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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Viva El Peru: Cusco

Our final day in Peru was spent in Cusco, where we had a walking tour included in our trip.  We stayed right downtown at the Sonesta Hotel Cusco, which was the only deviation we made from the suggested itinerary from the Sundance Spirit travel agency.  It turned out to be a huge mistake, the hotel itself was fine but the service was lousy and the are in the middle of a full remodel - so the construction noise during the day was obtrusive.  We should have stuck to the suggested Aranwa Boutique hotel again in Cusco as we did in the Sacred Valley. Anyways, live and learn.

Cusco was far more important to the Inca Empire than any of the ruins, including (gasp!) Machupicchu.  According to our guide, Cusco (which translated from Quechua means navel of the earth in English) was the historic capital of the Inca Empire state. The city was invaded, and overtaken, by the Spanish in the 1530s and destroyed most of the Inca buildings, though many of the foundations remain part of the city to this day.
During our city tour, we visited the famous cathedral, Church of la Compañía de Jesus, which is an impressive building both inside and out.  One of the more interesting items inside is a version of the famous Last Supper painting where a platter of guinea pig is prominently displayed on the banquet table. The original foundation for this cathedral was constructed soon after the Spanish takeover in the 1530s, but the current building is a rebuild after the earthquake of 1650 destroyed the original.

We also drove up to a look out point to see this part of the city from above - pretty nice view from up here!

We also visited Qorikancha, or Temple of the Sun.  This temple was also victim to the Spanish takeover, however the Spanish left most of the building and just added on in their own style.  You can clearly see where the old and new construction styles come together.

Even inside the temple, as you walk down one of the passageways, on your left there is the distinct look of the Incas contrasting with the righthand side with curved doorways and more modern materials.

Qorikancha also has a beautiful outdoor garden area where Talia found a comfortable spot to stop for a drink.  

We left the temple and walked around town for a while, the narrow streets of Cusco proving to be a little difficult to manage with our strollers.  I would love to explain where exactly we went, but most of the street names are similar to the one of the left - I cannot imagine trying to teach a little one your address with a name like that!
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Cicciolina that was outstanding.  We only had an hour before needing to continue our tours, but if there is ever a chance we are back in Cusco, I would go back to that restaurant in a heartbeat.  They offered salads like I only wish I could find in Argentina!  And the seafood!  So good!

After all that touring and lunch, the girls were tuckered out, they took matching naps in their strollers.

After lunch and nap, we got Gretchen strapped into the backpack for one final ruins visit.  We were scheduled to visit four more ruins sites this afternoon, but the lack of sleep throughout the visit combined with the constant touring, we decided to visit one site and then spend the afternoon shopping and recovering a bit.

The site we visited was Saqsayhuaman, a site set high in the hills overlooking Cusco city.  This site is said to be built in the form of the puma, an important idol in the Inca culture. The most prominent feature is these jagged formations, said to be the teeth of the puma.

Of course, no Inca ruins site is complete without lots and lots of stairs.

The rest of our day was spent searching for alpaca sweaters (we found great items at Kuna) and getting dinner at a little place in town that served ceviche and pisco sours.  We were exhausted - and needed to be up for an early flight back to Buenos Aires the next day, so we got to bed early and prepared for the trip home.

It was an amazing trip, and surprisingly easy to do with a little one.  I imagine that things get a bit harder when the little one isn't so little that you can carry them on your back, but I encourage anyone who asks me to take their kids on vacations like this - even if they won't remember it.  I feel like it exposes Gretchen to new things, even if those things aren't totally understood yet, and it reminds Jon and I that we can still travel, even with a baby!  She is a great traveler, and we hope to light the fire in her to see different parts of the world at an early age!

Viva El Peru!

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