Our First Home Away from Home

Food & Wine, Hostels, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Parties, Festivals & Events, Peru — By on July 11, 2006 at 10:41 pm

The town might have cobblestone roads instead of yellow brick ones and the little munchkins who skip through the town square are actually angel-faced street kids, but after descending from the clouds into this mystical Andean city punctuated with rainbow-colored flags, we realized one thing: there’s no place like Cusco.

Sure, we got a touch of altitude sickness on our first night, but it was hardly something that a warm bed and a few cups of mate de coca at the Hotel Monastario (the local tea brewed with coca leaves and steaming hot water) couldn’t cure.

Our arrival from Lima coincided with the frenetic conclusion of Inti Rami, an ages-old festival that once paid tribute to the sun god and in modern times can make Mardi Gras look like just a homecoming parade.

After checking into our first hostel, Loki, we quickly learned that locals, ex-pats and travelers alike were all gearing up for “the party of the year” at Fallen Angel, a club with a heaven & hell theme and some serious big-city attitude. The only entry requirements: a red wristband and a pair of wings. Since the Lost Girls weren’t feeling artistic enough to fashion our own from wire and nylon, we headed to the “piñata” district to buy three sets for the bargain price of 14 soles, or $4 each.

We couldn’t linger in heaven forever, so we decided to come back down to earth by having an enormous brunch in one of Cusco’s most delicious cafes–Jack’s, an Irish-run spot located in the artsy San Blas neighborhood. True, homemade veggie burgers, banana pancakes, chocolate milkshakes and chicken soft tacos don’t exactly qualify as “platos typicos” in Peru, but this comfort-food hangout is an unparalleled favorite among backpackers, thanks to its cheap prices and ginormous portions.

Wandering down the narrow streets and slipping over slick stones that barely contitute sidewalks, The Lost Girls learned two things: 1. Always wear shoes with thick rubber treads and 2. Don’t expect to see all of Cusco in a single day. Like our fabulous hometown of New York, this city is best explored slowly, on foot, by poking your head into the countless clothing stalls, jewelry stores, food shops and artisan markets that radiate out from the central square. We found the fresh goods market at San Pedro both fascinating and unsettling. Under the same massive tents where fresh cheeses, fruits, veggies and breads are sold, one can also purchase a fresh bovine head or the entrails of a pig. Think the very sight of it can kill an LG’s appetite? Not quite.

Thanks to the innumerable brick and clay ovens found in Cusco, the pizza here rivals that of Famous Ray’s back at home. With the help of some new Irish friends, we gave into thin-crust lust at Baco, a wine and tapas restaurant that just opened near the Plaza del Armas. Instead of boring bread, we nibbled on Peru’s most ubiquitous and delicious delicacy before dinner-potato fries smoothed in green and cheese sauces and served with tangy fruit salsas.

To cap off the evening, we headed to Mama Africa, a cave-like, over-the-top nightclub that sets the mood with zebra striped walls, a huge plaster elephant (complete with 3 foot trunk!) and tribal club music playing to a crowd of revelers from all over the world. There, we toasted to the launch of our adventure with the happy hour special-three Pisco Sours, extra foamy.

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  • Kevin Riley says:

    Fantastic writings here. You’re making me want to go traveling … again! Also, now I’ve gotten a desire for those fried potatoes.


  • Minerva Jane says:

    i’m so excited that i found your site. sounds like a fantastic adventure. i guess i’m lost too–but I got lost to the place y’all left–NYC.

    I’ll keep reading and link to you form my own blog, godddessinthecity.blogspot.com

  • Softball Slut says:

    I was watching a show on the Travel Channel and it was about Peru. Made me think of ya’ll and I got so jealous!! I really want to go there now. Didnt know the only way to Machupichu (sp?) was by train! It looked hauntingly beautiful