Astrid and Gaston was the only restaurant I booked before we left for our trip, reserving a table for our last night in Peru before we headed to Ecuador. If you take any notice of those “Best Restaurants in the World” lists, it’s on one of them at number 35.
Astrid and Gaston is owned by Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio (you may remember that we also visited another of his restaurants in Cusco – Chicha).
I had researched how long it would take for us to get there from our hotel – about 15 minutes by car – but despite leaving early, terrible Lima traffic got the better of us. What should’ve taken 15 minutes stretched out to 40 minutes, and I had to quickly call from the taxi to apologise for running late. Fortunately they seemed totally fine about it – perhaps being used to people running on Latin time?
Astrid and Gaston is located in Miraflores, an upmarket suburb in Lima that’s also a major tourist spot. The restaurant was on a quiet street with a discreet entrance guarded by a doorman. Inside, the restaurant is spread over several rooms and we were seated in one of the back rooms, surrounded by racks of wine.
The Amazon was one of the highlights of our trip. We flew from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, a small town in the Peruvian Amazon. It felt like a different country from Cusco. While the air in Cusco was cool (though extremely hot in the sun), Puerto Maldonado was hot and humid.
After landing, we were transferred by bus to the river and then boarded a boat which took us to our lodge, about three hours upriver.
I felt a bit sad when we left Cusco. We had a flight to the Amazon next – which was of course, very exciting – but somehow because it was a flight, it felt more final than if we had left by bus.
Because we’d had a couple of quiet days in Cusco, I had gotten used to pottering around the town, walking the roads from our hotel to the main square, learning to cross the roads like a local (just going for it, basically), finding nice places for Alastair and I to eat, declining offers of massages and Machu Picchu trips from touts, and generally having a very relaxed time.
After the Inca Trail, Alastair and I were both completely Wrecked. With a capital W. Remember the 3.30am start? We didn’t get back to Cusco until 11pm that night. Longest day ever.
We had another day in Cusco after the Trail, and while we probably should’ve used the opportunity to visit the Sacred Valley, the thought of doing stuff and seeing more Inca ruins didn’t exactly fill me with excitement. It’s like the ABC syndrome you get in Europe (Another Bloody Cathedral) – in Peru, it’s the NAIR problem – Not Another Inca Ruin! Oh so sad.
To assuage my slight guilt (trust me, it was only slight), I told myself we’d seen the best Inca ruin in the world, so I called it done. (more…)
Machu Picchu is Peru’s most visited tourist attraction and I won’t lie – it was the reason we went to South America.
I knew a little bit about the Inca Trail, and from the little I knew, I thought it would be cool to do. But I deliberately didn’t learn too much about it.
I knew it was a four day / three night trek and ended at Machu Picchu, I knew that there would be porters and all we’d have to do is walk, but beyond that most of the details were a surprise. And oh, what a surprise. I was suprised both by how easy AND how difficult it was.
After Puno and Amantani Island, our next stop was Cusco. Cusco used to be the Inca capital, and after being developed by the Inca King Pachacutec, it became the most important city of the Empire. After the Spanish conquered the Incas, they constructed their churches and other buildings on top of Inca ruins. Remnants of the Inca civilisation can still be seen today in the big solid stones used as foundations in many buildings – see the difference in the stonework on the right? The bottom is Inca stonework. They are strong, straight and meticulously cut.
Lake Titicaca is located in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia and happens to be the highest navigable lake (by commercial watercraft) in the world at an altitude of 3,812m (12,507ft) above sea level. It’s also the largest lake in South America by volume of water and has a maximum depth of 281m. Basically, it’s massive. (more…)
I know when the love part happened. It was when we went to the Colca Canyon. From Arequipa, we boarded a mini bus that took us into the mountains. As we entered the mountain highlands, the scenery became more and more spectacular.
I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things since arriving home. I have lots of stories to tell and way too many photos to edit (editing photos makes me want to cry. wah wah guitar.)
I’ll start with this post on Arequipa: Peru’s second largest city, with a population of over 800,000 (incidentally, Lima is Peru’s biggest city with 9 million people – big difference, hey?). Arequipa is quite pretty – it’s located in the Andes mountains and is overlooked by three volcanoes – and it has many colonial-era Spanish buildings that are built from a white volcanic rock.
While there, we did one of my favourite things – visit a market. Yay! (more…)