Archive for category Travel
Hubs and I have always been fans of Mohonk Mountain House, and decided to head off one Saturday to hike out on the trails out there. This weekend we found out they actually charge you to hike trails on their property (I guess before no one cared to stop us and ask us to pay?!) They wanted $25 PER PERSON! Just to walk around for 2 hours. Yea right, we quickly pulled a U-ee and high tailed it outta there, but had to figure out what we were going to do for a few hours in New Paltz with no plans.
I got on my iphone and within seconds I found out there is a State Park with awesome views and hikes and only cost $8 per carload. We were in, if only we could find it. 20 miles later of driving around the mountain we happened upon the entrance , parked and partook in the loveliness that was Minnewaska state park for the day. So Alabanians, this place is only an hour and half south and totally worth the drive. I also recommend the Gilded Otter for beers afterwards
The first time I visited the hubs up in Albany, he took me to this great little Dirty Dancing-esk hotel on top of Mohonk Mountain in New Paltz, New York. It was a stifling 90 degrees in April, but being near a lake and on a mountain, the temperature and views were perfect. It felt like we found a castle tucked away from the real world.
We decided to explore the grounds and took a hike, playing around as we went:
We made our way up to the highest point where a lookout tower sits:
On our way back down, we encountered a melting skating rink. Skating classes for the day were cancelled due to unusually warm weather…
The sun was setting too soon. We cooled off with root beer floats and sat on the porch watching the sky change colors.
We also visited Lake George, but by the time we got there it was still a little chilly. We decided to bunker down in the wine shop with a tasting. We were warm enough after that to venture out:
Time to say goodbye (who would’ve known I would be back the next weekend
This was my 3rd time in NYC in 3 months, but I’ve never been to the Big Apple during Christmas time before! I didn’t have much time, but I managed to vagabond around the city one night and shoot the spirit of the holidays. It seemed to be just what I needed… cold weather, decorations, and everyone enjoying the sights. I had been pretty Bah Humbug until I walked out of the subway into these sights:
Life size displays around Rockefeller Plaza.
I wouldn’t want to untangle THAT strand of lights…
Even the Hot Dog vendors participated
And how could we forget the Rockefeller Christmas tree? It was ENORMOUS! It’s unbelievable how they ship that puppy in every year…
My favorite part was the snow flake light show:
YAY CHRISTMAS! FA LA LA LA LA!!!
The alarm woke us up at 5:45am so we would be on time for our 8:45am flight to Cusco. They told us the only other way of getting to the area is by bus, which is a 24 hour winding ride – the plane ride was 45 minutes… we took the plane. At the gate we were encountered by officials that herded us away from the terminal when someone left behind a bag and a “bomb scare” of sorts resulted. It was sorted out eventually and we were soon on our way to the magical city of Cusco/Cuzco.
The entire flight Mareike was worrying about altitude sickness. I thought I might get a little dizzy, but told her not to worry- most of it is in her head. When we exited and went to pick up the luggage, Mareike saw a sign for “FREE OXYGEN”. I thought it was funny but she was serious. I told her we should go to the banos and think about it. Well… on the way to the bathroom we saw a man full on pass out with his eyes rolling into his head and he was on the floor. This only fueled her purchase of the “Oxishot” complete with carrying harness.
My travel companion instantly started to feel light headed – as if she had just taken drugs and could not comprehend or walk or anything. I didn’t understand her problem because for once in my life, I was feeling fantastic. We arrived a short while later at the lovely hotel Prisma, only blocks away from the city center.
We were told to take it easy when we first arrived to become acclimated to the altitude and also because we had a pretty physical walking tour that afternoon…But… we were hungry and did not take this advice. We had some coca tea (the best tea ever- I’ll talk about it later) and walked to the city center to take lunch at the main square. We ate at the Plaza on the second floor overlooking the bustling square, it was gorgeous! Mareike liked it so much she almost cried (I’ll blame it on the lack of oxygen, or the fact that she has been wanting to go to Peru ever since she was a little girl). We arrived in time for the Palm Sunday procession, military parade and a Tour Guide strike. It was quite an eventful morning! We played around a little more and then made sure we were back to the hotel in time for our tour.
The tour started out at Koricancha (or Qoricancha) and Santo Domingo. Qoricancha means “courtyard of gold” in Quechua. Also built was the Temple of the Sun, but was soon plumaged and destroyed by the Spaniards who built a church on top of the original earthquake proof structure. It looks just like it sounds, 2 different style buildings, one on top of the other. This seems to be the case in many places around Peru and South America. Our tour guide was very into his culture and pointed out the many misuses of words. The main misconception is that we call the ancient people of the area Incas or Inka. Inka actually means king. The correct usage would be quetchuan people. From now on I only refer to the culture of this period at Quetcha (which is spealled many different ways since this is a spoken and not written language).
The next stop on the tour hit the main Cathedral where we had lunch earlier. Again no photos were allowed inside the church, similar to all catholic churches around. It also looked similar to other churches I’ve seen (I’m not a big church fan) minus the Easter décor. What WAS interesting about the cathedral were the paintings inside. Since the locals were used as laborers to build the church, they added a little bit of local culture and symbols into the architecture and art. The architecture consisted of a lot of quetchua crosses (the 3 step cross). Also, in paintings such as the last supper, guinea pig was served as the main dish, a local treat which we got to sample later.
I was tired of walking the church and happy when we left for our next stop- Saqsayhuaman (pronounced Sexy Woman) This was my favorite by far…at first because my feet hurt so much from walking on stones, that the soft grass was happily welcomed. Still after, the clouds parted ways and blue skies ensued to beautiful views of the city, wildflowers & amazing ruins. We laid down in the grass and listened to our tour guide speak of his culture and hirtory and theories of how those stones came to be there. Yet still to these days no one really knows…
Too soon time was up and were off to the next stops- Tambomachay and Kenko- where I drank from the spring offering me goodluck and twins, and used coca leaves to offer my heart to the heavens. It was pretty spiritual as the sun was setting to perfrom the ritual where you take 3 leaves in your hand, blow on them, hold them to the sky, then to your heart and say a prayer or wish. After this you chew on them which helps to energize and heal you. Coca leaves are very popular in Peruvian Culture and can be used for a wide variety of ailments and treatments.
Lastly we were dropped off at the folkloric center to watch traditional dancing. About halfway through our stomachs decided for us that it was time to leave, and we hiked back to the city center, so exhausted, but ready to eat and drink. We chose the Andean Grill to eat at, which turned out to be excellent, and ordered our first Pisco Sours. We had wonderful night views of the plaza and got serenaded by an awesome flute band. This was the first time tasting the infamous Pisco Sour, and boy is it good for taking the edge off! Mareike ordered 2 more, but I awaited the wine we bought back in the hotel room. I was beyond exhausted and sunburned (turns out being this high up makes it that much worse) After my first glass of wine I was passed out and ready for day 3.
Day one starting not only with a bang (-ing of doors that is) but of loud drunk neighbors interrupting my precious 4 hours of sleep before I had to depart to Peru at 7am. We had a layover in Panama and even though you’d think it would be empty at 4:45am at the airport, the line was as long as a day at Disney’s Space Mountain. To say the least, it was going to be a long day of traveling.
We made it to Panama after 3 hours of some Tara Reid wannabe incessantly yacking her mouth about drunken escapades and what I interpreted to be a lost youth. I tried to distract myself from her with the movie playing, Marley & Me, but I didn’t feel like crying (geez that movie is so sad!) so I ended up sticking my fingers in my ears & pouting. My travel buddy was separated from me on the plane, but it turns out she had a similar story of 2 guys bragging about every country they’ve ever been to. By the time we entered the plane from Panama to Peru, we were already chanting “BEER! BEER!”
God bless international flights and their free liquor! After a “Panama” cerveza and some quiet time, spirits rose and we soon started to worry about whether or not the agency we paid to schedule everything even existed—BUT luckily Johanna was there with a sign that said Watson on it. Whew, thank you Peru Chasquitar. After this quick sign of relief, we were off to tour the city of Lima, formally known as ciudad de los Reyes, or city of the kings.
First stop the Plaza where the guide described different styles of the buildings. There was a lot of woodwork everywhere, especially on the windows. It turns out this was the Moorish men’s style. The style was celoso, or something to that effect, because the men wanted their wives to be able to see out while no one else was able to see in. Celoso of course in Spanish means jealous, so it makes sense. Lots of the décor around seemed very dark and depressing. This continued on in the churches with the paintings and architecture.
Also in the Plaza were governmental buildings and most buildings facing the square were painted an orangish yellow. This too is a prominent theme throughout the country. They are painted this color for el sol or the sun which is a very important figure in their culture. In fact, their money is named the Nuevo sol or new sun. I’m guessing that real gold was the old sun? Gold was used in many decorations as well in tribute or mock of the sun. Before the Spanish built their cathedrals on top of the native temples, they were used to adulate or tribute the sun amongst other miracles of nature.
After the square, we walked past one of the oldest bars in the city, where Mareike and I were hoping to sit down to good food & beer, but it turned out we were just passing through on the way to the Church and Convent of San Francisco. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures here. This turned out to be very unfortunate because there were so many ornate and interesting sights. The woodwork alone was amazing. I cannot decide whether the 17th century library was my favorite or the piecework dome wood ceiling (bats included) was. Wow now that I think about it, the circular tomb in the catacombs was pretty amazing.
The church is also a Franciscan Monastery and there are currently 30 monks living on the grounds. Marieke and I were shocked to see that they had books from the 17th & 18th century just sitting in the library with the windows wide open. The amazing thing was the breeze was fierce and it looked like some of the pages were going to fly away. Beneath the church, in the catacombs were bones scattered from around 25,000 people from centuries ago. My travel companion was a little spooked and it was eerily silent… it was almost inconceivable all the people that were “with us” down there!
Once we left the church, we drove around to San Isidrio and viewed the 475 year old olive trees. Now I’ve been to Italy & Greece, but I’ve never seen olive trees that big! We didn’t get pictures of these either because we didn’t get out of the bus. Finally the last stop was “Lover’s Park”. The tour guide sarcastically asked if we knew why it was called this, and I not paying attention to the large statue of a man and women making out in the middle of the square said “no, why?”. It was a lovely day and it seemed that all the flowers in Lima, especially the Indian paintbrush. The park sat on the cliffs overlooking the ocean & famous islands not far off the coast.
Finally, it was time to be dropped off at the hotel “El Ducado”. We walked to the main plaza for dinner and got to sit outside on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sunset. It was gorgeous! We ate at this Americanized restaurant called Mangos, and for the occasion we ordered the finest (and only one they had) bottle of Peruvian wine. I went for a traditional dish of Lomo Saltado ‘a la Mango’. Marieke went for the nontraditional filet mignon.
Everything was excellent, but by this time I was beyond wiped out (since I hadn’t slept in…oh let’s see… almost 24 hours) I passed out on the bed the instant I touched it. And so ended my first day in Peru.