First day in Cuzco

Cusco Travel Blog

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La Hotel Prisma atrium
We arrived at La Hotel Prisma in Cuzco.  The hotel is awesome!  There is an atrium in the middle, with some rooms having a window looking out into it.  Our room had a balcony with a breathtaking view of the city and surrounding mountains.

We were told to take it easy on our first day at altitude.  Everyone in the group had a cup of mate de coca to help deal with soroche (altitude sickness.)  Coca tea tastes very weak, but it works quickly to stop soroche, as I would find out that night.

Of course, I completely ignored the advice to "take it easy" and instead, I dragged Tara around the city.  The first thing we did was purchase a boleto turistico, which lets you into 15 sites for 70 soles (about $22.)  We visited the Museo de Arte Popular, next door to the boleto office.
Viva Peru
  We had a good laugh over the "Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood" version of the nativity, starring King Friday and Prince Tuesday.  There was an interesting interpretation of the Stations of the Cross by Hilario Mendivil.

Next, we wandered up to the Plaza de Armas and "ooh'ed" and "aah'ed" at La Cathedral.  After picking up infomation about horseback riding, we went inside the Cathedral.  The boleto turstico didn't get us inside, but a boleto religioso let us into the Cathedral as well as the Museo de Arte Religioso and the church of San Blas.  The Cathedral is beautiful inside, but after the first 3 halls it began to blur together.  Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed.

We left the Plaza de Armas heading northeast up a long thin avenue.
View from our hotel room
  As we climbed the stair lined street, we passed by the famed Incan walls of Cuzco.  I love these walls!  It's incredible how well the blocks fit together, with no mortar, and still survive Peruvian earthquakes.  As we continued up the street, we passed by an alley with Incan walls on one side, and modern shops on the other; a neat juxtaposition.

The Museo de Arte Religioso was on the way up the street towards the church of San Blas.  According to our ticket, all 3 boleto religioso sites closed at 5:30.  It was 4:30 when we got to the museo.  I was a bit disappointed that we had to rush through it.  It was enlightening to see the Spanish take on how they conquered the native Incans during the conquistador era.
La Cathedral de Plaza de Armas
  A lot of their art dealt with how saints helped them win victories over the "savages."  We left the museo and continued upwards towards San Blas.

To catch our breath, we stopped at a little bakery selling all manner of snacks.  At first we wanted an empanada and a croissant, but we settled on a yemita.  I'm glad we did that!  A thick crust, with a buttery sweet middle.  We ate half and saved the rest for later.

Outside the bakery, two traditionally dressed women were walking a llama down the street.  I gave them 2 soles each to take their picture., then we continued on to San Blas.  When we reached the courtyard of the church, we were beseiged by little girls in Andean dress holding baby lambs.  Having had our fill of traditionally dressed Andeans bearing animals, we quickly said "No gracias" and continued to the church.
Tara in front of Incan walls


San Blas was interesting.  It is smaller than La Cathedral, but we got a guided tour and learned the history of the church.  The pulpit is exceptional.  It is made of 1000 hand-carved pieces of cedar, and is incredibly ornate.  The carver's skull is set into it (he died of natural causes.)  We learned some of the biography of Santa Blas.  For protecting animals from Roman soldiers on the hunt, he was imprisoned, tortured, flayed alive, and drowned.  After having lived through all that, they finally had to cut off his head.  Tara and I decided he was a zombie.

San Blas closed at 6, and we headed back down towards Plaza de Armas.  We had dinner at a restaurant called "Macando," named after a famous city from literature.
Traditional Andean dress always includes a llama
  The food was so-so.  I also tried the offical alcoholic beverage of Peru, the Pisco Sour.  Pisco Sour tastes slightly salty and sweet going down.  It wasn't exactly pleasant.  I only found out later that the foam on top is whipped raw egg.

It was getting dark just as we returned to the hotel.  Sleep was difficult.  Soroche hadn't really affected me while I was up, but it hit me hard around 11:30.  As I was drifting off to sleep, I kept getting jarred awake by shortness of breath.  My head hurt.  Tara could barely breathe and was on the verge of tears since she was so tired.  I can't say I blamed her.  Eventually, we went to the front desk and got some more mate de coca.  That stuff is magic!  It worked in about 10 minutes, and both of us slept through the rest of the night.
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La Hotel Prisma atrium
La Hotel Prisma atrium
Viva Peru
Viva Peru
View from our hotel room
View from our hotel room
La Cathedral de Plaza de Armas
La Cathedral de Plaza de Armas
Tara in front of Incan walls
Tara in front of Incan walls
Traditional Andean dress always in…
Traditional Andean dress always i…
La Hotel Prisma atrium
La Hotel Prisma atrium
Cusco
photo by: Vlindeke