Turkey 2012

Visiting Turkey; Istanbul and Ephesus in 2012

Turkey 2012 Turkey 2012

Vietnam & Bangkok 2009

Vietnam & Bangkok- 17 days July 2009

Vietnam & Bangkok 2009 Vietnam & Bangkok 2009

Morocco 2012

Morocco; Marrakech, Fez, Volubilis, Meknes and Casablanca in October of 2012

Morocco 2012 Morocco 2012

Japan 2011

Sushi, Shrines and Shinkansen; 8 Days in Tokyo and Kyoto in April 2011

Japan 2011 Japan 2011

Rome 2009

Mozzarella, Museums & Macchiato; A Week in Rome, October 2009

Rome 2009 Rome 2009

Market in Chinchero Peru

by wired2theworld on July 1, 2014

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While up at the church, I’d mistakenly thought that’s where the market also was for the town. So imagine my surprise when we got the bottom of the town and saw the dozens of rows of market stalls covered with open air thatched roofs, a small black pig rampaging though seller’s vegetables laid neatly on the ground, and hundreds of people doing their weekly marketing and bartering.

This was the market I’d wanted to see. Yes, there were several stalls selling local handicrafts, but most of them were food; dozens of types of potatoes, herbs, vegetables, fresh fish, cut up chickens. There were stalls selling soup which I desperately wanted to try but alas, did not. Below are the photos from our walk around the market.

The pig, above in one of his calmer moments.

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I’m not really sure what they were, some sort of puffed and baked flour based thing, but the treats on the left above were a bit sweet, chewy and delicious.

We saw these three wheeled bikes all over, used as local “taxis”, all with their own signature decoration. Very much like tuk tuks in Thailand.

 

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Chinchero Peru; Church and A Wedding

by wired2theworld on June 28, 2014

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At the top of the hill the church sits low atop stones which predate Columbus, whitewashed against a blue sky with looming clouds. At 9am sharp a man climbs into the bell tower and the clanging of the bells begins. We’d come to Chinchero, high up the mountains of the Sacred Valley, and suddenly bells were clanging and banging instead of ringing and pealing. There was no gentleness in the sound, but as soon as it stopped there was a silence tempered by only a bit of wind and a baby’s cry.

Video of the clanging bells and church square:

The morning, our first full day in Peru and Palm Sunday (though we saw little evidence of celebration), started at our hotel where we were met by one of Percy’s colleagues, a young Peruvian woman with a name so unusual that neither of us can remember it now. She met us in the hotel lobby and escorted us to the car which was one of the ubiquitous Toyota sedans seen all over the world.

Our first destination was the high mountain town of Chinchero which sits at almost 12,500 feet. I was nervous that the altitude might affect how I felt on the first day, being up that high, but I felt fine save a bit winded while walking uphill. Before we left, I really debated the order in which we’d do our 3 days of sightseeing in the Sacred Valley. Many people visit the town of Pisac because the market is supposed to be the largest in the region on that day, but I’d also been told the one in Chinchero was smaller and more “authentic”. I wanted to see a real working market, filled with food and goods for the local residents, not just stuff for tourists. So for this first day we scheduled Chinchero, Maras and Moray, leaving Ollantaytambo and Pisac for another day.

Note: Knowing what I know now, I think I would have tried to include Pisac in this day, or for the day we drove to Cusco, if only to avoid the extra driving back and forth we had on that second day of touring. Then, I would have found a way to visit Ollantaytambo on our own from Urubamba and had a half day to spend at the resort.

The drive to Chinchero took about half an hour. Our first stop was at a weaver’s cooperative. Yes, this is a very touristy place, but we did see a very interesting presentation on how all different manner of natural ingredients from roots, to mosses, to lichen to herbs are used to create vibrant natural dyes. We bought a sweater for David and a couple of scarves. While it turned out the prices there were much higher than we’d encounter later, I was happy to support the local women who worked there.

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The next stop was to buy the Bolleto Touristico because the entire town was included as a “tourist site” and necessitated this ticket. Once we’d purchased it with soles, we realized we  did not have enough soles left if we’d wanted to buy anything later and there’s no ATM in the town. We ended up changing some US dollars at a money changer and the exchange rate was ok. From here we walked uphill toward the town’s main church which has been there for hundreds of years.

Along the way we ran into a wedding procession. I don’t think I’ve seen a such visibly unhappy wedding party in my life. The bride and groom were a bit older and I never once saw her smile, not even as she walked into the church.

Chinchero62The church itself is quite old and has frescos and paintings which have clearly been adapted and altered to fit the Christian conquerors ideas of “proper” religious imagery. Our guide pointed out several images which were pagan gods which had been “reimagined” to look like Jesus but with some symbolism and colors relating to the indigenous people. The church itself sits on Inca foundations.


Unfortunately, we were unable to take photos inside the church, but trust me, it’s worth a visit. The photos above are from the outside, under the porticos entrance. We left before services, and the wedding mass, began.

Outside we saw the first of what would be many agricultural terraces on the hillside behind the church as well as the ancient stacked stone walls.

Here is a video of the square in front of the church. No clanging bells this time:

In the square in front of the church, there were several women selling things and I asked our guide about the market I’d heard was so good. Gesturing to the women in the square, she told us it was too early  and it would get busy later in the day. I was massively disappointed because I’d told Percy my whole point of visiting Chinchero was to see the market which I assumed was right here. Our guide told us there was another market we could see at the bottom of the hill where we’d meet the car. Resigned, we started walking down.

Coming next, the real Chinchero Market….

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The Tambo Del Inka Resort, Urubamba, Peru

June 19, 2014
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As we pulled into the Tambo Del Inka (TDI) it was just coming on dark and almost 24 hours since we’d left home. Needless to say we were a bit road weary but the beauty of the resort was evident as soon as we got out of the car. Soaring wood ceilings and a giant fireplace greet you (as well as friendly door men) as soon as you walk in. We were met by a reservation concierge, and rather than checking in at a “front desk” we were brought to seats in the lobby, offered tea, and the check in process was done there.

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Because of our SPG Gold status we were upgraded to a Deluxe Room from a Superior Room. As far as I can tell the only difference is that the Deluxe rooms are on the ground floor and open out onto a private patio with lounge chairs. Superior rooms are up one level and have what looks like an enclosed “balcony” but you can’t get outside.

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 Above, our room. Below, our patio.

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The room is huge with a king sized bed, walk in closet, sofa, desk, and two chairs set in front of the terrace doors with a small round table. The bathroom has three separate areas with double sinks and mirror in the center, a frosted glassed-in toilet room, and a clear glass “wet room” with tub and separate shower. Our room was on the river side of the property, and while we could hear it, it was only slightly visible through the foliage.

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The grounds of the hotel are beautiful as is the pool. I never used the pool but David did once and said it was heated and nice. Half of the pool is inside and half extends outside.

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We never ate in …

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The Road to Urubamba Peru

June 17, 2014
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Even though we’d been traveling for for what felt like days by the time we arrived at the airport in Cusco, there was no way I was going to sleep in the car on the way to the Tambo Del Inka hotel in Urubamba. I got my camera out, “just in case” as the car wound its way through the outskirts of Cusco and into the mountains.

Our first impressions of Cusco were not those quaint colonial cobbled streets with whitewashed buildings you see in postcards. This was a much grittier side of the city, one which I doubt many tourists see except from the window of a car, as we did.

Soon we were outside the city and up into the high valley.

Below, driving into the town of Poroy. If you take the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, you will be bused to this town as the train no longer leaves from the center of Cusco.

Out here in the high plains is where we heard from several people that the new Cusco “International” Airport will be built over the next decade, replacing the one in the city center and allowing for larger airplanes and faster access to Machu Picchu. The massive jump in tourists this will bring is a scary thought.

Near the end of the drive we stopped at this viewpoint for photos. The girl in the post’s top photo was there with her mother and their donkey, and she was just so adorable. It was all I could do not to pinch those cheeks!

Below, who are those two tired looking old people and why does that guy have a donkey’s tail? ;-)

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How to Plan a Visit to Machu Picchu Plus Checklist and Tips

June 14, 2014
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Visiting Machu Picchu; this is the whole point of going to Peru for the first time, right? And there are so many decisions to be made before you get there.

You can, of course, have a tour company take care of all the details for you, but if you want to do it yourself, and save some money in the process then there are several steps and decisions to be made.

Do we do a tour? How do we get tickets? How do we get there? Do we spend a night up there? Let’s tackle the questions one at a time. Also, lets assume we are not arriving to Machu Picchu via four day trek on the Inka Trail (because, um..no way) and these questions would have been taken care of for us.

Do we do a tour? 

After looking at the options and considering the costs, our decision was no, we did not need to do a tour. By taking care of everything ourselves, we saved 50% over the cost of going through our hotel and probably 30% over going with an outside tour company.

To give you an example, our hotel wanted $475 per person for a day tour to Machu Picchu which included train, bus, entrance ticket, guided tour, and buffet lunch (plus lots of hand holding, I’m sure). They were also willing to sell us the tickets without the tour, but the markup was still about 40% overall. We spent a total of $464 for the day for two of us for all the tickets (train, bus, entrance) and lunch. We also did not hire a guide for the visit to Machu Picchu itself and this was fine for us. The biggest part of the expense were the train tickets, about $155 per person

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Planning a Trip to Peru; Tips, Reviews and Recommendations

June 9, 2014
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We’ve wanted to visit Peru for over a decade but while it’s always been in the top five of places-we-want-to-go, it never made the cut until now. Perhaps we thought we needed to have two full weeks so we could include the Amazon and Lake Titicaca as well as Machu Picchu. In the end, we decided we were willing to go for only nine days and stick to the Sacred Valley, Cusco, and Lima for this trip and we’re certainly happy we did.

This visit to Peru was our first time in South America and qualifies as our 6th continent, but who’s counting? ;-)

Booking the Flights:

One of the things which helped us decide to go on the trip was the availability of a non-stop flight from LAX to Lima on LAN Airlines. This cuts the travel time from a minimum of 12 hours with a layover somewhere like El Salvador (been there, done that) to 8.5 hours. The fact that it was a red-eye meant that we could leave after work on a Friday night and be in the Sacred Valley by Saturday afternoon after a change of planes in Lima to Cusco. Oh, the best laid plans…

While researching airfare, I learned that LAN usually does a Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) sale so I waited. Indeed they had a sale and this saved us 10% on our four flights which were LAX to Cusco (connecting in Lima), Cucso back to Lima, and then Lima to LAX all on LAN Peru for about $1100 per person all in. Things were made more expensive because we were traveling during Easter week. Tickets just to Lima can often be found for a few hundred less (outside of holiday periods), but tickets to Cusco rarely seem to go …

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Restaurants in Matera and Bernalda

June 1, 2014
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We arrived in Matera hungry, and as soon as we checked in to il Sextantio, set off on foot, up and up to the piazza del Duomo and then down via del Duomo to the cute little Piazza del Sedile where we sank gratefully into chairs outside on the piazza. I wish I could remember the name of the place, but all I can tell you is that there is a large sign over the arch which says “Trattoria” and “Pizzaria” (thanks to Google Maps street view). My mother ordered the mixed antipasti plate and I had a baked ziti with eggplant (as seen in the post’s top photo).

That night we had a lovely meal at Ristorante il Cantuccio at Via del Beccherie 33 (this is this street that via del Duomo turns into as you walk into the new part of Matera. The restaurant has a small dining room and reasonable prices ( 5 euro for the antipasti, 8 euro for the primi and 13-15 euro for the secondi). The food was uniformly well prepared and delicious and we shared each of the dishes.

We started with some vegetables; zucchini with apple cider vinegar and fennel seeds. It was a simple preparation, but so good I had to make it when I returned home.

The next dish was a classic pasta for this region and this version did not disappoint; orecchetti with rapini (or turnip greens), fried garlic, anchovies, and croutons (or typically, bread crumbs) with some peppery local extra virgin olive oil. You may think, bread crumbs and pasta? but it works, trust me.

We also shared some skinny veal sausages cooked in white wine and tomatoes.  With wine (2 glasses) and water, the meal was 40 euro.

 

On one of our days in Matera, we …

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Matera; Ancient Rock Churches, Modern Art and More

May 26, 2014
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On our last day in matera we had the opportunity to walk around and explore the winding streets of the town, visit the wonderful modern art museum set inside a series of caves and check out the Rupustrian rock churches which lay across the valley from our terrace.

I love modern art and the MUSMA di Matera is in one of the most stunning settings I’ve ever had the opportunity in which to view art. Set into arched caves which do down deep into the hillside the juxtaposition of the modern art pieces combined with the rough stone walls and peeling frescos from hundreds of years ago make for a one of a kind experience.

Our walk over to the museum took us through several winding pedestrian only streets and down onto the south east side of town from which we had lovely views of the valley and part of the sassi near San Peitro Caveoso.

Once inside the museum, you’ll be asked not to take photos of any specific pieces of art, but general photos of the rooms are acceptable. On the top level, there are several rooms containing original frescos.

Walking back up into the main part of town looked like this:


A drive across the valley took us to the caves we’d been viewing for days from our terrace. Some of those caves have been faced with stone and turned into chapels and churches. Some looked like they’d been lived in, not only in paleolithic times, but more recently (most likely by sheep or goat herders).

None of the churches were open, but it was possible to peer inside to see the frescos.

As we looked back across the valley, we could see our hotel and our terrace at il Sextantio.

When we returned back to …

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