Tag Archives: Pisco Sour

Day 68 – Jesus Christ Pose

We are very fortunate that some of our good friends spent a good stint of time in Peru, and more so that they wrote us a detailed guide to many of the places they visited that would put many guidebooks to shame.  Reflecting on today, everything we did was based on these recommendations – so thank you!

Peru is very proud of its chocolate, and based on what we have tasted so far, for good reason.  Cusco is home to a Chocolate Museum that is not that more than a glorified shop / cafe unless you partake in a chocolate making class.

A very entertaining 2 hours ensues as we learn a bit about the coco (or cacao) plant – it is fertilised by mosquitos (so the little sods do have a use), it’s beans can produce up to 10 different flavours, and it was first used by the Mayans.

They managed to develop the first few stages of the modern chocolate process, that is: fermentation; drying; roasting and grinding.  However they never turned this in to chocolate but instead into an original Mayan drink called “xocolatl” which consisted of the ground beans being mixed with hot water and chilli.

We make and try it and to be honest it’s not bad, but we also try a tea made from adding the dis-guarded bean casings to water and a rather amazing hot chocolate drink.

To make actual chocolate you just then melt the ground bean paste, add sugar and stir for 24 hours (we use some that in true Blue Peter style they prepared earlier) before the fun bit – choosing your moulds and additions!

With our chocolates in the fridge for later collection we head of for some lunch at Jack’s cafe.  Great food and spectacular fresh juices (mint and lime) are more western than Peruvian which explains the very “gringo” clientele but it serves us very well.

I have commented before on the beautiful colonial architecture to be found in S.America, Arequipa and the UNESCO heritage sites of Potosi and Sucre in Bolivia to name some.  However I think that Cusco, with its mix of both Spanish and Inca styles, and the most beautiful of all the central plazas we have seen, is probably the prettiest place we have visited in the entire continent.  Strolling round the streets for an afternoon of stocking up ahead of our forthcoming Inca Trail and picking up souvenirs is a real treat.

Dominating the main plaza is the Cathedral, built upon a site of an Incan palace. As with the city itself, the church is one of the most impressive we’ve seen (though it doesn’t low photos), and the highlights include a full height wooden alter covered in silver, an organ imported from Belgium that due to damage in transit took 100 years to tune(!) and hundreds of religious paintings including local versions of religious paintings.  Our favourite of these is the last supper with guinea pig and ‘chicha’ being served!  I think that with the photos, multiple altars and statues littered across the 3 chapels that make up the Cathedral it must be one of the biggest collections of crucifixes I have ever seen and leave the building humming Soundgarden.

Our final recommendation from our own personal guide was the Pisco Sour Museum. Not a museum at all, but a very cool bar specialising in the national drink and serving great tapas, and a lovely end to the day.

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Day 62 – The Frog Chorus

A combination of guidebooks, Trip Advisor and a recommendation from some friends helped us book our accommodation in Arequipa.

It’s lovely and when they found out we are on our honeymoon they upgraded our room! It’s not happened that much on the trip, but enough to make you mention it if you get chance!

As well as accommodation it also houses a Peruvian Cooking school that again was recommended as well as featuring in the Lonely Planet (even better you get a discount of 20% for being a resident).  For an additional charge you can add a market tour and a Pisco sour making course – well it will be rude not to.

We are joined by an Austrian lady (Maria) and too young Germans (Melissa and Michelle) and head off under the expert guidance of Natty.

The markets tour is amazing. We did a guided market tour in Buenos Aires  but this is much better, partly because the market is far more varied, and also because Natty organises to let you taste things as you are going round.

Some of the more interesting areas we see are the butchers with chickens spliced open to show that they are hens (you can see partially grown eggs inside); the fruit section is extraordinary with lots of stuff that you cannot even get at Waitrose (it is THAT exotic); dried llama foetuses (to be used as offerings to the gods); and lastly frog juice.

Warning! Do not be fooled into thinking this is a euphemism for some kind of green smoothie.

This is actual frog juice. A juice made of actual frog.

You get to pick the poor unfortunate amphibian, who then gets killed, gutted and blended in front of you (makes the what is green and red and goes 100mph joke seem a little too close to the truth). A quick sieve (to remove bone etc) and there you go. A health drink that apparently helps improve digestion. Not sure that this will be a variety of Innocent anytime soon.

I spend a period of time debating whether I want to taste this or not and it prompts a rather long discussion on Nik’s Facebook page.

Back at the accommodation our Anglo-Germanic-Austrian alliance get on well and whilst chatting and laughing we whip up a couple of great local dishes under the guidance of Monica before relaxing and eat the fruits of our labour in the garden.  This was our second cookery class in S.America and I would recommend anyone travelling to look out for similar options wherever you are.  If you’re interested here’s the link to the class… http://www.peruviancookingexperience.com

Four new Facebook friends later we are the only people doing the Pisco course. Given I was made to dance whilst shaking the cocktail I will be forever grateful for this fact.

Niki did the whole Tom Cruise thing better than I did and threw some impressive shapes whilst making a mean Pisco Sour.  I’ll admit to being a little light-headed by the end!

Day 58 – This Garden

One of the variables of traveling is breakfast.  With Trip Advisor and the various guidebooks you can normally manage to find the needle of a good eatery in a haystack of averageness in whatever city or town you are in.  Breakfast however is something that you generally have to take pot luck with you choice of accommodation, though it is a factor in choosing the accommodation.

There is nothing wrong with the breakfast in our accommodation in Quito, other than the fact there is no choice.  If you want breakfast, you get the same thing everyday.  When you are only in a place for a few days it is not an issue, but we have been here on and off 8 nights.

Thankfully breakfast is a pay as you take it, so today we choose to head out for breakfast instead and find a wonderful place 2 blocks away and enjoy french toast, syrup, fresh fruit and fresh fruit juices and a bags with cream cheese.  I think for the waistlines it’s a good job we didn’t find it until the last day.

Sophie visited the Botanical Gardens yesterday and recommended it to us, so for our last day in Ecuador we walk to the park in the sunshine and visit the gardens.  What a fascinating and beautiful way to spend a couple of hours.

Ecuador is a relatively small country, particularly in S. America, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in diversity. It may only cover 0.17% of the Earth’s surface but its in the Top 10 countries for biodiversity and in terms of plant life, it is THE most diverse in the world with over 17,000 species. Amazingly 4000 of them are orchids! 1 in 5 of the plants in Ecuador is one of these beautiful flowers.

Inside the Botanical gardens they have various sections that try to re-create the habitat areas around the country.  We see a cloud forest area and a rain forest area that are OK but not outstanding, for example the epiphytes are attached to the trees with chicken wire to give the impression of the ecosystem.  However the greenhouses with the ubiquitous orchids are a real highlight.  The range of colour, design and size is staggering and some of them look almost alien – it easy to get lost looking at them and photographing them.

We read that the Ecuadorian government is keen to protect the natural environment, and this is demonstrated by the fact that almost 20% of the countries land is designated a national park.  Good work we think.

The gardens provide a lovely last few hours in Quito before heading to the airport (for our 6th and last time) and saying Adios to Ecuador and head to Peru.

This time we get to leave Lima airport properly and head to our hotel courtesy of a really nice taxi driver that Niki chats to most of the way and it ends up being a joint language class as he helps with Spanish and we help with his English.

A quick bag drop off and head out to a local bar that is achingly cool and we instantly regret not changing out of our ‘traveling clothes’, but the menu of 20+ Pisco sours means that I instantly forget I am in walking trousers and trail shoes and enjoy the first (or many I am sure) Peruvian cocktails.  A great introduction to country No.6.

Day 30 – Starman

Lazy morning in San Pedro with breakfast at 9:30 and a morning of sorting our stuff ahead of the 3 day trip to Salar de Uyuni.  From the slight surprise from our hostel I think people come here for a short period of time and blitz the tours and then move off.  Don’t think many people spend morning in chilling out…

We eventually cycle in to town for lunch (amazing salad served inside a giant lettuce leaf) and a walk round and buy some rubbish hats but needed are much needed to protect you from the quite brutal heat in the dessert.

San Pedro de Atacama is a slightly curious place.  It consists of mud streets, single storey buildings mostly with thatched flat roofs and exists almost entirely to provide a hub for tourists to visit the amazing scenery.

Our afternoon ‘activity’ is a visit to some nearby lakes and a small scale Chilean salt flat.  Yet again we meet some lovely people on our tour and we chat to an Austrian/German couple called Sophia and Martin for a good portion of the trip.

First stop is a salt water lake with 20% salt concentration which allows for some strange swimming similar to that you get in the Dead Sea whereby you just float with no need to exert any effort at all.  This is followed by a fresh water lake in the middle of the dessert (Niki swims here too, I choose to watch from the sides) and eventually the salt flats where we watch the sunset and drink yet more Pisco Sours and eat crisps.

Another member of the tour Oscar out photo-geeks Niki with the equipment he has brought and our group is the last to leave as take a number of self timed group shots.  I try to encourage a daft hold the cup in your mouth to look like a nose shot, but only Sophia joins in and immediately regrets it when it results in an eyeful of Pisco Sour.

On the way back the bus is full of chatter and laughter and Niki learns some more Spanish vocabulary of some Chilean tourists, but its the kind you don’t use in front of your Mum.

We only have 40 minutes before our next ‘activity’ so a quickly shared plate of empanadas provides sustenance before we head off to the Meteorite Museum and Observatory.  The Atacam dessert provides one of the least light polluted places on earth and also a great place to find meteorites and Stuart the guide (originally from Belgium but here because he followed a women) gives one of the most educational and thought provoking 3 hours you will ever have.

An hour plus in the museum (where we learn all about meteorites) and then 2 hours outside for a lesson in astronomy, complete with telescope training, that was extraordinary.  The mixed group fired questions at Stuart who answered them easily and in a way that made sense, and I think years of school science mysteries were solved in peoples heads.  I particularly like his thoughts on the big bang theory (too convenient) and that we don’t know the size of the universe because light hasn’t had time to travel to us yet from the places far far away.

With mind blowing thoughts running through our heads we have a 2am E.T. cycle road home ahead of an early start tomorrow for our adventure into Bolvia across the salt flats.