Eric and I went to Peru in 1996, a lifetime ago it seems. Cusco has grown, as we have, but the heart of the city is the same. The narrow streets with artfully designed cobble stones and massive stone walls with trapezoidal shaped stones, neatly pieced together without any mortar. The streets are so polished your shoes slide on the stone paths, and the cars aren’t very pedestrian friendly so we had to re-train our NY minds to remember that pedestrians aren’t first in Cusco.
We arrived late to our Air BB which was in the heart of the city on a little pedestrian street with no cars. Maria, our host met us and had hot tea and a blazing fire going-it felt a bit like coming home! Our “house” was so comfy, perfect place to settle in for a week. We had the 2 day Inca Trail set up for later in the week, so we could use Cusco as a home base for exploring. The garden in the entryway to our "home" was brilliant! Gorgeous pines, climbing nasturtiums, huge geraniums and lantana (they are perennials here) and orchids. There was almost alway a hummingbird in the the garden, if you look closely at the picture of the garden there is one near the pine tree!
Our first day in Cusco we explored the market. There was a festival-like feeling everywhere and we couldn’t figure out what the occasion was. We woke to the sounds of fireworks at 7 am! People had red roses, real and crochet on their lapels. The market was filled with flowers and chocolate. Then we realized, it was the day before Mother’s Day! It was lovely to see that mothers around the world are revered and appreciated in such a warm and sincere way. There were chocolate replicas of high-heeled pumps, elaborate cakes and people walking arm in arm with their Mom’s everywhere. Feliz did Madre! I was lucky to be with 2 of my 3 kids (looking forward to seeing Cole very soon on Fire Island!). There was a big parade in the Plaza De Armas which was oddly similar to the festivals that we experienced in Bhutan.
Sunday was Mother’s Day and I was treated like a queen by Eric and the kids. I got an early morning call from Cole which was a treat. After being served coffee in bed, Celia and Eric headed out to the markets and procured a breakfast feast with all of my favorites, the menu included passionfruit, cheesy eggs with broccoli and there were gorgeous lilys that were orange and yellow and smelled divine. I included photo of my vantage point of breakfast making, from my cozy bed with a cup of coffee! We lingered over breakfast and then headed out to see the ruins around Cusco.
There were 4 sites of Incan ruins. We took a taxi to the furthest on and wandered through them back to Cusco. Saqsaywaman was the highlight! It is like Stonehenge and Macchu Pichu melded together. It is hard to believe that these structures are over 500 years old. The attention to detail and artistry is astounding. Interesting to imagine what life was like back then, after going to the Incan history museums and seeing all the artifacts and dioramas and trying to piece it together at the archeological site.
We loved the food in Cusco. We found a favorite place our first night and had to go back, Bodega 138. We didn’t try the Cuy (AKA guinea pig) but we did have Llama sausage and Celia enjoyed a delicious alpaca steak one night. And of course the Pisco Sours were delicious everywhere we went! My favorite was the Maracuya Pisco (passionfruit), I think Eric liked the Classico best and Celia liked both!
We loved wandering the city and exploring the different neighborhoods and Plazas. The tourists seemed to mix easily with the vibrant local milieu of indigenous locals. There were of course handcraft markets with vibrant colors beyond description, we circled them many times. Gage found his favorite hand knit alpaca hat at the market and wore it everyday. On a late bus ride back from Macchu Pichu we had to wake Gage up and scoot him out of the bus, sadly, his hat had slipped off and it was left in the van. We’ve had a few of these life lessons of loosing something that feels valuable and important. In Valparaíso, Gage had organized his clothes upon arrival and put them in a drawer. The packing up time wasn’t so meticulous and half of his clothes were left for some Chilean 14 year old to enjoy. Sadly, he lost his TinTin in Bhutan and his Sri Lanka shirts that were sure to be keepers of great memories. Lucky for Gage, we know he is slowly learning from these mistakes so we headed to the market when he wasn’t with us and procured another hat. I don’t think that it will ever be his favorite like the first one was but close and it is a reminder to be mindful and organized (or as organized as 14 gets!)