|First stop: Peru|
|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.
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 …