Today was our second day in Cusco and we were excited to get out and tour the city. After a ridiculously good breakfast at El Retablo that featured everything from traditional Peruvian grains and granolas to crepes, we went out exploring. First we strolled around the bustling Plaza de Armas and then headed to Mercado de San Pedro for Gordon to track down the perfect bag. Fun fact: Gordon buys a local bag on every one of his travels. At home, he has over a hundred bags from his travels all over Asia and Europe. He located a stylish faux alpaca tote complete with tassels for a mere 15 soles (about $5). Both straps on the bag broke later in the day…
After finding the doomed tote, we visited the Museo de Arte Precolombino and marveled at their collection of objects from pre-Incan and Incan cultures. After getting our culture fix, Gordon desperately needed a cappuccino and I couldn’t possibly tourist another cobblestone step without a smoothie. Cusco delivered on both counts. Refreshed and caffeinated, we met our designated tour guide for the afternoon. She lead us up the hill from our hotel where we got an awesome view of the city.
From our vantage point over the city, we headed down to La Factoria Vicunita which had a gorgeous collection of traditional Peruvian textiles and a fantastic gift shop. It took all my willpower not to walk out with a handful of baby alpaca sweaters.
Next, we headed to La Catedral which stands over what was once the palace of Inca Wirancocha. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any photos in the cathedral but it was very baroque and chocked full of paintings from Cusco School of Art. Local artists would often insert Peruvian touches to traditional religious themes, the most famous being The Last Supper as painted by Marcos Zapata in 1753. It features Jesus and his disciples dining on guinea pig and other local fare.
After visiting a very Spanish church, we got a chance to check out Inca architecture which is widely known for its fine masonry. We were amazed by all the effort that must have gone into making the wall in the photo above.
Next on the agenda was Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun and the most important temple in the Incan empire. While some of the temple remains, most of it was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors and much of its stonework forms the foundation of the Santo Domingo church and covent. The juxtaposition of colonial and Incan architecture was fascinating.
Had to get this photo as proof of Gordon smiling. He claims his street cred will be ruined. Unlikely, but I’m glad to help.
After a full day of sampling the architectural wonders of the city, we met the rest of the folks on our tour at El Mercado Hotel. What an awesome space! There were soft alpaca blankets everywhere which were fabulous with the dipping temperature.
Don’t even get me started on the food at La Taberna Restaurant inside the hotel. I had bright and fresh ceviche, flaky grilled trout with buttery potatoes, and finished the meal with a dense corn cake with passion berry cream and elderberry ice cream. So. Good.
Tomorrow, we head out to mountains!