Well This Looks Familiar

Good Morning! How was your weekend? Tell me all about your 4th of July!

Though I didn’t have plans to hit the road or the beach for holiday, I still had a fun, festive, and America filled weekend! I wish I could share pictures of our adventures, but…. Snapchat happened. Has anyone else found that the increased popularity of and capabilities is Snapchat mean that they rarely take real pictures? Opps!

IMG_0923[1]I am super glad I am sharing this ridiculously flattering picture with the world

We ate incredible meals out far more than my wallet would have preferred, watched oodles of soccer (my brother is OBSESSED – it’s ridiculous, also holy Women’s World Cup!), spent time with friends, and celebrated America the best way possible, with fireworks! (I hope you sang Katy Perry allllll weekend :))

Bday 2014Throwback to the best night of my life aka my 25th birthday when me and 17,000 10 year olds saw Katy kickoff her Prism world tour.

Ok, randomness over, I promise.

What I actually want to talk ohhhhhhhh so briefly (because who wants to dwell on injury), is well, my injury.  As I mentioned Friday, I have absolutely no idea what my orthopedist diagnosed me with, nor am I all that confident in his diagnosis. What I am certain of, is my stupidity, when 9 days after the pain set in, I attempted to run, “Just to see what it felt like.” It hurt, a lot. That meant, it was back to the elliptical for the foreseeable future.

IMG_0932[1] Whyyyyyy

It’s funny, every summer for the past three years, I have had to deal with injury. Luckily, the last two have been minor, requiring only a week or two of downtime. I originally thought that this injury was in that same boat, 1-2 weeks of ellipticaling and I’d be back at it, fighting the humidity, not nagging pain.  What I have found through minor and sever injuries, is that by far the most frustrating, defeating, tear-inducing part, is uncertainty. Not knowing what an injury is, means you can’t treat the injury, and take steps to regain your health – and sanity.

One week after I was unable to run, I visited the doctor. He sent me home with a knee brace, and a prescription of physical therapy. My two weeks of ellipticaling is approaching rapidly. I fear that despite a “diagnosis,” I remain in that indeterminable limbo where I don’t know what my injury is an thus don’t have clarity on how to treat it.

Thursday, a week since visiting the doctor, and two weeks since I have been able to run, I was finally able to get into physical therapy. This is where my hope is residing right now. The clinic I am visiting works with the area’s colligate and professional athletes, Olympians included! I am itching to get in there and get healthy. So stay tuned. My fingers are crossed this is just a speed bump and nothing more.

Did you watch the Women’s World Cup Final?

What is the hardest part of being injured for you?

Five Things Friday

Happy Friday friends! One question for you this morning, where are you? Are you on your way to the beach? Visiting friends? If you are reading this as you get ready for work, don’t worry, I am right there with you, publishing this as I eat my breakfast before work. While it seems like the rest of the country has today off, because the 4th of July falls on a Saturday, we get to take the holiday as a floating holiday at any point this year!

I wish I could report that I had today off of work, and oodles of fun plans for the 4th, but alas I do not. The good news is that because the 4th falls on a weekend this year, I get to take a floating vacation day at any point this year. I am thinking Boston sounds like a good idea!

Even without major plans, I do intend to have a fabulous weekend filled with grilling and pool time with any friends who are in town. What is it about the fourth that just puts everyone into a fabulous and fun mood?! Ok let’s jump into Five… errrrr Four Things Friday shall we?

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First, What a Bucket List Summer!

First Machu Picchu, and now… the Rolling Stones!?! Is this real life? Can I be introspective for a moment on a Friday? Ok, thanks . It. Is. So. easy to fall into the hum-drum mental trap that our lives aren’t that exciting in spite of all of the wonderful things happening in them, even in hard times. It took someone at work telling me that seeing the Rolling Stones live was a bucket list item for it to hit me.

I’ve checked off two huge items that are on most people’s bucket list this Summer, and  it’s only the beginning of July! One of my favorites, Jenn from Running With Pugs  recently posted about not pausing to appreciate the progress we make. I am majorly guilty of feeling stalled in life when in reality…. I ain’t that old yall!

IMG_0913[1] Oh hey Mick…

Anyways… speaking of old…. the Rolling Stones were great! They were just as energetic and awesome as you would expect.  The first person who bottles the secret to their longevity, vivacity, and energy at any  age (even 70!) will be a very rich person.  I never thought I would see the Rolling Stones live, how is that for a bucket list item!

Second, I really Thought I Was Making Progress

With Injury prevention that is….

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It seems that once per year, I get some sort of nagging pain that sidelines my running. In the past, the pain turned into serious injury (hello 10 month stress fracture!) I like to think that I have grown wiser (ha!) and when those pains set in, stop running for a few days. If they persist, I then go straight to the orthopedist. I had notice a pain in my inner right knee over the past few weeks. It was so mild that I ignored it. Last Thursday though, I cut my 7 mile run to 5 miles when the pain became too glaring to ignore.

Since Thursday, I have been ellipticaling, which as soul crushing as it is, I am grateful for because it is pain free. Walking however is not. I went to the Orthopedic yesterday, my diagnosis, I literally have no idea. my doctor, who UI saw successfully two years ago when I had Quadriceps Tendinosis, breezed through our appointment, telling my my pain was a common running injury involving the cartilage in my knee and that with a brace and physical therapy to strengthen my quad, I’ be running again in a few weeks. In other words, not my best experience.  I will begin physical therapy next week, and continue wearing the brace and ellipticaling in the meantime. Fingers crossed his diagnosis (whatever it is) is correct!

Third, Links I loved

22+ Funny Illustrations Proving The World Has Changed For the Worse

Cauliflower Burnt Rice

I CANNOT get enough of this recipe!

Permanent link to The Reason Why I Always Want to Work Out

Yes, Yes, Yes

Finally, The Week In Fitness

Friday: 60 minutes light elliptical, abs

Thursday: 50 minutes elliptical, abs

Wednesday: 60 minutes elliptical, booty

Tuesday: Off

Monday: 60 minutes light elliptical, arms

Sunday: 60 minutes elliptical, total body toning

Saturday: 60 minutes elliptical, total body toning

What are you doing for the 4th? If you work, do you have today off?

On a scale of 1-10 how much do you like your doctor?

The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is the ultimate bucket list for many people. They dream of visiting the secluded jungle city of the Inca, hidden from most of society for hundreds of years. After falling in love with Peru during our first week, incredible the question Eric and I had to ask was, would it live up to the hype?

Day 7 The Sacred Valley

If there is one piece of advice I can offer when visiting Peru, it is to go with the flow. Our experience may  have been unique, but from the moment we met our, “contact” at our hotel to take us on our tour of the Sacred Valley on the Inca an on to Machu Picchu, control was out of Eric and I’s hands.

Tip: Visiting the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu Almost ever visitor that comes to Peru visits the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. The standard trip bases out of Cusco and begins with a day long tour of the Sacred Valley. Visitors then spend the night in one of the Valley’s towns before making an early morning train/bus ride to Machu Picchu. Some choose to visit Machu Picchu directly from Cusco. It takes just over three hours to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco, making a day-long trip quite the feat!

Tip: Packing for Machu Picchu: The train to Machu Picchu has strict luggage limits which  most carry-on bags will not meet. We found the buses to be more restrictive. I highly recommend packing only what you need in a back pack for your time in the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.

Eric, our backpacks, full of our necessities for the next three days (yes, I wore the same clothes for three days straight) met our contact at 8am to being our tour. Without a word, she beckoned us to follow her, led us to a bus and “gently” shoved us on board. Neither of us thought to ask where the bus was headed or if we were in the right place. When we sat down, we realize that we looked to be the only English speakers on board…

Our bus took off, and after seeing the look of utter disbelief on my face, our guide reassured us, “I see your face, don’t worry, don’t worry, I’ll explain in English and in Spanish.” Ok….. As he explained our itinerary, Eric and I realized we had no idea how we were supposed to get to our hotel in the town of Urumbamba, as the tour circled back to Cusco at the end of the day. But that was a bridge to be crossed later. Literally. In the meantime, we made our first stop, an obligatory stop at a literally tourist trap all visitors to the Sacred Valley are routed to. Luckily we ran into some of our friends from the Amazon an previous tours who we were able to ease our concerns to by joking about our tour.

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Our first real stop was in the town of Pisac, famous for it’s market. On Sundays, tourists and locals alike flock to the market to haggle deals. Even though we didn’t visit on a traditional market day, there were still plenty of goods to gaze at.

IMG_0756[1] After our stop off at the market, we climbed, and climbed and climbed from the valley to the mountain top and the ruined Incan city of Pisaca. Perhaps it was that this was our introduction to the Sacred Valley, but Pisaca was one of my favorite stops in the Sacred Valley. He views were stunning, and for those with the time, there is ample hiking in the area.

IMG_0763[1] The reoccurring theme with all places associated with Incans…. stairs… We did not have much time, but Eric and I broke from the tourists and hiked along the ruins as far as time allowed.

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Next up, was lunch! We drove to the town of Urumbamba for lunch. Our travel agent had booked our buffet lunch at a different restaurant than the rest of our tour. We drove an drove through town, getting a preview of our lodgings for the night. Our impression…..Ummmm….. There are a lot of charming places in Peru, on the surface, the working town of Urumbamba is not one of them. We were able to take the time to ask our guide how we would get back to town that day to stay overnight. The answer, we would walk. Sort of. There was one last stop on our tour, and after that, our bus would return to Urumbamba where it would cross the river to return to Cusco. At that crossing, Eric and I would need to depart and walk the rest of the way to the hotel. Cool.

Tip: Buffet Lunches For some reason, buffet lunches are a “thing” in the toursisty spots of Peru. When making your way to places with limited options such as Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley, expect to see buffets. While I love nothing more than a good (or not so good depending on your standards) buffet,  don’t expect fried chicken. The good buffets in Peru have incredible cevice and high quality food!

But first – Ollantaytambo! In the 1400s, an Incan general broke off from the Incan king and established the fortress city of Ollantaytambo.

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Though the fortress was a strategic stronghold and fended off one Spanish attack, when the Spanish returned with a force four times the size of the Incan defenders, they were force into retreat further into the jungle.

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After exploring the ruins it was time to return to our bus for a short ride to our drop off point for the night. When we reached the bridge in Urumbamba, we bade our Spanish speaking bus farewell, slung our packs over our backs and set off to find our hotel. As we walked, Eric had the idea to pop into one of the street side convenience stores which are 2 per block in Peru, grab a Cusquena, and watch the sunset in the Valley. It may have made no sense to spend the night there, but it was the perfect way to end the day.

Tip: Where to stay the night before visiting Machu Picchu: To reach Machu Picchu, visitors almost always depart from Ollantaytambo. Those not taking the 4 day Inca trail by foot take a train for approximately 2 hours into the foothills of the cloud forest to Aguiles Calientes. From Aguiles Calientes, buses take visitors 25 minutes up the mountain to Machu Picchu. Almost all visitors to Machu Picchu spend the night before in either of these locations. Do so. Enough said.

Day 8 Machu Picchu

Spending the night in Urumbamba meant that before we took the 6 am train from Ollantaytambo to Aguiles Calientes, we needed to catch a 4am bus to Urumbamba . Yes. It was as crazy as it sounds. At 4:15, we were getting nervous and called our “contact” for help. 5 minutes later, we heard honking and ran onto a bus of sleeping Peruvian tourists. Yep. We arrive at the train station and took our seats on the train. As we made the approximately 2 hour trip, we watched the first dark blue light of the day creep in as we descended into the canyons of jungle.

Next, we boarded the buses and began to ascend into the cloudy mist of the mountain to Machu Picchu. So let me be honest here. I was bummed. Sure we were in a cloud forest and all but I really wanted to see the green, jungle valley, and snow capped mountains peaking through. In fact, I was acting like a diva. Part of the mystery and wonder of Machu Picchu is the mist. But still.

We had 7 am reservations to hike Huayno Picchu, a mountain adjacent to Machu Picchu so the moment we scanned our tickets, we made our way through the mist, unable to see the true glory that surrounded us as we mazed our way to the hike’s entrance.

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Tip: Hiking Huyano Picchu: Only 400 visitors per ay are allowed to hike Huayno Pichhu, 200 at 7am, and 200 at 9am. Guys, the hike, while fairly short, is strenuous. Eric and I are descent hikers. We grew up hiking in the American West, and are fairly fit. When we hear that a hike is difficult, we typically disagree, and expected the same at Huayno Pichhu. Well, we were wrong it’s hard, and fun, and totally worth it!

The hike was S.T.E.E.P. Wow. The one thing I can say for sure about the Incans is that those people were in shape! Once we finally ascended the mountain, we emerged into the mist. Seriously, that is all we could see. What make This Huayno Picchu so famous is it’s steepness, and the view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding valley. The behest of a guide from another group, we waited for the mist to lift as it did, the early morning of Machu Picchu was revealed.

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Hiking up Huayno Pichhu was tiring and steep, but the descent down, well, it was harrowing. The first part of the climb, descended the same steep stairs however as anyone who has climbed anything knows, going down is always harder than going up. There was nothing to hold on to, and a sheer cliff to one side! I fell back to my favorite piece of advice, always have three points of contact.

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We spent the next few hours meandering through Machu Picchu. We had a tour scheduled for 11am, but, it turned out our “contact” had booked us another Spanish tour. We joined an English tour for 1.5 hours, but our favorite part was meeting fellow traveler, one of whom was an archeologist and taught us more than our guide! Snafu aside, if there is ne thing I can say about Machu Picchu – for all of the hype, it is not over rated!

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IMG_0831[1] Around 2 pm, we were exhausted (we had been up since 3:40am after all!) and headed down into Aguiles Calientes  for another fabulous buffet lunch before checking into our hotel.

Despite being over-priced and a tourist hub, I found Aguiles Calientes  to be a charming town.

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Day 9 Aguiles Calientes to Machu Picchu

The next morning, we caught the train back to Ollantaytambo. On our ride, we made friends with two women from Lima, Margarita, and Sofia, who not only sent each of us home with gifts, but a standing invitation to visit them anytime in Lima! I love Peruvians.  Once we arrived in Ollantaytambo , we had to catch another bus back to Cusco. As you can imagine, at this point, we had our fingers crossed that our bus would be there and we wouldn’t be riding on the roof. And we weren’t. We boarded a cozy (that makes it sound nice right? :)) bus here we were the only foreigners for the two hour rive back to Cusco. Our ride was elayed 45 minutes while we waited for a parade to pass through Urumbamba.

When we finally arrived back in Cusco, there was one thing we could say – we really did get to travel like locals! We arrived in time for a late lunch at our new favorite restaurant, Quinta Eulalia for one last idealistic meal.

After lunch, we spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering through Cusco, stopping in Paddy’s Irish Pub, aka the highest Irish-owned pub in the world. It was just as touristy and as friggin fantastic as it sounds! We ended our final evening at where else… Museo Del Pisco before dining at Cicciolina for incredible octopus and alpaca.

Our adventure retuning home to the US deserves a post in itself, but what I can say is that when Eric and I left Peru, we left with intentions we plan to fulfill, to return soon. Peru, you are amazing!

Where is the number one place in the world you want to visit?

Is Machu Picchu on your bucket list?

Five Things Friday

Gooooodd morning friends! How was your week? Mine felt unusually long but it was wonderful all the same. My sister who was visiting for my birthday and Father’s Day had originally planned to leave Wednesday morning, but after an intense night of Bachelorette watching, decide to stay until Saturday, wohoo! I feel like I am back into the swing of things with my fitness after vacation, but with the intense heat we have been experiencing, I have not had a long run in weeks! When the temperatures are in the upper 70s, with humidity around 80% at 5:30am, my body just isn’t having it! I guess my knee that has started hurting is just looking out for me :)

It’s been a hot minute since I have done a Five Things Friday, so let’s keep up with the trend of getting back into the swing of things!

five-things-friday

First Birthday fun!

Guys, I am the luckiest girl on the face of the planet. I cannot describe how lucky I felt the past two weeks as my friends an family went above and beyond to help me celebrate my birthday. Sometimes when you are a young, fresh, independent 20-something making your mark in the world (the media’s words, not mine) it’s easy to feel ridiculously alone. Many of us live far away from the friends we grew up with and our family. From receiving flowers from friends at work, to my whole entire family coming to NC, any feelings of loneliness were banished!

We spent last weekend eating great food including Peruvian ( I will never get enough), froyo and cake, hanging out and shopping, but the best part….. If you are a long time CCR reader, you know Candy and Frozen are kind of my jam…

IMG_0901[1] Yes, that is a pinata… yes, I  am in my midd-20s.

Second, Is Concert Season!

My fellow Southerners, do any of you find it odd that Summer when the temperatures and the humidity are in the 90s is concert season?

Weather aside, the next two weeks have truly EPIC concerts in store! July 1st, the Rolling Stones come to Raleigh! The one and only thing that coul make this better would be if NC grown, The Avett Brother happened to being opening for Keith and crew. Oh guess what… they are! Ya’ll I have been looking forward to this for months! I never thought I’ have the chance to see the Rolling Stones and cannot wait!.

Less than two weeks later, Toby Keith comes to town! Toby Keith is one of those country artists that in my opinion have mass apeal. I like country just fine, but am no super-fan. Before going to college though I could not stand country. There were two exceptions to my anti-country stance, Faith Hill, and Toby Keith.

Third, I don’t Think I am Supposed to Feel Sad About This…

Wednesday, I took my very last anti-malaria pill! While not required, anti-malarial are recommended for travelers visiting the Amazon. There are three different types available, and the one I chose require you to continue taking it for a while after you leave the risk zone. Taking the medicine was one last daily tie to my trip that forced me to think about it every morning. I should hardly feel sad to stop taking a pill, but it makes our amazing time in Peru feel that much further away!

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On that note, I still have one more recap coming your way!

Fourth, Links I loved

What To Do When Your Child Feels Deprived Of Junk Food via the Lean Green Bean

This was me growing up.

52 Dresses From the Swedish Royal Wedding You Have to See to Believe

Fabulous

So I Married an Ultrarunner

Finally, The Week In Fitness

Friday: 60 minutes light elliptical, abs

Silly knee pain

Thursday: 5 miles easy @ 8:19, arms

My  knee started hurting me out of nowhere so I cut my run short

Wednesday: 7 miles total, 2 @ 8:19, 8 repeats of 3 minutes @ 7:18, 2 minutes @ 8:19, abs, booty

Tuesday: skipped

Monday: Off

Sunday: 5 miles easy @ 8:17 average pace

Saturday: 7 miles @ 8:10 average pace, arms

Holy humid! THis run was in the midst of  100 degree days we experienced but it was the humiity that was the killer! I still had to get one last birthday run in before my birthday though!

What is the longest (non-injury induced) break from working out you have taken? How did it feel?

The Best Month of the Year

There are a lot of reasons that June is the best month ever. It’s the beginning of Summer, the days are at their sunshiny longest, school is out, it’s my birthday month…. and it’s National Candy Month! See, it’s not my fault, I was literally born to love candy!

As Candy Crazed Runner might suggest, I am a little candy obsessed. Candy always reminds me of another month, December. Wait what? Yep. When December would roll around and I would go play (Man that sounds awesome) at my friends houses, there would be something weird there…. their Halloween candy! Weeks later somehow, they still had nice cushions of their Halloween candy! To this day, this boggles my mind. My brother, sister and I would return from trick-or-treating, empty our bags (ok, pillow cases) and get to work. Within three days, our stash was gone!

When it comes to sugar, moderation has never been my strong point. Over the years though I have reached a place where I can happily work candy into my daily life. A little here and there can go a long way! Even though June is National Candy month, I believe candy can be part of your daily life! I understand that some people  cannot keep candy around the house.  That is where portioned packs come in! I am alllll about the piece candy ya’ll!

To celebrate National Candy Month, Gimbals Fine Candies sent over a few of their specialties for this sugar devotee to try out. Gimbals was founded in 1898, an four generations later remains a family company. Their moto is, “Making Gourmet Candies for Everyone Everyday.” A sentiment I fully support! Gimbals is known for their jelly beans, but I was thrilled when the package arrived at my door and turned out to be chewy candies!

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I am a texture girl, and when it comes to candy, I am all about chewy! I recruited a panel to help test out the Sour Lovers, Lavaballs, and Cinnamon Lovers. First up, my mm and sister. We were all big fans of the Sour Lovers. Unlike many sour candies, these guys have just the right hint of sour while still being neutral and sweet enough to appeal to a large crowd. I am not the world’s biggest cinnamon candy fan. They are often a bit too intense for me. Luckily, my mom is a cinnamon expert and was up to the challenge. Our verdict:
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Divided! My mom remains convince that the Lavaballs were hotter, I could tell no difference. I put the final decision to my co-workers, their verdict – my side obviously :) both were deemed equally hot and equally addictive!

Gimbals is a wonderful way to celebrate National candy Month, after all, who doesn’t love family own institutions, and great candy!? (psstt…. if the answer is you, we can still be friends, but I’ll never quite understand you :))

*Gimbals provide these candies free of charge, all opinions are frank and honest :)

Do you like chewy candy? Spicy? Sour? Chocolate?

Anything but black licorice or almond joys!

Peru: Cusco – My Favorite City in The World

Day 5, Puerto Maldonado to Cusco

I made one egregious error in my previous Peru recap of the Amazon River basin, I forgot to talk about the fruit! While I mentioned that you cannot eat unpeeled Peruvian fruit, when I failed to mention was the incredible array of Amazonian fruit which can be peeled and tastes unlike any fruit I have had anywhere else in the world!
From oranges that look just like what we eat in America yet taste surprisingly different and even more fresh if that’s possible, to passion fruit which require you to knock the hard fruit on a hard surface to access it and or jelly headed seeds, eating fruit in Peru is a blast!
We awoke our last morning in Puerto Maldonado to another human yet beautiful day. At breakfast we filled our self with our last helping of Amazonian fruit before catching a flight out of the towns tiny airport
To the Andean city of Cusco.

Our plane landed right on time  ( something of a novelty in Peru) and our Cusco contact, Jose was waiting to meet us. Stepping outside, talking to our car was the most refreshing feeling. The  omnipresent, hot, heavy, humid air of the Amazon was replaced with the cool bright air of the Andes.

Cusco is a metropolitan city. Our drive into town was our first true taste of what most Peruvians lives are like day-to-day.

Tip: Elevation: Cusco is the jumping off point for most tourists visiting Machu Picchu, and for that matter, most tourists in Peru. The city sits at 11,150 feet above sea level. Many who visit the ancient Incan city suffer from altitude sickness. Locals and visitors alike swear by Coca tea as in tea made from Coca leave, which cocaine is derived from.

We stayed at the Casa Andina Classic Cusco Plaza a wonderful hotel just of the city’s plaza in the center of the tourist district. I highly recommend this hotel and hotel chain. The staff were helpful (duh- it’s Peru), the hotel was easily on par with American hotels, it had a wonderful breakfast each morning, and it’s location, in the center of the tourist city, but off of the craziness of the plaza, was perfect.

Tip Wifi : Except your hotel in Peru to have Wifi. The password typically changes daily. Peruvians pronounce Wifi, WeeFee.

As I am sure you aren’t surprise to hear, I had our dining choices picked out far in advance. After being briefed by José about what to expect in the coming days while sipping on Coca tea courtesy of the hotel, we raced out of the hotel to start exploring! It was love at first sight. Cusco was the capital of the Incan Empire from the 13th-16th centauries when the Spanish reached the city.  The town now reflects it’s colonial heritage with it’s numerous churches and cobblestoned streets, hosting 2 million visitors each year.

One more thing about Cusco… this place is hilly! Back to the food :) Eric and I made our way uphill to the neighborhood of San Blas to check out, Quinta Eulalia.

We walked through a non-descript archway, up a flight of outdoor stairs, and onto an utterly charming patio. A waiter ushered us to a table and placed a white board next to our table. I selected a fish dish, and Eric, pork.  As we waited, listening to the Criollo music, an sipping on the first of many Cusquenas we giggled to ourselves (seriously) how darn cool the experience was. And then… our food arrived

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Ya’ll words cannot describe how incredible our meal was. My trout was perfectly deboned and stuffed with peppers (which unfortunately I could not eat) and the fried potatoes… oh! The tamale looking item on Eric’s plate was one of the best tasting foods I have ever tried. It’s contents were cornmeal-like with a hint of sweetness and a luxurious texture. I have had eaten some incredible meals in my life but this ya’ll… takes the cake. Between the food, music, and enchanting setting, it was the best meal of my life!

After lunch, we decided to explore the hilltop San Blas neighborhood. We walked and walked and walked, through cluttered streets, past roaming dogs, until we found ourselves at a park overlooking the city. We pause to take it all in, scheming businesses we could start that would allow us to move to the city.

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Our wandering took to a neighborhood closer to our hotel, and crucially…. the chocolate museum! Remember how I said the fruit in Peru tastes familiar, but unlike it’s American counterparts in a wonderful, wonderful way? Well, Peruvian chocolate is truly  unlike any chocolate I have ever had! We sampled coco tea (who knew!) and an array of other goodies.

What goes better with chocolate than coffee?

Located near the chocolate museum is Café Dos X 3s, is said to have the best coffee in Cusco. We pope into the small café,  grabbing one of only four tables, and ordered café Americanos. The coffee was not overrated! I am no coffee connoisseur, but Eric and I agreed that it was the best cup we have ever had!
After all that walking, we scooted back to our hotel to shower and rest up before we ventured out to dinner to track down some alpaca!
Before relaxing, I stopped in the supermarket near our hotel to pick up a much needed Coke zero, and my new favorite food on the planet… Inca corn! Half-popped popcorn is a major trend in the US right now, and while it’s good, nothing compares to the original! I literally downed a bag every day.

Tip:Peruvian Specialties: Peru is well known for many foods, and two of the most well-known are alpaca and Guinea pig!Guinea pig can easily cost upward of $100 soles (around $33.33 USD) and take an hour to prepare. It is a celebratory food, like turkey on Thanksgiving in America.  Alpaca  usually more affordable, and my goodness is it delicious!

We had one thing on our minds that night, tracking down well-prepared alpaca for dinner!

Our research led us to Pacha Papa where we sat on an outdoor patio, in front of the restaurant’s wood fire grill.
We both ordered alpaca kebabs smothered in delectable spices. We left our meal impressed by alpaca and ready for more!

Before settling in for the night, we decided to stop in to a bar for drinks. We chose Museo del Pisco.
If it’s possible to become regulars at a bar when you are only and a city for a few nights… Eric and I accomplished it. This Cusco staple is renowned for their Pisco Sours, a Peruvian specialty. Still feeling a bit dizzy from whatever bug I had caught in America, I could sure feel that Pisco after only six or seven sips! They don’t mess around in Peru :)

Day  6 Cusco, City Tour

The next morning we were up bright and early to be the first to arrive at Jack’s Café, and Australian and restaurant famous for their breakfasts.

IMG_0690[1] Now  that’s a breakfast!

It was still early when we finished breakfast, and it was time to make our way up yet another hill. The  hills were so steep that even the stairs built into them to make them easier were steep themselves!  We arrived at Colcampata a A plaza just outside of the church with a stunning view of the city and Valley.

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We descended back into the city, to visit Museo Inka. The museum had a great collection of artifacts from around Peru. The real draw however, was the eighth Incan mummies that call it home!
The day was still early and we did not have plans until an afternoon tour which meant one thing, it was time to get lost!

Eric lead the way as we wandered through the city. We found ourselves in the “real” Cusco. Where locals go about their life day today. The highlight was when we stumbled upon the market.we passed more things we had never seen before then things we recognize. Among those things we did recognize, brains, livers, and literal pork butt, all set out on the sidewalks and the open air. I wish we had pictures but snapping away with our phone felt and inappropriate.

We wanted a quick, easy, and of course delicious lunch prior to our 1pm city tour so we were the first ones in the door at La Boega138 for a Cusco specialty…

Tip: Pizza: Somewhere along the line, Cusco became one of the best cities in the world for, you guessed it, pizza! I was lucky enough to study abroad in Italy, and return two years ago and I can genuinely say the pizza in Cusco is better than 70% of the pizza places in Italy!

Our Cusco tour began at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin which anchors the city’s layout. The cathedral was completed in 1654, almost 100 years after it began! It epitomizes something you see throughout Cusco, compromises by the Catholic church, to marry Catholic traditions with Incan traditions. The most famous example is the cathedral’s rendition of the last supper…. Jesus and the disciples feasting over guinea pig!

Next we visited Qorikancha, once the literal shining center of the Incan world. Many think of Machu Picchu as the center of the Incan world. In reality, Cusco was the Incan’s strong hold, and Qorikancha was it’s religious center. The ruin was once covered in gold-plating and house 4000 priests! Today, 40 of the ruins remain, supplemented by a Dominican church.

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Our next stop was Sacsayhuaman, atop one of the valley’s neighboring mountains. Sacsayhuaman was a spectacular fortress which to 70 years, and 20,000 people to construct! We have all heard about the stupefying size and precision of the Incan structures, but ya’ll….

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Further into the mountains, we visited Qenqo, Pucapucara, and Tambomachay, spectacular Incan ruins!

IMG_0740[1]Would you look at that view!

After our tour, it was back to our new favorite spot, Muse del Pisco for drinks! Eric and I had epic dinner plans for that evening. We had asked almost every Peruvian we had met so far, what their favorite restaurant was in Cusco, the unanimous answer, Chicha. Chicha is owned by Peru’s most well-know chef,  Gastón Acurio known as the creator of neuvo-Peruvian cuisine. The restaurant specialized in updated versions of Peruvian dishes, using local ingredients.

The menu was dazzling, but there was one thing calling my name… yup…. Pizza! Ohhhh friends I know it sounds garish to order Pizza at one of Peru’s best restaurants, but this pizza with duck Carpaccio was truly exceptional and I don’t regret it for a moment! I also do not regret the Tropical Skittles habit I picked up in Peru an indulged in after devouring my entire pizza either :)

What  is your favorite city in the world?

Best meal you’ve ever had?