Category Archives: Peru

Aguas Calientes & Macchu Picchu

It took awhile for me to feel well enough (and to have time) to post about this last weekend, but it is about time that I got this together! Last weekend was the weekend to go to Macchu Picchu. This was a two-day trip with an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes. We met at the USIL campus at 10:25am to take a bus to Ollantaytambo to take the Peru Rail train to Aguas Calientes. Then, we got to wait for about half an hour for the last person to arrive. It was pretty lucky that we weren’t late for the train! Apparently, he had set his alarm for PM instead of AM. I felt kind of bad for him until I heard that he had gotten black-out drunk the night before. Then I was just irritated that I had to sit across the aisle from the guy who almost made us late when he stank from drinking the night before (he may have still been drunk, judging from the volume he was speaking in…) Still, we got to the train station and were off to Aguas Calientes! IMG_1392 IMG_1394 The train ride there was interesting. All of the windows in the ceiling seemed like a really cool idea until I got in the train. Then I realized that is was like those home-made ovens we made in Girl Scouts. On the plus side, we got free drinks and snacks like on an airplane. I got a pretty good banana muffin and water.IMG_1395 The town was fascinating to see. It is a very busy tourist area because it is the only town that you can go directly to Macchu Picchu from by bus (I’m not sure how hiking differs in this regard). Directly off of the train, we went to the hotel as a group. We went through this huge, sprawling maze of stalls selling merchandise (although I have read in enough places that it is all similar, if not the same, as in Cusco except for the price tags that I didn’t plan on buying anything unless something really caught my eye!). The town itself had the same interesting (and kind of dirty) stones as Cusco, but there was also a river going directly through the town with at least three bridges. What was the most interesting about this town to me was the stark difference between the near-distance and the far-distance. Everything close-by was very familiar because of my time in Cusco, but it was surrounded by some of the wildest wilderness I have ever seen. Everything around the town was dense and unprocessed looking. DSC_0071 DSC_0073 DSC_0074 DSC_0081 DSC_0083 In the hotel, we were given further instructions and a map with directions marked to four or five restaurants of varying price ranges that our guide recommended based on their having safe food for tourists. We were given rooms with two people per room. I ended up rooming with a girl who is staying with a family instead of at La Casa de Don Ignacio. She was really nice and I thought that we got along really well. It was too bad that it was only for one night! The room was really nice looking. The beds were huge and fluffy. Towels were arranged on the end of the beds with a candy. I got a flower pattern and a coconut candy. My roommate had a turtle, I think. We had a wonderful view out of our room of a wall with a giant Spiderman poster. The bathroom was equally nice and had tremendous water pressure! IMG_1399 IMG_1401 IMG_1402 I had decided, even before going to the city, that I wanted to eat at Indio Feliz. This is a french restaurant run by a man who came to Peru from France close to 50 years ago. It is also the most expensive restaurant in the area. But, everything was supposed to be pricy, so I figured that I might as well spend a lot of money on nice french food instead of the same food that I’ve been eating in Cusco. I’d looked at the website and everything looked really good! The entrance was down an alleyway, and based on my expectations for the restaurant it looked far too cluttered. The first room that you enter is even more cluttered than the outside. Every inch of available space is coated with business cards or foreign currency. You can see a little of that from the door’s window, but inside there were far fewer gaps between the cards. Alleyway Outside seating:business cards At this point I kind of wavered on the idea of eating here, but if I were to go elsewhere I would have to decide on something and find it. I decided to stick with Indio Feliz. Inside, there were two menus. One for ordering individual items and one for the set menu that included an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. I had trouble deciding, but I ended up going with the set menu. I almost got an entree and dessert because I wanted the “Floating Island” dessert (I have never had it, but I’ve always wanted to have it), but the cost of the entree and dessert would have been more than the set menu. Menu 1 Menu 2 While I was waiting for my food some fresh bread was brought out. It was an interesting type of bread. It was a bunch of tiny, thick bread sticks. A clay jar of butter had been sitting on the table with a tightly sealed lid on it. It was very good bread and butter, so I started to chow down. I soon realized that that was a big mistake. Bread basket Bread and butter While I ate bread and waited for more food I had time to observe the restaurant. This room wasn’t the one with the business cards, but it was equally cluttered in its own way. It had a nautical theme. The table had a compass on it that you can see a little of in the bread pictures. The theming was fascinating. It seemed to focus on nautical themes, but then I would notice something out of place (like a foot-tall wooden frog with a cowboy hat…). Every inch of the restaurant was covered with some sort of detail, painted or an object. Overview Here, the bar is just as busy as the rest of the place. There are even a couple of cut-up rain boots nailed to part of the bar. This is a bit like those find the hidden object games, isn’t it?bar I particularly liked the fireplace details.Fireplace Fireplace details Here you can see more details above the fireplace. There is a wine bottle dressed up with metal to look like a ships captain. You can also see two out of three of the “see/hear/speak no evil” cherubs painted there. -wine bottle detailporthole Wheel on celing This statue here looked like it was the figurehead on a ship.Ship figure Then, my first course came out. It was huge! It could have easily fed two people by itself, let alone being one out of four courses for just me! I had ordered the Chaski Salad which was described as steamed vegetables with a hardboiled egg. I had wanted the fresh vegetable salad because of the salad dressing it came with, but I was a little concerned about the raw vegetable bit. As it turned out, the steamed vegetables also came with the same dressing. The plate included steamed green beans, steamed carrot slices, sliced avocado, boiled and spiced potatoes, a boiled egg, cauliflower, sautéed mushrooms (they were really good), a cooked tomato half with cheese melted on top, and a few pieces of baked apple. It also had all sorts of things I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. There was a little pot of very good olive oil, lime, rosemary and some green herbs.

This dish was spectacular. I particularly liked the mushrooms, apple and avocado, but all of it was really good. I used the olive oil a bit on the green beans and carrots, but I mostly used the dressing. It was a really good dressing that was made with garlic, mustard and olive oil.

Appertizer App sauce

After the wonderful first course, the main dish was good, but not quite as good. I got the Salmon trout with Quillabamba Mango (but it was substituted with passion fruit instead of mango today). It was pretty good, but I think that I would have gotten chicken or beef if I were to go again. It was a bit too sweet. There was a half of a passion fruit shell (I think it was passion fruit) that was filled with a little baked fruit (it may have been apple). The main course also came with a couple of sides that I didn’t eat much of. There really was too much food! The sides were potato chips, some sort of sweet potato slices, another baked tomato half with green herbs on top, and a couple of green beans.

Fish Sides

As good as the entire meal had been, the dessert was the best part. I had hesitated on getting the set menu because of the dessert, but I ended up going with the apple pie with custard and ice cream. The plate came, and it was different from what I had expected (like usual). The custard was a thin sauce underneath the pie, not thick custard like I had in mind. The ice cream was a small scoop of tart ice cream (it was probably some sort of fruit). The apple pie was not the tall mix of apples that I am used to. It had more of a tart presentation, with one layer of apples laid out in a pretty presentation. It was also garnished with a cherry, mint leaves and three apple slices. It was a truly beautiful presentation. I also think that this may be the best apple pie I have ever tasted. The custard was smooth and slightly sweet, and it went perfectly with the warm apple pie.

Apple pie

While I was in the restaurant, a traditionally dressed older man came into the restaurant and laid his cloth wrap full of merchandise and tools on the floor. He appeared to know the owner. From the brief time I had to view their interactions, I would guess that the older man was like a father-figure to the owner. Everyone in the restaurant got a free bracelet. I thought it was interesting that no one even tried to sell me a bracelet. I was in a good enough mood that I probably would have bought one! On my way out, I spoke briefly with the owner and he offered me a free drink. Since I don’t drink, I had to turn down his offer. Still, free stuff in Aguas Calientes!

That night, things began to get worse, unfortunately. I had brought five bottles of water with me because of how much more expensive things are in Aguas Calientes. When I tried to open a new bottle, I found that three out of the five might have had issues. The ring wasn’t detached from the lid, but they came off with the lid. I tasted them to see if there were issues and they didn’t taste quite right, but I might have been imagining that. That evening, I started to feel ill. My stomach didn’t feel quite right, my joints were aching and my skin was super sensitive. In addition to that, our room was really noisy. Something about the acoustics of the alleyway took every noise that occurred outside and amplified it. I think it was louder in the room than it was outside! So, between feeling bad and the noise (people talking, dogs fighting, kids yelling…) I probably got 3-4 hours sleep.

The next morning, I got up at 4:15am so that we could leave to catch a bus around 5:30am. We were trying to catch the sunrise at Macchu Picchu. We got there after waiting in a line for the bus for about half an hour. Luckily, the movement of the bus made me feel better instead of worse, and we got to Macchu Picchu after a 20 minute bus ride. There were surprisingly few stalls selling anything, and they were all closed that early, anyway. We went through the line to get our passport and ticket checked (I also got a passport stamp later. Despite the fact that it was a do-it-yourself thing, it wasn’t open that early either). Then we finally got to see Macchu Picchu. We waited above the ruins for the sunrise, and we got a few good pictures despite the people starting to file in.

DSC_0123 DSC_0124 DSC_0125 DSC_0126 DSC_0127 DSC_0129

Our guide took us up a bit higher and explained some of the history of the area. Apparently, the ruins were re-discovered by a professor from Yale University who was looking for a different set of ruins. He found a couple of families in the area who directed him to Macchu Picchu. There, he found another couple of families who lived nearby and were using some of the terraces for farming. They were too busy to show him around, so the first Macchu Picchu tour guide was a 12 year old boy.

No one knows for sure what Macchu Picchu was intended for, but some of the theories include it being a kind of leisure resort or that it was where the sons of nobles were sent to school. When the Incan empire was destroyed by the Spanish, the last thousand of the people went to hide in Macchu Picchu. They left for another town when the Spanish got close to Macchu Picchu. They passed right below the mountain, but without people inhabiting it, it was well hidden enough that they didn’t find the deserted town. In the corner of this picture is the guide. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a better picture of him. He was a great tour guide.

tour guide

Here you can see some of the metal grates on the ground that has been cleared off for tourists.

grid on ground

Here you can see some snow-capped mountains in the distance. They can rarely be seen from Macchu Picchu due to cloud coverage.-Snow mountains

If you look at this picture sideways it looks like a face! People trying to sell me painting in Cusco would talk about that, but I didn’t imagine that it would be quite so vivid! After the first part of the tour, the rest of the group left to climb Huayna Picchu. I didn’t sign up for it, and I’m glad. It would have killed me even if I weren’t sick. Huayna Picchu is the giant mountain that is in every picture of Macchu Picchu, the nose part of the face. Only 400 people can climb it per day, and the climb is booked months in advance.

-Mountain face

At this point I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to do the second part of the tour. I had the shivers pretty bad. The tour guide asked if I could wait until they were done with the hike, so I found a rock on an out-of-the way path and sat in the sun to warm up. I got some decent pictures from there.

stairs from rock

After about an hour on the rock, I decided to make my way back to the entrance where we were supposed to meet after 2 1/2 hours. I got a few more good pictures. One is of some guys who were pounding dirt down with large sticks to make the ground smooth. There were also two noticeable and large trees in the ruins. On the way out I passed by a row of huts. I do wish that I had made it to the second half of the tour. It would have been fascinating.-guys with sticks tree tree 2 sun:mountains:ruins huts

After I bought a 8 s./ water bottle, I found some of the very small amount of shade available. It was in a corner, tucked under some trees and bushes. While I was sitting here, a clever little sparrow managed to scare me away from some food crumbs it wanted. At first, it just hopped a little closer, and a little closer, until it was about three feet away from me. It would just eye me and pick at something on the ground. Then it disappeared for awhile. Then, there was a sudden rustling behind me in the bushes and some leaves started falling on my head. This startled me into leaping up. I turned around to see what it was, and that tiny sparrow was just sitting there eating some crumbs that had been beside me. The whole thing was rather cute, I thought.


After that, I decided that I should get more water, so I went to the snack shop and got a water and some chocolate cookies. It was nice, and I finally had some decent shade to sit in. The tour guide found me there, and I confirmed that I didn’t want to do the rest of the tour. After a bit I started to head out. I used the restroom (1 s./) before getting in the tremendous bus line. I think it took me about 40 minutes to get on a bus! After that, I rested in the hotel lobby after I picked up my backpack until it was time to go to the train station. The ride back was miserable because I was freezing cold, despite the fact that others on the train were hot. The next morning, I took Cipro and missed a day of school, but I’m feeling a lot better by now. Now I just need to survive the flight home!

bus line


Today I went back to a restaurant (for the third time!) that I wasn’t entirely convinced that I liked. It has been an interesting experience. The first time I ate here I was pretty excited. A lot of the other students had been talking about the restaurant and seemed to really like it.

The restaurant itself is very bright and pretty. It is entirely upstairs, and it is clearly a tourist-focused restaurant. The staff speak very good english and the bathrooms are some of the cleanest and largest I’ve seen here.

They have a small section with couches and some balcony seating. The lights above the bar are made with a central light that has plastic bottles attached. All of the artwork on the walls are pictures taken in Green’s organic garden.

IMG_0002 restaurant

DSC_0206 DSC_0208

I got the menus to browse, and despite the fact that I always look at the menu before entering a restaurant I always have to look at it again inside! There were two menus, the drink menu and the food menu. Unlike the usual menus, I actually looked at the drink menu. They have some pretty interesting fruit juices and smoothies. Despite the interesting selection, I have only ever had one. But, I keep coming back partially for this drink (and for other reasons!).

They have a rather extensive menu that includes a great deal of alpaca. I still have not tried alpaca here. It makes me think too much of cats because of how they are supposedly viewed by the locals. Apparently some people think of these animals (or llamas, I can’t remember which) like family, like brothers. Either way, it just creeps me out a little bit. People do say that alpaca tastes better than cow or lamb.

Menu juice menu

One thing I like about their menu is the little legend at the bottom. They label every item on the menu as being 80, 90, or 100% organic.


For my first meal, I was going to take the waiter’s advice and get the “mango, passion fruit, peppermint and soursop nectar,” but they were unfortunately (or fortunately) out of soursop. Instead, I got the one that sounded best to me, the “pear, apple, ginger and peach nectar.” This was a wonderful drink. The first taste to me wasn’t great, but that was because I had forgotten that it had ginger in it, and it was just a little shocking. Despite that, the ginger really blends in well with the other flavors. Unlike some places where you get fruit juice, you get the entire fruit with this one. They put all of the ingredients in a blender with a little water and a little sugar (I asked, I plan to try and replicate this at home!) and blend it until it is smooth. This gives it a little bit of a texture so that, while it isn’t quite a smoothie (no yogurt), it is a bit thicker than your average juice. The picture shows the juice when it is just brought out. Over time the thicker part floats upward while the juice sinks down. It is an interesting experience to drink a juice that changes as you drink it!



This first visit was soon after my visit to Pisac, where I discovered how wonderful pumpkin soup can be. So, when I saw that they had pumpkin soup here I wanted to try it. I wanted something more than soup, so I also got a side dish. Let me state once again, I don’t think that peruvian restaurants know the meaning of a small dish! Both dishes came out huge. I couldn’t have eaten that much if I tried! The second dish I got was a “taboule of quinoa with eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, tomato and olive oil.”

When I got the two dishes, I was shocked that I didn’t really like either of them. Neither of them had much spice, and the texture of the quinoa was rather off-putting when the flavor wasn’t good. The quinoa wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good in that quantity. I could see myself liking it if it were a fraction of the size and served with a main dish. I was thinking that it would be a really slim possibility that I ordered two very different dishes and managed to get the two bad things off of the menu.

Pumpkin Quinua After this experience, I wasn’t really planning on coming back. I really loved the juice, and I had considered just coming for a drink and dessert (I might do that anyway – their food is expensive!). But then I got a photography assignment to tell a story. I got the option of “a day in the life of a stranger” or “a small business.” The one with the stranger sounded creepy. I don’t like taking photos of people without their permission, and I didn’t know anyone who I could do this assignment with without inconveniencing either them or myself. So I decided that I would do the small business and that I would use the Casa de Don Ignacio where I am staying. It would be convenient (and I wouldn’t feel creepy for stalking some small business that doesn’t know me) and I had been needing to take picture for myself, anyway. While I was taking pictures, Luis the manager asked me about what I was doing. When I explained my idea he offered to call Greens to ask them to let me take pictures there. He was the manager at Greens for a couple of years, and apparently saved them from going under. I decided to take him up on his offer because it sounded more interesting than doing it all at the hotel.

I got there a little early and the chef that Luis had spoken to hadn’t arrived yet. I decided to go ahead and order something while I started to take pictures around the restaurant. I could have just had another one of those great juices, but I wanted to order a bit more since I was getting this great opportunity. I ordered a quinoa croissant since I was still a little full from breakfast. I also got another juice. The food arrived, and it was sooo much better than last time. The croissant was warm and it came with butter and blueberry preserves. I don’t know if there was much quinoa in it, but however they made it was good!


After how much better this food was, I was vaguely planning on returning before I left. Today, I was actually planning on going to the much-cheaper Mutu that I discovered yesterday, but they were closed. There was no sign, so I don’t know what their hours are…

Anyway, I decided to come back to Greens. I made a few menu choices, but I was having trouble deciding. I asked the waiter his opinion and he chose the item that I was least likely to pick. I decided to go with it anyway. I got the caprese sandwich. The item was described as “buffalo mozzarella, basil, tomato, pesto and balsamic reduction on a whole wheat ciabatta.” This item was 90% organic. And of course, I also got juice.

I got the plate, and it was absolutely gorgeous! It came with a little salad that had a flower in it. I have heard about edible flowers in salads, but I had never seen one before! The flower had a surprisingly spicy flavor to it. The salad dressing was interesting. It was slightly sweet, but not sugary. It was brown and seemed to have freshly ground pepper in it. The salad was good (and interesting), but the sandwich was wonderful! It was toasted and it had far more tomato than I am used to eating. Despite my general dislike of tomatoes, they seem to be much better here (or maybe I am simply more open-minded about what I eat when I am traveling…). It had lots of fresh basil and a little bit of sweetness from the balsamic reduction. I think that the rest of the sandwich balanced out the sweetness so that it was just a hint instead of being a sweet and sugary sandwich.


IMG_0004 IMG_0006 IMG_0008


After all this food, I decided that I needed to try dessert. I was leaning towards their chestnut pie, but after how good the sandwich was I decided to take the waiter’s advice again. I still think that the pie would have been really good, but the chocolate and coffee mouse were great. I got the dessert, and it was unusually large for a rich mouse. I didn’t know where the coffee flavor came in until I managed to dig down a little bit. There was a second layer. The top layer was chocolate, and it was thick and creamy and very rich. The second layer was coffee, and it was fluffier and lighter. Unfortunately, I ate to the point that I felt slightly ill. Again. I seem to do that a lot…

I don’t know what the white bit on top is. I suspect that it is yogurt. I have heard that yogurt here is thin like this, but since I am not a yogurt fan I don’t have a basis of comparison. Either way, it didn’t add much flavor. It is pretty, though. The cookies were really good. They helped to mute the intense chocolate flavor until I dug down into the coffee part. They were a little crumbly and pretty tasty.

IMG_0009 IMG_0010 IMG_0012


Out of three visits, I will say that I really like this restaurant. I would definitely like to come back if I have time, but at this point I have quite a few restaurants to return to and not much time. Maybe I should put this restaurant lower on the list because I disliked the food the first time, but maybe not. The juice is always good, after all!

Update – 8/9/2013

Today is my last full day here in Peru. I got done with school early because of finals (I only had to drop my Photography portfolio off, so no Photography class), so I decided to have an early lunch before the farewell dinner tonight. I was really craving that juice again (I’ll need to look into a version of that I can make at home…) so I went to Greens. Now, I’m kind of wishing that I had tried something new for my meal (I got the Caprese sandwich again), but it was still very good. No flower in the salad this time, but they did have an appetizer they brought out. I think it was quinoa hummus (they have that on the other sandwich I was considering) with some carrot sticks. It was really good, with a bit of a kick without being super spicy. It was rather chunky, too.

IMG_1428For a bit of background on part of the reason I didn’t get the sandwich with hummus (which sounded really good), I finally gave in and went to Jack’s Cafe the other day with my Photography class. Many of the other students talk about how this place is great. A few have even said that this place has the best food in Peru. I hadn’t wanted to go to an American restaurant in Peru (1. they would get it wrong, 2. I am going back to America now). I was finally won over when they mentioned that it is a little bit Mediterranean. Maybe I got the wrong thing, but the salad I got was not very good tasting. It had some tomatoes cooked to the point of melting, some cheese, avocados, some eggplant that was really bitter, olives and a tiny bit of dressing. The lettuce pieces were too big for my mouth, and that’s saying something (and I really don’t like salads that you have to manually chop to fit into your mouth). It came with hummus and pesto to go with (pita, but not really) bread. I deliberately filled up on bread. That is not a good recommendation for a restaurant. Maybe I did pick the wrong thing, but the only reason I got this salad was because nothing else really sounded good. Even then, the hummus was really bland and I assumed that this was the style of hummus in Peru.

Anyway, back to Greens!

After my appetizer, juice and sandwich I decided that my last day in Peru should be spent trying to make myself Ill. I gave in and got the Chestnut pie. I have never had a chestnut before, and I somehow managed to dissolve the assumption that it would be similar to pecan pie in the US before I got it (I don’t know if I would have gotten it if I thought it would be like pecan pie…). Anyway, this was a truly spectacular dessert. It was a piece of pie with a small scoop of ice cream and caramel drizzled under the dessert. It also had a little crunchy, crumbly cookie with it. The pie was warm and it had a thick, buttery crust. It wasn’t crumbly, just sweet like a cookie that is heated and turning into crumbles. The filling of the pie was more like an apple pie than a pecan pie in design. It had the chestnuts tossed with something sweet and crumbly and warm (it was very similar to the crust). The caramel drizzled on the plate was not US caramel. It was a bit richer, but I still wished there was more. The ice cream was really interesting. It wasn’t smooth, it had an extremely crystalized texture. Personally, I really like that in an ice cream, but I know that a lot of people wouldn’t like that. What was really interesting was the flavor. Particularly when combined with the texture, it reminded me of snow ice cream (when you get snow from outside and mix it with milk, sugar and vanilla). It was really good.

IMG_1429 IMG_1433

I’m really glad that I went back. Even if I could have gotten something new off of the menu, I am glad that I finally got the chestnut pie. I have been eyeing it since I first saw it on the menu!


Mutu Food & Drink

Today I was planning on trying Greens again. I have had about 50/50 luck with their food so far, but I was really craving their juice (maybe I should just go for juice and dessert one day – they have a chestnut pie that sounds interesting…). On the way, I stumbled across this new restaurant, Mutu. The menu had items that were less than half of some of the more expensive meals at Greens, so I decided to try the new place. Despite the way I chose the restaurant, I ended up getting a more expensive meal.

I sat down and was given a menu. Unlike most restaurants (where it is pretty difficult to get a waiter once you’ve made up your mind about what to order) the waiter here decided to wait around and verbally told me the set menu. I had a bit of trouble understanding him. I understood that trout was involved, but I wasn’t sure if that was the main course or a ceviche. I decided to go ahead and order whatever it was and hope it wasn’t ceviche (this is one of the few things I was still trying to avoid because of trying to not get sick).

While I waited for my food I had the chance to look around. This was a very interesting restaurant visually. The walls were purple and everything had a clean, sleek and modern look. There were options for couch seating or table seating with clear plastic chairs that had cushions on them. In the back of the restaurant there was an area of seating that dipped down that was below a small indoor balcony section. One unusual part of the decor was the religious element that seemed to be involved. There was a line of pictures that looked religious, although I don’t know enough about any religion to identify what any of them might have meant.

IMG_1352 IMG_1353 IMG_1350 IMG_1351 IMG_1349

I really liked the bar design. It was made to look like it was made out of gold bricks. I also liked some of the light fixtures. There were several bunches of lights that hung from a circular fixture. The lights at the end were round bulbs that clustered together. There were little cupid-like figures attached to each light strand.

IMG_1348 IMG_1354

As I was looking around, a waiter brought out some bread for while I waited. I say bread because that is the easiest way to introduce what was brought out, but it wasn’t an average bread basket. The bread by itself wouldn’t have been good. It was several thin slices of some sort of baguette that was toasted to a crouton-like texture. It had some sort of butter/garlic on top. But with the bread was a little white bowl with a purple goop in it. It came with a cute wooden spoon to glop it onto the bread. I don’t know what it is, but I really wish I did know. It was mildly tangy, but pretty creamy tasting. It was really good. I tried to ask what it was, but the waiter didn’t know the english term for it and the Spanish term was too garbled sounding for me to make out. That makes me think that it is like that algarrobina ice cream flavor, where I couldn’t make out what it was because I didn’t know what it was.



As I munched on the bread, I got my passion fruit juice. I really am in love with this stuff! It is really sweet with a tangy hint to it. I looked up passion fruits online and it looks so gross, but it really tastes great!



From here I got a bit of an interesting twist. It turns out that I had ordered ceviche. It was a trout ceviche that came with two sauces. The left one is more lemony while the orange colored one was milder. The skewers of corn were interesting. They weren’t crunchy, but they weren’t soft like I’m used to corn being. It was a kind of soft and chewy texture, and they were sweet. Overall, it was really good. I don’t think that I would have ever ordered ceviche here deliberately, so I’m kind of glad that I accidentally got some!



After all that I finally got to the main course, which turned out to be a fried rice dish. It was really wonderful. There were some of those odd foam-like white noodles on top. It had sliced omelet-style egg, chicken, red pepper and some sort of green vegetable. I don’t know what it was. It was sliced very thin. Despite the fact that it didn’t seem undercooked it was extraordinarily crunchy. The rice was very well flavored. It wasn’t quite sweet and it wasn’t quite salty. The flavor wasn’t overwhelming, but it was also strong enough to be tasted when there was a big chunk of chicken or egg in the bite. I think the worst thing about this was that I ate too much (there really are some seriously huge dishes here!).



Despite the fact that I really didn’t need more food at this point, there was one more course. Dessert.

For dessert they brought out some flan. I haven’t had this here yet because I assume that flan is a pretty basic dessert that is widely available back home. But this was some seriously good flan. It was nice and creamy, and there was lots of the flavorful sauce. I think that a lot of flans that I have had back home don’t have enough of the thin brown sauce that comes with it. This one had enough, and I think the flavor was stronger, too.



All of this food came out to about $9.30 for the meal and $2.86 for the juice. The bill came in a cute little wooden boat.


On the way out, I found the written menu of what I ordered. Overall, I thought that this was a great restaurant. In addition to the great food, the service was really good. I was one of the two or three customers in the restaurant, but that didn’t seem to matter in other restaurants where the waiter disappears. Here it might have helped that my table didn’t put me in an area that was completely separated from the rest from the building, but it was overall much better service. My dishes were taken away when I was finished with them (as opposed to 10-20 minutes later, if at all), someone checked in on me to see if everything was alright after my food arrived (as opposed to not seeing a waiter until I spend 10 minutes trying to catch their eye and flag them down for the bill), and they were generally friendly and willing to talk to me and explain the menu.


Based on everything, I would say that I definitely plan to go back. I only wish I had found out about them sooner!

Don Esteban & Don Pancho

UPDATED! 8-1-2013

Since I have a long weekend, I’m just sitting around procrastinating on my homework. So, that means that I decided to have a blog post about all of the random snacks that I have come across in an attempt to have more than two meals per day! This has been a bit difficult here. I tried going to a grocery story to see what was available to take to school for lunch. Unfortunately, most of what they have is stuff that requires cooking. So, I got into the unfortunate habit of eating Snickers for lunch.

At first, I had been stopping by a bakery/cafe to pick up a chocolate croissant (I know, soo much better than a Snickers!) on the way to school. La Valeriana Bake Shop was an interesting seeming place. There were small chandeliers and it had a bit of a French feel to it. Unfortunately, I found that I didn’t like the service. Ordering was difficult, especially if there were multiple people there. I never really figured out if you were supposed to place your order to a waiter, over the counter, or at the cash register. Also, while waiting for my order to be processed there was really no place to wait that was out of the way. Maybe this just wasn’t supposed to be a take-away sort of place, but either way it left me feeling bad about buying food there. That is not a good place to eat at, I think.

In addition to the service, I found that I didn’t really like their food. The chocolate croissant was good, but the rest of it was just edible. This mushroom and onion empanada was kind of good tasting, but it had my stomach churning afterwards. That was the end of me trying a small after school snack before dinner!mushroom empanada


This was a french profiterole. It looked so pretty that I wanted to try it, but it was pretty bland tasting.French pastry

This was the last thing I tried there. It was a toffee covered brownie. Unfortunately, the brownie was pretty crunchy on the edges and the toffee didn’t really add much to it. Hardly any flavor.

Toffee Brownie

So, on to the Snickers!

Fortunately, I have recently found a little coffee shop that has baked goods called Don Esteban & Don Pancho. Not only are they really friendly and helpful there, but I think that their options are better and tastier than the ones I tried in La Valeriana Bake Shop. To be fair, I haven’t tried anything off of either menu, just the baked goods.

New Store

Here is an example of a chocolate croissant. I think that it is from the new place. They are pretty similar in the two places. A giant, puffed up croissant with a layer of rich chocolate in the middle. It doesn’t look like much chocolate, but the flavor is rich enough that it is enough for the pastry. You can get it heated up, but I like mine cold. The chocolate has a slightly crunchy texture from being heated up in the oven when it was baked.

chocolate crossiant croissant 2

One discovery that I have made at this new place is their apple pastry. The pastry is denser and sweeter than the chocolate croissant, and it pairs perfectly with the shredded apple in the middle.

apple croissant apple 2

They also have this lovely bread here. I don’t know what it is called, but it is that type of bread that is nice and crusty on the outside and fluffy inside. This would be perfect heated up with some butter! I think I have access to a microwave. Now I just need to find some butter…

crusty bread

This new place also has a bit of a confusing way of ordering if you are not used to it, but this way of ordering doesn’t seem to change and the people who work there are always willing to help. The part of the store with pastries and baked goods is a tall shelf with baskets of the options. They aren’t labeled, but you can always ask what is what. When you decide what you want you take a little basket and use a set of tongs to take your selection to the counter. There they bag it (after offering to microwave it) and send you further down to the cash register.

IMG_1335 IMG_1336 IMG_1337

I have also tried both the apple crumble and the lemon pie. They were both really good. The apple was a bit more minced than in the US. I have recently heard that you can get it with ice cream if you eat it in the restaurant! Maybe I should try that next. The lemon pie was really good. It was a little sweet and a little tart with a gooey meringue on top.

IMG_1319 IMG_1342

Recently, I decided to try actually eating something off of the menu! I ordered a caprese spaghetti dish and passion fruit juice. The juice was incredibly awesome. The pasta was pretty good. I don’t eat pasta often enough to know just how filling pasta can be, so I think I overate. In addition, there weren’t many tomatoes and the cheese was in odd chunks. Still, the overall flavor was good. I just needed to eat less! My decision for both of these items was based off of the suggestion of a girl from Canada who was sitting next to me. She moved over to my table, and we had a really interesting conversation. Apparently American food really is bad. The term she used to describe it from when she had visited the US was “junky” and I found myself fully agreeing. In addition, it was a bit of a foreign concept to her that we only eat pre-packaged grocery store bread. Where she is from it is more common to buy from bakeries with fresh bread.

IMG_1338 IMG_1334 IMG_1333 IMG_1332

I really like this new place, and I look forward to trying new things. Just last night I tried a bread roll that had a nice crusty outside and a soft inside. It would have been perfect heated up with some butter!



I have been looking forward to this since before I left home, and I finally got to make chocolate from scratch – well, just about!

During the last few weeks, I have been staking out the ChocoMuseo. Not only was I signing up for the chocolate making class, but the people who work there are all fun and friendly. And they have a cafe. Though, it was somewhat difficult to find the place to begin with. I went to one place labeled ChocoMuseo. It was just a small storefront. From there, I went around the corner, up an alleyway, and into a courtyard. There was another place there labeled ChocoMuseo. It was just their workshop. From there, I went up a set of stone stairs hidden in the corner and finally found the real place. And now I go there far too often to try different things from their menu!



The building is made up of six parts and two balconies. When you first walk in you are in the area where you pay. There is the front desk and shelves with various merchandise (aprons, mortar and pestle sets, Willy Wonka movie, chocolate, chocolate soap, chocolate deodorant, and more…) From here, you walk straight forward to reach the central room. There is more merchandise here, and balcony #1 is straight ahead. To the left is the kitchen, both the cafe one and the workshop one. To the right is a room a few steps down that has tables if you are there for the cafe. Balcony #2 is in here. There are also a bunch of signs on the walls with facts that outline a rough history of chocolate. The last two sections are both upstairs, above the kitchen or the cafe. In one, there is a little more seating and a movie that plays on a loop about chocolate making. I haven’t spent much time up here. The other section is also part of the chocolate making tour. There is a cacao tree replica and a bunch of bean-bags that are made out of cacao beans shells. There are some more signs up here. Despite the number of times I’ve been here, I have not managed to read all of the signs!IMG_1413 IMG_1409 IMG_1410 IMG_1423

In addition to the menu in the cafe, they have daily

This mayan hot chocolate was good, but I think that I got a little over-enthusiastic on just about everything and put too much in!

Mayan hot chocolate

This is the cocoa tea and the chocolate fondue. One piece of advice: don’t drink the cocoa tea while eating chocolate – it just tastes like hot water!fondue

These crepes were really good. They had chocolate and bananas in them. I got a coffee with a chocolate tasting with it. I thought that I was getting something else for the drink, but it was pretty good. Maybe a bit too strong for me and it would have been better separate from the crepe.crepe


chocolate tasting

This was a bit of a mistake. I had just eaten lunch and was somewhat full. I thought that the banana muffin with a side of fruit sounded good. I also thought that I should have something to drink, so I got the milkshake. After the fondue, I expected a small side, not one the size of my head! Either way, it was really good. The fruit was good and it had honey on it. The milkshake was like really rich chocolate milk.big meal





Today, I planned on leaving the hotel half an hour before my 11am class. Unfortunately, I left 10 minutes late and ended up arriving just on time and slightly out of breath. After that, some of the others were 5-10 minutes late and I was just standing around…

The class started with us giving up our jackets and backpacks in exchange for an apron. We left the kitchen area and went up into one of the two lofts in the room where there was a cocoa tree replica. We got to learn a little history about cocoa trees and beans. Apparently there are three types of cacao trees. One produces sweeter cacao beans but has a smaller production rate. One produces bitter cacao beans and has a higher production rate. The third is a hybrid of the two. Inside a cacao pod (which is oval and approximately the size of an open hand) there are the cacao seeds and a white pulp (which is sweet and edible). Seeds were distributed by monkeys who ate the white pulp and spat the seeds onto the ground. This is probably a really good thing because raw cacao seeds cause hallucinations. Hallucinating monkeys could be a bad thing…

From there, we went back to the kitchen. We were given some cacao beans that we could eat. This was before they were roasted but after they were fermented (…no hallucinations…). They were difficult to peel. There was only a thin skin to peel off, and I ended up cracking mine on the counter like birds do to nuts. After that, we put the remaining beans into a clay oven/bowl that we took turns stirring over a fire. The beans were roasted until they started to make a loud popping sound and smell really good (like brownies in the oven).

clay oven clay oven 2


After that, the beans were spread out on the counter to cool a little. Once they were cool, we began to peel them. Unlike before, it was really easy. You just grip the bean and twist in two directions. The shell comes right off in two large pieces.

Then, we got to try grinding the beans the mayan way: with a mortar and pestle. In reality, the mayans used a giant stone with a curved stone that they rocked over the beans. We got little individual bowls and a contest to see who could do the best job. At first it seemed simple, but soon the paste stuck to the walls in one giant chunk that I just kept putting pressure on. I thought mine wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the best.



ground cacao


After this strenuous work, we were told that we were going to use a grinder to finish the job. We got to take turns turning the crank on a metal grinder that turned our paste/powder into paste.



chocolate paste


Then, it was time for the drink portion of the event. The tea that had been brewing from our discarded shells was ready. It was really good. It smells and tastes a little like chocolate.

cocoa tea


Next, we got to try a traditional (somewhat) mayan hot chocolate drink. It consists of the cocoa paste, hot water and human blood. We substituted sugar for the blood (thus the somewhat traditional). At this point we also got to learn about how mayans used cocoa beans as currency. It cost about 10 beans for a guinea pig, 15 beans for a prostitute and 100 beans for a slave.

Murkey chocolate mayan chocolate


Our last drink was European hot chocolate. This was probably the best hot chocolate I have ever had! It had some of the cocoa paste, hot milk, cloves, cinnamon and sugar. We all took turns using a traditional wooden stick to whisk the mixture to make foam. Apparently it is also necessary to sing while whisking.

paste in pitcure






European Chocolate


Then, we got to learn about how the paste that we made (and proceeded to drink) can be further refined to make two components: cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

cocoa powder and butter


Next, we got to go into the other half of the kitchen and see some of the heavy machinery that they use to make professional chocolate. This machine spins and stirs the chocolate for 24 hours to make sure that all of the sugar crystals get dissolved.



This person is using a marble slab to control the temperature of the chocolate (I believe that he is tempering it, but I haven’t done enough research to be sure. Tempering is when the chocolate takes on the right texture and becomes shiny. Without tempering chocolate may take on that white film that people associate with old or bad chocolate.) He is currently scraping the chocolate back into a bowl.

marble slab


We also got to see some of the chocolate being made that is sold in the shop. They took chocolate and poured it into a plastic bag inside a pitcher. From there, they tied off the plastic bag and cut off a corner to pour into the waiting molds.

store bars


Here are the bars I made. The chocolate I poured in wasn’t chocolate that I made myself because it takes over 24 hours to make it, but I did do most of the steps. For my chocolate bars, I chose milk chocolate (I wish that I had picked dark chocolate. I tried it before from the store, but I couldn’t remember if it was milk or dark.). I was planning on bringing some home, but I think that I will eat them all within a few days! I will bring some from the store home, and I also hope to try making this at home. I tried a bunch of different flavors for my chocolate bars. I did one plain one, one with crushed almond, one with cocoa nibs, one with milk and someones leftover dark chocolate, one with cinnamon and one with cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. The last one was surprisingly the best, I thought!

my bars


After this last step, we were told to come back in about an hour. I went out for lunch and wandered around for a bit. I came back a little after an hour and they weren’t set yet. I blame that on the fact that I shopped some more.

Despite the fact that I didn’t take home the chocolate that I made, I thought that this was more than worth the 70s/. ($25) I spent on it. It was really fun and informative. I still think that I would like to try this at home. Since I’m not planning on opening a business out of it, the chocolate won’t be quite as good. I won’t be able to grind the cocoa beans as finely and I won’t have the $500 machine to make it smoother, but the flavor should still be good and I can still say that it is homemade chocolate without the preservatives or the add-ins that companies use to expand shelf-life and quantities!


Update 8/9/2013 (I also added some details about the layout of the place up above.)

I went back one more time last night. I got some hot chocolate (European style with cinnamon and cloves) and just said goodbye to the place. I think that this place is what I will miss most about Peru! I also accidentally ordered a brownie. Oops! I had ordered the banana muffin with fruit (the fruit sounded really good!), but when they were out of it I panicked and ordered the brownie instead of just having the hot chocolate…

The brownie was good, it was just really chocolatey! It was dense, like a flour-less cake.


There is this guy who works there who is always encouraging me and helping me to speak Spanish. I told him that I was leaving and he stopped for a moment to tell me that he’ll miss me and to give me a hug. This is a large part of why I’ll miss this place. Yes, the chocolate is probably better than most, if any, that I could find in the US. But the atmosphere and the employees are all so welcoming and friendly and warm. I just loved being there.

Sacred Valley: Ollantaytambo, Pisac and Chinchero

For the students who signed up through USL, this study abroad trip included several tours. By signing up through USIL, these tours were not included. Luckily, once I got here and we realized that these trips weren’t included the USIL students all found out what travel agency these tours were through and managed to get added on. I knew that I wanted the Macchu Picchu tour. It would almost seem embarrassing to come all the way to Cusco, Peru and not see Macchu Picchu! There were two other tours offered. One was a tour of Cusco city. I’m not sure why I didn’t sign up for it now, but that might be because of how great this tour was. The other tour offered was the Sacred Valley tour. I hesitated on purchasing this one. It was another $75, and I was planning to go to Pisac to shop the weekend before anyway. I ended up deciding that it might be worth it, and I am really glad that I did!

The tour started around 8am, so I got up at 6:30am to have time to get ready and eat breakfast. This felt like a ridiculously early time to be up on a Sunday. I thought that the tour was supposed to last until around 4pm (I really don’t remember where I heard that from…), which would be a pretty long tour. In reality, it lasted until a little after 7pm!

The tour started out with what should have been close to a 40 minute or an hour bus ride (I am basing this off of the time it took to get to Pisac by myself). Instead, we got our first surprise. We had an extra stop that wasn’t included in the package (that I know of). We stopped at the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary. Looking online, I found that it is a family owned organization that started in 2007. It helps to rescue abused animals or to help animals that are in danger of extinction. Some of the animals we got to see included alpaca (huacaya and suri), pumas, tropical birds, vicuna and condors. There were other animals, but I’m not sure what types. The group was large and I didn’t hear everything (or remember everything!).DSC_0001 DSC_0003 DSC_0005 DSC_0006


Don’t you love how they pose?DSC_0007 DSC_0012

This is the vicuna.DSC_0013



Condor. This bird is very important in Peruvian history. It is related to the vulture.DSC_0022 DSC_0027


From there, we went on to Pisac, the first stop in our itinerary. During the bus ride, we learned some interesting information from our guide. Apparently, it is incorrect to refer to the people of the ancient Incan civilization as Incas. There was only one Inca: the king. The rest of the people were called Quechua, and they are still around today with people still speaking the Quechua language.

When we arrived in Pisac, we drove up to the top of this hill in the bus, and then we walked, and walked, and walked…

Luckily, we didn’t walk all the way down to the town below, but by the way I felt we might have! We got to see some ruins, and the views were spectacular! On the way, there was a guy playing the flute. It really was magical feeling to be listening to a flute in the mountains.DSC_0040




This may be hard to make out in the picture, but this entire cliff was an ancient graveyard. Each little hole in the wall leads to a tomb with a mummified body in it.


Looking back, I wish that I had gotten more pictures of different things, like the main part of the city or pictures in the city itself. After the exhausting hike, we went down to the Pisac market. I am really glad that I went separately! When I told people that I was going to go the week before this tour they seemed to think that it was odd, but during this tour we only had 25 minutes to shop! That is not enough in a market that I got lost in several times and never managed to see all of it! Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on how you look at it…) I was very low on cash (aka: I spent it all at the animal shelter instead of using a credit card) so I just looked around. You would think that I would spend that time taking pictures, but apparently not. Our meeting spot was this colonial-era oven that bakes some great empanadas. Luckily, those were provided to us without a need of cash! It was very good. It was a fresh-from-the-oven onion and cheese empanada. DSC_0057



From here, I was pretty exhausted, so I’ll blame my use of my iPhone instead of my big camera on that…

Our next stop was lunch, luckily. I was pretty hungry. Unfortunately, the area was so beautiful (and I was so hungry) that I forgot to take pictures of the food… It was a very good buffet and they had very expensive bottled water that I needed to borrow someone’s cash to buy. (Seriously, it cost 7s/. compared to the 1 or 2s/. that it costs in other places!)

Out back, there was a garden with some alpaca and a river.20130724-200847.jpg


This is a picture of the back of the actual restaurant.



There was a spot where you could walk right up to the river. I was tempted to dip a toe in it, but it was rather mossy looking this close to the bank. There were some kids having fun throwing rocks into the river, and overall it was pretty peaceful feeling to be able to just be there.





From there, the next stop was Ollantaytambo. Let me just say that I hate stairs now. Seriously, those were bad stairs. Considering that the ancient peruvian societies are known for their stonework, you would think that their stone stairs would be straighter or more evenly placed! The steps were all at different heights from each other and the stones that made up the steps were sticking out at odd angles. Overall, I am happy that I didn’t injure myself. Though I did manage to get a slightly sore ankle and very sore calf muscles.20130724-200950.jpg


This face carved into the cliff was part of a legend that the ancient civilization had. Apparently a man who looked very different than they looked came and helped them. It was prophesied that he would return when they needed him. Our guide said that when the Spanish came (the first of whom were actually prisoners that Spain wanted to get rid of) that they thought that the prophesy was coming true.

To the right of the face is a food storage system that used windows to keep the food cool from the breeze.




On our way to the last stop we had another surprise stop. We went to a weaving shop where they use traditional weaving techniques. We got to see a demonstration of some of their processes. They use a root to clean the wool. When they grate the root and mix it with water it bubbles up and works like soap.

We also got to see different ingredients that are used to dye the wool. A purple corn is used for purple; flowers are used for yellow; some sort of plant is used for orange; seeds are used for blue; leaves are used for green; some sort of bug that lives in cacti are used for red. The guy who was demonstrating took something off of the cactus leaf that was too small to see and smashed it on his hand. It left a somewhat large puddle of red goop that looked like blood. He demonstrated dying wool with dried red dye mixed with water. Different amounts of time mean different depths of color. Then he showed how salt, which is used to make the color set, changes the red to a more orange color.

We also got to briefly see wool being spun, thread being twisted together, and a cloth being made on a loom. This is another example of a time that it was a good thing that I was out of cash.



The last place we visited was the least exciting to me. It was a church. It was very beautiful inside, but no pictures were allowed. It was very pretty, but at that point I was very tired and very cold!

This tour was great, and I am really looking forward to Macchu Picchu in two weeks!


Moray & Maras: Farming & Salt

Last weekend (I know, I should be doing these posts quicker!), I went on a trip to two nearby areas. The first one was called Maras. The trip there was really great. It was about an hour long bus ride, and the group reserved the USIL bus. The bus driver we had was fun and informative, and he also stopped the bus several times in scenic locations so that we could enjoy the sights. Overall, it had me reminiscing about my trips with People to People, where we just about lived on a bus that was rented for our group.DSC_0061

Here next to the bus are some mud bricks drying in the sun.DSC_0067

We finally arrived in Maras. It was an absolutely beautiful day. Here is a picture that shows the entire area.


Looking up, I could barely see the winding road that we took through the mountainous area. Luckily, I managed to catch a car driving down the path, which had a trail of dust behind it. I hope it shows up okay here.


The salt in these mine come from water. From what I think our bus driver/guide said (he only spoke Spanish, so there may have been a translation issue), the salty water is a naturally occurring phenomenon. This picture shows where the small stream of water begins in the area.


Here is the path of the small stream heading towards the salt mines. The stream goes between the alcoves of salt that are mines, and I assume that it is redirected into empty alcoves when it is needed. Our guide told us to stick our hand into the water to taste it. The water was surprisingly warm, and the salt content was similar to what you would try to achieve when gargling warm salt water for a sore throat.
DSC_0084From what I could understand, the salt is left in the alcoves for 15-20 days to let the water evaporate. From there, I believe that there is just salt left over for the owner of the alcove to mine. Each little alcove has one person who owns the area to work.

From this picture, you can see that there are different colors of salt. Some of the salt is for people and some is for animals. In addition, the gift shops nearby sell white and pink salt.

I found it interesting how the salt stuck to everything. Even the walls by the stream looked like they were coated in snow!

My group walked out along the narrow ledges on the top level of the area. We went almost to the end of the mine. It was a really fascinating experience to see how something so basic, like salt, is produced. Now I just need to find a pepper farm to complete my set!


Next, we drove to Moray. From what I could find online, people believe that Moray was an agricultural experiment. The different circular levels are all slightly different temperatures, which probably allowed the Incas to see how temperature affects crops. There were two different circles. One looked much newer and better maintained while the other one appeared to have been left alone. The better maintained one had some water damage recently, so people weren’t allowed to walk down into the center, but the older looking one didn’t have a restriction like that.



The rock ledges were huge! Here is a picture with some people for reference. To navigate the ledges, the Incas built their own unique version of stairs into the rock wall. The stairs consisted of three or four rocks that stuck out about a foot that you could climb. These appeared to be on all of the ledges in at least one spot.DSC_0090 DSC_0109

All over the place there were rock piles. I don’t really know their purpose, but there were a lot of big rock piles on the ledges of the older looking circle as well as a small one in the center. On the way back up, there were a bunch of small, almost decorative rock piles in a small clearing on the pathway. It was very interesting, and I wonder how they came to be and why they exist.


Overall, I really enjoyed this trip. I had been a little concerned about being able to keep up after the last trip I went on, but I had little to no problem with this larger group. It really was a beautiful day. It was nice and warm, and I didn’t even need a jacket! I hope that the trip to the Sacred Valley this weekend is as fun as this trip was!

Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse

Today I had my midterm tests, so I planned to eat somewhere that I had been wanting to eat for awhile. Uchu Peruvian Steakhouse was highly recommended online, and I have been wanting to try it for awhile. I have been a big steak fan in the past, but during this trip I haven’t had any meat other than chicken or trout (both of which have been excellent, but I was wanting to try some famous peruvian steak!).

The restaurant is in an interesting little courtyard. I’m lucky that I stumbled across it before now, or I might have had some trouble finding it! I went in and was greeted by a waiter who spoke to me a little. When he found out that I am here to learn Spanish, he offered to only speak Spanish. He was very nice and helpful with the menu.

The decor of the restaurant was very interesting. The aqua walls were a very vibrant color to choose, and I found myself liking the decor more as I spent time in the restaurant.



After I ordered, I got my hot tea to drink while I waited as well as the water I ordered (I am trying to consciously drink more water because it is easy to forget). A few minutes after that, I got a small dish of olives to snack on while I waited for my food. The olives were interesting. They had the normal, slightly bitter taste that olives have, but there was also a slightly sweet taste that came before the bitterness. I wonder if they were marinated with onions or something similar because I saw a small, almost clear something in the sauce in the bottom of the dish. Either way, it was a good and interesting start to the meal.



Then the main course came out. It was very impressive and very good. I got steak skewers on the waiter’s suggestion instead of a full steak. I think that I might get the full steak if I return, just because I like my steak so rare. The steak was served on a sizzling hot square of volcanic rock. It came with four dipping sauces as well as a side of potatoes (of my choice) and a salad.


The salad was very good. It had sautéed onions, avocados, marinated red peppers and a nice sweet dressing that went very well with it. For the potatoes, my waiter suggested the fries, but that didn’t sound very good with a steak. So, I took his second suggestion, which was the “hot chili and peanut mashed potatoes.” He said that they are just a little bit hot, but I didn’t find them hot at all – just flavorful!

The steak was marinated with a “traditional sauce made of panca chilies, corn beer, cumin, garlic cream, vinegar, black beer, parsley and oregano,” according to their online menu. The four sauces it came with were interesting and very good. The top left one was a little bit sweet and had a kick to it. The top right one was a bit too spicy for me to enjoy more than a taste or two. The bottom right sauce was a butter with herbs. The last one, the green one, was kind of minty tasting, but without the kick that Indian mint sauces have. Overall, I enjoyed all but the spicy one in the upper right corner, and even that wasn’t bad. I managed to completely clear my plate! The only downside to this was that I discovered that I may be losing my taste for steak. It was very good, but I didn’t find it to be better than the chicken and trout and soup that I’ve had while I’ve been here.

I still might return before I leave Peru. My list of restaurants to return to is growing, and soon I will run out of time. Still, this was an excellent meal and the service was wonderful!

Inka Grill

Today for lunch, I decided to visit one of the few ground-level restaurants in the Plaza. I had seen it before, and I was interested because it was a very pretty looking restaurant.


I went in and was seated in the corner. Unfortunately, it was right under the music speaker, so it was a bit louder than I might have hoped. The table was set up with one chair one booth seat. The booth seat was more like a couch than a booth. It was soft and squishy without the big straight back that many booths have.

The interior design was interesting. It was very blue, and there was a low, over-hanging ceiling over the section I was in. It is difficult to see in the picture, but there is a giant (like 2-3 feet tall) blob of differently colored candle wax. It seems like they light new ones on top and let the wax drip down. This kind of stuck out like it didn’t belong with the rest of the decor, but I thought it was interesting. It was on a table with a set up showing different ingredients being prepared, like grains being ground in a mortar and pestle.


While I waited for my food, they brought out a baskets of chips. There were potato chips and some sort of orange chip. The orange chips weren’t sweet like sweet potatoes, so I wonder if they were some other sort of potato that we don’t have in the US. The chips came with a mint dipping sauce. It was a sweet sort of mint, not spicy like you might find in an Indian restaurant. It was an odd sounding combination, but it was very good!


For my meal, I ordered a vegetarian risotto. I had asked for a suggestion off of the menu, but afterwards I decided that I wanted something with vegetables in it. This may not have been the choice if I was trying to be healthy, or frugal, but it was very good. It had a rich, cheesy taste and lots of vegetables. There were mushrooms and asparagus. There were also bits of a red vegetable and bits of a white one, but I don’t know what they were. The asparagus really was wonderful. Peru is supposed to have good asparagus, but I heard that it is usually really expensive here because they export it. I definitely want to have some asparagus in the future, maybe when I can taste more of the vegetable and less of the risotto (not that the risotto wasn’t worth having again!).


Now, after I finished the entire, giant plate of rich risotto, I decided to pig out a little more and get dessert. I got a poached pear that came with cinnamon ice cream. The pear was warm and sweet, and it went perfectly with the small scoop of very strongly flavored cinnamon ice cream. It was very good, and I wouldn’t mind trying to make something similar back home. I have been wanting to try making risotto for awhile, so maybe I can use this idea for dessert!


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