eater (aka – pickiest eater ever!) embarked on the first of many culinary explorations of this trip. First up was Peruvian Tequeños and one of my new favorite drinks – Pisco Sour!
I think this girl was getting photos to celebrate her quinceanera.
After our first day of exploration, the next day we head back to the Lima Aeropuerto to fly to Cusco and eventually Machu Picchu! We stayed at another great hotel – Los Portales – Cusco (it was right in the center of everything!) Here’s the view from our room:
Then it was off to explore the city of Cusco in the mix of sun and rain.
We stopped and got lunch at a place called Fusi Chicken & Grill Restobar. This place gave us a private balcony view of the the street activity below in the center of town and some of our favorite food in Peru that we actually came back again on the 2nd day in Cusco. While we were here, Rhiannon decided to be adventurous and try the Alpaca (a popular dish in Peru). I tried a bit of hers and we both quite liked it surprisingly. Tasted a bit like bison to us.
It was back in these alleyways of Cusco that I got my first pair of “Fraybans” to replace the sunglasses I broke in Miami. They were definitely hustling with the locals and the stray doggies.
This was a fantastic little blue door in a slightly hidden alcove that lead us to the all-American Starbucks for some coffee and Wi-Fi! 😉
Looking at an art water feature and then stepping behind it to look through the water and out onto the town.
That evening we got back and I tried my first Peruvian cerveza…the verdict? No me gusta! Haha
Then next day we were off to Machu Picchu! It was probably about an hour or so bus ride to the town of Ollantaytambo where we’d catch the Inca Rail Train to the Ruins. Let me tell you that bus ride (and the whole day really) was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip! The country side of Peru is quite breathtaking!
We made a pitstop along the way at to the town of Yanahuara where we visited a woman’s farm and sampled some Chicha (a fermented beverage made of corn).
P.S. – Peruvian baños out in the countryside were less than desirable. Haha #hashtagbathroomselfie
After that pitstop, we made it to the town of Ollantaytambo, did a quick wander around before we headed to the train for about an hour ride into the mountains of the Sacred Valley.
And then it was time…for the peak of our trip…seeing Machu Picchu. After the train, it was another 30-minute winding, bumpy bus ride along the mountain side and into the clouds and then we were there finally. Viewing what has been named one of the new seven wonders of the world and was it ever wonderful. I was in complete awe of it’s beauty.
Then with this next few jumps of joy, we almost got kicked out of the place. Come on folks, we are jumping straight up, not off of some ledge! 😉
Our friends Ryan & Tanja:
Right around this time it had started to mist a bit. The mix of the sun and the clouds (especially being so high up in altitude), was crazy cool to see. Also FYI, most of these folks in the background are our friends from our travel group. 😉
Then this magic happen…a beautiful rainbow! I seriously was awestruck!
There was LOTS of steps & hills walking around the place. DEFINITELY got a good workout in that day!
This “little” guy also left me in a bit of a state of awe. Not in quite the same way as the rainbow. 😉
And actually probably one of my favorite photos from the afternoon was one from my iPhone!
After a long day of traveling and walking around Machu Picchu, we headed back to our hotel. Our original place was under construction, so we got to stay at the beautiful Inkaterra Hotel in Aquas Calientes (at the base of the mountain). These little “green” pueblo rooms were gorgeous with the lush rainforest right outside our window. But I do have to laugh at our huge room keys that made me feel like we might be heading to some prison cell. Haha.
That evening with the rest of our Gate 1 travel “family” we had a lovely 3-course dinner. I even ventured to try a little bit of my friend Gloria’s entry of Quwi – aka: Guinea Pig! It wasn’t bad…tasted like shredded pork, but I probably won’t ever ask for it as an entree anytime soon. haha.
The next morning we did a little exploring of the town of Machu Picchu (formally Aquas Calientes) and some shopping at the markets and had lunch at a little place called “Paititi” that didn’t understand a lick of our English but at least they had wifi, sangria, and entertainment as we watched all the niños walking home from school alongside the wondering dogs! 😉
Debbie and Julia trying to decide of they should get the stuffed animal Alpaca with real fur (it ended up being a keeper!) and then Rhiannon trying to barter for some bracelets.
Some window photos of the Ururamba Valley on the bus ride back to Cusco.
On my last night in Peru, we had a farewell dinner with our travel family at “Senorio de Sulco” where we had this absolutely amazing dessert that tasted like donuts called – Piscaron Classico – which basically was deep fried sweet potato bathed with a sugar cane syrup. To.die.for.
I finished the night heading to the center of town with a few of my friends to listen to a free concert in the center of town. So fun to see so many people singing and dancing around.
The next day it was up bright and early to the Lima airport to find out that none of our tickets in our travel group were valid anymore (since we switched our flight from Cusco to Lima, it messed up our sequence and eliminated the final flight in our trip!), but after standing at the ticket counter for over an hour, we finally got tickets and were headed back to Miami and back to the US!
Here’s a few final photos from my final day in Miami.