Saturday, July 4, 2009

Day Nine - June 18th, 2009 - Cusco

Initially we'd told my sister Terry that we'd meet her at the airport upon her 6:45 arrival, but in light of yesterday's events, we elect to sleep in, and let the hotel shuttle go and grab her.  Eventually she arrives at the hotel, but her luggage didn't make her connecting flight from Lima to Cusco, so she has no clothes.  Crap.

We breakfast and head down to Cusco's Plaza de Armas.  

Cusco is a very big, and, at least in the part that we're in, very pretty city.  The plaza has not 1 but 2 massive and ornate cathedrals.  And guess what?  

There's a celebration going on.  It's the 4 day 'Festival de Cusco'.  

It involves daily and nightly  parades of groups from all over the country, playing traditional music and performing traditional dances in beautiful costumes.  

We watch the festivities for awhile, walk around for a bit, then have an excellent lunch at Pachapapa (Earth Father) with another Arp Andina player providing ambience.  

Here I get another dose of culture when I order Chicha, an ancient ceremonial beverage made of fermented corn.  Traditionally the fermentation was aided by the brewer first chewing the corn to add saliva enzymes, then spitting it into the vat.  This practice has been abandoned in the modern world.  It tastes a little like sour hard cider.  It's hard to drink at first, but as with many strong drinks, it gets easier as I go.   We have an appetizer that has avocado.  Terry declines, stating that she doesn't like avocado.  Blasphemy!  I offer that it's probably the greenness of it.  She says "No, I like green M&Ms"


We wander the shops of Cusco, where I find a familiar comfort: Corona!  We'd love to like Peruvian beer, but our experience so far with at least 4 brands has been pretty bad.  We head back to the hotel, where Terry crashes, still jetlagged.  

The rest of us pop Coronas, which surprisingly, have the same salty soda water taste as other beers we've had here.  We had wondered if it had something to do with the altitude, and now we are pretty sure.

We nap, then head to dinner at Inca Grill, a really nice gourmet joint overlooking the Plaza de Armas.  At this point we are all dying for some fresh salad, so I ask our waiter if their salad will kill me.  He assures me that all of their produce is washed in purified water, and I ecstatically order a shrimp salad.  The shrimp have been crusted with black and white quinoa and lighly fried, and it is stellar!  We wander into one of a million tiny little travel agencies and book some activities for parts of the next 2 days.

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