"Queso, Queso!" a little girl shouted as we were taking a photo together. Bernie and I spotted the two cutest girls in traditional Peruvian attire holding goats. Right before we took the photo, they two girls leaned forward at the same time to hand the goats to us. "No thanks," we both said. I'm all for pets but I don't have a desire to hold a goat. She was saying Queso, Queso - the same way little kids say "cheese" when they take a photo in America, how cute.
I loved Peru! We had such a great time there. We flew from New York to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and then on to Lima, Peru where we had the longest layover ever. We caught a flight on LAM to Cusco early the next morning. My greatest fear headed into the trip was the altitude. I did so much research. Nothing worse than getting a headache while on vacation. Prior to the trip, I went to the doctor and got a prescription for altitude medication. It worked like a charm! We started at the top - Cusco, which had the highest elevation. Later during the trip, we went to Machu Picchu which had a lower elevation. Lots of people told us to do the opposite, work your way down and then up but I think what we did was better. By the time we got to Machu Picchu we were fully adjusted to the altitude. We just took it slow on Day one in Cusco, drank a lot of coco tea - took our prescription and chilled.
When we arrived at the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco we were blown away at how beautiful this hotel is. The staff was amazing, the service was amazing; upon arrival we were introduced to coco tea (optional) and ushered over to the buffet for some breakfast while we waited for our room.
Our room was modern, spacious and had a great review of the main courtyard. The hotel had a spa/pool, it was was often empty and we would go there to relax after wandering through the streets of Cusco all day. Our days were filled with tours and shopping! Before you book a trip to Lima, I highly suggest researching the weather. We went in May and the weather was up and down. In Lima the weather was hot, in Cusco the weather was super cold and in Machu Picchu the weather was really hot. Super confusing! My birthday had just passed and Bernie's birthday was quicking approaching, the hotel surprised us one night with a birthday card and a delicious cake!
The U.S dollar goes a long way in Lima, I felt like a baller! I was ordering all the seafood I wanted, pisco sours, and more. Food was cheap, the tours - not so much. We booked directly with the hotel to make sure the transfers were reliable. The entire trip felt like one big work out. Bring your best sneakers! We did a ton of walking and climbing.
To travel to Machu Picchu we took the train. We didn't have enough time to backpack the route like a lot of people do. We traveled by cab to Ollantaytambo station, from there we took a Peru Rail train to Machu Picchu station. The ride was lovely. It reminded me of Amtrak. You could choose what type of train car you wanted, they played smoothing music along the way and offered you beverages and snacks. Once you reached Machu Picchu station, you had to take a bus up the mountain. Once you got to the top, you reached the entrance. The line wasn't too bad when we went but we also went very early. We found our tour guard Moses when we arrived. He was excellent. I definitively recommend paying for a tour guide to better understand exactly what you are seeing once you get inside. If you do it on your own, you'll just be starring at a bunch of rocks and will have no idea what you're looking at. The larger the group, the cheaper the guide. Unfortunately, when we went their weren't too many English speaking tourists (mostly Spanish) and we had to do a private tour. It worked out for the best, the tour went by faster and we were able to ask Moses a lot of questions on our own. He also served as our photographer and took a bunch of photos of us.
Heads up, they only allow a certain amount of people inside a day. Book your entrance tickets early, months early! Then book your train tickets (if you aren't climbing). You can book your bus tickets once you arrive at Machu Picchu station. Staying overnight in Machu Picchu is optional. It really depends how much time you want to spend there. We spent one fun night at the El Mapi Hotel, probably the most modern and affordable hotel there. Our hotel accommodations came with free breakfast and dinner! Not bad right?
The walls are thin. I could literally hear everyone in the hall but it did it's job, it was meant to be a one nighter hotel - not long term.
Machu Picchu is rich with fascinating history and boy it's exhausting. If you have a bad knee, foot, leg, forget it. All this climbing is a workout, parts of it can be quite dangerous because you are climbing down rocks so it's important to stay safe. I saw a lot of people with small children and I was wondering how those kids handled it but they managed. I'm not sure if I would bring small children younger than ten if I were to go again.
I can say it took us a while to find food we liked. In New York we have a restaurant called Pio Pio. It's famous for Peruvian chicken and rice and green sauce. I guess I thought I would find a ton of places like that in Cusco, I was wrong. (later I learned spots like that, more modern, can be found in Lima). Cusco is a lot more traditional Peruvian cuisine mixed with (are you ready for this?) Italian! Yes, Italian. It was literally everywhere! Tons of pasta and pizza. I thought to myself, how good could this be? But honestly, it was delicious. One day we caved in and ate dinner at La Bodega. Not only was it cheap but it was delicious! By far, our favorite places to eat were two seafood restaurants: Limo (in Cusco, Peru) and Cala (in Lima). If I went back, I'd just eat there the whole time. We only spent 24 hours in Lima on our last day so I have to go back and experience it again. I can't wait! Perhaps in 2017! I have a lot of places on my list.
Where am I off to next? Stay tuned! Follow my adventures on Instagam @jetsetjonesy and snapchat @luvjonesy