Monday, March 30, 2015

south american finale ~ the foods, the folks and other fun facts...

It is time to wrap up our travels in South America.  There are many tales that will remain untold... each photo has a story of its own.

The flowers speak for themselves.  The 'earth laughs in flowers' wherever we roam!

And then there was the food...and art...all rolled into one.

Cruise ships are good at that...whether it be fruit creations......or chocolate sculptures.  We took a galley tour and were amazed and impressed at the size of the kitchens on the well as the cleanliness!

I also took in the 'culinary demonstration'...featuring the executive chef.  Of course!  I brought home the Princess Cruises cookbook...signed by the chef himself. Who knows?  I might even try cooking something from it one day!  Their napkin folding demo was not wasted on me, however...since I have already used the 'fan napkin method' pictured above. Easy!

Dining on a cruise ship is always special!  Every course comes out plated beautifully...but for some reason most of the food photos in my files are of the desserts!

We opted for 'anytime dining' on our cruise...and were so glad we did.  Every night we were seated with different 'table mates' was the best way to meet people.  Let me tell you about a few of them.

There was Louise...from her fifties...and traveling on her own.  There were others from New York, Chile, South Dakota, Scotland, Wales, California, Alaska, and St. Petersburg.

And then there were a few that we got to know really quite well.  Tim and Julie were from Texas.  Bob and Brenda were originally from New Orleans and fled for the lives ahead of Hurricane Katrina.  They had no home to return to...and relocated to Arizona after that.  We learned at the dinner table that they would also be staying in Peru for a week following the we decided we would stick together.  And we did!

We met Ruby...who has an Italian restaurant in Albany, a chef trained in Italy,  has published two cookbooks, and has an amazing story.  Check out her story here...and visit her restaurant if you ever pass through Albany, Oregon.

I met a gal from Virginia...traveling with her dad.  She shared her story with me.  The South American cruise was booked last July...and was to be a 30th wedding anniversary for her and her husband...but it was not to be.  Several days before he was to return from his tour of duty in Afghanistan last August...he was killed in an attack by an Afghan soldier. You may remember hearing about it on the news.  Rather than celebrating an anniversary...the family mourned their husband and father.  For her...the South American trip was bittersweet.

It's the people you meet along the way that make the journey so much more interesting!

I should also mention that there were some people that we wish we would have met up with.  We learned once we were back home...that there was a couple from our hometown on the same cruise we were on.  Had we known they were there...we would have made a point of finding them.   Instead we met up with them once we were back home and had a nice chat.  They own a Greek restaurant in Chilliwack...

...and serve up the best of food over there. 

Speaking of eating establishments...

...let me just share one photo of a typical cafe in the Andes. We were told that Peruvian fast food was available at many of these sidewalk cafes...a glass of quinoa punch, bread and cheese for $1.00  

Coffee took a backseat to yerba mate most everywhere we went.  But in Peru...the hot beverage of choice seemed to be coca tea. It tastes rather like a green tea...made from the leaves of the coca plant which grows in the Andes.  We were encouraged to drink it to combat altitude sickness...and so I did.  And I quite liked it. 

Inca cola is a Peruvian soft drink made from lemon verbena...a national icon since 1935. We sampled and decided to stick with water! 

And on that note...I will end our tales from the trails of South America!  Should you be interested in re-visiting any of the past posts...I'll link them all them all here:

Next post?  Back at home...the month of March. 


Thursday, March 26, 2015

welcome to peru...

Peru is the third largest South American country..and can hardly be seen in one week.  But we did our best...with the help of Lima Tours!

We flew over the Andes from Santiago...and arrived in the hub city of Lima towards evening. There was no time for sight-seeing in the we were catching another plane bound for Cusco early the next morning.  Arriving in Cusco...we immediately noticed that we were about 12,000 feet higher than we had been in Lima. passed quickly for us.

It was Carnival time in Peru...and everywhere we went the people were dancing and celebrating.  It was hard not to get caught in the cross-fire of shaving cream  and water balloon wars. 

The Peruvian folk are just lovely...and many still wear their traditional clothing. Let me share photos of a few of the people we met while out and about.

They like colour.  And lambs.

And llamas.

And frozen treats on a cool, drizzly day! Isn't he just the sweetest little guy?

The women are never idle...

...always spinning or weaving.

We took in a demonstration at a weaving co-operative high in the Andes...where the people live and work as they have for centuries. We watched how they spun, dyed and wove the alpaca yarn.  And some of us left with beautiful keepsakes!

We spent two nights at a most lovely resort in the Sacred Valley...Tambo del Inka Resort.  We had no idea what to expect and were most pleasantly surprised.  It is one of the nicest places I have ever stayed at!

The Peruvian foods were great...all those that I tried!  The tasty little sweet potato donuts were exceptional.  I have to admit...I wasn't too brave when it came to taste-testing their favorite meat dish, however.

Wherever we went...we saw cages of guinea pigs beneath the clay ovens.  And they weren't there as the family pets.  They show up on the dinner plates of the Andean people on a regular basis.

We enjoyed a wonderful Pachamanca lunch one day...where all the vegetables and meats are cooked in an earthen pit. After watching the guinea pigs being lifted out of the pit and onto the trays...I became a vegetarian quite quickly.  The rest of the meal was fabulous!  Who knew potatoes could taste so good?

And while we finished up our meal on a lovely patio...we watched a Peruvian Paso horse demonstration.

In Moray...we visited the agricultural 'experimental station' of the Incas...four amphitheatres of concentric circular stones with a sophisticated irrigation system.

Ollantaytambo was once a stronghold of Inca resistance to Spanish colonization and has been remarkably well-preserved.  Many travellers pass through on their way to Machu Picchu...since it marks the beginning of the Inca Trail...but it is definitely worth spending some time here. The town itself is the best remaining example of Inca town planning.

One of the most beautiful things about driving through the Peruvian Andes is the spectacular 'patchwork landscape'...created by the many different crops grown throughout its valleys and terraced hills. Corn and potato crops were easy enough to pick out.  Others we weren't quite sure.

We finally figured out that this was quinoa...with many of the fields being harvested.  It looked rather labour intensive!  Not too many years ago...I had never even heard of quinoa.  It has been grown in the Andes forever...just like corn and potatoes.  But when the European explorers first arrived in South America...they loved potatoes and corn...but had no use for quinoa (rather like my hubby).  Potatoes and corn were introduced to the rest of the world...while quinoa remained undiscovered in the Andes.  Until several years ago!  It has now turned into a profitable export crop for the farmers of the Andes.

We spent one night in Cusco...right next to the Temple of the Sun at Koriancha....which was the most important temple of the Inca Empire.  The Spanish colonists demolished much of the original temple and built the church of Santo Domingo on the foundations. Much of the church has been severely damaged by earthquakes over the years...but the original Inca-built portions are still standing.

Our final day was spent touring Lima.

We arrived at the main city square to find it all cordoned off...with heavy security everywhere.  It seemed an important government meeting was about to take place.  The buildings around the square were quite amazing...featuring baroque and renaissance architecture and beautiful carved balconies.

So there you have it.  A bit of this and that...a peek through my lens into the country of Peru.

I am finally done editing all my photos...and have enjoyed blogging throughout the process.  I might just do one more post sometime...including a few stories about the people we met along the way...and some of those memorable experiences.  The ones that made us laugh...or cry (almost).  Thanks for joining me on my travels!


Monday, March 23, 2015

machu picchu ~ the lost city of the incas

We had a amazing week in Peru. I hardly know where to begin.  So why not start with our visit to Machu Picchu?

Built by the Incas in about the height of the Inca was abandoned during the Spanish conquest about one hundred years later.  And so it remained...a city hidden to the the rest of the world until an American historian discovered it in 1911.  Now it is the largest tourist attraction in South America.

Machu Picchu is located about 8,000 feet above sea level...on a mountain ridge high above Sacred Valley and the Urubamba River...about 80 kilometers northwest of Cusco.

It is quite possible (and popular) to hike to Machu Picchu along the Inca trail...about four days of trekking.  We went the easy way...via train and then bus.

We arrived to find the ancient city shrouded in clouds...appropriate for a place known as 'the lost city'!

As you can see...we weren't the only ones at Machu Picchu on that particular day.

Since our visit fell during the rainy season...the crowds weren't bad. Because it has become such a popular destination...they now allow no more than 2500 people per day onto the site.

We entered through the main gate...trapezoidal Inca style.

The Temple of the Sun...used for ceremonial purposes.

The pyramid holding the Intihuatana...a sacred stone to the Inca peoples.

The terraces were used for agricultural purposes...and crops were grown right to the top of the mountain.

The llamas seemed oblivious to the tourists...

...and wandered freely.  I will spare you the photos of the all the buildings, gates, sacred plazas and temples...since I have already forgotten the names and significance of most. But trust's quite amazing that these structures were built so long ago of huge granite rocks...seemingly to heavy to be moved without machines.


By mid-afternoon...most of our group felt they had done enough stair climbing and called it a day. A few of us went back to hike the Inca trail to the drawbridge. It was perfect! The clouds and drizzle were were the morning crowds. The sun came out.

The Inca drawbridge lies beyond the top terraces...along the trail that hugs the sides of the cliff.

We shared the trail with the llamas.

It was a wonderful experience...exploring this incredible site. Though the Incas had no written language...they left behind this creative masterpiece of stone.  How did they do it? No one really knows.

I'll be back...with more of Peru.  Sometime soon!

Thanks for stopping by...