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

Lima Dining; Alfresco, Maido and T’anta

by wired2theworld on March 4, 2015

Lima is quickly becoming one of the gastronomic capitals of the world. We only had a day and a half and I wanted to make it count. I’d done a lot of research on where to eat and I had big plans for a ceviche-a-thon. It all seemed to go out the window once we arrived and realized how far apart everything was (the city is HUGE), and it was complicated by the fact that we were there on a holiday weekend (Easter) and many places were closed.

We arrived in the early afternoon and looking for a place nearby for lunch, went to a restaurant called Alfresco based on the recommendation of the concierge. While it’s clearly a popular place, we weren’t especially impressed with the food though perhaps we picked the wrong things; a couple ceviches and cocktails were about $40. Again, we felt our choices were limited.

Lima-Alfresco

For dinner we went to the critically acclaimed restaurant Maido, which if it doesn’t have a Michelin Star, it should. This place is Japanese-Peruvian fusion done with flair and everything we tasted made sense. It wasn’t forced. The chef, Mitsuharu Tsumura, is Peruvian born of Japanese descent,  and trained in the US and Japan before returning to Peru. We did the Nikki Experience; this was a 15 course, splash out meal. I’ve eaten in restaurants of this caliber all over the world, and the tab, while pricey, was well valued and probably 40% less than a similar meal would cost in Los Angeles, Paris, or London. David had a beverage tasting to go with each course and it was very well thought out, ranging from local beers and peruvian fermented corn drink, to sake, to cocktails with Pisco, to South American wines.

The menu was presented on a folded card which was meant to look like an old Japanese passport. Because it’s been almost a year since we ate this meal, I don’t think I can do justice to the details, but at least I have to menu to say what they are. I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the photos which were taken by my call phone in dim light.

MaidoLima04

Above the first four courses clockwise from top left; Pulpo al Olivo-Grilled octopus, botija olives tofu and crispy black quinoa (on the spoon). Hassun-Whelks in soy sauce with kiuri and apple sorbet. Southern squid, wakame, Porcón mushroom in two textures (on the giant rock).  Nikkei Ceviche-Cabrilla, clam, camaron, tobiko, crispy yuyo (in the metal bowl). Paracas Scallops with Maca-Paracas scallop, maca emulsion, fukujinzuke, kimpira gobou (in the glass).

MaidoLima03

Above, the next five courses clockwise from top left; Pejesapo Sandwich-Steamed bun, pejesapo, tartar sauce, creole salad. Rice Tamale-Banana leaf, smoked nitsuke style bacon, cocona pepper. Cuy-san-Cuy confit with molle pepper, chilled harusame noodles with sanbaisu and rocoto. Pejerrey Tiradito-Ceviche sauce with nori, chalaca, shichimi, cancha. Nigiris from the Sea-Deep fried rock fish nambanzuke – Smoked Mackerel with yellow chilli, onions and masago.

MaidoLima02

Clockwise from top left; Nigiris from the Earth-Cylinder duck – Crispy panceta – Outside skirt A lo Pobre. Gindara Pancayaki-Gindara marinated in miso, pancachilli and yellow chilli, camotillo potato cream, crispy leona potato, Pachacamac greens, purple corn powder. Chupemushi-The encounter of Chupe de Camarones and Chawanmushi.  Estofado Nikkei-Nitsuke braised short rib, white fried rice with cecina and benishoga.

MaidoLima01

The menu, top left and outside the restaurant, waiting for them to open, top right. Desserts on the bottom; Bahuaja-Nut milk, ice cream and crispy “castaña”, mango, cranberry, cushuro, mochi (lower right). Temaki Sushi (lower left)-this was little petit fours buried in crispy rice “sand” and we had to dig through it to find the treats.

As I said above, the meal was pricy, but for a fine dining experience of this caliber, I thought it was entirely reasonable. The Nikkei Experience was 320 soles per person (about $103) and the wine pairing was 150 soles ($48, but keep in mind there was something for every course). Looking at the menu today, it appears the price has gone up about 50 soles per meal, but the menu (online at least) appears the same.

On our last day in Lima, we went to the old center near the Plaza Mayor. For lunch we went to T’anta, which is a chain from the owners of the famous fine dining establishment, Astrid y Gastón. I had a sandwich with barbequed pork, David had a ceviche, and we both had a Chilcano (a fruit juice and pisco drink). Lunch was about $30.

TantaRestaurantLima

Finally, we visited the grocery store near the hotel on our last night and bought two bottles of Pisco to being home. If you’re interested in a delicious cocktail using pisco which isn’t a pisco sour, then check out my recipe for the “Sacred Valley“, a cocktail inspired by our stay at the Tambo Del Inka hotel in Urubamba.

LimaPisco01

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Lima Peru; Parque Kennedy and Parque de Amor

by wired2theworld on March 2, 2015

Mural in Miraflores neighborhood of Lima Peru on wired2theworld.com

We only had a day and a half on arrival to Lima from Cusco and we tried to make the most of it. But Lima is much larger than we expected and getting around isn’t that easy unless you rely on taxis, we we don’t really like. Lima reminds me a lot of Los Angeles, both in climate and proximity to the ocean, and in the fact that it’s very spread out.

For our transfer from the airport to the hotel we used a service called Taxidatum. I think it’s like Uber in that you’re picked up by someone in a private car and driven to your destination for a flat rate. It was $20 from the airport to the hotel and the service worked so well, we booked the return to the airport online the next day.

We stayed in the Miraflores neighborhood at the Sheraton Four Points. The hotel is perfectly fine, in a really good location (for Miraflores) and we were given breakfast with our Cash + Points room rate. The hotel is within walking distance of the ocean and the Parque Kennedy and has access to decent public transportation. There’s also a grocery store nearby which is handy for snack and Pisco purchases.

Four Points Miraflores

We had lunch at a local restaurant (dining will be detailed in a later post) and then walked down the road to the ocean and checked out the view which very much reminded me of Santa Monica and the Parque de Amor with its famous statue.

Lima Ocean

Parque de Amor

On the way back to the hotel we went to the Parque Kennedy, well known for its abandoned cat population. These cats seemed far from feral, and most had learned how to beg for food from the park visitors. As much as I love cats, it made me very sad to see so many here. We saw signs for a rescue group who helps care for them and find them homes, but clearly they are overwhelmed.

LimaCats04

Lima Cats

Lima Cats

 

Lima Cats

 

Lima Cats

Lima Cats

Coming up; our last day in Lima, spent roaming an amazing mercado, downtown Lima, a gastronomic museum, and crawling through the catacombs under the San Francisco cathedral.

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Eating and Drinking in Cusco Peru

February 14, 2015
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We ate (and drank!) very well in Cusco. There’s no shortage of decent restaurants and bars, especially those catering to tourists. But don’t feel that you have to spend a ton of money; one of my favorite meals was in the Mercado and cost us all of about $2 for a giant bowl of chicken soup. That said, craft cocktails, especially those with Pisco in them, are available in force on many menus, and go well beyond the pisco sour.

Bagdad Cafe
Address: Portal de Carnes 154, Cusco, Peru

This was our first meal in Cusco, a late lunch, and while it was nothing special in terms of food, it was decent and the view of the main square cannot be beat. Lunch was about $20.

Cusco Dining05

Chicken Soup in the Mercado San Pedro

If you see this woman making chicken soup in the market, eat there. That is all.

Actually, a bit more…There are probably ten stalls in the market selling chicken soup, but hers was the one with the most patrons. That says a lot. There was a wait for a seat on one of the two benches and when two opened up right in front of her, she told someone trying to cut in line to let the tourists sit.

We each got a big bowl of Caldo de Pollo for about $2. The broth is fragrant and flavorful, and the vegetables are cooked in it and pulled out along with whole chickens when tender. Pasta of varying shapes and sizes is dumped into the simmering broth. When you order, she takes a big cleaver and hacks apart the bird, tossing chunks into the bowl with vegetables and a ladle or two of the broth with the pasta.Cusco Dining02

Limo
Address: Portal de Carnes 236, Cusco, Peru

This place …

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Walking Around Cusco

January 17, 2015
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We didn’t do too much sightseeing in Cusco. First, we only had about a day and a half in the city and second, I pretty much felt like I could not catch my breath the entire time we were there. I found myself really looking forward to getting back to sea level once we returned to Lima. This was a bit odd to me because I didn’t really feel this way at the higher elevations we visited in the Sacred Valley, some of them well over Cusco’s 11,800 foot elevation.

On our first day there we didn’t arrive until mid afternoon, had lunch, then had to deal with a bit of a hotel glitch so all we did was walk around the Plaza de Armas area a bit. We’d wanted to visit some of the churches but many were closed for Holy Week (the week before Easter). Also, we were a bit put off my steep entrance fees to the main Cathedral (almost $10). Fortunately, the next evening we were able to go inside during a service open to the public and part of the Easter Week celebration of the Stations of the Cross procession. We even got to hear the choir sing which was wonderful.

On day two we visited the central market and the Museo de Sitio del Qoricancha (covered by the bolleto touristico) where we could not take photos inside. Still, it was very interesting to see the history of the Inca there in the small rooms under a park in the city center.

 

 

We also walked around the San Blas neighborhood taking in its views and funky vibe and stopping for a beer in a small hostel with a fantastic view. This is a neighborhood filled with youth hostels and hippie kids …

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Mercado San Pedro, Cusco Peru

October 25, 2014
Thumbnail image for Mercado San Pedro, Cusco Peru

If a town has a market, you know we’ll be there.

On the morning of our second day in Cusco we got up fairly early and headed out toward the Mercado San Pedro, Cusco’s central market, where any and all manner of foodstuffs are sold. This is my kind of market; not only can you find the raw product; eggs, vegetables, meats, fish, but there are plenty of stalls selling prepared foods to eat there or take away. We were so entranced by all the chicken soup stalls that we decided to come back later for lunch (which will be covered in a later post about dining in Cusco).

Warning: if you are the type who is squeamish about things like pictures of pig’s heads you might not want to scroll down too far. Or maybe go really, really fast past them….

If you find yourself in Cusco, and are ready for something other than stones and ruins, get yourself on over there, you won’t be disappointed. It’s only about a 5 or 6 block walk from the main square.

They say a photo is worth 1000 words so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves….

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The Road to Cusco; Of Llamas And Stones

October 20, 2014
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For our last day in the sacred valley we hired Percy to take us to Cusco by car with stops at various sites along the way, combining transportation and sightseeing. As I said in the post about Pisac, knowing what I know now, I would have scheduled Pisac for this day, and perhaps skipped the stops at Tambomachay and Pukapukara. That would have saved us a couple of hours in the car the day before and allowed for more relaxation. All of the entrances to the ruins were covered under our Bolleto Touritstico Pass.

Our first stop was at a cultural center clearly set up for tourists but it was interesting nonetheless. There were several large pens with all the different pack/wool/meat animals in the region including llamas, alpacas, vicunas, all of which could be hand-fed grasses. There were people demonstrating weaving and exhibits about how the various natural dyes are made and examples of the hundreds of types of potatoes and corn grown in the area. Worth a stop. No cost (unless you buy souvenirs) and they have clean restrooms.


The next stop were the sites of Tambomachay and Pukapukara which are across the road from one another. Tambomachay, also known as Los Banos del Inca (the baths of the Inca) is the home of a freshwater spring and most likely used for ceremonies by priests and royalty, rather than public bathing. Water still flows today.

 

Across the road is Pukapukara which has a stunning view of the valley from the top of the site.

Pukapukara is thought to be a fortress or a resting place for travelers on the way from the Sacred Valley to Cusco as it sits right on an ancient pathway between the two.

The next stop, Q’enqo, gave us our first look …

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Ollantaytambo and Pisac

September 27, 2014
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Percy picked us up at 9am in his car, with just him driving his personal car. David sat in front which meant a lot of the discussion was in Spanish, but when it got too detailed for me to follow he switched to English no problem.

Our first stop was the town of Ollantaytambo, in the direction of Machu Picchu. In fact, the train from Urubamba stops there to pick up most of its passengers before heading up to Machu Picchu. Many people choose to stay there instead of Machu Picchu Pueblo because it’s more central for seeing the rest of the Sacred Valley, like Urubamba. From what we saw, it’s a cute little town, definitely geared more toward tourists than Urubamba, meaning more hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.

Ollantaytambo Street

Percy drove through town and parked in a dirt car park which while big enough for several dozen tour buses, was thankfully empty. We walked a few blocks through the town which was very traditional at its center; cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and water from mountain snow runoff flowing down open irrigation channels along one side of the street.

Ollantaytambo Street

At the base of the Ollantaytambo ruins there are three or four rows of souvenir stands. On Monday we’d purchased the Bolleto Turistco and our tickets were checked at the entrance to the ruins. Then it was a long, long way up to the top. Make sure you bring water. And snacks. It’s tiring. In the photo below you can barely see the people and yes, we climbed all the way to the top. It’s worth it. The views are spectacular.

Ollantaytambo

At the top of about 200 steps is the unfinished Temple of the Sun and the Temple of Ten Niches. Here it’s possible to see how the stones were moved. There …

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A Day at Machu Picchu

September 15, 2014
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They say that Machu Picchu will take your breath away. It did, just not in the way I anticipated.

We arrived, after a 2.5 hour train ride from Urubamba in which we spent the first half alone in a car for 50 people and the second half squeezed in like sardines with a group of boisterous Australian tourists and their mountain of luggage.

Some photos of the view from the train:

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

 

Through the Vistadome upper window.

View from the train to Machu Picchu on wired2theworld.com

While it was clear when we left Urubamba, in Machu Picchu Pueblo it was overcast and misty. The town exists solely for the sake of tourism and every hotel, restaurant and shop to cater to traveler’s needs and desires. Want coffee, cocktails and wifi? It’s here. Cheap tourist menu lunch for $8? It’s here. Fine dining? I’m sure it’s here somewhere.

Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes) on wired2theworld.com

Finding the bus up to Machu Picchu ruins should be straightforward but somehow we managed to walk in an extra circle or two until we found the ticket window and the line for the buses. The line moves quickly and there are lots of buses lined up and ready to go as soon as they can be filled. The drive up is a bit hairy and if you have a fear of heights, I recommend you sit on the aisle and don’t look out or down as the bus winds its way up 19 switchbacks.

Once off the bus, we took our tickets to the gate and entered. We stamped our passports with the official Machu Picchu stamp which is right past the gate on a little table. Somehow I think the US government might not approve of people placing random stamps in their passports but, not thinking of that at the time, we did it anyway and so far, so good.…

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