Friday, July 26, 2013

Peru - Part 6!

The Andes – Cusco #2

We were nearing the end of our time in Peru.  We’d pretty much done what we set out to do, seen what we set out to see.  These last couple of days would be about taking it easy and preparing to return home.  Being back at the Monasterio gave us the perfect setting for winding down and enjoying ourselves.

It began with dinner after we returned from Machu Picchu.  We sat in the Monasterio bar, sipped our Pisco Sours near a beautiful large fireplace, admired the vaulted room and artwork, ordered some food and wine, and hung out.  Wonderful!

The next day we went to two museums, the Inca Museum and the MAP Museum.  I was disappointed with the former and impressed with the latter.  The Inca Museum had some interesting artifacts, but the layout, lighting, and signage were badly done.  Inca history and art deserve better.  MAP (Museo de Arte Precolombino) was the reverse.  An extraordinary collection of pre-Colombian art, beautifully presented.  As it turns out, much of the art is on loan from the Larco in Lima.  So I shouldn’t have been surprised either by the quality of the art or how it was displayed.

We had dinner at the Senzo Restaurant, which is in the hotel next to the Monasterio, the Palacio Nazarenas, and owned by the same company, Orient-Express.  Senzo is under the guidance of Virgilio Martinez, chef at the Central in Lima.  It wasn’t as elegant as Central, but quite good nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 26, was our last full day in Cusco.  We checked out the old Inca Sun Temple ruins and were not impressed.  We returned to the central plaza, made our way through another demonstration organized by disgruntled workers, and for lunch found a restaurant with a view of the square and cathedral.  Simple and satisfactory.  Relaxed during the afternoon and had dinner in the main hotel restaurant, El Tupay.  It was very good.

We would start our trip home on June 27, but our plane to Lima, where we’d connect to a United flight to Houston, wasn’t until late afternoon, so we had a leisurely morning packing and checking out of the Monasterio.  But we didn’t need to leave the Monasterio yet.  There was still time to sit in the courtyard and have a couple of drinks, then lunch.  It was a glorious final pleasure in the hotel and Cusco.

Our plane out of Cusco was late, but that didn’t matter since we had a long 7-hour wait in the Lima airport anyway.  Loading onto the United flight was confusing and delayed since they’d changed to a new airplane instead of the one regularly scheduled.  It turned out to work to our advantage.  The plane had three classes rather than two, so six people from business needed to be upgraded to first class to sort out the seating.  We were surprised to learn that two of the six seats were to be ours, so we had a chance to see what the new first class seats are like.  Very comfortable, although we were asleep (on a nice flat bed) most of the time.

In the end we paid a price for the upgrade.  The plane was late arriving in Houston and our connection to the San Francisco flight was tight.  We made it through immigration and customs quickly and rushed through the airport to our gate.  A mad dash is more accurate than ‘we rushed.’  We arrived before the departure time only to find that they’d given our seats away.  We were seriously pissed off, but our anger wasn’t going to change anything.  They had us get on the plane and told us to find empty seats.  There were only two seats, in economy and not together.  We were less than happy for the next 3½ hours, the time it took to get to SFO.

We made the plane but our baggage didn’t.  It would arrive on the next flight, an hour and a half later.  We decided to hang out at the airport and wait for our bags rather than have them delivered later by the airline.  In retrospect, it would have been smarter to wait in Houston for the next plane and hope for better seats, but we didn’t consider that option at the time.

Shortly after noon we were home.  And very happy to be here.

Final Thoughts

We had a good trip.  I’d give it an A-.  Not the most memorable journey we’ve taken but overall very interesting and satisfying.

Peru was a pleasant place to visit.  We found the people friendly and helpful.  Our inability to communicate in Spanish was on occasion more of a problem than I thought it would be.  I think a language disconnect is more a fault of the visitor than a local person.  It is, after all, their country and their language.

We were on highways and roads quite a bit.  I found that there was more courteous behavior toward other drivers than in many places we’ve been.  The level of craziness associated with impatient people in a hurry (Italy for example) was less in Peru than we’ve seen elsewhere.  Yes, horns were in use on crowded city streets, but again, less than elsewhere.

I hadn’t realize how multiethnic Peru is.  Most people we saw were either Mestizo or Amerindian.  Rough population estimates say that 47% are Mestizos and 31% Amerindian, while Europeans account for less than 20%.  I somehow thought the Spanish blood would be more evident.

Ethnicity aside, the impact of the Spanish is everywhere, and in my view is a major negative.  Starting with the drive to Christianize the population, no matter how many had to die in the process, and continuing the process by destroying indigenous physical and cultural foundations, was ruthless and unrelenting.  I’ll resist the temptation to use this space to launch a diatribe on the subject, but you get my message.

There is clearly some unrest in Peruvian society.  The student and worker demonstrations we witnessed weren’t one-off expressions of unhappiness.  We chose to concentrate on being visitors and didn’t get into the socio-economic reality of present-day Peru.  I read a few days after we returned that the police in Lima had used tear gas and force against demonstrators in the Plaza de Armas area.  So what we saw continues.

We chose a perfect time to be in Peru.  In the Amazon it was warm but not too hot – and no rain.  In the Andes it was cool at night but not cold – and no rain.  In Lima it was in the 60’s day and night – and no rain.

As we always do, on the way home we chose the five things that impressed us most on this trip.  This time four of the five were the same for both of us:

1.     Machu Picchu – overall and our time with Ernesto.
2.     The Delfin
3.     The Monasterio
4.     The Larco Museum

Sandra’s fifth was our tour of Iquitos – the market and floating city.  My fifth was our last few hours at the Monasterio having lunch in the courtyard.

That’s it – for now – on Peru.


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