Author Archives: Callie

Tambomachay to Saqsaywaman: Cusco, Peru

As I am not a hiker, I probably shouldn’t try to conquer the mountain before I conquer the city… right? Unfortunately I either didn’t think this one through or I didn’t have the full details. I think it may have been a bit of both.

A group of people with my university decided to go to the four ruins just outside of Cusco city yesterday for the first weekend off of school. I hadn’t really had plans for these ruins one way or the other, so I thought that it sounded fun. I was a bit concerned about slowing the group down, but they didn’t seem concerned. So, I went with them.

We started out by getting two taxis to split between the six of us to drive up to the most distant ruin, Tambomachay. It was a lovely drive filled with wonderful mountainous scenery, beautiful city streets, rustic villages, Queen music and Grease music. Yeah, that was an interesting combination. Luckily, I liked the music.

Tambomachay was the first ruin. When we got there, we had to buy a “boleto turistico” for 70 s/. It would have been 35 s/., but the group wanted to do this this weekend instead of waiting for the student card our university will provide us tomorrow. Personally, I found the ruin to be mildly interesting, but the mountainous scenery was better. I believe that the area was several thousand feet taller than Cusco city.



I don’t really remember the names of the middle two ruins because I was too exhausted trying to keep up with the group. I did get some good pictures of one of them.


About half-way to the last ruin, Saqsaywaman, we came across a woman who was selling 40 minute horse rides to two extra temples, as well as to Saqsaywaman. I couldn’t do that (I’ve tried in Girl Scouts and come to the conclusion that horses and me don’t get along), so I told the rest of the group to go ahead and that I’d walk to Saqsaywaman. I managed the walk there, but when I got there I was too tired to do much other than look around and leave. That was disappointing because this seemed to be the biggest and most impressive set of ruins on the trip. It also seemed to have the most history about it. People were around selling their services as guides, which I would have liked to do, but I knew that I was lucky to have made it as far as I had. The rocks were truly impressive, some taller than me by four or more feet. There was no cement to hold the stones together, and you can see that the seams are perfectly cut.

From the small amount of information I have found online, it sounds like a fascinating ruin, and I wish I had gotten the chance to see more of it and to better understand it.

DSC_0043 DSC_0048 DSC_0052 DSC_0053

Pisaq (…or Pisac)

Today I went to Pisaq to visit the Sunday market. This involved a taxi ride to a bus station where we were picked up by a van. It was a very cramped and crazy ride where you really get to know your neighbor!

Pisaq is a city about an hour away from Cusco that has a huge market on certain days of the week. I believe that Sunday is the biggest market. I will be returning next week to see the archeological site in the city. The streets here were really beautiful. There was a canal down the middle of the streets (for draining water, I assume) and there were carved bricks that lined the canal.



One thing I loved was the fact that the city was in a valley. I have been on mountains. I have seen mountains. I don’t believe that I have ever been in a valley. The mountains were very impressive from this angle. There were some steps built into some of the mountains. It was all gorgeous.




I should have taken more pictures of the stalls, but maybe I’ll get more next week. The market was very hectic. There was a section that only had produce. The rest of the market was more material goods. There was the usual assortment of alpaca clothing, but there were also some more professionally made clothing. There were a lot of textiles, such as blankets, scarves, table runners, and more, I’m sure. There was a fair amount of clay bowels, and lots of jewelry. There were also a lot of carved stone statues. I would say more about what I got, but some of it is a gift.

I was hoping to be able to buy a bunch of small items to have as reserve gifts for when I don’t know what to get someone, but I wasn’t sure what would work well for that. I may get some things like that when I return. For example, some of the small stone statues were pretty cheap (and small… would people take offense at getting a gift that is small as a quarter? …or at getting a llama or a frog statue as a gift? I guess that I could get some of the larger ones… but it’d still be a llama or a frog…) There are also some little clay bird whistles. They are shaped like a bird and you fill it with water and blow into it. It makes a very cool bird sound. They cost about a dollar each, so I may get several for random presents.

I finished shopping (aka ran out of cash…) so I decided to eat. My roommates had suggested a restaurant called the Blue Llama. They had a sign that said visa, so I went in and found out that that meant they had an ATM. Anyway, I got more money and decided to go ahead and eat here.


The interior had very interesting decorating styles. It was a little child-like but in an adult manner. For example, a lot of the decorations were drawn on the wall in a very realistic style, but it also was reminiscent of crayons in some areas if you looked at the lines.


Once again, I decided to get the menú. I asked the waiter what she recommended and went with that.


I started with pumpkin soup. That really made me want to laugh. In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess there is a part where you help to make a pumpkin/cheese soup. That always seemed funny to me because of the way it fit into the game (not to mention… how long does he carry that soup before he drinks it??) Despite (or maybe because of) the humor, the soup was really fantastic. I do wonder if it was really pumpkin or if that was a translation discrepancy. It may be some sort of squash that doesn’t have an easy translation. Either way, it was wonderful. It was hot and creamy with a nice smooth flavor that wasn’t bland and wasn’t overpowering. The little bit of cheese on the top was really good with it, although there wasn’t quite enough for the soup. (While I’m on the topic of soups, I don’t think that peruvians know the meaning of a cup of soup. This bowl was about the size of my head!)


Next, I got the meat lasagna. By this point, I was pretty full from the soup, but I didn’t want to waste the food. This was pretty good, but it is not what I think of when I think of lasagna. It was thin with a little bit of meat sauce and a lot of cheese!


For my last item, I got some cinnamon and clove tea. It was served at the end of the meal, and it was pretty good. Not my favorite, but still good.

The meal was very good, and I would be happy to come back just for the soup! The service was a little slow, but I’m starting to think that this is normal around here (that, or I am missing some important restaurant etiquette!).

Overall, I was very happy with my entire trip. It was beautiful and I got almost all of my planned shopping done. I also know what to look for next Sunday, now!

Los Portales: Restaurant Turistico

This was an interesting set of circumstances. Today in school, my photography class went on a field trip to a plaza with a fountain to examine how different shutter speeds affect photos of water. It was pretty interesting, but another point that is interesting is the fact that this plaza is connected to the Plaza de Armas and I had never seen it before! I may have stumbled across it early on, but maybe I was too out of it to notice…

Anyway, I decided to return after class for lunch. I went back to the hotel and dropped off my school stuff and picked up my book (the Hobbit). By this point, I was pretty hot, so I forgot my jacket. I got to the plaza and looked around a little. It is very pretty with the fountain and it seems a little less busy with fewer shops and tourists. I decided on one of the more noticeable restaurants. It was a restaurant that had most (if not all) of the tables outside on a stone step that was about five feet tall. There were musicians playing and it seemed like a lovely meal.





(I hope the video comes through alright. This is my first time putting a video on my blog…)

I sat down and enjoyed the view for awhile. I had ordered one of the Andean dishes offered, trout with quinoa. I finally got my tea and tried to drink it slowly, despite the fact that I was starting to get really cold. I eventually finished my tea, but I couldn’t get a waiter’sattention to get another one.

One other bad side to this eating arrangement is the fact that people trying to sell jewelry or paintings would come up and try to talk you into buying something. It made me a little uncomfortable because these sellers are generally very forward and this wasn’t a situation where you can keep walking. Luckily, they weren’t as forward as usual. Maybe they didn’t want to risk getting banned from the area or something. I haven’t really figured out the rules for these street sellers yet.

I finally got my food after a very long wait and asked for another hot tea, thinking that I could drink that before I left to warm up. By this point it wasn’t really a late lunch anymore, it was an early dinner. I just about inhaled my food. This was one very good point about the restaurant. The food was stellar. It turned out that my dish was trout coated with a quinoa crust, like a US breaded dish. It had some very buttery and flavorful potatoes and some nice vegetables. I may come here again just for this dish. I’ll just need to remember my heavier jacket!


I finished eating before my tea came, so I just asked for the bill. I really shouldn’t have eaten so much, but between the hunger, the cold, and the great flavors I had trouble slowing down.

On my way back, I found the ChocoMuseo in the same plaza and stopped by to map it out. First, I found the gift shop. Then, I found a workshop. Last, I found the actual ChocoMuseo through a different doorway and upstairs. This was very nice. Despite the good food, I was in a somewhat bad mood after my meal. I got into the store, and I was almost immediately greeted by a employee. She was very friendly and cheerful, and she gave me a free sample of the cocoa tea (which was very good – I plan to return and buy some before coming home…).

She also was only as tall as halfway up my bicep. It was interesting talking to someone that tall in such a confined space (the room was very busy and Peruvians have a much smaller bubble of personal space). In Missouri, I’m used to most people being within a couple inches of my height or taller. This encounter made me really realize how short the peruvian people generally are, both men and women.

Despite the problems with the service, I may return. The meal was fantastic, and the lovely experience at the ChocoMuseo (which I will return to – both to make chocolate and buy tea) made me feel much better about my evening.

Los Balcones Grill

Another day in the Plaza, and I decided that I really should try a menú. As I might have stated before, a menú is a small menu with around four choices for three to five categories. For 20/s. – 35/s. you can choose one item from each category. The restaurant I chose had another lovely view of the Plaza. The seat was facing outward and there was no glass. It was a perfect day to have a nice breeze while I ate.



Today’s options cost 20/s. for three items. I got a chicken and rice soup that was very nice and flavorful. It had big chicken chunks, rice and herbs. It tasted very fresh and natural.


I also got trout with a side salad. The trout was very good. I think that Peru is turning me into a trout fan! The salad was a bunch of vegetables and a little pickled cabbage. The cabbage was good. I didn’t eat the tomatoes because of personal preference. The rest of the vegetables were alright, but not very good. They were steamed vegetables that had been chilled, and they didn’t have much flavor.


The third item included was tea, which I forgot to take a picture of. It was just normal tea. Overall, it was an alright dinner. Not the best I’ve had here, but it only cost $7.21 for a lot of food that was pretty good (excluding the vegetables).

Plaza Restaurant Grill

Today I was in the Plaza area again and looking for food. I ran into one of the two artists that I have bought pictures from, and he asked me what I was looking for. When I said I was looking for food, he offered to show me to a good place with a good menú.

A menú is a set menu where you can choose from a list of items in different categories. For example, a menú may have an appetizer, a soup, and a main course that you can choose from four or five items listed. These seem to come out to be about 20-30 s/., or $7-$10. So far, I have been ordering off the regular menus. I had actually had the intention of trying a menú tonight, but I looked at the menu and chose a different option.

I once again had a lovely view of the plaza from the second floor window seat I had. It was different at night time, but still very beautiful. I made sure to sit where I could both look out of the window and observe the restaurant, which was beautifully decorated.


My waiter was very helpful with his suggestions. His first suggestion was for a lemonade. After asking if it was made with bottled water instead of tap water I decided to try it. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to ask if it had egg in it. When I got it, it was a pale yellow and a little fluffy. I didn’t think too much of it until I had drank a bit. Then the white egg foam started to separate from the lemonade. I really should have taken a picture of the separated drink, but I didn’t think of it. It was really very good. Raw egg in a drink sounds odd, but my dad has told me that they used to do this all the time. All this time of being careful of raw vegetables and I accidentally eat a raw egg! Maybe I can stop being so cautious now!


I ordered a trout dish. After asking my waiter’s opinion on the four trout dishes offered, I got the trout “lo gusto,” which the waiter said meant “how you like it,” but I think there was a translation issue. This phrase in the US would mean that you have some choice on how it is prepared. Here, it just meant that it was very good fish. I think.

The plate was beautifully prepared, and there was plenty of good food. The vegetables were a little bland, and the fries were fries. There was nothing special about them. But, the trout was amazing. There were no bones, but the skin was on the bottom. For one point, the fish was probably much fresher than is easily available in Missouri. For another, the seasoning was wonderful and strong without being overpowering.


When I finished eating, I left and had this wonderful view of the mountains around the city. It was dark, so all I could see were the lights. There was no hint of the mountains, so it was just a cluster of floating lights. It was stunning.



I finished the night with another ice cream cone. I got lime again because it was really good the other night. It is sweet with a hint of tartness. You can almost taste the peel, but not enough to make it taste bitter or off-putting. Only enough that I can tell that it is made with an actual lime instead of whatever goes into the lime sorbet at home.


El Mesón de Don Tomás

This restaurant was chosen in an interesting manner. I was wondering around the Plaza and looking for something to eat when a guy around my age asked me what I was looking for. I said that I was looking for food, and he offered to show me the way to a good restaurant. We talked for a bit, then he offered to show me some Incan stone work.

We went down this alley that had some small booths selling various items. There was a clear divide between the Incan work and the Spanish stones. The Spanish stones in the wall all had mortar and were a fraction of the size of the Incan stones, which were perfectly cut to fit together. Even more amazing was the fact that the Spanish stone work looked older and more worn down than the Incan stone work. The guy I was with showed me how there were certain stones that formed the shape of the famous puma and snake symbols that the Incas used. He was very nice and talked to me and showed me around for 30-45 minutes, so I bought one of his paintings. I had been expecting that from the start, and I was happy to buy something after how long he took to talk to me and show me around.

Anyway, that leads to the restaurant that he suggested. When I went in and was seated, there were some cool decorations. Some decorative stonework was made to look like the Incan stonework. There were some cool things on the stones, like this giant owl made out of fiber strands. I’d bet it is alpaca.


Before the meal, I was brought bread that included two sauces and some butter. I tried both sauces, but I preferred the butter. The yellowish one wasn’t too spicy, and it didn’t have as much flavor as butter does. The other one was a pico, and it had a bit of a kick to it. I was happy to try it, but I decided to stick with butter.


I had ordered the Q’apchi de Champiñones, which had the following english description: Vegetarian dish; a potato mixture with mushrooms, cheese, seasoned with herbs, served with rice; to the Andean style. It sounded good, and it was one of the cheaper entrees on the menu, coming to about $9.35 if you exclude the drink. When I got the meal, I was a little disappointed. It was pretty ugly and almost bland looking. But at least it had a pretty butterfly on the plate! When I took a bite, I realized that it was very similar to a stroganoff: and stroganoffs are never pretty. The sauce base had a potato flavor, and it was very flavorful overall. I don’t know what spices they used, but it tasted great!


After my meal, I got the crunchy corn kernels. So far, they have been served before the meal as a sort of appetizer, but these were wonderfully hot and salty, so I think they were making a fresh batch. It was almost too hot to eat, but the dish it was served in was ice-cold. The two temperatures worked well together to make sure it stayed warm while cooling down enough to eat.


Overall, I was very happy with the restaurant. But I seem to be happy with most of the restaurants I have encountered here so far!

Cusco, Peru: Sumaq Maizito Grill & Restaurant

Today, a group was planning a trip to Pisaq. Pisaq is a city near Cusco that has a large market on Sundays and some ruins that sound pretty interesting. I really want to go to Pisaq, but since I was already planning on going I thought that I should go when I can go at my own pace.

Instead, I decided to finally go to the Plaza. I had a goal of finding shoes in mind, but that didn’t work out well. I tried on boots in a shoe store, but they didn’t fit me well. I had heard about a custom-made shoe store from someone in my University, but I couldn’t find it. I found the right street, so maybe it was closed for Sunday.

I got to the Plaza de Armas, and there was some sort of ceremony going on with horns and marching and soldiers. I think that it is a ceremony they do every Sunday, from what I could find out online. Nearby, there was another little park area. It may have been part of the Plaza; I wasn’t sure where it started or stopped and the two areas were a short distance from one another. I shopped around and probably bought far more than I should have. By this point, I was getting pretty hungry. I looked around at some different restaurants. Most restaurants that I have seen here have their menu and pricing outside of the restaurant. I don’t know why I chose the one I chose to eat at, but it was a good choice.


After skipping a few restaurants (not for any good reason, I just was looking around a bit…) I stopped at Sumaq Maizito Grill & Restaurant. The restaurant was on the second floor, and I got a seat with a wonderful view out on the park. There weren’t many people there, but that may have been the time of day.



I ordered hot tea and another chicken dish. The chicken dish (I don’t remember the Spanish name) was very beautifully arranged. It consisted of chicken stuffed with ham that was wrapped around cheese and asparagus. It came with some sort of fruit sauce, like a raspberry sauce, that was a little sweet and a little tart. With it were two orange mounds that I found out were sweet potatoes. They didn’t taste like sweet potatoes in the US, so I thought they might be some sort of squash. They were a little bit grainier than I am used to, and I don’t think they were as artificially sweetened as back home. They were very interesting and pretty good, but I mostly ate the chicken.




In the table under the glass panel, there were holes in the table that were filled with corn kernals. I also saw the table next to me order a corn on the cob, and the kernels were huge! They were three or four times larger than the ones back home! Maybe I should have ordered something with corn in it…


I thought about getting dessert here. Their menu looked pretty good, but I have been craving ice cream. I have been a little nervous about eating ice cream here, but I’ve read that if you get it from a reputable source it should be okay. The only problem with that is: how to you know what is a reputable brand in Peru? Even if locals are eating it, you don’t know if there are bacteria involved that you are not accustomed to. So, I asked about the ice cream flavors. They had vanilla, chocolate, and a mix of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. I decided that if I was going to risk an exploding stomach over ice cream that I was going to get something more interesting.

On the way back to the hotel, I found an ice cream shop. It wasn’t one of those plastic, brightly colored carts that I’ve seen inside other restaurants. It was a shop that only sold ice cream. I went in, and it was a little cramped and there was a bit of a line. I got to try the ice cream with a little wooden spoon. I tried one that looked interesting. I didn’t want to waste too much time with a line forming behind me, so I got a waffle cone with two scoops. I got chocolate and some sort of caramel ice cream. I didn’t understand enough Spanish to know exactly what flavor it was, but it was very good. In addition, the ice cream went down into all but the bottom inch of the ice cream cone!


Although I didn’t get it, I saw them making a very interesting type of ice cream cone. They would take a scoop of one flavor of ice cream, then they would plop it in another flavor and roll the second flavor around the first. They were very good at getting a perfect second coating while using nothing but a small ice cream scoop!

Overall, I was pretty happy with my day. Even though I probably spent too much!

Valentina: Cusco, Peru

Today was a very long day. I didn’t want to sleep in too much because I didn’t want to miss the hotel’s complementary breakfast. For one, it’s free. For another, I didn’t want the responsibility of tracking down another meal.

After breakfast, I changed my plans of exploring the plaza to explore the ruins near the city with a small group. We took a taxi up and walked down. It was a long walk, I didn’t bring enough food, I couldn’t keep up with the group, and I got sunburned. Overall, it wasn’t that great of an experience and I ended up exhausted. After a 6:30pm meeting about the hotel rules for students, I was even hungrier. I had only had a granola bar for lunch, and I couldn’t wait half an hour for a group to get ready to leave. Also, I was assuming that the walk would be longer than I wanted to go on to get food. So, I set out by myself to a restaurant that I had seen on the corner of the street, only two minutes from the hotel.

Valentina was a lovely restaurant. It was beautiful and it had wonderful food. I was greeted at the door and shown to a table. A waitress came and set the table meticulously and placed a napkin on my lap. It has been a long time since I have been to a restaurant that puts your napkin on your lap for you. At this point, I started to wonder about peruvian dining customs for nicer restaurants.

When I was given the menu to look over, I was also given a small dish of what looked like bloated corn kernels. I think that it was corn kernels, but they were slightly puffed and lightly salted. They were good and very interesting. It took a while for a waiter to take my order, but that may be because of different restaurant customs that I don’t know about. Maybe I was supposed to give some sort of signal that I was ready to order…

While I waited for my meal, I was given a piece of bread and a small, pre-packaged container of butter. The bread was very good, with a slightly crunchy crust and a soft, fluffy inside. The butter was very flavorful and I didn’t need much.


When I got my meal, it was the best chicken I have ever tasted. Some of this sentiment may come from the fact that I was very hungry and that this was the first nice, sit-down meal I have had in Peru, but it doesn’t change the fact that the meal was exceptionally delicious. I had ordered chicken with mushroom sauce. When I got it, it came with some peruvian-style french fries and a small amount of cooked vegetables. The chicken was not drowning in sauce, but it was very flavorful. It was cooked perfectly. The outside was slightly crisp, and the inside was at the point where it had just barely turned from pink to white. It was wonderfully moist. The vegetables were very good. There was no overpowering flavor, but the flavors of the vegetables weren’t drowned out by overcooking like it is sometimes done back home. The potatoes were very good. They were similar to french fries, but they were denser. I believe that they were baked instead of fried, but the shape and presentation was similar to french fries.


For dessert, I only had my drink. I ordered a hot chocolate, since I liked the one from the coffee shop so much. It was a perfect finish to the meal.


This meal made me feel incredibly full and bloated, but that is another issue. I kept telling myself to stop eating, but that was very difficult to do! Overall, this meal really made me feel better about my day, and I would be happy if I made it back before I leave Peru.

Cafe Ricchary

Hello! After two nights of getting 12 hours sleep, I finally feel half-way normal. While I haven’t been posting much yet, I wanted to start with a review of a restaurant I stopped by tonight.

So far, the food situation has been… interesting. Before leaving the States, it felt like everyone warned me about what not to eat. No one told me what to eat. So, I need to be careful about: water, undercooked meats, cooked meats in unsanitary conditions (such as sitting out without heating or cooling), dairy, raw vegetables (from the water they are washed in), fruit juices (once again, water), and ice. So, what’s left to eat? I am trying to avoid raw vegetables, but I might change that in the future. And unless I change something, I see a lot of cheese sandwiches in my future.

After getting lost by trying to go down the main street (I shouldn’t have stopped to shop, it turned me around…) I decided that I didn’t want to take risks while looking for food tonight. So, I decided that I would simply walk down the street that my hotel is on until I found a place that looked appetizing. I eventually found this little coffee shop that looked nice. I stopped in and ordered a ham and cheese sandwich with hot chocolate.

The sandwich was interesting, but very good. There wasn’t much ham, and it was an odd texture. There was a lot of cheese on it. The cheese was a white variety that seems to be popular around the area. I’m not sure what kind it is, but when it is not melty it is a little squeaky, like mozzarella. The sandwich was hot and good. What was really good is the hot chocolate. It was grated off of a bar of chocolate and mixed with a little water to make a paste. Then steamed milk was added.

This is where the place gets really interesting. It is an organic, farmer owned restaurant where they make their own chocolate and coffee beans. I spoke to the person running the restaurant, which was very interesting. She spoke no English, but she spoke both Spanish and Quechua, one of the indigenous languages of the area. When I was finished eating, she spent some time talking with me. There was a mini museum area that detailed the process of making chocolate and coffee through pictures and some physical samples from throughout the process. She took the time to talk me through the process and try to help me to understand. I didn’t understand everything, but it was a great experience and nice to talk to someone so friendly!


The name of the place is Cafe Ricchary. Ricchary comes from the Quechua word that means “wake up” in reference to their coffee, and they have won awards based on their coffee. Here is the website I found that information on, if you are interested in more information.

I actually ended up buying some of their drinking chocolate.


This was a lovely place, and I intend to return to try their coffee when it is not so late in the day!

Where You Go When You Need To Go

It’s a little gross, but when I travel I find myself fascinated by toilets. Before I’d traveled to many places I had assumed that they were the same everywhere. It sounds pretty basic. But, as I quickly learned, assumptions can be wrong. From places like Ecuador and Peru where you don’t flush toilet paper to places like Japan where the toilets vary from highly technical bidets to porcelain holes in the floor.






I started this post because I was surprised again. I found this self-lining toilet in the airport in Chicago during one of my layovers.



It just goes to show that cultural surprises can be closer than you think.