travel

Peru – Part 2 – Cusco and the Sacred Valley

After spending a 2 days in Lima, we boarded a plane and flew to Cusco. Cusco is in southeast Peru, and is the historic capital of the Inca Empire and the jumping-off point to many of the country’s most famous sights, including Machu Picchu and different areas of the Sacred Valley.

One thing to know is that Cusco is at an elevation of 11,200 feet (3400 meters). Tourists to the area need to be aware of altitude sickness and take certain precautions when travelling here. Altitude sickness can range from mild headache, nausea, and fatigue, all the way up to fluid in the brain and death! Knowing this, we called our 2-year-old son’s pediatrician before booking our trip. The pediatrician said that young children generally don’t experience altitude sickness, but always check with your child’s doctor before booking!

In order to prevent any symptoms, Steve and I decided to take it easy when we arrived in Cusco. We experienced very mild symptoms of slight light headedness and shortness of breath, but we stayed very well hydrated, avoided eating too much heavy food, and stayed away from alcohol and caffeine. We enjoyed quite a few cups of coca tea while we were there, which is said to help with any symptoms of altitude sickness.

We arrived late morning, transferred to the hotel, and rested until early evening. We stayed in Los Portales Hotel Cusco, which is a boutique style hotel on El Sol Avenue, which is in walking distance to Plaza de Armas, the Catedral del Cuzco, restaurants, and shopping.

In the early evening, we ventured out to explore Cusco. The city is absolutely wonderful! My one regret of the trip is that we did not have more time to explore this wonderful city. One downside of travelling with a toddler is that bedtime comes early and we could not spend as much time as we would have liked wandering the city.

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The first thing we did was walk up the hill of El Sol Avenue to the Plaza de Armas. The plaza is an open space in the middle of the city surrounded by restaurants, shops, vendors, artists, and the main cathedral.

The view from the plaza is simply breathtaking. I fell in love with the mountains and the architecture of the city by standing in the middle of the plaza.

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We decided to take our time and visit Cusco Cathedral. Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption is a Roman Catholic cathedral located right on the Plaza. It was built in the 16th and 17th centuries and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The cathedral huge and is full of artwork, artifacts, and crypts. When traveling with a toddler in such a somber place, it’s important to keep other people in mind! We were able to keep our son happy by my husband carrying him on his shoulders, which in turn, made other people happy because there wasn’t a loud toddler running around. We also aren’t ashamed of letting him watch a few videos on our phones on mute while riding in the stroller. We realize it was a long few days for him and did not want to overload him and tire him out!

When we exited the cathedral, there was a gathering happening in the middle of the square. A pan flute band was playing in front of  the Iglesia De La Compania De Jesus which is a church adjacent to the cathedral. The band members were singing, dancing, and playing their instruments for the tourists. All the while, the Peruvian army was securing the area because the President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) was arriving.

My son absolutely loved the band. He still talks about watching the drums and wants to see the video we took of the performance whenever he gets a chance.

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We went on to have dinner at the Inka Grill. We were drawn to this restaurant because they had a few dishes that we have never gotten the chance to try before. I ordered the Cuy Horneado while my husband had the Alpaca Apanado. That’s right, baked guinea pig and breaded alpaca! As you can tell, we are adventurous eaters and wanted to try something new that we wouldn’t be able to get at home!

The next day, we went on a tour of the Sacred Valley to Pisac Market, Pisac ruins, and Ollantaytambo Fortress. We stopped along the way at an alpaca farm which was a big hit with the little guy. He loved feeding the alpacas and llamas!

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Pisac is a Peruvian village in the Sacred Valley. There are ruins on top of the hill at the entrance to the valley. Terraces line the hillside, some of which are still used for gardening today. The ruins also include houses, temples, and waterways from the 15th century.

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In the village of Pisac is a marketplace where locals sell Andean crafts, clothing, and souvenirs. I bought my son an adorable alpaca sweater with a hood for about $7, which is unheard of for real alpaca where we live. I also bought myself a woven alpaca blanket and a knitted alpaca sweater. Don’t forget to haggle! The vendors will quote higher prices at first because they expect haggling!

Next we moved on to Ollantaytambo, which is another town in the Sacred Valley. The ruin of Ollantaytambo fortress are an amazing sight. When you drive into the city, the road is one of the ancient terraces that used to be used for farming. The fortress, or Temple Hill, is the main attraction, with storehouses for grain built into the mountains, a temple at the top of the hill, terraces lining the hillside, and fountains that still have water flowing through them.

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Overall, we once again wished we had more time to explore the Sacred Valley. There are so many more things to see and places to visit. We have already talked about returning to the area to explore some more!

To see part 1 of our trip, visit Peru – Part 1 – Lima

travel

Peru – Part 1 – Lima

My husband (Steve), son (Justin), and I recently went on vacation to Peru. We’ve traveled quite a bit with our son and on our own, and I have to say that Peru was the country that surprised me the most. The people were so friendly, the food was amazing, and the scenery was breathtaking.

I cannot begin to describe the feeling of seeing Machu Picchu for the first time. Since we went with a toddler, we had to skip a few things, so I am already looking forward to going back to get to what I missed.

Since we have taken my son on quite a few trips and flights, I’ll write a post on flying with babies and toddlers later.

We flew into Lima on a red eye and arrived Monday morning. We were lucky to arrive on a national holiday, so we did not have to experience the traffic. Apparently, it can be quite the trek to get across the city!

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We stayed in the Miraflores district in Lima at the Sonesta Posada del Inca Hotel. The service at this hotel was wonderful. Breakfast was included. We were also in walking distance from parks, restaurants, shops, and cafes. The Miraflores district is one of the more upscale and affluent areas of Miraflores.

The first morning we arrived, we tried to rest in the hotel. A red eye flight is tough! Our son managed to sleep for most of it, but for my husband and I, the sleep we got was not quality! We were exhausted, to say the least. Alas, Justin was ready to go! We spent the morning in Kennedy Park, where there was a lovely playground and open space for Justin to get some energy out. There were artists selling paintings in the park and feral cats wandering around.

We also stopped at a local grocery market to pick up a few liters of bottled water. This is important for tourists to know: the water can make you sick. My coworker is Peruvian and told me to use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, washing sippy cups, and anything else that could result in getting sick! We even went so far as to stay away from uncooked vegetable and anything with ice. We were extra careful and were (mostly) unscathed.

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After getting a midday nap in the hotel, we ventured out to Larcomar, the largest mall in Lima. It is right on the water and offers unmatched views of the Pacific Ocean. Paragliders were zooming overhead, much to my son’s delight. Since it was a holiday, the restaurants were very crowded, but we decided to try the famous rotisserie chicken at Pardo’s Chicken. It did not disappoint! The chicken is juicy and delicious and the service was excellent!

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After walking around the mall a bit more, we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest.

The next day, we had a full day on our own in Lima. We took a taxi to Museo Larco and saw their impressive collection of Pre-Incan artifacts. As a knitter and spinner, I was amazed to see the cotton, alpaca, and vicuna textiles that survived for hundreds of years! The museum’s cafe was also a delicious surprise. Since we arrived quite early, they only had sandwiches available, but the Criollo Sandwich was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a long time!

After the museum, we called a taxi to take us to the Monastery of San Francisco. The Monastery contains catacombs, a library, and museum. The church and convent are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The library contained 25,000 volumes. The catacombs are the burial place of approximately 25,000 people. The bones are arranged in geometric figures.

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To view the church, library, catacombs, and other areas of the monastery, you need to take a tour. My husband and I did not want to subject our son to an hour of standing around and listening to a guide, and we did not want to subject the other tourists to a restless toddler, so we took the tour separately while the other stayed in the lobby and waited. Justin also enjoyed to run around with the hundreds of pigeons in the church courtyard.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the historic section of Lima. We walked by the Government Palace, walked through Plaza Mayor, and saw some of the other historical buildings, before taking a taxi back to the hotel.

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For dinner we ate at a lovely restaurant named Saqra. The Steak au Molle Pepper was delicious and cooked perfectly. And a trip to Peru is not complete without trying a Pisco Sour! And definitely save room for the chocolate truffles with banana creme brulee!

We had to fly out early the next morning so we called it a night!

To see part 2 of our trip, visit Peru – Part 2 – Cusco and the Sacred Valley

household · real estate

10 Steps to Get Ready to Move!

We will be moving in a little over a month, and I’m starting to get overwhelmed on the things we need to get done. It doesn’t help that a week after our closing date, we will be going on vacation! We will be renting out our condo after we move into our house, and I don’t want too long of an overlap in between closing on the house and renting out the condo. We’ll get home from our vacation on May 8th and we hope to move the following Saturday (the 13th). Can we do it? Here’s what I’m doing to prepare:

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  • Start collecting boxes – So many boxes get thrown away everyday. I don’t see a point in buying boxes! Companies will give them to you if you ask! I worked in retail in high school, and we’d occasionally have people come in and ask for boxes. We’d give them away! I recently went to a pet shop, and they told me that their delivery day is Thursdays, so if I call on Thursday morning and let them know I’m coming, they’ll save the boxes for me. My father’s company gets a lot of shipments. He’s going to start saving boxes for me. Ask your friends, ask your family, ask local business! There are plenty of free boxes to be had!
  • Start packing the non-essentials – It’s starting to warm up. I don’t need to keep my winter coat and boots out anymore. Heavy sweaters can be packed up. Rarely used kitchen gadgets can go away. Books sitting on the shelf, household decorations, rarely-used files, seasonal items. Anything that we won’t need in the next month can start being packed up and stored in the garage.
  • Get moving quotes – I’ve started getting moving company recommendations from friends and from Yelp. I’ve filled out a few forms and am waiting on estimates so I know how much to budget for the movers. Or, if you plan on moving yourself, start looking into renting a truck and finding people that will help you move.
  • Declutter, declutter, declutter – The less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to move! I’m going to take some time this week to go through my wardrobe and get rid of stuff I don’t use anymore. I plan to declutter the kitchen drawers and get rid of utensils and serving dishes that I don’t like. No sense moving them just to have them sit in my new house without ever being used!
  • Use stuff up – I’m using up my pantry items and things in my freezer. I’ve heard that aside from plates, the worst thing to pack is food! I don’t want to schlep a bunch of frozen meat to the new house. I’m hoping to use up everything in my freezers (yes, plural!) before we move. I’m going to use the frozen turkey I’ve had since last year for Easter. I’m meal planning all my meals this month based on things I have. Aside from food, I’ve been using up a bunch of my cosmetics and beauty items. I don’t want to move 5 different containers of moisturizer and 3 bottles of shampoo. I get excited every time I use something up!

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  • Research the utility companies – I want to make sure we’ll be all set to move into our new house. This means making sure the gas, water, and electricity are all turned on. We will also have to hire a garbage company to pick up trash. Our current town include that in the price of taxes, but our new town does not.
  • Schedule cleaners before our move – We might want to have the house professionally cleaned, painted, and the rugs steam cleaned before we move in. It’d be perfect to have this done while we are on vacation. I’ve started researching companies that can do this and I’ll schedule them soon.

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  • Start making a list of people to notify of a new address – I have a Google Doc started of all of the companies I need to notify of our new address once we close.
  • Make a list of improvements to make on the old house – This only applies because we are going to be renting out our condo. There are a few home improvement projects we want to do before we start showing our condo to potential renters. Things like repainting the bathroom ceiling, making sure the air filter is changed in the furnace, cleaning the place from top to bottom. We want to make sure we get as much rent as possible!

These are a few of the things we’ve started thinking about a month before our move. Have I missed anything?

household · real estate

Buying a House

After 2 years of searching, Stephen and I have finally found a house that we love! We were preparing for the season where houses come on the market in droves, and the first one that we went to see met all of our criteria and we fell in love with it. But we decided not to rush into anything. We don’t want to get stuck with a money pit. We don’t want to overpay.

Keys to your own home

Here are some tips on buying a house from an ordinary person (not real estate expert!). I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of mortgages, approvals, or insurance. This is how we went about our home search and things we kept in mind.

  • Make sure you set a budget. Don’t go by what the banks tell you that you can afford. Run your numbers on you own. I made a spreadsheet with our monthly income and fixed monthly expenses (daycare, cell phones, approximate utilities). I got the remainder of our income and plugged in different mortgage payments to see where we would stand. I knew the amount we could afford to spend on a house from the very beginning.
  • Decide where you want to live. We started our search in the town that we thought we wanted to live. It turned out all of the houses that were in our price range were much smaller than we wanted with small yards. We wanted a place that we could have a swing set and plenty for space indoors for a home office and to host holidays. The first town we looked in did not have houses that met our criteria. Once we expanded our search to other towns, we started finding a lot of houses we liked.
  • Find an agent that you can trust, but always do your own research. Even if your agent is a great person and comes highly recommended, make sure you do your own research on pricing, the neighborhood, inspectors, anything else! After all, they are going to make a commission on the sale and that could sway the advice they give. I’m not saying that real estate agents are bad people, but it just pays to have your own knowledge.
  • Don’t fall in love with the house too much before you close. You never know what could go wrong. My sister and brother-in-law found a house they loved. They negotiated the price, signed the contract, and got the inspection going. That’s where it fell apart. The inspector found that the septic system was old and not well maintained. He said that it could collapse at any point. To replace it would cost approximately $15,000! My sister and her husband decided to walk away from the sale. I know they were heartbroken about it, but they decided it was not worth the risk or the expense. They have since found another home that they love and have been living there for years.
  • Listen to the inspector, but don’t freak out about the little things! Every home inspection report will probably come back with dozens of things that can easily be fixed, like a power outlet is not working properly. Keep on guard for big problems like termites or the septic issue I mentioned above.
  • Be patient! There are a lot of moving parts in buying a house and it can get overwhelming at times. I went from really excited, to terrified, to regretting our decision, all within the first few days after our offer was accepted. Then after our inspection, I realized it was such a great house and we really lucked out in finding it. Now we’re just waiting for all the paperwork to be finished up and have nothing to do but wait. It’s hard to wait, but we just have to be patient.

Once we close at the end of the month, I keep you updated on our moving process and setting up our house!

 

I am not a real estate expert. I am just laying out the attitude and process we had during the pre-search, search, and contract phase of buying our home.