Peru Pt. I // Cusco

August 11, 2017 Cusco, Peru

Peru was absolutely insane  from the colors to the food to the Inca Trail experience and the rich history and culture. When you are trekking the Inca Trail, you are required to spend 2  3 days in the famous little Andes mountain town of Cusco, but little did we know it would be one of our favorite parts. So here we were on August 10, all packed up for our trip and trek, and ready for our big adventure!

Day 1  Travel Day to Cusco. So if you know anything about the famous Inca Trail, you may have heard of the infamous altitude. Emilio and I were honestly super nervous because of what we had read about the altitude sickness you could get from both the Inca Trail and Cusco. Altitude sickness can come from being in incredibly high altitudes and can cause you to be get dizzy, nauseated, sick and even hospitalized. We read multiple blogs warning us about the extremities of this, and took no risks. This meant we drank tons of water the days leading up to our trip and from a few pointers from bloggers, decided to put chlorophyll drops in our water. (Yes, like the chlorophyll from plants, so our water was shockingly green the entire trip!) 

After our layovers in Panama City and Lima, we were off on the one-hour flight to Cusco, where we witnessed the most beautiful views of the Andes Mountains, which was super exciting ...

... and also a bit nerve-racking because this was a preview of what we'd be trekking in 3 days. 

When we got off the plane, we were greeted by a host from our Airbnb who told us all about the wonders of Cusco and gave us lots of advice for the altitude sickness.

When we arrived at our Airbnb, we were absolutely amazed. It was the most beautiful bed and breakfast on top of a hill that overlooked the entire city of Cusco  and our room featured the entire view! 

Here is a small preview of the beauty of it. If you look closely, you can also see a little girl twirling. She was by herself on her rooftop, dancing around everywhere  but right when I grabbed my phone to take a video, she spotted me and hid as soon as she could. It was the cutest thing!  

One of the biggest lifesavers for us in the high altitude was the abundance of coca leaves (which help with hydration? Oxygen? Not really sure, but it works!). Our Airbnb had coca tea available in the lobby  and it was also readily available to us at every restaurant or cafe we went to, which we definitely took advantage of. With a spoonful of sugar, it's really tasty too! Our first cup we had gave us the energy to make a short trek on the first night to the Blue Alpaca, a cute little restaurant down the street where we experienced our first delicious Peruvian meal. 

Day 2  Plaza de Armas + Cooking Class. We started out our first full day in Cusco by exploring the city center, the Plaza de Armas.

One of the major sites in the Plaza were these stunning ancient churches!

We also enjoyed the view from a cute little hotel cafe that sat above the city square with a tiny balcony. We ended up visiting this cafe a few times a day  especially when we needed more coca tea!  and then went on to explore!

These were the infamous steps up to our Airbnb that nearly convinced us we could not do the Inca Trail. On the very first night there with the altitude change, we had to take these steps back very slowly, and even still found ourselves out of breath. However, it was very comforting that each day we regained strength, and they got easier and easier to climb!

Something we loved about Cusco is that it is full of the cutest little hole-in-the-wall shops and cafes. This one we stumbled upon was one of our favorites!

There were even string lights wrapped across the beautiful wooden beams on the ceiling  so cute! 

To give you an idea of how hydrated we had to be, this is an example of the water bottles we would carry around in our bags every day  and multiple of them!

That afternoon, we went to a cooking class. But our guide was sure to point out that this was not actually a cooking class, but rather a culinary experience. Although there were a ton of cooking classes to choose from in Cusco, we decided to go with the highest rated one. Although it was also the most expensive, it was absolutely beyond worth it and we could not have pictured going anywhere else. 

The cooking class was held in the cutest square of a few restaurants all owned by the same person. Because of the high end restaurants, we got to try a variety of small dishes that were part of the Peruvian culture. This one  which was beautiful!  is called "causa." In a war against the Spanish, the Peruvian women would work hard to deliver food to the Peruvian soldiers, and made sure that it was packed with a variety of healthy ingredients so that they would stay nourished and strong to fight. Causa is an amazing part of the culture still celebrated today because it is said that the soldiers would not have been successful without the women; they were the ones who won the war. Every causa you order will be different, but this one was absolutely incredible and filled with mashed potato, avocado, meat, peppers and more! 

We also learned about the tons of different types of guavas and other fruits, as well as got samples of the most popular kinds. So good!

The pantry at this cooking class was out of a magazine. These restaurants were unique by their clean and fresh ingredients, and while other cooking classes took you to the local market, our guide took us right next door to their pantry which was stocked with highest quality of local produce. 

Even the corn was beautiful!

It was also fascinating to learn about the thousands of different types of potatoes. (There are between 3 and 4,000 kinds!)

Fun fact: This is a potato.

And so is this one!

Our teacher and chef, Jose, then took us to the next room, which was meant it was time to prepare our first dish! 

This was absolutely the best thing I had in Peru. It was ceviche (fish!) paired with sweet potato and corn nuts. At first when they brought out the corn nuts, I almost didn't take any because I thought that it would be the weirdest combination. Turns out it made the whole thing! This type of pairing was part of what makes Peruvian food so unique and special; they often make strange combinations with distinct tastes and textures that literally pair together perfectly

Next, we made the two most popular types of drinks in Peru  one of them being the famous pisco sour. Here are some of the different flavors we got to use in making one of our drinks!

Next, we got to cook a meal on the stove ourselves...

And even got to play with fire!

This last dish that we prepared which was the first meal we happened to have when we first got to Cusco. This common Peruvian meal includes rice, beef, vegetables and french fries. The perfect way to end the perfect cooking class before running around Cusco to continue exploring! 

Day 3  Last Full Day in Cusco. The first thing on our to-do list for the day was to visit Monkey Coffee, which was a teeny little coffee shop that caught our eye that was on our walk to town. It was full of old film cameras, photo albums and displays  so basically our dream. 

Why yes, we did love it so much that we set up a self-timer in there. 

And the coffee was nothing short of delicious!

Something else I admire about Peruvians is that they are not shy about their sugar, which makes me embrace my love for all the sugar I put in my coffee and tea even more!

Our next stop was San Pedro Market, which was Cusco's vibrant indoor market which was filled with food and souvenir vendors and stands. 

My personal favorite part was the fruit section, where you could simply sit in front of a booth and pick out your favorite fruits  and the women would make a blended fruit smoothie right before your eyes. 

Although we didn't buy any, we had to stop by and see the cheese since it happens to be one of our personal favorite food groups. Such a beautiful sight!

Grains are huge in Peru's food culture (especially quinoa!), so we saw tons at the market. Overall, it was a very interesting trip. 

We decided to give ourselves one fancy meal before our next crazy few days on the Inca Trail, so we pre-rewarded ourselves with lunch at a beautiful upstairs Peruvian restaurant around the corner from the Plaza.

Due to the insanely affordable prices, we went all out and ordered six tapas / appetizers that ranged from seafood to duck.

Best. Decision. Ever.

I also made it my goal for the day to hold one of the little lambs that we saw around the town. We were actually upstairs at the Chocolate Museum and saw these ladies walking by holding two of them below us and I made Emilio sprint down to the street to find them. 

Clearly, we were successful.

Worth the ten soles? Yes. Me in my happy places? Definitely.

We then made it back to our cute little B & B to have a quiet and restful night before our big trek in the morning. It was the best few nights in Cusco at this gorgeous place, and the skies gave us the perfect goodbye before our next adventure.

Next stop: The Inca Trail!

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