After the charms of La Paz it took me a little while to warm up to Cusco, but after a day or so of wandering through the town, past the hordes of tourists and up the hill to the quieter narrow cobbled laneways I began to see what all the fuss was about.
The second largest city in Peru, the old town is set around the large picturesque Plaza de Armas, a beautiful big square where it is easy to sit in the sunshine and people watch. On one side is the Cathedral, quite an imposing building from the outside but inside includes two small chapels either side of a beautiful Cathedral. It is really quite stunning with beautiful paintings and ornate carvings. On the other side of the square is the equally impressive Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus.
My impression as I walked around the squares and streets of Cusco is that the Spanish were very determined to convert the local Inca population to Catholicism because it seemed that every second corner had another gorgeous and beautifully decorated church. My favourite was the very pretty little Santa Clara, with huge altarpieces made of mirrors, apparently to entice
the indigenous people inside with the novelty of their own reflections. It won me over!
I took us on a self-paced walking tour of Cusco using a route suggested by our guidebook. We quickly became sidetracked when I spotted he Museo del Choco, and who can resist visiting a chocolate museum? There wasn't much to this museum in reality but the entry was free, and they explained the process of making chocolate and there were plenty of samplings along the way. To be honest though I preferred the cute little boutique chocolate shop we visited a short while later, which also had tastings. We didn't walk away empty handed....I like to think of it as supporting the local economy!
Not too far away was the San Pedro market, which was fascinating. Everything and anything was sold here, including whole (dead) pigs and every part of an animal you could imagine, as well as all the usual tourist knick-knacks. We stopped in the juice aisle where half a dozen ladies started waving menus at us trying to woo us to their stalls. We selected Senora Ana, who was very sweet and we designed our juice which was absolutely delicious
and revived us for the next part of our walking tour.
We wandered round a little bit further and ended up back at the Plaza de Armas, then headed up the hill to San Blas. This is the 'bohemian' area and probably my favourite. The streets narrowed to become tiny cobbled pedestrian only laneways, and there are lots of cute little cafes, galleries and gift stores. We continued to head up the steep hill to Sacsaywaman, some ancient ruins, however when we arrived thought that the entry price was steeper than the hill. To be fair, it included entry to a number of other sites, however our plans didn't take us to these places. So we enjoyed the views over Cusco and meandered aimlessly a bit more.
There's not many good quality restaurants where you can dine and feel comfortable wearing a puffer jacket, trekking boots and a chunky day pack but in Cusco my attire was not a problem. So we finished our day at a delicious Italian restaurant that had come highly recommended. We sat at the bar and stocked up on carbs, piscos and nice wine in anticipation for the coming days of deprivation......we were
going trekking after all. Well that's our excuse anyway and we are sticking to it!
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