International TravelWining/Dining


And, once again, the big travel begins! I invite you to travel along with me and the hubby as we journey to Lima and Cusco en route to Macchu Picchu in Peru, then Guayaquil, the Galapagos Islands, and Quito in Ecuador, and finally Cartagena and Bogota in Colombia.  Yep, that is a lot of ground to cover in three weeks (12 flights total) … but there is so much to see and experience here. So why not cover the northwest area of this immense continent this time, and hopefully return to several countries not yet visited (Chile and Argentina were loved on a previous trip here). Good news is there is only a 2-hour time change from Los Angeles so not having to deal with jet lag means we can hit the ground running.
First stop:  Peru 
always say there’s at least one “OOPSIE” on every trip and I’m hoping the one we had getting here is it .. a luggage snafu which thankfully is a rare occurrence given the amount of travel we are fortunate to enjoy.  This was due solely to a late LAX departure, missing the planned Miami connection to Lima and opting to accept the next flight on LAN, not our original carrier.  Instead of the luggage arriving with us, it arrived 24 hours later after a series of mis-communications.  But if the worse thing that happens is staying in the same clothes for 48 hours (including all the travel time to luggage delivery), I will take it … 

Best sight so far ..

Our first dinner spot was recommended by our hotel and an excellent choice. Dining hours are very European in terms of time .. i.e., few dine before 8:30 and most much later.  So we Americanos are easy to spot as the “early birds.”   Cala – Mar de Amor – was close by, overlooking the ocean with waves crashing, and really delicious.  A few pix follow ..

Hummus Peruvian style


Shrimp with Sweet Potato Puree


The Lighted Cross is an iconic symbol in Lima, erected when John Paul II visited.


Library in Santo Domingo

We toured the historic part of Lima — the downtown area, Presidential Palace, Covento de Santo Domingo, and then to the upscale areas of San Isidro and finally the coastline of Miraflores where we stayed. As is typical of many countries, one-third of Peru’s population resides in this capital city (9 million); it is quite large and diversified.

Downtown Lima

Another first-rate meal at was at Amar Amor.  Peru has become quite the food paradise, and this restaurant was no exception.  Unquestionably the highlight dinner was at Astrid y Gaston, voted the #1 Restaurant in South America. Rather than opt for the multi-course (28!), prix-fix, formal menu offered, we chose instead the more casual ala carte bar menu. This was just a great experience.

Our biggest challenge was getting a true translation of the complex dishes, as the English version menu was not available (the restaurant had just moved to a new location).  The staff was very helpful, professional and friendly, and we were thrilled to meet Astrid herself (Chef Gaston was in Paris), who not only is present but seemed to know most of the guests.  Photos follow of the most delicious food ..

From the raw menu 


Best dish:  Shrimp with quinoa (native to Peru) and baby vegetables


Tres Leches dessert


There was a short flight (1:20) for the stay in Cusco (and trip highlight Machu Picchu);  one can drive from Lima but it would take 20 hours as there are no shortcuts through the mountains. Cusco is a city of 500,000, most of whom depend on the tourists for their livelihood, although there is a new copper mine providing well-paying jobs. Our accommodations were in an old monastery (Hotel Monasterio), which is quite elegant but small as they are not permitted to move any interior walls. Adjusting to the altitude (11,000 ft) is challenging .. tons of water, a special Mate de Coca tea offered everywhere, and taking it easier than normal.  My only complaint was a chronic headache. They are having El Nino … this year it will rain approximately 55″ and the weather changes at a moment’s notice.   For the backpackers (of which there are tons), inexpensive hostels are everywhere.

Our trusty guide Camila and driver Fausto, provided by tour company Belmond,  were very knowledgeable, professional, and punctual and enabled us to navigate the remarkably narrow, cobblestone streets and see the sights .. the main church beautifully decorated for Easter, some nearby ruins, and cavorting among the llamas, alapacas, and even the precious vicunyas whose yarn is the priciest.  We visited The Sacred Valley of the Incas, which is pretty spectacular, including Ollantaytambo in the Urubamba Valley but skipped the 260 steps to the top …


A highlight of the day was lunch at the Hacienda Huayoccari, the drive to which is positively daunting, which made this majestic destination even more remarkable. Wonderful food, beautiful table setting and another incredible view of the valley. 






 Next post:  Machu Picchu …