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Archives for March 2013

Cusco, Peru: Up with the Clouds

During our flight from Lima to Cusco, we reached our cruising altitude and it was pretty cool when we landed in Cusco because its elevation is roughly 11000 feet.

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By the time we needed to descend into the airport, we really didn’t need to go much lower.

We were told we could experience “high altitude sickness” and could have symptoms like headaches, diarrhea and upset stomachs. What worked for us was just taking it easy the first day (even though we took a city tour) and then had coca tea, also known as mate de coca. This was provided by the hotel when we were checking in. Supposedly the leaves itself could be used to make cocaine, so just be weary of the amount you end up drinking =)

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I do feel the need to share with you the lobby and courtyard of this hotel: Hotel Picoaga. To see more views and learn more about the hotel, CLICK HERE. Also, if you haven’t noticed, it is the same line of hotel we stayed at in Lima.

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Our guide started the tour at Plaza de Armas, the main square of Cusco. We walked through the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, or Cusco Cathedral. While we weren’t able to take any photos, I can assure you, it is quite special inside.

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Also on the main square is this Jesuit church, which was built around the same time as the cathedral to rival it. Through the arguments, they didn’t get the pope to side with them, so it coincidentally has similar architecture features and details to the Cathedral.

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Moving a bit away from the city, we reached an Incan site to explore: Saqsaywaman.

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What I found pretty incredible about this place is their resourcefulness and the system they had to get work done in a time before computers and machinery. Just look at the cuts of rock there. They had to been pretty good at tetris… just saying =P

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They definitely had some skill. The city the Incans created was shaped as a puma, an animal that holds symbolism for them. There’s the snake (representing below and underground), puma (ground and earth) and condor (above and heaven). Our guide showed us a picture of it in a book. In the way the sun rises, it shines lights on the head first and then makes its way down the body, as if it’s alive and ready to pounce. That’s pretty amazing.

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As we walked upwards, there was a great view of the city.

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The next site we went to was Pukapukara, a military site.

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There was another site just down the road from here called Tambomachay. There were canals and waterfalls here. I think this place may have been a spa or bath.

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We also saw some pretty dressed up in traditional garb hanging out with the llamas.

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Our last stop has to do with these llamas and alpacas. We stopped at a factory that makes wool (from alpaca and llama) to create clothing and accessories!wool_factory_alpaca_llama_cusco_peru_day_with_kaye

Shopping time! I found myself a scarf that was a mix of alpaca and silk. It keeps me super warm during the winter time!

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Happy travels friends!

Lima, Peru: Discovering Pachacamac

This is part of my top 10 most favorite trips in my lifetime. It partly has to do with my dad asking me, “So Kaye, where do you want to go?” That question is like a genie granting you 3 wishes. I wanted to go to Peru – particularly for Machu Picchu. Oh and what an adventure that was! You’ll get to see that in the coming weeks =)

Ironically enough, my near-obsession about wanting to go to Machu Picchu was balanced out with the lack of knowledge my parents had about the place. It worked out because the of the “elaborate trek” we needed to take to get there, so we used a travel agency to map out our 5 day stay in Peru.

We got in a day early to Lima, so we arranged for a tour around the city via the hotel that was situated literally across the street from the airport, Costa Del Sol Ramada Lima Airport. If Lima isn’t your final destination, I’d suggest this hotel for close proximity to the airport.

The last leg of our itinerary included a city tour of Lima, so we opted to see a different part of the city. That brings us to Museo de Sitio Pachacamac – “the most important temple of the andean coast for more than 1500 years”.

At this museum, there were artifacts and explanations of Pachacamac, “a well-known oracle that influenced in the life of the powerful leaders because it predicted the future.”

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I thought these quipus were pretty interesting. From what our guide told us, these were a representation of information for things such as accounting and crops for harvest. It seemed to be quite elaborate to me.

pachacamac_museum_quipus_lima_peru_day_with_kayepachacamac_museum_quipu_lima_peru_day_with_kayeWhen we finished walking through the museum, we drove on the grounds to see more sites. The grounds are still in excavation and discovery process. This pyramid’s purpose could have been for rituals and for administrative duties for the entire temple complex.

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They were saying that these mounds in a line are no coincidence and could have been pillars that made its way up to the temple. If that were the case, it definitely would have been a grand entrance.

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Here’s the Temple of the Sun. The people would do human sacrifices as offerings, among other gifts for the gods.

Having gone on the trip last year, the details of certain things are a bit hazy. I think it was the sacrifices that went into each hole, and all were facing the ocean, sort of as an open invitation and offering for the gods to see it.

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After reaching the highest point of the temple, we made our way back down and around to the Mamacona, which the Incans built. The sign description of this site said they made it “for women dedicated to the cult of the sun god”.

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Changing gears, we spent the afternoon in the town called Miraflores, one of the up and coming towns in Peru. We had lunch at a buffet and got to sample and taste the local flavors. They had a ceviche station – raw fishes and citrus/lemon-lime juice to soak in, along with other toppings to include in the dish. While the foods isn’t exactly a culture shock, there was a lot of flavor and zing! I had shrimp ceviche with corn, potato, and onion.

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To let the food digest, we walked around Miraflores. We ended up at a food market (how convenient) The market was fun. The produce they were selling were huge in comparison to what they sell in the grocery stores in the US.

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We wrapped up the evening by hanging out by the nearby park watching kids play basketball and soccer. What a beautiful sight.

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Broaden your horizons. Happy travel friends!

Venice, Italy: Comforts at the Coffee Shop

It really is all about the experience when it comes to traveling.

While this instance by no means is the extreme, such as shelling out $5000 to eat a hamburger (check out what I’m talking about HERE), the experience of this place I believe is priceless. I got to relish in the history and coffee shop that is Caffe Florian.

Situated alongside Palazzo San Marco sits this lovely gem. You can’t miss it; it definitely has a weathered look to it. That’s because this place has been around since the 1700s, making this one of the oldest coffee shops ever.

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Artists, intellectuals and famous people would meet here and discuss ideas (like Lord Byron and Charles Dickens). Beautiful, isn’t it?

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Each of the rooms have a different theme, which can be told by the paintings on the walls and ceilings and the types of decorations used.

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They have an arrangement of offerings from teas, coffees, hot chocolate, to pastries. Here’s the tray of our delectable goodies: coffees, cappuccino, pastries and croissant. To see more on Caffe Florian, CLICK HERE.

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A single cup of coffee was €8. You can just imagine how much everything else was. I mentioned that it’s all about the experience. In light of that, here’s a closeup of my apple tart pastry =)

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Soak all your experiences in and indulge yourselves. Happy travels friends.

Venice, Italy: Cruising on the Grand Canal

To get the full experience, it was appropriate to take a boat tour on the Grand Canal around and through Venice. Why should you take water transportation? You are in Venice afterall. The views are pretty from the water. Plus, winding through the streets and crossing bridges without a local can definitely be confusing. We used this touring company: Venice Events

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On this boat tour, we got to see some churches. The first image is a church I walked through the day before.

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There is a reason why the Venetian homes are built upward. Back in the day, the lower levels are the servants quarters. The mid and high levels were for the homeowner and space to entertain guests.

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We passed by the area where locals keep their boats.

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About midway through the tour, our guide cracks open a bottle of Bellini (mix of Prosecco and peach puree) for the entire group to sip on and enjoy the remaining portion of the tour.

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While we were sipping our Bellini, this small group passed by us and were rowing away. That’s pretty intense!

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For those who like poetry, Lord Byron lived here.

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Here’s a fun one for you celeb fanatics – Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and their family stayed here while she was filming The Tourist.

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And here’s the ever famous Rialto Bridge.

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We actually were hanging out in this area the other day too and got this lovely view from the bridge. Gorgeous.

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Another beautiful building on the Grand Canal is this one here covered with mosaic:

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One of the other noteworthy sites is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, for you art buffs out there, which is housed here:

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And so we made our way back to the beginning of the tour, in front of San Marco Square, where I would say is a tourist gold mine area if you want to get souvenirs and take tours.

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Keep exploring and have great adventures – Happy travels friends!