Hola everyone,

By the time this is posted, we will be back in Chicago and Florida.  Here are some wrap- up perspectives.


We had a quick swirl through Lima, including a lovely lunch at the Cafe de Museo at the Larco Museum. The museum was fascinating and featured a 45,000 artifact private collection from pre-Spaniards' times. To correct an earlier post, the Incans were only in power in Peru for 100 years. Evidence of earlier civilizations has been found back to 3000 BC!! 

The collection included extensive erotica that rivaled the Kama Sutra carvings from in India. This is a PG blog, so I will say no more.  After the museum, we visited the requisite Peruvian chocolatier stop and then survived an absolutely unrelenting and harrowing ride (could have done without that) to the airport.

Eating in Peru

We enjoyed some high level cuisine in Peru (and they pride themselves on their prowess with fusion cuisine). Many of the themes from Ecuadorian dining are true here as well: beautiful fresh fruit and juices, the importance of corn and potatoes in the Peruvian diet...

...quinoa, fish (particularly Peruvian trout), and ceviche (though spelled here as sebiche). There are some distinctive dishes/drinks which we enjoyed here as well-- some clearly informed by the indigenous people's influence. Cuy (guinea pig, as described in the prior blog) was ubiquitous. We sampled Pisco Sours as our welcome drink at the hacienda. And I had two versions of a traditional Peruvian dish --"causa" --a terrine layered with mashed potatoes and meat.
On our first evening in Cusco, we dined at Cicciolino's-- highly touted by tour guides and the New York Times restaurant guide alike as a chic, upscale eating destination. It was literally 20 steps from our hotel. Though we were somewhat disappointed in the Time's choice for Quito, we took the plunge and we were thrilled we did. This was easily one of the best meals of the trip. We started with two salads -- I had a fresh salad of quinoa-coated prawns, mixed lettuce leaves and beet root chips dressed with a maracuya vinaigrette and plated with an exceptional mango and avocado tartar.

Monica and Betsy shared a fresh arugula, watercress and black quinoa salad tossed with fine slices of Italian Prosciutto and Salami, crumbled goat cheese, sweet tomatoes, radishes, red onion, corn, and a blue cheese dressing.  The presentation for both salads was exquisite-- as was the taste. 

The meal got even more interesting with the next course. Monica ordered a cracked pepper tagliatelle tossed through a salsa of smokey grilled chicken. It was absolutely beautiful.

Betsy ordered puttanesca pasta though described more artfully on the menu. It was truly divine. 
Maureen ordered risotto which, while delicious, was not as artfully presented as the other dishes.

I decided to go rogue and ordered Cicciolino's version of causa, so lovingly described as: "a fine layer of yellow potato mash with chillies and herbs, topped with deboned 'guinea pig confit'  with a touch of carmelized apple. The only way to try guinea pig."  When our guide heard I had tasted guinea pig confit, he was only slightly amused as the "real way" to taste guinea pig is to taste it roasted. To make a long story short, the presentation of my dish was amazing but the taste was not. Some say guinea pig tastes like rabbit; others insist it tastes like dark meat turkey. I was so hung up that I was ingesting a rodent that I could not really enjoy it. And (who knows if there was any connection), I started a regimen of Cipro the very next day. 
Dessert was a definite improvement for me: almond cookie tuiles with black sesame seeds, sweet mangoes and basil ice cream garnish.  Delicious.

Looking back a bit, our meals in Mach Picchu far exceeded normal national park fare. Indeed, Monica enjoyed spinach ravioli stuffed with corn cream and garnished with green apple salsa -- not a choice I'd make, but Peruvian gourmet.

Our Peruvian dining journey continued on our last day in Cusco with our traditional Peruvian lunch at the hacienda. We started with Pisco Sours and several of us chose the causa as an appetizer -- prepared with tuna instead of guinea pig, it was quite tasty.

I also tried a Peruvian soft drink-- Inka Kola-- tasted like cream soda with a funky color.

In Perspective

Powerful Peru:   A strong cultural heritage. The 5000+ year history of many indigenous peoples; it's definitely not just about the Incas. A thriving tourism industry that's getting stronger. The geography. The history.

Puzzling Peru:  Mach Picchu-- its mystery and mystique. Cuy-- who wants to eat guinea pig anyway?  And what is the deal -- Is it dangerous to visit Peru despite what their department of tourism says? (there were policemen on every corner in Cusco and much security at Machu Picchu.)

Poignant Peru: Mach Picchu--so moving. The llamas--so adorable. The children.

The title of the first post for this trip was "Exploring lands that time forgot " and that perspective was certainly uppermost in our minds during the entire adventure. After 10 flights, at least 12 boat rides of different sorts, several bus rides, and innumerable taxi and van rides, I must say that, with tourism being a major part of both Ecuador and Peru's economies, these lands are no longer forgotten. And we discovered they truly are fantastic. It seemed that I pinched myself (or was that a bug bite) five minutes into every Galapagos hike. And I certainly paused to catch my breath (or was that the altitude) after every third step in Machu Picchu. Even Roget does not have enough adjectives to describe the marvels of this particular journey. We were captivated by the big cities we had a chance to explore; but we will never never forget our explorations of the lands that time forgot.  What a glorious, amazing experience. Thank you  for joining me!

Before I sign off, I would be remiss if I didn't extend a huge thank you to my best friend and usual travel partner, Wayne. Thank you, thank you, love of my life, for not only enabling me to take this adventure but for being my tech support and turning my words and photos into this blog. Thank you for your patience with my late night blog entries and un-identified photos by the dozens!

To our dedicated readers: Start packing your virtual bags for our Ireland and London trip in June-- certainly not as exotic as this one-- but should be memorable nonetheless.

Everyone, be well and adios for now,


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