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