|A street of stairs connects Barranco, Lima's most |
bohemian neighborhood, with its Pacific beach.
It's the home of quinoa, the world's trendiest grain. It and Bolivia are the only places on the planet where coca (an essential ingredient of cocaine) is legally grown; coca leaves and edible products made with coca leaves are widely sold and coca tea is a fixture at every tourist buffet. Its native brandy, Pisco, is finding an international market as visitors return home with a taste for Pisco sours. Its llamas, alpacas and vicuna produce some of the finest wools in the world along with being among the most photogenic of animals. In short, it's a great place for a long vacation. And, if you've traveled much in the Third World, you'll be pleased by the level of cleanliness throughout the country. Restaurants, hotel rooms and bathrooms were spotless wherever we were. Although there was some trash along roads in the mountains and along streams in towns, overall there's very little litter -- Lima's streets and sidewalks were as clean as those in most American cities if not cleaner.
|The Hilton in Miraflores, one of Lima's most|
affluent neighborhoods, offers a rooftop pool.
|We ate twice here at Canta Rana|
in Lima's Barranco district.
November 6 We left Baltimore at 1:55 p.m., had a short layover in Atlanta and arrived in Lima just after midnight. It cost 50 U.S. dollars to take a cab to our hotel, the new Hilton Miraflores (click HERE for website). This is a very pleasant hotel -- professional but friendly staff, supremely comfortable beds, great location in the heart of Miraflores -- but it doesn't offer ocean views like the nearby Marriott, which is where most American visitors seem to stay. We were on the fourth floor, so we had only a modest city view. Click HERE for my posting about Lima.
November 9 We left Lima at 12:15 for the hour-and-a-half flight southeast to Arequipa. Here we stayed at Casa Arequipa (click HERE for website), a small hotel within walking distance of the city's main square, the Plaza de Armas. Situated in an old mansion, the guest rooms tend to be small and rather dark, but the breakfast room on the roof is bright and airy with views of the surrounding volcanos. Click HERE for my posting about Arequipa.
|A soaking pool warmed by natural hot|
springs at Colca Lodge & Spa.
|Rooms at El Albergue in Ollantaytambo|
have garden and mountain views.
November 12 We returned for one more night at Casa Arequipa.
November 13 We left Arequipa at 10:05 a.m. on a one-hour flight to Cusco. We had arranged for El Albergue, our hotel in Ollantaytambo, about 60 miles away and at a lower elevation, to pick us up at the airport. We'd been told that the best strategy for altitude sickness in Cusco is to stay first for a few days at slightly lower elevations. The drive to Ollantaytambo took about two hours, mostly on two-lane roads along the Urubamba River in what Peru promotes as "the Sacred Valley" because of its many Pre-Columbian ruins. Oddly, though there are trains from Cusco that pass through Ollantaytambo en route to Machu Picchu (and trains that run between Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo), there is no Cusco-Ollantaytambo service. El Albergue (click HERE for website) has its entrance literally on the platform at the train station. The main building houses a coffee bar, a fine-dining restaurant, the hotel desk and, upstairs, a few guest rooms. Most of the rooms are out back in separate buildings in a garden where we were hardly aware of the trains nearby. Our room, No. 10, was on the ground level, furnished with alpaca blankets and a portable heater to fight the nighttime mountain chill. For our final night there we were in a upstairs room that had a heated bathroom floor. I would say this is THE place to stay in Ollantaytambo. A 10-minute walk took us into the town's main square and to the fortress ruins that are the reason to stop here. The only minor drawback is that the restaurant's small dinner menu becomes monotonous. Click HERE for my posting on Ollantaytambo.
|Lively Aguas Calientes teems with tourists headed|
to or from Machu Picchu.
HERE for website), a small inn conveniently located between the Plaza de Armas and the trendy San Blas neighborhood. While the public areas of this hotel are pretty -- a multi-level courtyard with flowers and a fountain, a bright rooftop breakfast room -- the rooms themselves are dark because the only windows are on walkways used to reach all the other rooms. So you keep your shutters closed. Also, our room had a double bed, a single bed, a straight-back chair, a small desk and no other furniture. A tiny TV was mounted on the wall. Although we had reserved for four nights, we stayed only one. The hotel was cooperative about our changing the number of nights and I'd recommend it for its location, low price and decent breakfast -- with the caveat about the quality of the rooms themselves. We used our first day in Cusco to scout out another hotel.
November 18 After visiting several hotels, we finally chose Casa Cartagena, a boutique hotel one street over from Andenes al Cielo. It was more expensive, but what we got for the money was a huge room with a balcony overlooking a courtyard. It's housed partially in what was once a jail, and there are signs everywhere of the age of its buildings. Unlike the other hotels we saw, which were furnished with antique or at least very traditional pieces, Casa Cartagena has very modern (or Mid-Century Modern) furnishings. Its very traditional courtyard surrounds a very untraditional lighted white sphere. It offered one of the best breakfast buffets of our trip, and in the evening there were Pisco sour lessons for those who want to learn to make their own drinks. Click HERE for the hotel's website, Click HERE for my posting on Cusco, my favorite of all the places we visited in Peru.
|Our home for a week, La Estrella|
Amazonica. Each guest cabin had its
own balcony and an ever-changing
view of the jungles along the river.
November 29 After a last breakfast on the boat, we disembarked, took a bus tour of Iquitos and had lunch at the Hotel El Dorado. Part of the package included afternoon use of a room at the hotel where we could recharge our electronics and ourselves before a 5:25 p.m. flight back to Lima, where we parted ways with International Expeditions. We were met at the airport by a driver sent by Second Home Peru (click HERE for website), a bed and breakfast in the home of the artist Victor Delfin. For this one-night stay, we had an ocean-view room in the main house, a half-timbered mansion overlooking walled gardens at the top of a bluff with the Pacific Ocean below. This was the best place we stayed in Lima by far. It's in a neighborhood filled with art galleries, good restaurants (want braised beef heart on skewers? delicious!), high-quality handicrafts shops, and sidewalks filled with young people and young families.
|A mostly glass bar separates one of Hotel|
Paracas's two pools from the Pacific Ocean.
Rooms were in multi-unit villas scattered around
the sprawling property.
|The bath in our first room (in the main|
house) at Second Home Peru.
December 3 We took the bus back to Lima. This time at Second Home Peru we had a room in a building that clung to the cliff high above a major highway and the Pacific. From the main building you cross a lawn to the edge of the cliff. Once there you can see a set of steps going down. They take you to a short open-air corridor off of which are our room and two others. Continue down the steps to Victor Delfin's studio and residence, and down more steps to a beautiful swimming pool with a lion's head fountain. Everywhere are sculptures -- some whimsical, some stately, some odd and all interesting -- by Delfin. The main house exhibits his paintings and sells his lithographs. Look at the paintings. Most of the centaurs and men, particularly in the erotic works, may be self-portraits done at different times in his life. Click HERE for his own website (in Spanish) to see more of his work.
Entering our room, we found ourselves on a landing with a bathroom. The bathroom was open to and overlooked the lower sleeping area, off of which was a narrow balcony with a wonderful view of the curving shoreline and its beaches. The room was considerably smaller than our previous room in the main house, but the view made up for the lack of space. Whether or not one enjoys art -- and I'd characterize Delfin's work as an accessible but testosterone-infused blend of Inca imagery and European modernism of the first half of the 20th century -- this is a comfortable, convenient and friendly place to stay. Lilian Delfin is a gracious hostess ready to offer advice about Lima, and the breakfast, served in a kitchen building with a gigantic wood-burning stove, is simple but satisfying. Wine can be purchased in the office in the main house.
December 5 We checked out of the hotel in late morning, left our luggage in the office and went out to soak up as much of Barranco as we could before leaving for the airport at 9 p.m.
December 6 We flew out of Lima at 1:35 a.m. and were back at our home on Tilghman Island in Maryland by 7 p.m. A long, tiring end to an amazing trip.
|The view from our room during our second|
stay at Second Home Peru. The sculpture,
"El Beso," was the inspiration for the Park
of Love, about an hour's walk north along
the coastal bluff. To the left is Victor Delfin's
art studio. Below the steep cliff you can see
the work on a major roadway that had traffic
in knots during our time in Barranco.