Qoricancha, Mercado Central, and San Blas

Cusco Travel Blog

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This is a picture of Qoricancha.
      We began our day with a visit to Qoricancha, which encompasses the Templo de Sol and the Convent  of Santo Domingo. The Temple of the Sun was the most sumptuous temple of the Inca Empire, and the Qoricancha was used as the main astronomical observatory for the Incas. However, after the Spaniards conquered the Incas and looted the temple, the foundations were employed as a convent, and Francisco Pizarro's brother was given control of the eviscerated Templo de Sol. To this day, the temple belongs to the Dominicans. We spent a good couple hours on the compounds and learned a lot about both the strength of the massive Incan Empire and the Peruvian influence on Catholicism in the region. One interesting factoid we learned from the former astronomical observatory is that rather than using stars and constellations to make out figures and shapes in the sky, the Incas identified llamas, toads, serpents, and other figures in the black spaces between the stars.
Karen and I are standing on a balcony inside Qoricancha.
We also spent a significant amount of time admiring some of the well-crafted oil paintings the convent possesses, which were used to tell Biblical stories to converts when the region was first colonized by the Spaniards. The symbolism used in the paintings was interesting, and we found it quite odd that in the corner of beautiful paintings depicting the lives of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and the saints, would be a portrait of the donor of the painting or the artist himself.
      We then returned to the Cusco Market to make some souvenir purchases. Jason and I walked away with a beautiful chess set that pits the Incas against the Spaniards, a decorative totem poll, and a wooden Inca mask to hang on our wall.
This is a view from inside one of the courtyards on the Santo Domingo Convent.
Karen also made out well, leaving with a chess set, some decorative accessories, and two watercolor paintings of Cusco.
      After returning to our room to organize our belongings for the Inca Trail hike, we departed to the frenzied Mercado Central, which sells an array of food products, including fruit, vegetables, meat, rice, and many more edible items. Cleanliness does not seem to be a major concern in the open-air market since flies hover above the food, a rancid stench suffocates the air, and too many hands can be seen fingering the food! If you are an adventurous type, and perhaps don't mind risking food poisoning, you can even eat ridiculously cheap meals at the stalls. Since we had just enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at the Inka Grill, we chose to pass on this!
      Once in our room again, we resumed organizing and packing the supplies that we could carry and the porters would carry for us.
Jason and I pose with a baby Alpalca and two Andean woman outside of the Templo de Sol.
We had to pack bags and then weigh them on the hotel's scale to verify that they did not exceed the 6 kg weight limit for the porters.
      At around four twenty in the afternoon, we headed back down to the Plaza de Armas and on to the Barrio de San Blas, which is perhaps Cusco's most picturesque neighborhood. We climbed up the narrow, steep, cobblestone alleys lined with artists' studios and artisans' workshops, and we enjoyed spectacular panoramic views of the city below. Atop the hill stands the small, white Iglesia de San Blas. Spread out in front of the church are various merchants who have their numerous trinkets on display atop blankets spread on the ground. There was also an adorable Andean girl walking around the plaza with an alpaca, an animal that can be commonly seen throughout Peru (even on the menus).
Karen purchases apples at the Mercado Central.
We paused for a brief photo with the colorfully dressed child and the alpaca. Shortly after the photo was snapped, the young girl rapidly took off with the alpaca, and all of the vendors ran off with their goods wrapped in their blankets. We were quite confused about what was happening until we spotted the police car that had just pulled up. I assume it is illegal to sell trinkets on the church property!
      To relieve our tired feet and legs after traipsing around the hilly San Blas barrio, we enjoyed an authentic Andean dinner (although we steered clear of the guinea pigs) at a popular quinta called Pachapapa. The restaurant offered a beautiful setting with an attractive courtyard, potted plants, whitewashed wall, and a wood-fired oven that filled the evening air with the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread.
We pose with an Alpaca and an Andean child in the artsy San Blas Barrio.

      Following dinner, we headed back to the Plaza de Armas, which seems to emit a golden glow once the sun has set. Besides the monumental structures being softly lit, the lights from the homes on the surrounding hill and mountains sparkle like stars in the night sky. It is an amazing sight. We then trudged back up the steep hill to Piccola Locanda, and we are now planning to take showers (since it will be our last for a few days) and get to bed early so that the buzzing noise of our alarm clock at four fifty in the morning won't be incredibly brutal. Machu Picchu, here we come!!
AliMcCann says:
Enjoying reading about your adventures! I agree, Mike, Lucy definitely has a way with words. The scenery is beautiful too. Such history. Can't wait to hear all about Machu Picchu!
Posted on: Aug 11, 2009
mhiskett says:
Just read your blogs and wishing I was there. I love the descriptive writing Lucy, it makes me feel like I'm really there. The pictures are beautiful and it's good to see all three of you with such big smiles on your faces. Pancakes and Teddy are doing fantastic! Teddy even goes right up to Huckleberry, of course Hucky could care less, he looks up and then goes back to sleep. Well, good luck on Machu Picchu, what an adventure!!
Posted on: Aug 11, 2009
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This is a picture of Qoricancha.
This is a picture of Qoricancha.
Karen and I are standing on a balc…
Karen and I are standing on a bal…
This is a view from inside one of …
This is a view from inside one of…
Jason and I pose with a baby Alpal…
Jason and I pose with a baby Alpa…
Karen purchases apples at the Merc…
Karen purchases apples at the Mer…
We pose with an Alpaca and an Ande…
We pose with an Alpaca and an And…
photo by: Vlindeke