The Time We Went to a Monastery Where Nuns Never Leave, and Then Saw Some Condors and Vicuñas…

After our guinea pig lunch, we got our stuff ready and headed to Arequipa (our final destination on our trip).  We went to Arequipa, not knowing too much about it.  Because we’re geniuses, we forgot our guidebook at home in California.  So we got to Arequipa, which is the second largest city in Peru (population-wise) after Lima. We stayed almost entirely in the colonial center which was beautiful. IMG_1753Our hotel, La Hosteria, was adorable.  We decided to splurge on this hotel (a whole $70 per night! haha) since we “roughed it” on the Inca Trail…

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and located right across from the Santa Catalina Monastery, a monastery of nuns of the Dominican Second Order.  Once the nuns entered the monastery, they NEVER left.  It’s hard to fathom, but today there are about 20 nuns still living in the monastery.

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The monastery was beautiful.

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And seeing the aspects of daily life over the centuries was interesting.  After hanging around the monastery for a few hours…

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We made our way to a market for some food.  The good thing about traveling with Jesse is that he loves street food as much as I do.  Peru didn’t have a whole lot of street food, but what they did have was a lot of markets that served awesome prepared meals.  It was all super tasty and cheap, double win!

Jesse was dying to try ceviche the whole trip, but I was worried about sickness so I requested we wait to have it til the end of the trip just in case… raw fish after all… But now it was time to give it a whirl.

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That day we tried ceviche and had some Chicha de Jora (a homemade corn beer).  We spent the rest of the day wandering and asking about how to make our way to the Colca Canyon, which we heard was great.  We booked a last minute day trip to the Colca Canyon to see Condors and Volcanos.

We were picked up at 3am for the 4 hour drive to the Colca Canyon.  The Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon!  After driving we stopped at a small town to see a church…

IMG_6725Outside the church there was a woman hanging out with her llama and falcon for people to take pictures with…

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Just another day in Peru…

After that, we made it to the lookout point to see condors.  We waited a LONG time to see Condors.

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We saw a few from far away.  It was less exciting than I would have hoped.  On our way back, we stopped at various lookout points

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There were some amazing views! Also on our way back, we saw lots of wild life…

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Err not wild… But we did see wild Vicuñas! They were too far to photograph (the pics I have are of them looking tiny).  Vicuñas are like smaller, less furry llamas.

When we got back to Arequipa, we cleaned up and went to dinner.  For our one fancy dinner, we went to a restaurant called ZigZag, that everyone told us was amazing.

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I’ll be honest.  After the awesome food we ate at our cooking class, ZigZag was an overpriced let down. Oh well…

For our last day in Peru, we wandered, went to the Cathedral (no photos allowed), visited some museums (and saw a mummy!) and ate in the market again (because that was our favorite).  I tried a Peruvian empanada, a Peruvian tamale (Arequipa style) and Jesse drank two enormous glasses of Chicha.

Finally, to kill a few hours before our flight we had some drinks and potatoes!

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Then we took a flight back to Lima in time to catch our next flight back to Los Angeles.

Overall our trip to Peru was awesome! I was sad to leave.  I wish I could have stayed longer to explore more areas, try more food and meet more people.  I definitely recommend it as a vacation spot for anyone!

Just for a quick recap… I’ll tell you about my favorites…

Highlight of the Trip:  Machu Picchu

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Low Point of the Trip: Day two of the Inca Trail where I got altitude sickness

IMG_1549Lesson Learned: Peruvian sun WILL burn you.  I got massively sun burnt throughout the trip.  By the last day, my face and head was peeling like woah.  Gross.

Best Meal:  This is pretty much impossible for me to answer.  I loved Aji de Gallina

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But pretty  much every meal I ate (except guinea pig) was awesome!

That’s it for the Peru trip recap!  Next I’ll tell you about cookies but before that…

Where should we go on vacation next? What’s the best vacation you’ve taken?  Tell me about it!

Previous Peru Posts:

The Time We Cooked Alpaca and Ate Guinea Pig in Peru

The Time We Hiked Through the Andes to Machu Picchu

Back from Peru

Hello from Peru

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The Time We Cooked Alpaca and Ate Guinea Pig in Peru

After the Inca Trail, we decided to take it easy the remainder of the trip.  Before we left, I booked a cooking class in Cusco with Erick from Marcelo Batata (one of the best restaurants in Cusco).  I was looking forward to it the whole trip, because obviously I love food.

The class was small it was just me, Jesse and a woman from the US who worked for a travel agency in Lima.  The class was awesome.  We learned about all the different native plants, grains, fruits and vegetables, and fun facts like how Peru has about 3,800 different varieties of potato.

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Can you guess what these are?

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Dehydrated potatoes! Crazy right?

Throughout the whole class (which went from 1pm-7pm) we were given small little amuse bouche.

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The first was a mahi mahi ceviche, which was divine.

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Then there was a smoked octopus olive bite,

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And some delicious bruschetta-like goodie with pork ragu and scrambled egg.  All the amuse bouche were what we would call “New Peruvian,” modern twists on traditional dishes.   It was seriously some of the most amazing food I’ve eaten.  The flavor combos were out of this world.  There were a bunch more (probably 3 or 4 more) but I won’t bore you with that.

After talking about native foods of Peru, we got to try a bunch of them!

IMG_6651We tried a passionfruit (a different variety from what we’re used to), a pepino (my favorite, it tasted like a combination of cucumber and cantaloupe), lucuma (super tasty! I brought lucuma jam home!), cherimoya, mango, aguaymanto (Jesse’s favorite, they look like little tomatoes but are sweet and a little tart) and grapes.

After sampling the fruits, we got to the kitchen…

IMG_6657We were preparing two dishes: Causa and Alpaca Saltado

Causa is a traditional Peruvian dish, served cold.  It involves potatoes mashed with aji cream sauce, avocado, black olives, spicy mayonnaise, shredded chicken and hard boiled egg all layered into a wonderful masterpiece.

Here was my causa:

IMG_6668I’m definitely going to try to make this again, because it was delightful and pretty easy!  After we sat down to enjoy our causa, we had a lesson on Pisco along with pisco tasting and cocktail-making.

IMG_6676With out cocktails in hand, we were ready to make alpaca saltado.  So before I tell you about that, I should tell you that Lomo Saltado is pretty much the most common Peruvian dish you can find.  If you go to any Peruvian restaurant, they’re almost guaranteed to have lomo saltado.  It’s a beef stir fry dish (influenced by the large number of Chinese immigrants), it’s served with fried potatoes and rice.

Traditionally, it’s made with beef (lomo=beef), but in this class we made it with alpaca meat.  Honestly, the alpaca meat pretty much tasted like beef.  But back to the cooking… We were ready to go!

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So the chef explained that the reason Lomo Saltado is called such is that Peruvians saw Chinese immigrants flipping beef in their pans and the verb saltar in Spanish means to jump, and thus jumping beef… lomo saltado. Ta-da!

But what that meant for us is that the whole time, we had to flip the veggies and meat around in the pan.  So I started in deep concentration….

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But pretty soon, half my alpaca and vegetables were on the floor…

IMG_6701But oh well, it still turned out great!  It’s a surprisingly easy dish to make.  The only part we didn’t get a photo of is the flambe part!  You pour some pisco in the pan and light it on fire!  That was super fun.

IMG_6713After assembling our dishes, we sat down for dinner.  I was so full from all the appetizers that I didn’t finish the dish, but it was great.  Despite fullness, there’s always room for dessert, right? So the chef brought over a platter of chocolate treats for us to try.

Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.  (But blurry photo womp) Peruvians have a big sweet tooth so we got along well.

The cooking class was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  It was a lot of fun, and totally worth it.

The next day was our last day in Cusco.  We knew what we HAD to have for lunch: cuy (aka Guinea Pig).  Cuy is another one of those traditional Peruvian things that we just had to try.  So that morning we went to the coca museum, and while I was chatting with the museum attendant (one of the perks of knowing the language), I asked her where we should try cuy.  She recommended a place, which was great because 1. it wasn’t full of tourists and 2. it was cheaper.

There we also got our first taste (of many) of chicha, a local homemade corn beer.  At this place they mixed it with strawberry puree.  It was delicious…

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and also enormous.  So with our delicious beverages (we also got a local beer, Cusqueña) we ordered one portion of cuy, not really knowing what to expect.  But this is what arrived at the table:

IMG_1707Claws, face, teeth and all.  Yup.

IMG_1708I think we sat there for a few minutes sort of unsure what to do with it.  The skin was really tough and there was really little meat on the whole thing.  The little paws and teeth were really off-putting.  IMG_1709We picked at it for a bit and decided that cuy wasn’t really for us.  The meat didn’t taste bad, it was a bit rubbery, but not bad.  I think we both decided that we don’t need to eat it again.  But we tried it so mission accomplished!

We spent the next few hours wandering and sitting in the Plaza de Armas people watching.  Then we headed to the airport for our final destination in Peru: Arequipa!

Coming up… the time we went to a monastery where nuns never leave, and then saw some condors and vicuñas…

Ok so tell me what you think…. are you totally grossed out? Would you try cuy (guinea pig)?

 

Previous Peru Posts:

The Time We Hiked Through the Andes to Machu Picchu

Back from Peru

Hello from Peru

The Time We Hiked Through the Andes to Machu Picchu…

I’m not really what you would call the “outdoorsy” type.  But from the moment I landed in Peru, I was really looking forward to the 4-day Inca Trail hike.  Honestly, I think half of it was just anxiety and a desire to get it over with.  The other half was the desire to see Machu Picchu.  But desire aside, I was nervous about the altitude and the bathrooms.

My biggest dilemma with camping is the bathroom situation.  I’ve told Jesse repeatedly that I refuse to poop in the woods, but after this trip I think pooping in the woods might be nicer than some of the bathrooms I smelled saw.

So we started the Inca Trail on a Monday morning.  At 5am, we were picked up from hotel and after a few hours made it to the starting point with our group.

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Sadly, one of our group members got sick and had to quit the first day. So that left 14 of us doing the trek.  We had 21 porters and 2 guides.   The first day of the hike was great.  It was sunny and nice and relatively flat.

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All was well in the world.  Everyone kept talking about day 2 and how terrible it was going to be.  We were told it was a 5 hour hike and then a 2-3 hour descent.  I wasn’t concerned about the hike, but I was concerned about the altitude.  You see, there’s something I have to tell you about myself: if there is an opportunity for me to get sick or injure myself, I generally do.  My family knows it.  My sister gave me iron pills months before the trip as a preventative measure.

So after camping and coming across the smelliest bathroom ever, we started day 2 around 7am after a huge breakfast.

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I knew that day was going to be hard so I hired a local porter to carry my stuff and honestly that was the best 100 soles I spent the whole trip.  I don’t know how I would have made it up the mountain carrying a backpack with all my stuff.

I should explain that the Inca Trail isn’t exactly roughing it.  The 21 porters our group had carried our tents, and all the cooking equipment and food (and we’re talking amazing 3 course meals, not sandwiches).  All we had to carry was a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes, toiletries and water.  Jesse was nice enough to carry my sleeping pad for me.

So back to day two.  It started off fine.  It was a steep hike, but manageable with some breaks.

IMG_1545But them as we hit our meeting spot for a morning snack at 11, I started to feel sick. IMG_1547The next two hours were the worst of the whole trip, for me that is.  Jesse was cool as a cucumber. Taking selfies and all…

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Me on the other hand.  I thought I was going to throw up then faint.  Luckily I did neither.

IMG_1549But I did take a break pretty much every minute or two.  I feel like such a wimp saying it but it was tough.  I can get through any crossfit WOD but this altitude was killer.

Then finally after hours of climbing, we made to the top!

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Being at the top was awesome.  To give you an idea of how much we climbed, that point was 4,200m (about 13,700ft).  We started day 1 at 3,000m (about 9,800 ft).  So it was a pretty steep climb in a few miles.

And of course after all the climbing we had to go back down.

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And the climbing continued to day 3.  Day 3 was the longest (16k about 10 hrs) and was almost entirely down hill.

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Aside from the slippery rocks that made me go grandpa slow (because I’m prone to falling and didn’t want to slip), day 3 wasn’t so bad.  There were cool ruins along the way

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and awesome views!

IMG_1677Not to mention, day 3 had the best lunch! Mushroom ceviche as a starter, a delicious soup, rocote relleno (a chili stuffed with beef and vegetables), tallarin al horno (spaghetti baked with cheese, eggs and olives) and probably some other protein and carbohydrate dish that I can’t recall… That wasn’t all that special.  Lunch and dinner were always massive and always included a soup and an array of main dishes.  The cook was seriously awesome.

After a super long 3rd day, we got the campsite just before sunset.  I was looking forward to this campsite because it was rumored to have warm showers.  Well, the rumors were just rumors, because the water was freezing.  But after no bathing for the previous two days and a lot of sweating, that was the best freezing (in the dark) shower of my life.

That night, it poured and the next morning we were up at 3:40am for breakfast at 4am.  The final check point to Machu Picchu opened at 5:30 so we rushed to get in line to be one of the first groups to go through.  The idea was to stay ahead of other groups so we could get to the Sun Gate around sun rise to see an amazing view of Machu Picchu, or so we were told.

We were 4th in line and we rushed for about an hour to get to the Sun Gate.  By the time we got there, we were all pooped and hot.

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Then we look over to see Machu Picchu and it was completely hidden by fog.

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That was the amazing view.  Great, right?

4 days of hiking and no Machu Picchu view.  We were all disappointed, but nothing we could do. So we rested a bit then hiked the rest of the way to Machu Picchu.  And finally we made our way in

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I was super excited that there ACTUALLY are llamas in Machu Picchu!

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I kept talking about how I hoped there were llamas (ridiculous I know), but every photo I see of Machu Picchu always has llamas in there.  When we got there, it was still pretty cloudy.  We took a photo at the traditional photo spot, but it was pretty cloudy…

IMG_6518So we went out of the park, under real/clean restrooms and relaxed for a minute.  After a bit, we went back in, got a tour and wandered.  After a few hours the fog cleared and the view way amazing.

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Machu Picchu is pretty breath-taking.  Even though we joked and took silly tourist pictures…

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The place really was astounding.  The stones are massive and perfectly-shaped.  I don’t think any description could really do it justice.  It was a great way to end a 4 Day Trek.  Toward the end of our time there (as the fog was really clearing) it started to get REALLY crowded, which really detracted from the enjoyment (same happened with the Great Wall of China, womp).

I would definitely say Machu Picchu was the highlight of the trip for me.  As miserable as I was on the second day of the trek, overall it was a great experience.

If you’re interested in doing the Inca Trail, just FYI we went with Peru Treks. The experience with them was great.  The porters are seriously amazing!

So that was the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu! It was awesome.

Up next… I’ll tell you about the rest of the trip and the time we ate a guinea pig and cooked alpaca…

Back from Peru!

Hi everyone! I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

We made it back from vacation the day before Thanksgiving, after traveling for what felt like forever.  Honestly, I was a little sad to get back.  Being on vacation is fun and I really enjoyed Peru.  I’ve spent the past few days trying to figure out what on Earth to write in this blog post, and I still can’t figure it out. So instead I’m going to give you a random assortment of photos and enjoyable things from out trip.

We started in Lima.  After sleeping forever, we woke up the next morning refreshed and ready to wander. So we made our way to the historic center of Lima to visit the Plaza de Armas, Cathedral and surrounding area.

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As we walked around, we tried Chicha Morada a non-alcoholic drink made of purple corn.  Super tasty.IMG_1303

We then had lunch in Chinatown.  Peru has a large Asian population.  They call any Chinese restaurant, Chifa.  Numerous people told us to try Chifa, so we did.  Pretty tasty.  IMG_1308

After Lima, we headed to Cusco.

IMG_6418We needed to be in Cusco two days before starting the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in order to acclimate to the altitude ( 3,400 m or 11,200 ft).  That was definitely needed.  Living at sea level, going to Cusco was a big change.  The first day as we walked around, I started to feel sick.

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After a while, I needed to sit (seriously I stopped pretty much every 2 minutes to sit down), because I thought I was going to faint.IMG_6433

Luckily, I didn’t.  Some rest and lots of water made me feel better and by the next day I was fine.  The next day we wandered around Cusco and headed up to the ruins at sacsayhuaman (just about Cusco).  We ran into a random guy who said he had tours on horses to various ruins in the area.

It was probably dumb to follow him to his ranch but we did anyway.  He led us on a cool horse tour of some ruins as promised.

IMG_1451 IMG_1462That was my first time ever riding a horse.  Luckily there was very little work involved.  I basically sat there and held on tight to make sure I didn’t fall off.

After horseback riding, we were ready to try more traditional food.  So we headed back to Cusco

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and had Lomo Saltado and Aji de Gallina, who traditional Peruvian dishes.  They were awesome.

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I pretty much fell in love with Aji de Gallina. I’m going to have to try to make it on my own!

The rest of the day we explored the Cathedral and Jesuit church.

IMG_1505After some wandering, it started to rain pretty intensely.  We had our usual afternoon coffee and treat (I was seriously making it a point to have as much cake as possible on this trip) and then headed back to our hotel to rest and pack for the 4 day trek to Machu Picchu…

 

Up next… I’ll tell you about the 45k trek through the Andes to Machu Picchu!

Hello from Peru!

Hi everyone! Just a quick hello from Peru!

We’re in Cusco!

Cusco is awesome!

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I’m pretty much making it a point to eat as many things as possible…

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Like Aji de Gallina (above) and lomo saltado

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Now we’re resting up because tomorrow morning we start the Inca Trail/4-Day hike to Machu Picchu! So excited!

Can’t wait to tell you all about the trip when I get back (like how I rode a horse to some Incan ruins today!).

If you’re interested to see more pics, be sure to follow me on Instagram (@karlapd)

Hugs from Peru!

Traveling: Planning a Trip to Peru

My blog is a food blog.  I know this, you know this, we all know this, but it’s also a little bit about me.  And you want to know something about me?

I love to travel.

To me, traveling is more than just a set of experiences.  It’s an enormous privilege that I’ve been lucky to have a large part of my life.  Starting with going to Guatemala every summer as a kid, then having my parents tote me around with them on various trips (Brazil, Europe, Caribbean), then learning to go places on my own (like Argentina and India).  Even just since I’ve had this blog, you’ve followed me to:

Mexico:

  • I went to Chiapas for a week to work on a project while in Grad School.  I didn’t tell my parents I was going, because I thought they’d freak out.  That’s one of my biggest regrets.  Not the trip, but the not telling my parents part.

Rome:

  • I went to Rome from January til June of 2011.
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    I worked at a UN Agency and ate too much pasta and Nutella.  There were also a few side trips, like Amalfi
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    Tuscany
    windey road

China:

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Last year I took a 2 week trip to China, and it was pretty awesome.

This time, I’ve got the travel bug again.

Two weeks ago, I bought a plane ticket to Peru.  Last week, I booked a 4-day trip on the Inca Trail.

So this time, instead of just giving you a lighting recap like I did with China.  I’d like to document the trip planning experience for myself to remember and for the world to know.

I think a lot of people have this idea that traveling is too scary, or too expensive, but honestly with some saving strategies, I think anyone can take a fun trip.  I’m not Mr. Money Bags.  If I can take a trip, you probably can too.  It just takes some planning.  So ready for some tips?

Where was your last destination?  Where are you going next?