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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Day 7: Acclimating to Cusco

We finally get to sleep in -- woohoo!! Granted, it was only until 8am, but still. Due to the extra sleep, there was no time to grab breakfast at the hotel, so instead we ate at the Lima airport. Again. Thank god the food court had multiple options, all of which were decent.

A quick bite and then we were boarding a plane to Cusco. The city is located high in Andes (almost 11,000 feet above sea level) and is the usual stopping place before tourists head out to Machu Picchu. Since the high altitude can wreak havoc on people not used to it, we decided to spend an extra day in Cusco to help our bodies acclimate before the Inca Trail hike. We also took meds for possible altitude sickness and were advised to drink copious amounts of coca tea.

Landing in Cusco is craziness. Pilots actually have to be specially trained to land there due to the high altitude and circular landing pattern. Kinda nuts, really. I didn't think I'd notice much of a difference right off the plane, but I was wrong. My chest felt a bit tight and trying to take a deep breath was, um, interesting. I'm sure it's much the same feeling you get when you go to Mammoth, but seeing as how I haven't been there, I can only speculate.

A representative from our hotel met us at the airport and arranged a taxi for us. She had the driver set the rate and then informed us of reasonable taxi fares in and around Cucso if we chose to use them during our stay. Quite sweet of her.

Cusco is a really cool-looking city and completely different from Lima. After spending several days "roughing it" in the jungle, we opted for a nicer hotel for our time in Cusco -- Hotel Libertador. A beautiful hotel centrally located in the heart of downtown Cusco, the lobby alone blew us away.

While checking in, we had our first cup of coca tea, served complimentary 24/7 in the hotel lobby. It's reminiscent of green tea, so it was very pleasant to drink.

Our rooms were equally as pleasant, especially in light of where we'd spent the last week.

The hotel staff were so friendly and helpful, from the doormen and the front desk staff, to the waiters and cleaning crews. We felt very well taken care there. The rates to do laundry at the hotel were steep, but the staff gladly recommended a local shop just a 5 minute walk from the hotel for us to drop-off our clothes that afternoon with pick-up the next day.

Once we got our clothes were taken care of, we set off in search of a snack. Jim had scoped our a local cafe in the main square, Plaza de Armas, that afforded good views of the area and yummy food to boot. Off we went!

The Plaza de Armas is quite beautiful and T-dogg and I were all over taking pics while the boys figured out where the cafe was located.

We finally got our bearings and it was time for some food! While there were many items on the menu that looked delicious, I think we all missed having dessert in the jungle so we opted for sugar... and lots of it. Apple Pie a la mode, chocolate filled wontons and lots of lattes to wash it all down.

We also used our prime seating overlooking the Plaza to snap some more pics.

And how were the desserts we ordered? See for yourself:

With our bellies full of sugar, we took off to explore more of Cusco before dinner. We spent about an hour wandering around and then headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

Again, after our jungle adventure, we felt like splurging a bit on dinner, so we opted for MAP Cafe, located in the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. The museum and restaurant both stay open late, so we decided to wander through the art galleries before our dinner reservation.

Our first stop was the gold and silver rooms which were very purtty.

We also saw all sorts of cool vessels, masks and other assorted works of art. While the museum was pretty small, their collection of exhibits was extensive. Jim couldn't stop shaking his head though at the "narratives" below each piece of art. Instead of factual, they were much more editorial, basically telling you why you should like the art. Very strange.

The MAP cafe is located in a glass box in the middle of the museum courtyard. Very modern and sleek.

The menu reflects traditional peruvian dishes, with a nod to more modern "foodie" notions. Dinner itself is prix fixe and includes an appetizer, entree, dessert and glass of wine.

But first, an amuse buche - a small piece of bread topped with tomato, olive and cheese. So good!

Scallop salad - The scallops were only meh. The rest of the salad was really good though.

Alpaca roast beef - Tastes almost identical to roast beef from a cow.

Trio of soups - T-dogg said these were excellent.

Confit of Cuy (aka guinea pig) - MoP had this and said it was good, but "tastes like chicken."

Chicken with potatoes and olive sauce - Jim loved this and pretty much cleaned his plate.

Beef Tenderloin with red wine quinoa - The beef was good, but the quinoa was excellent. Different from anything I've tasted, but a nice compliment to the beef.

For some reason we neglected to photograph dessert, oops. Overall, the meal was really good. I should note that as soon as we sat down for this meal, I started feeling sick to my stomach. :/ So, while I enjoyed dinner, I didn't love it, but I think most of that stems from how I was feeling and not due to the quality of the food.

We closed the down the restaurant and the staff looked relieved when we finally left. Everyone was exhausted and after high-tailing it back to the hotel, we were all asleep soon after our heads hit the pillows.


  1. didn't know you could get such big slices from a guinea pig. interesting.

    beautiful plaza. yummy-looking food. well-deserved after roughing it.

  2. I am drooling over those buildings!

  3. The plaza looks magnificent!

  4. I'm sorry, I just checked with my "Emperor's New Groove" DVD and it's spelled Kuzco, like the Emperor who got turned into a llama. Based on a true story.

  5. OMG. Kate just killed me.

    I love how you guys became an exhibit in the museum during dinner.

    Those buildings are awesome.

  6. Wow!! The city looks gorgeous!!!!