A Travellerspoint blog

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

Nada 'bout Granada

Yeah, I'm a nerd.

See?

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But waking up to this view was reason alone to nerd out.

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We're staying in the wonderful Apartamentos Montes Claros in the Albayzin (or Albaicin) district, and part of the Sacromonte neighborhood. Stepping out onto our balcony this morning we were graced with the beauty of the Alhambra and Generalife in daylight hours. Last night when we arrived we basked in the beauty of the Citadel lit up under a blanket of stars. This morning the Citadel rested under a blanket of fog. It mattered little, though. The structure is still massive, imposing, and incredibly impressive even on a cloudy day.

Truth be told it felt good to have the sun off of us as we walked the winding streets of Sacromonte and explored the Albayzin by foot. The Sacromonte neighborhood is beautiful--picturesque, one might say. Truly, the site of white washed buildings sprawled across a rolling hillside of narrow cobblestone walkways and Spanish architecture is stunning. Many have made mention that the Alhambra is Granada's most popular draw, but that the best activity the city truly has to offer is getting lost in the Albayzin.

And we did get lost.

The meager map we departed our apartment with was pretty stripped down, and the Albayzin is a twisted web of alley ways and small streets that change suddenly and without warning. We spent a good deal of time this morning believing we were on the main road heading toward the Alhambra, when in reality we were actually walking in the opposite direction and toward the Abadia del Sacromonte. Oh well. The Abadia was lovely despite the annoyance that lingered in our attitudes.

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The Abadia, or Abbey, was constructed in 1598 by Archbishop Don Pedro de Castro to house relics telling of the martyrdom of St Tesifon, discovered in the cave dwellings of Sacromonte by treasure hunters. Or so they say. I didn't take the tour.

The Sacromonte neighborhood is filled with caves that once housed Jewish and Muslim populations after they were expelled from their houses in the city. These caves are now homes, hotels, and flamenco clubs.

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Most of our day was spent wandering around the Albayzin, enjoying the views of the city from the hillside of our Sacromonte neighborhood, and, yep, eating. We saw various monuments and small plazas in the barrio, and eventually made our way down to the Rio Darro and crossed to pick up some tickets for the Alhambra tomorrow. We bought the tickets in advance online, but decided to pick them up today from one of the ticket machines to avoid any confusion for tomorrow since our entrance to the Palacio Nazaries is at 9:30 a.m., prompt. We'll have the rest of the day to explore the Alhambra in full, but entrance to this specific area requires a scheduled time slot. Unfortunately 9:30 a.m. was the latest available on such short notice. FYI, the lines at the Alhambra are ridiculous and it IS worth it to reserve a ticket.

The walk to the Alhambra from our apartment was a lovely one, complete with a coffee break along the way. It didn't take us long (maybe 30 minutes at most), and we enjoyed walking along the Rio Darro and taking in the scenery along the Plaza Nueva.

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We spent some time exploring the free viewing areas of the Alhambra, but didn't linger long. Instead we were back out on the streets, this time exploring the outskirts of the Albayzin, stopping for lunch in a small plaza. Afterward we explored the side streets and shops, dodging forceful women trying to bless me with rosemary and shady shop keeps trying to push whatever goods they think I may want. If only they'd known my weakness for collecting hammer pants they may have got me, but those fools offered purses, jewelry, and shoes instead. Ha! I left with nothing.

Eventually we decided to climb back up to our apartment. The streets of Granada are beautiful, but they are also worn down and slick. I had to walk carefully to avoid slipping (which I did several times). I also had to walk carefully to avoid (petting) all the cats! Holy smokes, Granada has tons of cats. They were roaming in hordes up at the Alhambra, and it took all my effort and better senses to refrain from scooping them up and packing them in my backpack to bring home.

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Yes, I really did just post three pictures of cats.

Up and up we climbed, taking in the city as we went.

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Once back at the apartment we relaxed and had a couple of quiet hours before we were back to hitting the pavement.

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We later stopped at a tienda to buy some eggs and other fixings to make ourselves a hearty breakfast tomorrow, deciding to be rebels for the day and fill our bellies before 9 a.m. with something other than doughnuts. Then it was off to dinner and a show. Flamenco was on the evening agenda tonight, or as I like to call it, "Spanish river dancing." We had some good grub, some good company, and some good entertainment. Mostly good grub.

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With a full belly and relaxed mood I can now sleep peacefully. Buenas noches amigos!

Posted by JorieW 13:29 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

Gluttony at its finest

They say that gluttony is a sin, and if this is really the case then I'm pretty screwed.

I can only make an attempt to defend myself, and I feel this may help:

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Most of my day was spent with a plate of food in front of me. There could be worse ways to spend a Monday. This morning Zac and I slept in. We didn't want to, mind you, but we simply had to. It's important to try and assimilate when traveling, right? We just wanted to be respectful, that's all.

The first stop of the day was a nearby cafe for some...cafe. We then moseyed on over to Chocolate and Churros for some...chocolate and churros.

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Two cafe macchiatos later and I was feeling as good as I could expect after last night's wine. The churros con chocolate helped nurse my meager hangover, and after a slow start to the morning we decided to spend the early part of our day exploring neighborhoods of Madrid that we had missed the day before.

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I wish I could tell you what the neighborhoods were called or where they were, but I simply just don't know. One of my flaws when traveling (though sometimes it can be a saving grace) is not planning what I actually want to do once I get to wherever I am traveling to. I take careful thought and consideration in deciding where to go, how to get there, and how long to stay, but I don't often know the history of where I am, what there is to do, or plan a schedule of events while there. Most of the time this is fantastic--I truly get to experience a location with wonderment and adoration unspoiled by exaggerated expectations and high hopes. The downside, of course, is that I sometimes miss seeing something spectacular, or I see something spectacular and fail to realize it because I had no idea what I was looking at to begin with.

With that said, I have no idea if I saw something on the tourist radar today. What I saw from my ignorant perspective was a beautiful maze of old city streets littered with graffiti, crumbling ancient walls, and school kids out on their lunch enjoying whatever shenanigans school kids get into these days. I genuinely enjoyed this view.

Hey, look at this bum:

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One important thing to note about Madrid is that the streets are (for me, anyway) pretty easy to get lost in. If you've driven around Seattle you would likely notice that the city, for the most part, is a grid. Streets run pretty straight, numbers go up or down in chronological order, and there is *somewhat* of a reasoning behind the layout. In Madrid streets don't just run straight. They twist and turn and weave, often changing into other streets or just stopping altogether. Street names can be hard to spot, listed on the corner of buildings every now and again. Thankfully I have the bum you saw above to help me get my bearings. If there's one thing this trip has really highlighted so far, it's that Zac and I each have (very) different strengths. I think those of you who know us well would agree that this extends beyond a trip to Spain, and it's part of what makes us a good team. Zac's strength is a sense of direction. This trip, anyway. Jenna will laugh as she thinks about our first trip to Europe a few years back and likely call BS on my statement, but my husband is using his Eagle Scout skills to get us through the city and to where we need to be. I'd still be standing in a square somewhere scratching my head if left to my own devices.

Now, Zac may be able to get us somewhere, but once we're there I'm no longer the useless one. My strength is my ability to talk, or speak Spanish, rather. Sadly I've lost a lot of my ability to speak Spanish. I'm no longer fluent, though I'm certainly an above average conversationalist. Had I come to Spain five, ten years ago I'd be far more comfortable, but there's no doubt I'm useful and efficient. Knowing I've lost a lot of my previous Spanish language skills is maddening. I'll search for a word and get really frustrated when I can't remember how to say it. When I read a menu and recognize a word, but can't think of the translation I get pretty flustered. Yesterday I saw mejillones on the menu and knew that it was a Zac-friendly food, but couldn't for the life of me tell him what it was. It turns out it's mussels, of course, but after twenty minutes of wracking my brain I was ready to give up. Asking for a fork last night at dinner was painful. I couldn't believe I'd forgotten how to say fork! It was killing me. When I finally got it I said it over and over and over again (and not just because I had to keep asking the waiter for one). I swear to you I'll be on my death bed and when asked what my final words are, I'll gently whisper "tenedor."

Of course there are times when I can't even speak the English language particularly well. For instance, when I saw this out on our walk today all I could mumble was "I want to go there."

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Maybe it's all the food turning my brain to mush. Does that happen?

After our walk we decided it was time for more food and headed to the Mercado de San Miguel.

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The Mercado de San Miguel is a wonderful place to get tapas, drinks, fresh fruit, and just people watch. It's crowded with tourists and locals alike, and the food is outstanding. We had so many wonderful tapas, including baby eel sandwich, croquetas, tortilla espanola, pinchos, jamon iberico, ceviche, various canapes, and sangria. Oh boy it was yummy. We finished it all off with a delicious postre and had to waddle out before we ordered more.

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It's been two days since we arrived in Spain and my clothes are already tighter. Gluttony at its finest, my friends. If there ever were a place for it, surely Spain is it.

After the market we stopped for some drinks before walking a bit more and getting more drinks. Yes, that was seriously our day. Soon it was time to catch our evening train to Granada. We made it, and surprisingly on time. It was well past dark when we arrived and our cab driver weaved along narrow cobblestone alleyways up hills and across crests with stunning city views before arriving at our apartment. The view is amazing--the Alhambra sits just across the way and is magnificently lit at night. I'm sitting on a beautiful terrace, drinking tea and some of Zac's beer while taking in the views and watching as bats screech across the clear evening sky. I've hardly been here three hours and I can already sense this is a city I'm going to thoroughly enjoy. We have an apartment, a kitchen, a swimming pool, and are tucked away in the mountainside with spectacular views and charming neighborhood restaurants nearby. I can hardly wait to explore the city tomorrow, and three days here already feels to be too short.

Posted by JorieW 14:38 Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

Madrid is my lovah

Have you ever heard that song "I'm in love with a stripper?"

Okay, so take "stripper" and replace it with "Madrid."

Today was our first full day in Madrid, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. We arrived yesterday with plenty of time to explore and see the city, but after sixteen hours of travel and four xanax neither Zac nor I had the energy. Our arrival day in Madrid consisted of walking around the immediate neighborhood of our hostel, eating at a nearby taqueria (que deliciosa, FYI), and falling asleep before 6 pm. There had been discussion of a possible disco nap, but neither of us felt confident in our ability to follow through with the possibility of waking up just four hours after head meeting pillow.

As it turns out I woke up at 10 pm and could have easily gotten up for an evening of debauchery, but Zac was out cold. In Spain 10 pm is prime dinner time, but alas I was stuck without a travel buddy and decided to force myself to sleep until 4 am. I know, I know, "force?" Sure, we'll stick with that...

Anyway, sure enough I woke up at 4 am, bright and bushy tailed. Zac decided he had a few more hours worth of sleep in him, so I took the laptop into the bathroom and waited until he was up for the day. Around 8 am we were decidedly ready to head into the heart of Madrid. The sun had hardly begun to make an appearance and for a good hour I wasn't sure my phone was giving us the correct time. We went out anyway, and my heart rate monitor reflected the same time as my phone. By 8:30 we were well outside of our hostel and heading toward the train station to purchase tickets. We literally walked for fifteen minutes before seeing another person.

There was something eerily unsettling about walking the streets of a major metropolitan city with no one around and the sun well on its way up. Was this the start of a zombie apocalypse? Would we be bombarded by a ravenous horde of zombies without even having a hint of what's to come?!

Eventually we crossed paths with a few dog walkers and cigarillo bumming youth, which settled our nerves a bit. By 9:30 am we were at the train station, attempting to buy tickets to Granada for the following day. There was no line in the normally busy station, and we freely walked through the gorgeous arboretum that doubles as decor along the marble walkways of the station. Alone. Again.

We were told that there is only one train available to Granada due to a strike (we'd encountered residual strike traffic as we'd taken a taxi into the city the day before with a flustered cab driver), and on that one train there was only one seat remaining in tourist class. For an extra thirty euro each we could take premier class, and hey hey hey--dinner is included! That's one expensive dinner, my friends. In the end we realized we have to be in Granada on the 17th, we waited far too long to book tickets, the strike poked us in the bum, and taking a bus would not be nearly as comfortable. Spanish buses generally have no toilets on board, though I was assured they stopped every 3-4 hours. Now, I'm not sure if you're aware of not, but I have what's called Infant Bladder Syndrome, or "the other IBS." My bladder is about the size of a pea and can hardly hold any liquid before I need to relieve myself. Combined with an above average dose of anxiety and I'm a peeing machine. We sucked it up and paid the extra money for the fancy pants first class seats, having decided we'd drink our fill in free wine and spirits to make up for extra cost of the ticket. If we're not shit housed by the time we arrive in Granada then something is seriously wrong.

Now, for those unfamiliar with Spanish culture, eating is a somewhat structured dance of patience, timing, and specificity. In my day to day life back in Seattle breakfast is my biggest meal of the day. I load up in preparation of burning off the carbo-loading done in the A.M. In Spain, however, breakfast is a false advertisement. When a cafe (which doesn't open until 8 am to begin with) says it serves "desayuno," or breakfast, what it means is that it serves coffee with a pastry. For the most important meal of the day these Spanish folks sure don't give it much weight. My stomach was roaring by the time we finished at the train station and we were on the hunt for an open cafe to sit our bones and chit chat over a decent cup of brew and maybe even a little bit of eggs and toast. We found our coffee, but there were no eggs and no toast to be had. Instead Zac had some glazed pile of dough and I had CHURROS! Oh, the excitement that fried dough sticks can bring. Nonetheless, this breakfast was far from filling and I had to pretend to be okay with it until lunch, which is the big meal of the day here in Spain (and not until 2 pm-ish).

What did I do until I could eat again? Why I passed the time slowly and on my feet (trying to burn off some of that fried dough) at the Prado, one of Madrid's major tourist attractions and one of the country's most famous museums. I've been to many museums in my day, and the Prado certainly was far from overwhelming. We opted to go more out of obligation than interest, and the touring Rafael exhibit was mighty disappointing (especially without Leonardo, Donatello, and Michaelangelo). Filled mostly with paintings and a few sculptures, the Prado was quite crowded for a Sunday and held our (my) interest for about an hour. After that I'd seen enough of portraits of stuffy royal family members and mothers squirting breast milk into the mouths of babes and priests. Zac humored my ADD and we moved on to exploring the neighboring park and gardens, which were beautiful and (in my humble opinion) timeless.

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Madrid is a large city, but certainly walkable and incredibly beautiful. Narrow streets wind between stunning buildings lined with statues and picturesque shutters and flower beds. Colorful paint laces detailed trim along historic apartments. People dart between sidewalk posts and through busy traffic circles while cars skillfully avoid collision (with said sidewalk posts and pedestrians). Spending the day walking the streets of Madrid would be an easy activity to loose oneself in, and we certainly found ourselves in the enviable position of strolling hand in hand while taking it all in. This is a city with so much history, so much life. It lives and breathes with its own ferocity and passion, and simply being in its presence allows for an absorption of these traits. People gesticulate wildly with their hands, conversations are rapid and seemingly unending, kisses are shared with no apology.

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Walking for hours was easy to do, but as I mentioned before, my stomach was feeling pretty unruly with only cafe and churros in it. We walked through Parque de Retiro, one of Madrid's largest and most popular parks, deciding that we'd stop and get lunch somewhere along the way. Well, let me tell you friends, this park was so impressive that I completely forgot how hungry I was. Instead we wandered around the gardens, saw the Palacio de Velazquez, walked around the boat lake (filled with row boats of enthusiastic tourists, of course), and watched a variety of street theater along the way. This park was seemingly endless, and so central in Madrid that I found myself envious of this city's treasure. This park blew Central Park out of the water, and is so pristine and well groomed.

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We (me) could finally take it no more and had to leave to get food. There were plenty of small park cafes along the boat lake, but the crowds and prices left us (me) less than enthusiastic about lunch options. Instead we continued walking toward the Palacio Real and opted to stop at a small restaurant along the way. By this time it was 1:30 and Madrilenos were out and about for lunch. Lunch is a good time to fuel up with a big meal to hold you over until dinner (with tapas in the afternoon should you feel peckish). Unfortunately we picked a restaurant that wasn't much to write home about (yet here I am). Nonetheless, I enjoyed a tortilla espanola all the same.

Off to the Palacio Real we went, stopping in Plaza Mayor and Plaza del Sol. After the Palacio we strolled through the Jardines de Sabatini, the gardens that belong to the Royal Palace. We rested on a bench for a short while and enjoyed the warm summer day. It was a pleasant heat, not overwhelming or humid. A nap would not have been out of the question, but you know what they say, keep on keepin' on.

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More walking ensued, followed by a stop for drinks and tapas. Many restaurants give free tapas with drinks, and that's just peachy keen by me. Zac wasn't as big of a fan of the ham that came with the drinks, but I certainly took it down. Ham, or jamon, is a point of pride in Spain, and Iberico ham is a deliciousness that should be shared by all (excluding Zac). In fact, there's a restaurant here called the Museo de Jamon, and there was always a line outside each location we passed, and ham, ham, ham galore.

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After tapas we headed back to the hotel, stopping at a pasteleria along the way. This place would have my dad in a tizzy. I honestly walked in and was paralyzed with overwhelming indecision. How to choose what dessert to eat?! There were hundreds (literally) of different treats behind four or five counters. It was packed with customers, and when Zac asked what I wanted to get I could only stare, mouth gaped and pointing at my all my surroundings. In the end he chose something with sugar, custard, and yumminess.

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Once back at the hostel we changed, grabbed a blanket and books, headed to the mercado for some bread, cheese, and beer, and went back to the Parque de Retiro to picnic until the sun went down. The evening was beautiful, and the company enjoyed.

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After the sun fully set it was time for dinner. Madrid really comes alive after 9 pm, with old and young flooding the plazas, restaurants, and tapas bars. Getting a table can be difficult at more popular restaurants, but there is always an open seat somewhere, and sure enough, we found one. The restaurant we stopped at had atrocious service (we literally had to ask for a fork four times before I got up and hunted someone down to physically hand it to me so we could eat our food) and mediocre food, but the wine was good and people watching plentiful. The air wrapped around us like a warm blanket, my company was entertaining, and I fought so hard to shake my sleepiness. I wanted to stay up all night and enjoy it. Alas, that was impossible, and sleep has come.

Posted by JorieW 14:50 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel, Spain

Xanax May Be My Life Blood

You might think that being an avid traveller across six continents I would have packing and prep work for a trip down to a science. That, however, would be a gross exaggeration.

Sure, I've learned a few tricks along the way, come to pack reasonably (I once brought two suitcases on a three week trip to Australia), and have stopped sweating the small stuff. No, you really don't need a hair dryer. Yes, two pairs of shoes are plenty. And always, no matter where you are going, bring Immodium AD. A good book trumps any portable (and space consuming) DVD player. A deck of Uno compliments a beer on a warm evening like no other when you just want to unwind with your hunny. A hammock will make you forget about the real world. Rolling suitcases seem like a great idea until you take the subway in Paris. A purse with no zipper pockets is a purse with no worth (says the woman whose camera continued on a train to Russia after she'd gotten off in Berlin).

Am I a travel expert? Absolutely no, but I've learned some hard lessons along the way. Maybe that's why I've stopped trying to prepare for any and all scenarios a traveller may face, and instead have relaxed in my prep work.

No two trips are alike, and no matter how hard I try to anticipate how it's going to look, the outcome of a holiday is largely unpredictable. Go with the flow, and live life baby (please re-read that last sentence in Mathew McConaughey's voice. It sounds so much better that way.).

Taking a trip in September feels awfully odd for me. It's the first time I've done so. September isn't a typical travel month for Zac and me, but with this year being Zac's 30th birthday it seemed like a good time as any. When our original plan of Turkey and Greece fell through, Spain jumped to the top of our list. Tapas, football, flamenco, passion, jamon, wine--say no more!

While summer may be winding down in Seattle, it is still thriving in Spain with plenty of heat and short shorts. Fortunately the last day in Seattle before our departure was beautiful, and I could enjoy it. It felt to be a perfect end of summer, a final day of sunshine and warmth, knowing full well that when we return in October a chill will have moved in with some threatening clouds and plentiful rainfall. It felt appropriate to have a firm closure to summer, and as I took an evening walk with the setting sun to my back and honeysuckle sweetening the air I felt a tremendous sense of gratitude at how wonderful life is.

It is easy to wake up at the crack of dawn when the feeling of good fortunate is upon you. Generally my lack of sleep the night before taking a trip leaves me frazzled and pretty much the equivalent to an unopened, shaken can of soda. You never know if it's safe. I'm just as much as a potential bomb waiting to explode at you. However on this morning I was feeling good. The sunrise was beautiful, and I had a quiet moment to enjoy my last summer sunrise in peace.

What a great start to the trip! Unfortunately, it ended there.

My poor husband whom I'd driven into work at 6 a.m. to do some work before leaving had accidentally locked himself out of the office by 6:15 a.m, forcing him to wait until the regular 9 a.m. coworkers showed up. So much for getting up and going in early.

I walked downtown to meet him and take the light rail to the airport, stopping to pick up coffee and sandwiches along the way. Capitol Hill was abuzz and people were out enjoying the early day's sunshine. I had some spring to my step, knowing I would soon be in Spain, and smiled all the way up the hill. Failing to realize that my zipper was open. And not just a little "whoops this thing is half down, my bad" kind of open, but rather a fully fallen, pants split so far open that I was happy I got that bikini wax before leaving, kind of open.

  • Sigh*

Not the Rumells finest morning start, but we recovered by making it to the airport with just enough time to catch our plane after being late to the light rail.

Once on the plane things began looking up. We had some good movies to watch, some carbohydrate overloading from the airline food, and while neither of us slept much, we were on our way to Spain. To Spain. SPAIN. It was all worth it.

Being in a xanaxed stupor, fresh off the plane, I'm cutting this short. Know that we made it to Madrid. Know that I have already eaten my first of what will likely be a daily consumption of Buenos. It's a little after 5 pm and we're crashing. Yep--we're not even going to attempt a disco nap. We managed to walk around a bit and eat at a taqueria and down some beers, but that's all I have in me.

Tomorrow we take the city.

Posted by JorieW 08:12 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Wehrell-ed Travel

Away We Go

My final day in Peru…it comes with relief and sadness.

I’m ready to be sleeping in my own, comfortable, warm California King bed. I’m ready to drink water from the tap, not worry if water gets in my mouth when showering, and to not have to pay for bottled water. I’m ready to flush my toilet paper, wash my hands with hot water, and have soap readily available when I need it.

I’m sad to be going back to work.

I think that’s been the internal monologue going on for me the past day or so. We fly out this afternoon at 4:30 p.m., which gives us a short afternoon of last minute exploration. Yesterday was our last full day in Cuzco, and we spent it relaxed. Our first stop of the day was the Inca museum, just behind the cathedral in the Plaza de Armas. Many of the exhibits were diorama and looked like high school science projects, but they had an awesome mummy scene that was incredibly creepy. Almost all of the information was in Spanish, so I missed a lot of it, but it was a way to pass the morning, and for s/10, not a terrible way to do it.

I also held a baby lama, and yes, it was worth the s/2 to do it (especially because Jenna paid).

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The rest of our day was spent lounging around (Zac, anyway), and shopping (the three of us ladies, anyway). I bought the ugliest alpaca sweater I could find. I’d been on the hunt for it since we arrived in Peru. I don’t want bright colors that blend in a beautiful display of art on cloth. No, not for this gal. I want the tacky sweater that gets passed around as a white elephant gift. I found it. It’s too big, but it was the smallest size they had. I’m confident I will one day grow into it.

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I also bought myself some Peruvian hammer pants.

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In the evening Coco opened his bar again. We all labored, slicing limes in preparation of the pisco sours and seeding them before Zac and his sausage fingers juiced them. I soon started feeling really crummy, so I went upstairs to bed, missing out on the festivities. I’ve never had so many issues with my stomach while traveling. I felt like I was going to throw up, so the thought of downing some pisco sours, no matter how delicious, just wasn’t appealing.

On the plus side, I got a great night’s sleep.

Now I’m awake, ready to check out, all packed up, and this of course means it’s time to reflect on the trip. I’ve included some of my favorite pictures taken, many of which are terrible, silly, or awkward.

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Cuzco: This is a city for tourists. It was once the capital of the Incan Empire, at which time it was twice its current size. The Plaza de Armas is modest, but beautifully set in the valley of high mountain tops and seemingly endless blue sky. I like Cuzco more on my second long stay. The weather has been more cooperative and we’ve done more exploring. Our hostel is about a fifteen minute walk from the plaza, and the dusty roads and heavy traffic make it a less than scenic fifteen minutes. However, the San Blas neighborhood behind the plaza is really beautiful. Long cobblestone roads narrowly sway uphill through shops, restaurants, and art galleries. It’s a nice area to walk around and explore.

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Cuzco is the gateway to Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is surely the highlight of anyone’s Peruvian adventure. The sheer sight of the ancient ruins reaching nearly to the heavens is breathtaking, and worth whatever travel one has to do in order to see it. This was the highlight of our trip, certainly, and one of the few places I would say that everyone would enjoy. Pictures cannot even begin to capture the beauty and wonder of Machu Picchu. Video can’t capture it. It can only be experienced through witnessing it personally.

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To better maximize our time we stayed in Aguas Calientes, rather than taking the train each day from Cuzco. Aguas Calientes is a town built for tourism. People lived in the area before Machu Picchu was introduced to the outside world, but tourism has taken over and thus this small village has blossomed into restaurants and hotels tucked in the mountainside, with the purpose of serving those who trek up to the ruins every day (about 2,000 per day). This is the last stop on the train from Cuzco or Ollantaytambo before Machu Picchu, and upon departure one must catch a bus (or hike) up to the ruins. It was much easier to stay in Aguas Calientes and catch a bus up in the morning before hordes of tourists disembarked from the Cuzco train.

Puno: Don’t go. Lake Titicaca is best explored from the Bolivian side. I don’t even need to spend more time talking about this place—even the Peruvians consider Puno to be the shithole of Peru. It’s sad that we wasted three days here. It’s like going to Spokane on your vacation; sad and unmentionable.

Arequipa: Wow. Arequipa was such a welcome relief after Puno. It’s the second largest city in Peru behind Lima, and it’s certainly more cosmopolitan than Cuzco. The city is beautiful and the people (generally) friendly. There are some great restaurants, and when one leaves the main tourist center surrounding the Plaza de Armas one can experience a great world of real Peruvian culture. I would visit this city again, which wasn’t something I found myself often saying in Peru.

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In Summary: Peru has been a nice vacation. It’s not my favorite country, and I wouldn’t even put it on my top five list, but we’ve all had a good time, some good experiences and adventures, and Machu Picchu was worth every miserable minute I spent in Puno. I’d sum it up as a good vacation, and I’m glad we came. Will I come back? Likely not. If I were to return I would prefer to do it when visiting Ecuador, and likely stick to Northern Peru and go to the jungle. Would I encourage others to go? Absolutely. The world is worth seeing—good and bad.

Posted by JorieW 11:45 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

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