September 8, 2014
What a marvelous couple of days in Cusco. My first night, the rain and fog hit the lights on the streets in such a way making plaza enchanting. The city welcomed me back with open-arms. I have made ensured meals consisted of lots of quinoa and cerveza!
The place I’m staying is off the road and requires walking through three courtyards within a schoolyard to reach it. The terrace on the fourth floor lends itself to a most miraculous view of the city. Morning wake up calls are the sounds of dozens of chatty children pumped up on sugary treats running around the courtyard during a break from their classes. I can faintly make out teachers attempting to settle the balls of energy with exhausted efforts.
The following days yielded much walking. I have even hiked up to the Cristo Blanco on two separate occasions! No doubt the over 550 steps left me slightly winded but the altitude has not phased me. Maybe my body has just resigned itself to the fact that it is going to be pushed to some ridiculous level above sea on annual basis so it has decided to cope? Nija Warriors, here I come!
Shopping is the ultimate downtime here. As if a game, I weave myself in and out in the various markets tucked away on the old brick streets. This years style of alpaca sweater is strewn throughout the markets, each with something slightly different to offer. Finding exactly what you’re looking for is a skill that requires precision, patience and haggling.
Between all my shopping sprees, I managed to have time to take a chocolate making workshop at the Chocolate Museum. Nibbles of milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white chocolate awakened the palate for further indulgences of chocolate tea, Mayan hot chocolate and Inca hot chocolate. Two polar opposites – one spicy of cayenne the other sweet with honey.
As fortune would have it, there was the parade going on Saturday through Monday, all through the night, in celebration of one the many saints. Bands harmonize with classic Peruvian music; masses of Peruvians adorned in costume marching and smiling through the streets. Various sweets, chicha and corn snacks lend themselves at every turn. Normally quiet and reserved women are indulging in cans of Cusquena and startling the passing tourists as they block their paths, trying to engage them in a dance. The random wafts of sage reinforce the ancient feeling of the city.
Wrapping up my time here, I took a cooking lesson with CuscoCooking. Our chef, Luis, lead us to San Pedro market (a market I’d become quite familiar with) to obtain supplies. Navigating the narrow aisles of salted alpaca meat, freshly butchered meat assortments and smells, we weigh out the vegetables and herbs required for our meal. The fruit section comprised of many unfamiliar fruits. And what better way to determine what to buy? Tasting of course! Passion fruits, pepino, cherimoya and the likes introduced themselves to the class happily.
Back in “la cocina”, Luis guided us through a three course meal – corn soup, llomo saltado and chocolate fondu with our new-found fruit friends. And let’s not forget the passion fruit sour – salud!
Completely satiated, I have made my way back through the courtyards and up to my room to try to consolidate all my wonderful treasures into my backpack before setting off for Lima tomorrow. I may get up early to grab a Starbucks coffee (yes, corporate America has found its way here) and bid the Plaza de Armas one last goodbye. And then onto Lima for the last leg of the trip and to meet up with Natalia!
Love to all,