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Lauren and Cora on TV in Cincinnati

Monday, July 28, 2008 8:07 AM

Lauren and Cora on My20 at Cincinnati - July 27, 2008

Yesterday afternoon, Lauren and Cora went to the Rockies game in Cincinnati on their vacation to see some of Cora's family.  They went decked out in their Rockies gear and even manged to get on TV in Denver on the Rockies broadcast on My20.  Not only that, but the announcers even talked about them and their signs for about 30-45 seconds at the beginning of the bottom of the 3rd inning.

After the game, an 11-0 Rockies win, I received a breathless call from Cora who was so excited that she practically couldn't stand it.  They had arrived at the game very early to watch warmups and batting practice.  Troy Tulowitzki were out first for warmups and noticed their signs and made sure to point them out to all of the other Rockies as they came out.  Unfortunately Cincinnati did a parade of little leaguers around the ballpark before the game, so the Rockies couldn't come over and give them any autographs, but, at the end of warmups, Tulo waited to catch Cora's eye and flipped her the ball he had been warming up with!  They had such an amazing time that they were debating driving the 2 hours to Pittsburgh for today's game as well.   

 
By: Shane
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Rockies Photo Day 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 2:06 PM

Ubaldo Jimenez and I

This past Saturday, July 19, I went to the Rockies Photo Day with Lauren, Cora, and Clyde.  It started at 3:30 pm before the 6:05 pm.  Even though it was about 98 degrees when the event started, we had a great time.  We got to meet pretty much everyone on the Rockies' roster except for Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins over the course of the hour and a half event.  We stood in the left field corner and let all of the players come to us, and we got some great pictures with all of them. 

The players were really clearly having a good time with it too.  Yorvit Torrealba even jumped playfully on Manny Corpas as I was taking his picture with Lauren and Cora.  Ubaldo Jimenez also chatted with me for a second after I mentioned how he had been at our church in the fall.

I was also highly impressed by manager Clint Hurdle.  At the end of the event, we were in line to see him and his handler was telling him that the event was over and that he could go in.  Not once, but twice, Clint told the handler that he was going to make sure that everyone who wanted a picture with him got one.  It was a really classy move and he clearly went beyond the call of duty to make sure everyone left happy.

We were all a little star struck by meeting all of these guys and getting to chat with them briefly, and it was really a great time. 

Rockies Photo Day 2008 pictures

 
By: Shane
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Quick Update

Monday, July 21, 2008 1:47 PM

Sunset at Coors Field on July 3, 2008

Since we got back from Peru, we've been very busy.  My mom came out the week after we got back, though we only saw her for a couple of hours.  Then Andrea's parents came out the next weekend for a visit.  Finally, we went down to New Mexico to visit my dad over the 4th of July weekend.

Andrea started a new job at Project Safeguard as a domestic violence victims advocate on the Monday after we got back from Peru.  She's loving it and seems to have an entertaining new story almost every day.  It's hard working with some of these situations, but it's been a very good job for her so far.

 
By: Shane
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Peru - Days 11 & 12 - Travel - June 18-19, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008 1:41 PM

Andrea and I with our guide, Edwin, at the Lima Airport

We got up early yet again on the morning of the 18th and boarded the bus to the airport at about 7:30 am.  We arrived at the airport at 8:30 and checked in, then said our goodbyes to Edwin after a wonderful tour. 

The plane for Miami left on time at 10:40 am and was a very uneventful flight until we arrived in Miami.  Upon our arrival in Miami, we ended up sitting on the tarmac for over an hour before we could get off due to thunderstorms in the area.  The delay and the thunderstorms spoiled our plans to take a trip over to South Beach and have dinner over there.  When we finally got off, we breezed through customs and then Go Ahead let us all down for the only time on the trip.

Because of the flight schedules, about 35 of the 40 people on the tour were staying overnight at the hotel in Miami.  Unfortunately, Go Ahead hadn't made any arrangements to get 35 people from the airport to the hotel, and we completely overwhelmed the hotel's shuttle.  The Clarion Las Palmas took over an hour to get enough buses to the airport to get all of us.  On top of that, Go Ahead's 24-hour "emergency" number appears to really just be an answering service and was incapable of even answering basic questions like the phone number for the hotel (the number they gave us was in New Jersey).  All that they could do was leave a message for the normal 8-5 staff.  Thank goodness we didn't have a problem in Peru!  That being said, that's one of only two bad things I have to say about Go Ahead, the other being the flight scheduling.  On the whole, the tour was very well ran and went very smoothly.

We finally got to the hotel at about 8:45 pm and then hiked over to Johnny Carino's for dinner with Greg, Rich, Greg M, and Amanda before heading back to the hotel and heading to bed.

On the morning of the 19th, we got up early for our 7 am flight to Atlanta.  Check in was a little more involved than normal because of the fact we had extra bags and were continuing an international itinerary, so they had to waive the fees.  Once we got checked in though, everything went smoothly.  We spent our layover in Atlanta with Greg and Rich, and arrived back in Denver shortly after noon, exhausted at the end of a wonderful trip.

Photos from Day 11

Photos from Day 12

 
By: Shane
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Peru - Day 10 - Lima - June 17, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008 1:25 PM

Andrea with the flowers at Museo Larco Herrera

This morning we got up early again to head to the airport for our flight back to Lima.  We got to the airport about an hour ahead of the scheduled departure at 9:30 am, except the foggy weather in Cusco had delayed our departure until about 10:30 am.  Once we finally got going, we landed in Lima around 11:50 am, but the hour delay had noticably disrupted the schedule for the afternoon.

After checking in at La Hacienda, we had a brief lunch from about 2 to 2:45 pm before getting back on the bus to go to Museo Larco Herrera.  We arrived at the museum about 45 minutes later.  While we had a guided tour of the museum, the guide was not real good about actually explaining what we were seeing in any detail.  The museum contained an excellent collection of artifacts from throughout the pre-Columbian history of Peru, including an extensive collection of erotic pottery.

We left the museum at about 5 pm and got back to La Hacienda about 30 minutes later.  We had about 2 free hours at this point before the final dinner of the tour, so we used the time to go over to LarcoMar to get Andrea her cookbook, and then to go to the La Vivanda supermarket to get pisco, Cuzqueña, chicha morada juice, Inca Kola, and some candies to bring back with us.

We all piled into the vans at the hotel for the quick ride to Zeñó Manué for our final dinner of the tour.  It was a nice buffet with some classic Liman dishes like ceviche and served as a nice final ending to the tour as we had the restaurant to ourselves in the Go Ahead group.

After dinner we headed back to La Hacienda to do our final packing for the flight home, then headed to bed for the night.

Photos from Day 10

 
By: Shane
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Peru - Day 9 - Cusco - June 16, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008 12:47 PM

Andrea and I with the Stone of 12 Angles

On the morning of the 16th, we met the group in the lobby for a morning briefing by Edwin before our free day in Cusco at 9:30 am.  Following the briefing, we went to Museo Korikancha from 10-10:30 and looked at the exhibits of artifacts from Coricancha.  We then wandered up the the Plaza de Armas where we planned on hiking up past the Stone of 12 Angles and up to San Blas.

Once we got to the Plaza de Armas, our plans changed as we ran into the middle of a festival.  We walked into the Plaza to see tons of young children in school uniforms dancing in various groups as they paraded around the square.  We stopped to watch for a while over by the Cathedral, only to see the childrens parade grow into a full-blown parade.  We later found out that the parade was the very beginning of the Inti Raymi festival that culminated on June 24.  We ended up sitting and watching the parade for about an hour and a half.  With the parade showing no signs of ending we decided to head out and get back onto our original plan for the day.

We left the Plaza with Greg M and Amanda as Greg and Rich had decided to stay longer at the parade and headed up towards San Blas.  At the Stone of 12 Angles, we got a local guide who showed us that stone, as well as a puma and serpent that the Incans had designed into the wall.  He then took us around to see the 13 angled stone, which isn't nearly as famous, but is of similar quality.

After that, we headed up to San Blas.  We briefly toured the inside of Iglesia San Blas in about 30 minutes.  The most notable part of this church is the puplit that was carved from a single cedar tree.  It is rumored that the skull at the top of the pulpit is that of the artist

We then went and had an excellent lunch at Pacha Papa, right across the square from San Blas.  I had adobo de chancho, a marinated pork stew, with a chicha de jora, a fermented corn beer, to drink.  Andrea had an algarrobina, a drink made with pisco and carob syrup, and crema de papa amarilla, a yellow potato cream soup.

After lunch we went over to Museo Inka with Amanda, as Greg M decided to go on his own way.  Museo Inka contained a large exhibition of Inka artifacts.  We got a laugh out of the fact that all of the signs depicted naked Incas.  The courtyard had a number of native weavers working, we bought a handwoven doll from them while we were there.

After Museo Inka, we began our rush through a number of museums over the next 2 hours.  Our Boleta Turisto Grande (BTG) allowed us entrance to a number of museums around Cusco and we kept getting there about 15 minutes before each of them closed.  We toured the Museo de Arte Popular in about 15 minutes, which was about all that museum required.  We then went to Convento de San Francisco, but discovered that it was closed until 6 pm, so we went to Museo Historico Regional.  While I would have liked more time there, it was very similar to other museums we had seen.  We then went to Convento Santa Catalina de Siena and got our 15 minutes there, though I would have definitely liked more there, before heading back to San Francisco. 

After San Francisco, everything was closed and we were getting pretty tired, so we headed back to the hotel to relax before the folk dance dinner.  We ended up hanging out in the hotel, drinking Inca Kolas courtesy of the Inca Kola promotion, and backing up photos onto Greg's laptop while we waited for dinner.

At 7:30 pm we boarded the buses and headed over to the Inka Wall for our folk dance dinner.  The dinner was very good and people in our group were impressed by the roast guinea pig that they had for display.  The show was incredible as well as the dancers demonstrated folk dances from all of the different regions of Peru, from the north to the south and the coast to the highlands to the jungle.  It was a very entertaining evening.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel at about 9:30 pm where we watched the end of the Inca Kola folk dance show in the hotel.  We then headed upstairs to pack for the flight back to Lima and then went to bed for the night.

Photos from Day 9

 
By: Shane
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Peru - Day 8 - Sacred Valley - June 15, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008 8:00 AM

The Pisac Market

This morning we got up and met the group around 8 am for breakfast at the Eco Inn.  We then boarded the busses at 8:30 for our tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The first destination on our tour was the market at Pisac.  It took about an hour to drive there from Cusco, through some truly amazing scenery.  Once we got to Pisac, we had about an hour in the market.  The market in Pisac is an interesting hybrid of a local farmers market and a tourist market.  Andrea and I really enjoyed walking through the food section of the market and seeing all of the different meats and vegetables on display.  Andrea ended up buying a pretty good sized bag of quinoa for 3 soles.  We then walked into the tourist section and looked around.  We ended up buying a set of pan pipes, the picture frame that we get on every trip, and some beads for Andrea's mom.

Once we finished at Pisac, we got on the bus for the drive to Ollantaytambo.  The drive to Ollantaytambo took a little over an hour through the heart of the Sacred Valley.  The scenery was really amazing with the 17,000+ foot peaks ringing the farmlands at the bottom of the valley.

We arrived in Ollantaytambo at noon for our tour of the fortress there.  Ollantaytambo is the only site where the Incans ever defeated the Spanish in open combat.  We climbed up a ton of stairs to get to the main fortress, but our guide was good at only taking about 3 terraces at a time so that everyone on the tour could keep up.  Unfortunately, the only time that it decided to rain during the whole trip was during the tour of Ollantaytambo.

The ruins of Ollantaytambo were impressive in a number of ways.  They were never finished due to the Spanish conquest, so we can see examples of how the Incans moved their massive stones into place from the quarry over a mile away.  In the temple section, we could also see how the Incans built earthquake resistance into their buildings, using smaller stones as expansion joints between the large ones.

After Ollantaytambo, we were pretty wet from the rain, but we all got back on the bus to head to lunch.  We had lunch at Alahambra Hacienda Restaurant outside of Ollantaytambo from about 1:30 to 2:45 pm. 

We then got on the bus back to Cusco.  On the ride home, after having to get up and ask our guide to repeat any question she got in Spanish in English, we drove through the altiplano as she explained what crops they grew there, how they dried potatoes, and the process of making Chicha de Jora, a sweet corn beer.  We got back down into Cusco at about 10 after 4.

We then relaxed at the hotel a bit before heading across the street to the Cusco Artesanal Market to look around a bit.  We ended up buying a few more souvenirs there before heading back across the street to relax for a little while longer.

For dinner, we decided to hike up to the Plaza de Armas and go to one of the restaurants that Edwin recommended, Paititi.  Andrea had Pork "Chicharron" Style "Cusco," which was a herb roasted pork served with fried potatoes and boiled corn.  I had Cuzqueña Style Alpaca, which was an alpaca filet topped with a sauco sauce.  I also had a Cuzqueña Negra beer, which I liked so much that we brought a few home.

Following dinner, we walked back to the hotel, stopping to take a few night pictures of Coricancha on the way, before heading to bed for the night.

Pictures from Day 8

 
By: Shane
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Peru - Day 7 - Machu Picchu - June 14, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008 7:25 AM

Andrea and I at Machu Picchu

This morning we got up around 4 am to head back up to Machu Picchu.  We had a brief breakfast around 5 am at the hotel and the boarded the bus up to Machu Picchu at 5:40 am.  The line to get into Machu Picchu was very long in advance of the 6 am opening time.

We finally got into Machu Picchu about 6:45 after a brief argument with the attendant at the entrance over the size of my bag.  The bag that had been just fine on the previous day was somehow too big on the 2nd day, so we had to go grab all of our stuff that we absolutely had to have and then check the bag for the day.

Once we got into the site, we hiked up to the Watchman's Hut area and took a few pictures as the sun came up.  We then headed up the Inca Trail towards Intipunku, also known as the Sun Gate.  Intipunku was about a mile and a half and probably close to 1000 vertical feet above the main city of Machu Picchu.

We took our time on the way up because Andrea was still nursing a sore ankle.  It took us about an hour and 45 minutes to get up to the Sun Gate.  The views from the top were truly amazing as the entire city of Machu Picchu was laid out below us.  From the top we could see the terracing from Machu Picchu almost all the way down to the river below.  These were truly the best views of the entire city of Machu Picchu.  It really gave the best perspective on the true size of the city because you could not see the entire city from within.

Another thing that really struck me on the hike was the abundance of tropical flowers.  There were orchids growing everywhere, along with dozens of different kinds of wildflowers.  I ended up taking a ton of pictures of all of the flowers along the trail.

After reaching the Sun Gate we hiked a little ways down the trail on the back side, just to see what was there, before the attendant who had been placed up at the Sun Gate came to tell us that we weren't allowed to go any further.  We then took a bunch of  pictures at the Sun Gate before heading back down the trail.

It took us a little longer to get back down the trail because Andrea's ankle had a harder time with going down than with going up.  We got back down into Machu Picchu around 11:15.  We stopped to take a few more pictures, including some of the best pictures of the trip with a handful of very cooperative llamas on the overlook above Machu Picchu.  We then headed back down on the bus about an hour later.

Once we were back in Aguas Calientes, we mailed some postcards then went and had lunch before meeting back up with our group.  We hung out for a little while before we all went and got back on the train to Cusco around 3:15.  On the train ride down, the train staff provided a bunch of different kinds of entertainment, including a native dance down the aisle, and a fashion show of baby alpaca clothing.  We ended up getting off the train in Poroy at 6:45 and then taking a quick bus ride from there down into Cusco.

After we got back to the hotel, we were all pretty tired, so we went and had dinner at the Charlotte Cafe restaurant right near the Eco Inn.  It was easily one of the worst dinners of the trip.  We then went back to the hotel and watched a bit of the Peru vs. Columbia World Cup qualifier while we drank pisco sours before heading to bed.

Photos from Day 7

 
By: Shane
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Peru - Day 6 - Machu Picchu - June 13, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008 2:45 PM

Kissing at Machu Picchu

Today was another early morning, getting up at 4 am to get ready for the train to Machu Picchu.  We had breakfast at the hotel from about 5 to 5:30 am before getting on the bus to head over to the train station.

The train was quite an experience, leaving Cusco at about 6:15 am.  The windows on the train fogged up because it was only in the mid 30's outside.  The train then headed up the hill, then stopped, backed down the hill to hook up more cars.  That process repeated twice before we were finally on our way.

It took almost exactly four hours on the train through the amazing scenery of the Sacred Valley to get to Machu Picchu.  The food on the train was quite good and it was a very high class train ride.  We had the middle tier of service, called Vistadome.  I really enjoyed the train ride despite the early morning.

We arrived in Aguas Calientes at about 10:15 am.  Aguas Calientes has recently changed it's official name to Machupicchu in the interest of selling more souvenirs.  We left from the train station and had to go through the gauntlet of the market to get to our hotel, the Macchu Picchu Inn. 

Once at our hotel, we had about an hour to relax before we met for lunch.  During the break, we called Grandma and Grandpa Ideker briefly to wish them a happy 60th wedding anniversary since we were missing their party while we were in Machu Picchu.  We then hiked the couple of blocks over to the Hantuchay Tower where we had a buffet lunch.  While all of the food was included in the cost of the tour while we were at Machu Picchu, the meals here were some of the worst on the entire tour.

Following lunch, we got on the bus to head up to Machu Picchu around 1:15 pm.  The bus ride took about 30 minutes on a very narrow, windy dirt road.  The road was largely one lane with the occasional passing lane for the busses to get by each other going in different directions.  The bus drivers flew up and down this road much faster than I would have been comfortable going, but they did drive it all day every day.

We arrived at the entrance to Machu Picchu at about 1:45 pm.  Our guide for the tour of the city was named Jafeth.  My first reactions upon seeing Machu Picchu were just awe at the surroundings and then wondering why in the world anyone would ever think that this was a good place to build a city.  Over the next three hours, Jafeth took us through most of the ruins of the main city complex before the tour ended right at closing time.

We walked in and Jafeth took a number of pictures of the group from one of the first scenic overlooks on the agricultural terraces.  We then moved in to see some of the cisterns at the Temple of Water before moving up to the Royal Tombs and the Sun Temple before going into the king's house and seeing the king's bathroom.  The speculation is that that room is the king's because it is the only room in the city with a toilet.

Next we hiked up to see the quarry area where Jafeth showed us where the scientists were doing some tests to confirm how the Incas had cut the granite stones with nothing stronger than obsidian tools.  They widened the natural fissures with the obsidian and then inserted wood sticks and poured water over them.  As the wood absorbed the water and expanded, it would crack the stone further.

We then hiked up the stairs to the temple complex, highlighted by the Temple of Three Windows.  We then hiked further up to Intilhuatana or the Sun Hitch.  This is the only known surviving Inca Sun Hitch.  All of the others were destroyed by the Spanish.  The Sun Hitch is so named because of the behavior and relation to the sun on the solstices.

We then hiked back down to the entrance to the Wayna Picchu hike and back through the industrial section and the servants' quarters area.  The final stop on the guided tour was at the Condor, which is a huge carving encompassing two natural rocks in the shape of the condor's wings and the condor head carved into the floor below.

With 15 minutes left before the park closed after our tour, we raced up towards the Watchman's Hut to try to take some pictures from the most famous overlook in the site.  We didn't quite make it all the way to the hut before a guard stopped us, but we did manage to take a number of great pictures in the setting sun.  The guard finally shooed us out, and we walked back down and ended up waiting with Edwin and taking the very last bus back down to the city.  Edwin had left a little earlier and had spent quite a bit of time stamping all of our passports with the Machu Picchu stamp and the date.

Once we got back down, we had a few minutes to clean up and then we had dinner with the group at the Machu Picchu Inn.  After dinner, Andrea and I had decided to go up to Machu Picchu again the next morning, so we went and purchased our tickets and then headed to bed.  We realized that Edwin still had our passports and that the ticket office had suggested that we have them to enter the next day, so I came back out to the lobby and finally got a hold of Edwin to get them back before heading to bed.

Pictures from Day 6 in Machu Picchu

 
By: Shane
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Peru - Day 5 - Cusco - June 12, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008 11:08 AM

Andrea and I at Sacsayhuaman

On the morning of June 12, we got up around 7:30 and had breakfast at the Eco Inn from about 8:30 to 9:30 am.  After breakfast, Edwin had arranged transportation for all of us to go learn about how to tell the difference between real silver and real baby alpaca and the fakes that you were likely to be sold on the street.

We left the hotel around 9:30 and headed up into the hills above Cusco to Andean Magic Art Jewelry.  There we learned how they make all of the silver jewelry from melting the pure silver to create the 95% silver alloy to polishing and shaping all of the various shells and stones that were used in the silver.  While we were there, we bought a turquoise turtle pendant for Grandma Ideker, an Andean cross pendant and earrings for Andrea, and a set of earrings for Diana.

We then headed up further to La Vicuñita for our lesson in alpaca.  At La Vicuñita, we learned how to tell the difference between the brushed acrylic that was sold as baby alpaca, partial alpaca blends, and true baby alpaca.  We also had plenty of time to shop around.  We got a few baby alpaca items and we also got a couple of the hand-woven baby blankets that the women in Peru used to carry around their babies.  A couple of the people at the shop demonstrated how they worked so that we can use them whenever we have a kid.

After the alpaca store, we headed back into town and had a little bit of free time for lunch before the guided city tour.  We hiked up the street near the Plaza de Armas and had pizza at Trattoria Adriano.  The Peruvian pizza is pretty similar to that here in the United States based on the examples that we tried. 

We then hustled back down to the hotel, stopping briefly for gelato on the way.  Peruvian gelato is very similar to Italian gelato, but it does have a number of unique, local fruit flavors.  Some of the more interesting flavors that I tried were lucuma, sauco (an Andean berry similar to a blueberry), and maíz cuzqueño (Cuzqueñan corn).  The sauco and maíz cuzqueño combination was my favorite of the trip.

Right as we reached the hotel, we got back on the busses for our city tour at 2 pm.  The first stop on our tour was the Inca Q'enqo site in the hills outside of Cusco.  Q'enqo was an Inca religious site that contained an ampitheater and a number of altars. 

After leaving Q'enqo, we went over to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman.  These ruins are probably the most important in the Inca culture.  In Inca times, the city of Cusco was built in the shape of the puma, and Sacsayhuaman was the head of the puma.  The Spanish thought Sacsayhuaman was a fortress because this is the fortress that the rebellion of Manco Inca made against the city of Cusco, however it is currently believed that this site was primarily of religious importance.  Sacsayhuaman was routinely used as a quarry up until the early 1900's, so only the largest stones remain today, including the largest used in any Inca construction at 320 tons.  The stonework at Sacsayhuaman was easily the most impressive that we saw on the trip, using no mortar and having tolerances of no more than a single piece of paper between these massive stones.

Following Sacsayhuaman, we went back down into the city to tour the main Cathedral complex.  The Cusco Cathedral consists of three separate but connected churches.  Looking at the front, from left to right, you have La Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral, and El Triunfo.  La Sagrada Familia is a small church dedicated to the Holy Family.  From that church you move through a pair of large doors on the side into the main cathedral.  The most impressive parts of the churches in this complex were the carved cedar altars.  All of these altars were clearly built for the space they were in and took up every possible inch, even following the curve of the ceiling.  From the cathedral, you move into El Triunfo, or The Triumph.  El Triunfo was the first church built by the Spanish following the conquest of Cusco.

Finally, the last stop on the tour was Qoricancha (Coricancha) and the Convent of Santo Domingo.  The Dominican order was the most important in Peru at the time of the conquest of the Incas, and was therefore given the most important site to build their church.  Qoricancha was the Inca Sun Temple and marked the centerpoint of the Inca Empire.  From Qoricancha, the empire was divided into four quadrants: Chinchasuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE), Contisuyu (SW), and Collasuyu (SE).  The Dominican's built their convent right on top of the Inca temple, preserving most of the temple in the courtyard and topping it with their own structures. 

The tour ended at 6 pm and we took the bus the short distance back to the hotel.  We then hiked up through the Plaza de Armas to Kusikuy, a restaurant recommended by our guide book, arriving there around 6:40 pm.  We waited a little over an hour for our food due to my order and listened to a pan pipe band in the meantime.  The reason the food took so long was because I ordered the house specialty, cuy al horno or oven roasted guinea pig.  Andrea had the papas rellenas which are a stuffed and fried potato and we shared a fried yucca appetizer.  The guinea pig was wonderful, tasting a bit like rabbit, though it's not necessarily for the squeamish as it is quite literally a whole roasted guinea pig.

We finally finished dinner at about 8:30 pm and then walked back down to the hotel and called it a night after a pisco sour nightcap.

Photos from Day 5 in Cusco

 
By: Shane
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Peru - Day 4 - Cusco - June 11, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 2:32 PM

The Cathedral and La Compañia in the Plaza de Armas

We got up early this morning and left the hotel at about 6 am to head to the airport for our flight to Cusco.  The LAN flight was right on time, leaving Lima at 8:30 am and arriving in Cusco at 9:45.  Once we collected all of our bags, Edwin split us into two groups for the duration of our stay in Cusco and Machu Picchu because the streets of both would not allow a bus large enough for all of us.  Andrea and I were put in the Puma group.  We then boarded the two busses and headed to the Eco Inn.

Edwin gave us a short briefing on the schedule for Cusco and some suggestions for our free afternoon after arriving at the hotel.  We also got our first taste of coca tea during the briefing.  I'm not a big tea drinker, but I definitely enjoyed the coca tea.  Coca tea is purported to be good at alleviating the effects of altitude sickness (Cusco sits right at 11,000 feet above sea level), but it is also a mild diuretic, so Edwin recommended that we not drink more than five cups a day.

After the briefing, we retired to our room to rest for an hour or so before meeting Greg M, Amanda, and Rich in the lobby.  Unfortunately Greg was feeling pretty sick, so he stayed in his room instead.  We all hiked up Avenida El Sol from the hotel to the Plaza de Armas.

In the Plaza de Armas, we all headed over to lunch at Inka Grill, one of the restaurants that Edwin had recommended, at about 1 pm.  For lunch, I had aji de gallina and Andrea had a green pumpkin soup.  I also had my first Cuzqueña beer.  The aji de gallina was almost identical to the version that we had in Denver. 

After lunch, we looked around the Plaza de Armas and then went over to tour La Compañia de Jesus, one of two massive churches on the square.  One of the guides took us through the church, showing us the massive cedar main altar that is covered in gold leaf.  He then took us up through a tiny doorway that I had to crouch to get through and up a small staircase to the upper level.  From there we could see the whole sanctuary, including some of the remaining damage from the 1950 earthquake.  One interesting feature is that all of the windows were not made of glass, but of thinly cut alabaster.  We then went and took a number of pictures looking out from the bell tower onto the Plaza de Armas before heading out.

We then walked over to Convento de La Merced just a couple of blocks away at about 4:15.  We spent about 45 minutes touring this church and convent.  The most interesting feature here was the ceilings of the corridors that were carved wood that was fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, holding itself up without the use of glue or nails.  The convent also contained a number of examples of the Cuzqueña school of painting.

After La Merced, we headed back down to the hotel where we met the group for dinner at 6 pm.  Edwin had ordered a number of taxis to accomodate the whole group and we had a brief ride back up to the Plaza de Armas for dinner at Andean Grill.  For dinner, I had the alpaca dish, and Andrea had chicken, and we both had lucuma ice cream for dessert. 

Following dinner we wandered around, taking a number of night shots in the Plaza de Armas before walking back down to the hotel.  We finished off the night with a pisco sour in the hotel bar before heading to bed.

Photos from Day 4 in Cusco

 
By: Shane
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Peru - Day 3 - Lima - June 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 1:27 PM

The Lima Cathedral at Night

This day was our first free day of the trip.  We woke up in the morning and had breakfast in the hotel at around 8:30.  Following that, we got a cab over to the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Antropologia E Historia Del Peru.  This museum had the best chronology of all of the pre-Columbian history of Peru that we saw on the trip, though the English translations were spotty at best. 

Leaving the museum, we saw a bunch of school kids who saw me and my camera and were just begging to have their picture taken, so I obliged on the walk over to the cab.  The cab driver then took us over to the Plaza de Armas where we arrived just in time to catch the Changing of the Guard.  The Changing of the Guard was a very impressive show.  The soldiers did a high leg kick with each step, bringing their leg well up above their waist.  We did get a laugh when Rich noticed that the band was playing an arrangement of a Simon and Garfunkel tune for the duration of most of the ceremony.

After the Changing of the Guard, we walked around to find lunch and ended up at L'Eau Vive around 1:30 pm.  L'Eau Vive is a French restaurant run by a group of nuns where all of the profits go to the poor.  I had Tournedos au berre Bercy et coeuro d'artichaut, and Andrea had Escalope de poulet a la Jurassienne before we shared Coupe Creole (a lucuma ice cream sundae with pineapple and kirsch) for dessert.  One of many funny moments of the day came here where Rich was posing with the waffle cone tube like Winston Churchill with his cigar.  The nuns pretty much thought this was the funniest thing they had ever seen and kept bringing the other nuns over to see the picture.

After lunch, at about 2:30 pm, we walked over to see San Pedro, home of La Abuelita.  La Abuelita weighs about 500 tons and is the oldest church bell in the Western Hemisphere.  The bell is also famous for ringing in Peru's independence from Spain. 

We then walked over to La Merced.  La Merced is the church dedicated to La Virgen de la Merced, the patron of Peru.  The virgin is considered the protector of Peru and is symbolized in a white dress with a sash resembling Peru's flag around her waist.  This was another beautiful church that was filled with many carved wood altars.

After leaving La Merced, we wandered around the area surrounding the Plaza de Armas for a while and then walked over to the Convento de Santo Domingo.  A young seminary student, Alfredo Reinoso, showed us through the convent.  Santo Domingo is home to the graves of two South American saints, San Martin de Porres and Santa Rosa de Lima.  In addition to all of the relics of the saints that accompany their graves, Santo Domingo was the original home of the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere, San Marcos University.  We got to stand in the pulpit where students had to deliver their exams and see the chair where the Spanish governor would watch.  The convent was also visited by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Peru in 1985.  While in the convent, we were also allowed to sit in the chair that John Paul II used during his visit.

When we left Santo Domingo, it was nearly 6 pm, so we called for our cab to take us back to the hotel in Miraflores so we could make our dinner reservation.  They said they would be there in about 30 minutes, so Andrea and I walked over to the Plaza de Armas for some night photos while we waited.  Unfortunately, due to Lima's ridiculous traffic, we waited for over an hour for the cab to show up.  When it finally did show up, it took over an hour to get back to the hotel, ensuring we would miss our original dinner reservation.  Fortunately the hotel had re-booked our reservation, so we left immediately for dinner.

We finally made it do dinner at La Rosa Nautica around 8:15 pm.  Built on a pier out over the Pacific Ocean, La Rosa Nautica was truly the best meal we had in Peru, bar none.  I had seabass Rosa Nautica, which was served in a large, real sea shell and topped with puff pastry which they cut open in front of me to reveal the rest of the dish.  It was an incredible presentation.  Andrea had saltado de camaron, which was a shrimp dished served in the Peruvian saltado style and topped with a fried egg.  We shared "El alfajor Rosa Nautica" which is an alfajor cookie stuffed with manjar, and garnished with fior di panna ice cream. 

The dinner was absolutely wonderful, but the unforgettable story of the evening came courtest of Greg once again.  Greg had ordered the lamb ossobucco and was trying to suck the marrow out of the bone like you are supposed to do.  It wasn't coming.  So he sucked harder.  Right in a lull in conversation at every table in the room, thunk.  Greg's eyes get huge as the marrow pops out with a loud thunk and hits him in the back of the throat.  Fortunately he didn't choke on it, but I don't think any of us have laughed that hard in a long time.  And now Greg is forever known as "Thunk."

We finally left La Rosa Nautica about 11 pm and headed back to the hotel to pack for the flight to Cusco and head to bed.

Photos from Day 3 in Lima

 
By: Shane
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