The Peru Chronicles: Puno

We left Arequipa in the morning by bus, and arrived to Puno early on in the afternoon. We were especially lucky to watch a great movie along the way, The Brass Teapot. Right up Em’s alley. Like the trip to Arequipa, the route was a bit treacherous for the faint of heart – I recommend the views on the bus ride if you can stomach them!  The other interesting (perhaps nerve-wracking) part of our bus ride was going through a few small towns entering Puno, where the streets were not paved and some minor flooding led to our bus slowly sliding and plowing through muddy “streets” full of standing water.

lake titicaca from amantani

lake titicaca from our lunch spot on taquile island


The city of Puno is a little rough around the edges. However, you’re not going to Puno for the city, you’re going to see Lake Titicaca which is considered the highest altitude navigable lake in the world! And it is perhaps even more well-known for having the islas flotantes, floating islands, and their inhabitants. Puno itself is also at a very high altitude – much higher than Cusco or even Machu Picchu!  This was actually the only place where we really noticed the altitude – neither of us were sick, but we both had mild headaches the first day and night that we arrived. The gradual bus ride in likely helped a little bit for us to adjust, but we still slightly felt some of the effects of the altitude.

We got to our hostel, Posada Don Giorgio in the early afternoon, and decided to do a quick tour of the downtown area. The hostel was located very conveniently to the Plaza de Armas (main square) and also the main walking street (Calle Lima) of bars, restaurants, and shops. The hostel was nice enough on the inside, but we are pretty sure that they did not turn on the heat in the rooms, and there was no hot water. This was the only place on our trip where we had these issues, and we were both okay – we’re survivors! [Note: This is one of those things I mentioned about being flexible and managing expectations – high maintenance travelers be forewarned!] This was the slow season of tourism for them, so they also only accepted cash (and that’s my guess with the heating as well – they were likely trying to save money during the slow season).

posada don giorgio puno

the courtyard at the hostel


Puno was actually quite chilly at the time of year we were there (beginning of September). This was one of the reasons (or excuses!) for us to get some hats and sweaters. Who can resist some super warm and super soft alpaca gear while in Peru!? I will mention again that everything in Peru (and much of South America) is negotiable. So whether you go into the little shops or talk with the people who come up to you on the street, you can absolutely haggle with prices. [Note: Remember to think in soles (Peruvian currency), and also know that using English will probably reduce some of your bargaining leverage because they assume you have money at that point. This is also true for hostels, food, and excursions – not just excellent alpaca gear.] Once we had our warm gear and some food inside of us, we booked a day trip for the floating islas for the following day. [Note: There are island trips where you can stay overnight on one of the islands with a “host family,” but with our timeline and especially the cold weather, we elected to just do the single day trip, which turned out really well.]

lake titicaca

bundled on lake titicaca – we blend right in with the locals in our alpaca gear!


We were up early for our trip to the islands, which was an all day affair. Our first stop was the floating islands of Uros. This is actually a group of around 80 islands with about 2,000 people total. They are literally floating islands, and you can see the movement as you approach and feel it as you are on them. It was really fascinating to take the tour, get out and walk on the islands made completely of reeds and anchored in place with twine and rope. The people showed us how they constructed the islands with the reeds, used the reeds to make their houses and canoes/boats, and even used the reeds as a food source – they truly use them for every aspect of survival! [Fun fact: Most of the houses do have a solar panel attached which helps provide power!] Each island lasts for about 20 years and then a new island needs be constructed to replace the old. The population on the islands stays steady around 2,000 because all of the children go off to high school on the mainland of Puno, and only about 20% of them end up returning to the islands to live permanently, which is actually a good thing because it saves them from over-population.

floating islands of uros

demonstrations on the floating islands of Uros


We hopped in one of the reed boats which were hand rowed (I helped for a portion!) and visited another of the islands of Uros. After that, we headed out to the isla Taquile, which was about a 2.5 to 3 hour boat ride from Uros. Just as we were arriving, it started to rain which made the cold that much colder….and also made us very glad we had thrown our ponchos in our bags! We did a quick, but steep, hike up to nice little house where a family was waiting to host our group for lunch. This lunch was quite delicious – partially because the nice, warm food hit the spot in contrast to the cold, wet conditions outside, and it also happened to be quite tasty. We had quinoa soup with bread and grilled trucha (trout). The soup was piping hot and the trucha was grilled perfectly! It was interesting that the people on Taquile generally do not eat meat or trout – the trout is mostly for visitors, and meat is generally only for celebrations or special occasions. The people there live nearly completely off the land, and they tend to live for a very long time (well into their 90s and even 100+). They farm, work, walk, raise a very little bit of livestock, and live nearly isolated from others with the purest of resources and little pollution/contamination. It is truly amazing! If the world were ever to lose power or technology, I know exactly who would be the most equipped to survive – and it’s not us in the US. It’s definitely the people already living that way on these islas.

lake titicaca from taquile island


The weather cleared up just as we were finishing our lunch with the host family, which was perfect for walking around and touring the island a bit more. Again, Puno was the one place where the altitude did get to us a little – I will say that I was very winded from hiking around a bit after our lunch. Granted the paths were steep, but the altitude played a big role. But the hike was worth it; it was incredible to see the lake sparkling under the sunlight, and the “Isla de Sol” off in the distance – technically a part of Bolivia. So we can say that we were able to see Bolivia while were were visiting – bonus!



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The Peru Chronicles: Arequipa

We arrived in Arequipa around 11am, fresh off the longest bus ride of our trip (~11 hours). We decided to use this long bus ride as our “hotel” for the night. We didn’t want to waste a full day of riding a bus, so the overnight bus ride was a good option, and we still got a pretty good night’s rest. [Note: I’ve mentioned how nice the buses are, which is absolutely true. But I also need to mention how terrifying they can be if you pay too much attention. The route was essentially cut right into the mountains with winding, hairpin turns on narrow roads during which the buses and semis have no qualms passing each other right in the middle of these turns on the narrow one lane roads. It’s best to not think about it, though if you are brave enough to look, the views are spectacular!]

In Arequipa, we stayed at La Casa de Sillar. “Sillar” is a type of white rock that many of the buildings in Arequipa were built with by the Spanish. Many of these buildings are considered historic and boast incredible architecture. With many of them constructed with this white “sillar,” it is apparent why Arequipa is also known as “La Ciudad Blanca” or The White City.

la casa de sillar

la casa de sillar courtyard area

After taking a cab to La Casa de Sillar and cleaning up a bit from our overnight bus ride, we ventured out for lunch. The hostel recommended a place called La Mundial (enjoy the tunes!). This place was an easy walk from the hostel, and was very local – we were probably the only non-Peruvians in the place. We ordered an appetizer of choclo con queso (corn with cheese) and an entree of rocoto relleno (stuffed pepper) to split for our lunch. These are two distinct Arequipenan foods – and both were quite tasty. The corn will really throw off a lot of norteamericanos who are not expecting it; the size of each kernel is probably 4-5 times what a normal corn sized kernel would be on an ear here in the US. Each kernel is it’s own bite that you can eat with a fork – very different, but still very good, and still tastes like corn. The rocoto relleno was also very tasty – stuffed with a mixture of meat, sauce, and some quinoa(?).

We then headed to the Plaza de Armas. Almost every city in South America will have its own Plaza de Armas – essentially the town square, and generally a hub of activity. We enjoyed some of the gorgeous architecture and decided to sit up on a balcony and relax with a nice cafecito (coffee), before enjoying the sights as we slowly wandered our way back to the hostel. It was a perfect way to spend the afternoon in Arequipa.

arequipa plaza de armas

view of the plaza de armas for our cafe


After regrouping at our hostel from the afternoon’s (lazy) activities, we decided to head out for dinner. We had looked around at some reviews, and there was no shortage of fabulous looking restaurants, but we decided to head to one called ZigZag. The atmosphere here was very cool – again, with the sillar and the historic quality of the building, it really felt like dining in a castle. There, we also happened to have one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. [Most of you know that  I love my food, and there were a handful of dishes throughout our Peru travels that would make it on my top meals of all time list.] “La Trilogia” was the main course that we ordered after our appetizer of anitpasto and some bread with excellent spreads. We picked our 3 meats – The Trilogy – to be beef, lamb, and alpaca. And those came with four different dipping sauces and a side order of quinoa that was so good and so rich that it nearly resembled a risotto. The meats were all cooked perfectly, the dipping sauces were spot on, and the quinoa incredible. And they gave us paper bibs to boot! Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves and our food immensely.

zigzag arequipa

bring on the meats!


The following day in Arequipa we woke up, ate our breakfast at the hostel, and then headed to a huge mercado. The market was full of fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and any other kind of handicraft or knick knack you could imagine. Check out the ol’ pineapple toss!


In the afternoon we decided to take a bus tour. Many cities have these, and there are many versions within each city as well. [Note: One thing to remember is that nearly everything is negotiable in Peru. Your hostel may offer you one price and another person in the hostel a different price, and you can walk into the Plaza de Armas to a tourist company where they will give an entirely different price. Depending on how much time you have, try to check a few places, and don’t be afraid to haggle.] Our bus tour drove by a few of the historic places just off the Plaza de Armas, including the Santa Catalina Monastery, one of the oldest in South America. However, the majority of the bus tour was spent just beyond the city. [Note: If you want to see some of these historic places in and around downtown, I would recommend one of the free walking tours that occurs twice daily. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go on one.]

mirador arequipa

Our first stop (just above) was at the famous mirador of Yanahuara, with beautiful arches that look out over the city of Arequipa. You can also see some of the large volcanoes in the background that are very impressive in Arequipa. [Note: One of the big draws for tourists in Arequipa is the trekking through the Colca Canyon, near some of these huge volcanoes. While there are single day trips (starting at 3am and lasting until 8pm), most people elect to do the trekking in 2 or more days. We didn’t have that kind of time, so we decided to tour the city and surrounding sights instead, which was still very worth the trip.] After the trip to the arches, we went to the next vista and enjoyed seeing the volcanoes.



impressive peaks (from a different vista than the one we stopped at)


After a tasty lunch break, we continued on to the mansion of the fundador of Arequipa. The historic mansion had fallen into ruin for a long period of time, but was purchased by a team of architects and restored to be an historic museum and destination. The mansion and rooms were interesting to learn about and see some of the old tools that would have been used, and the grounds were very impressive and beautiful as well.

mansion del fundador arequipa

mansion del fundador in arequipa

mansion del fundador arequipa

the grounds at the mansion


After the mansion of the fundador, we took a little bit a random stop at a ranch. There were some horses around as an option to ride, but no one from our group decided to exercise that option. This led to most of us milling around without doing much of anything for a good 30-45 minutes. The one spectacle was a pet hawk that we saw. Two ladies had trained a huge hawk to stand on the shoulders of people for impressive photo ops for just a few soles. I was not worried about the price, but I was absolutely worried about the bird so I elected not to partake. But here’s an interesting shot of one of the people in our group who did decide to be adventurous and make friends with the hawk:


After we returned, we decided to wander down a couple of neat walking streets, and ended up eating at a little spot on la calle San Francisco. It was a neat place, and we ate on the rooftop terrace (even though it was a little chilly in the evening). The food was good, but couldn’t compare to the previous night’s at ZigZag.  The following morning we were up early and on the bus toward our next stop – Puno!


chickens in the market

the next time you think you are having a bad day, just be thankful you aren’t a chicken in the market…



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The Peru Chronicles: Ica / Huacachina

So about 4 hours after we left Lima, we arrived in Ica. The bus stop where we arrived was a bit rough around the edges, but we got a taxi and made our way to Huacachina which is one of the main reasons travelers head to Ica. [Note: The buses in South America are really nice, assuming you take a trusted line. They have seats that recline, blankets and pillows, TV’s, and small meals/snacks. I’d recommend TEPSA or Cruz del Sur as bus lines for non-Peruvian travelers.] Huacachina is just about 10-15 minutes outside of Ica, and is really one of the neatest places you could imagine.


restaurant on the oasis with jokes

Huacachina is a little oasis in the middle of a desert full of mountain-sized sand dunes. It is really something to see, and something totally different for most people. The oasis is the size a small pond – you could walk the entire perimeter in about 20 minutes. And Huacachina the ‘town’ exists as an outgrowth from this little oasis – a half circle of restaurants and hostels around the oasis, with just a couple more blocks stemming from that half circle. It really is tiny, and it does exist largely because of tourism.

oasis at huacachina peru


We arrived around 8PM, so it was already dark out, but still plenty of time to relax and enjoy a few Cusquenas. We stayed at the Desert Nights hostel which is a neat little backpacker’s hostel. This was the only place where we stayed in true backpacker form – in a community dorm with a few sets of bunk beds and communal bathrooms, thus a very economical choice. It was a good little place with an attached bar/restaurant, and a very helpful and friendly staff. Through the hostel with the help of the staff, you could book a few different options as far as excursions and nearby places to visit and things to do. We decided to do two different activities while there and booked both through the hostel.

Our first activity was to tour a couple of distilleries / wineries in the area. We ended up on the tour with a very nice Columbian lady (who happens to know James Rodriguez for all you soccer crazies out there!) that we befriended and chatted with quite a bit. The tour lasted a few hours and took us to through two different wineries; both of the wineries were also also pisco distilleries. Pisco is a liquor that is very common throughout Peru. It is similar to what you might get with a vodka or a tequila – a clear liquor that is in the 40-50% alcohol range…turns out, it’s actually just distilled wine. It comes in many varieties; some infused with lemon or other flavors, some more sweet or more dry, and some as liqueurs (our Columbian friend bought us a coffee flavored pisco liqueur as an anniversary gift!).


tasting the vino and the pisco

pisco distillery tour

we’re the three best friends that anyone could have…

Our second activity in Huacachina is a must do! We went sand-dune boarding and dune buggy riding through the mountainous sound dunes. Again we booked this through the hostel, and this was a ~2 hour adventure racing up and down the dunes in a cage-like dune buggy. At various points, our driver would stop and we would hop out of the buggy to zoom down the dunes on our wooden sand boards. It is an absolutely unique and quite exhilarating experience. We stayed out just long enough to see the sunset on the dunes – incredible!

sand dune boarding

sand dune boarding in huacachina

with our dune buggy driver

After our dune buggy ride, we ate dinner and took a cab back to the bus station to get on our way to the next stop – Arequipa. This was the longest bus ride of our trip – right around 12 hours. We decided to time it so that our bus left Ica around 10pm and arrived in Arequipa around 10am the following morning. Again, the buses are very nice with their amenities, although 12 hours still felt like a long time and we were ready to be off the bus by the time we arrived.

There are a couple of other sights that people may stop in Ica to see. The first is to visit the Islas Ballestas or ‘The Poor Man’s Galapagos’ which is about an hour east of Ica in Paracas and are a part of the national reserve there. We elected not to go on this excursion, even though we originally had it tentatively scheduled in our original plans. The main attraction there is a little boat ride around the islands, and neither of us are very sea-worthy. We decided that it wasn’t worth us spending an extra night and most of a day to get over to Paracas to tour around by boat (and possibly get sick) and then head back to Ica. (This is where we picked up the 1 day that I mentioned on our original itinerary.) One day and a half was enough to do the two excursions that we did in Ica (Huacachina), and we didn’t regret skipping the island boat tour in Paracas.

The other thing that people may elect to do is to visit the lineas of Nazca. Nazca is actually located a couple of hours south of Ica, and is a potential stop on your way out of town (possibly as you head to Arequipa). These are ancient lines created in various shapes (e.g. monkey, spider) that were etched into the ground thousands of years ago. They are interesting partly due to the scale in which they were done – you need to be fairly high above ground to see the actual shapes (there are various viewing towers and several airplane tours you can book to see them).  I had seen these during my previous travels, and while they are neat, we didn’t think that they warranted their own stop with all of the other things we had planned.

lineas de nazca


So our one night in Ica was enough for us, and we were on the bus to sleep our way to our next stop of Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city…








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The Peru Chronicles: First (and last) Stop – LIMA

Our flights were round trip from Fort Lauderdale to Lima. Thus, our time in South America officially started and ended in Lima. Lima is the capital of Peru and a huge city with a population around 9 million (potentially more populated than NYC, depending on city proper vs metro area as defined and measured). So while Lima is indeed very South American, it is not the small-town South American countryside that probably pops into many minds when thinking of Peru or South America. [Note: For some great deals for flights, I always like to check Kayak – they have an option called “Explore” and I highly recommend playing around with that. SkyScanner may also be a helpful site. Do be aware that these don’t catch all airlines, including some discount airlines like Southwest.]

The city is divided into many many barrios, or neighborhoods. A few of the most popular barrios to visit in Lima are the Centro Historico, Miraflores, and Barranco. [Note: The airport itself is in “Callao,” which is actually a dangerous area of the city, so be sure to get a trusted taxi.]  We were very lucky that Marita and Ruy – our fantastic hosts – had a very cool departamento (apartment) right in the heart of Barranco. Just across the street were several restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. And just a block away was a lovely parque with some greenery, benches, a neat church, and a biblioteca (library) for Em.

the library is the pink building in the background

the library is the pink building in the background


So our first night, Marita had a taxi ready to pick us up and get us to her departamento. It was a Saturday night and it also happened to be the night that she was celebrating her cumpleanos with an asado with several of her friends. The apartment was perfect for this as it had a rooftop terrace with a parilla (grill), and we celebrated with a symphony of meats – pork, pork belly, chicken, steak, sausage, morcilla (blood sausage), and duck. In Peru, and South America in general, the nights start much later and last much longer. So when we arrived from the airport close to 11pm, we were the first people to arrive and they had not started any of the food. People began showing up shortly after us, the chelas (beers) began to flow, and the food got started…and the festivities lasted until 6 in the morning. Truth be told, we only made it until 3:30 – but I was actually very proud of Honey, especially after a long travel day.

Marita, the birthday girl!

Marita, the birthday girl!

Everyone that we met and hung out with was incredibly nice. And most were pretty darn good with their English – a very good thing because Em speaks very little Spanish, and I was a little rusty at that point. They were all interested to hear about our trip, give little tips and things to do and see along the way, and give recommendations of foods to try. We couldn’t have asked for a better group. Interestingly enough, there were a handful of them who were musicians, and so after the eating had slowed, the music started up. Overall, a very fun night with lots of fun people and great food!

you can see most of the crew here - situated around us!

you can see most of the crew here – situated around us!


Because we went to bed early (3:30am), we were up early as well – around 8:30am. We got a little hand-drawn map from Ruy and wandered out to explore a bit. We found out that on a Sunday morning, nothing is open before 11am. Actually, there was one Starbucks that was open, but we both refused to stop there. So we wandered just a block further from the square where the library was (pictured above), crossed over a neat little picturesque walking bridge, and after just a couple of minutes, we came to the most incredible vista that literally took Em’s breath away and nearly knocked her over. We had arrived at the Pacific Ocean atop a sort of cliff, and just several hundred yards out was San Lorenzo – an island mountain rising out of the mist. It was one of the prettiest views you could imagine and was a great example of the many more to come…

Because Peru is in South America, their seasons are exactly opposite of ours. So when we arrived in late August, it was still winter there. It does get chilly in Peru, but not too bad. We were comfortable in a sweater or pullover for the most part throughout the trip, though as we went furthest south to Puno it was quite chilly! [Note: We knew this ahead of time and tried to pack in things that were easy to layer and it ended up working out well!]  The one thing about the winter in Lima is that it is nearly always gray and a bit misty – for almost an entire 6 months! They call this the “panza de burro” or belly of the donkey (underside of the donkey belly is gray). It’s an interesting phenomenon in that when you go just a couple of hours outside of Lima, you will get sunshine and blue skies…but nothing while actually in Lima. It must have something to do with the latitude, altitude, and proximity to the Pacific. I’ve never been, but I imagine it’s similar to what people say about Seattle. Either way, it makes me grateful to have so much sun so much of the time at home in Florida!

us at the vista

us at the vista

san lorenzo lima peru

no, not a Bob Ross painting – an actual picture of San Lorenzo that we took


We did a little more walking and ended up at the Bodequita Verde – a very quaint little cafe. We enjoyed a breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee, and juice. But most of all, we enjoyed the atmosphere of the little cafe and our first breakfast in Peru. Em was also convinced that we ran into a blogger while there – some girl with a guy right behind taking glamour photos while she was posing ever so naturally at the cafe and also getting the low down on the history of the place. #celebsighting

When we got back to the apartment around 1pm, there were signs of life. Marita was up, and cut up some papaya for us to eat – she says that it’s good after a night of drinking. This was also our first foray into the fruit while there – of which we had a lot! We ended up trying all kinds of fruits that I had never had – star fruit, cactus fruit (prickly pear?), and the best – cherimoya! So many fruits, and very delicious. There are so many small markets, shops, and vendors that it’s really difficult to go very far at all without running into some fresh fruit.

Then we took a drive through several parts of the city. The original plan was to stop in the Centro Historico, but there was some type of festival/event going on that just didn’t allow for any kind of parking. That actually turned out fine because we got a driving tour that covered more of the city. [Note: The rules of the road in Lima and most of South America are absolutely insane. There is no way I would ever attempt to drive through that chaos…when riding as a passenger, your best bet is to just trust in your driver and hope it all works out!]  During our little driving tour we also checked out La Punta – which is just about as close as you can get to the incredible San Lorenzo isla. But take note, La Punta is basically in Callao, which is a rough part of the city…so pay attention. Regardless, we felt really lucky to watch the sunset over the Pacific at La Punta, when just about 24 hours earlier, we woke up to the sunrise over the Atlantic at our place. On our way back, we had a coffee at Cafe Bisetti, and did a very abbreviated bar crawl of just a couple stops to down our first pisco sours of the trip.

sunset lima peru

sunset at la punta


The following day we were scheduled to hop on the bus to our first destination – Ica, which is much closer to that small town South American town type of image that you may have in your head. However, before taking off, we had another breakfast of fruit, lots of walking around the neighborhood of Barranco to see the architecture, enjoy some antique shops, and see the Pacific – all absolutely beautiful – and then a stop for lunch. This lunch may have been one of the biggest I’ve ever had, and one of the tastiest lunches I’ve ever had as well. The restaurant was Isolina, and it served family style meals – we had a ceviche and a piece of roasted meat in a delightful sauce – wayyyyy too much for lunch, yet so good! The first – and best! – ceviche we had of the trip.

ceviche lima peru


When we returned to Lima on the back end of our trip, we were seasoned pros. We enjoyed our final afternoon with an impressive late lunch featuring some delightful stuffed mushrooms at Arlotia – just across the street from our hosts. A small and unassuming place from the outside, but incredible food that is a Spanish/French/Basque/Peruvian fusion. We then had a very good meal later that evening at Sibaris, which is a trendy little tapas restaurant featuring great food and a menu that shifts from week to week with what’s in season. I may say this in every post, and every other sentence within every post, but this meal was absolutely phenomenal with all of the flavors and combinations of meats, sauces, potatoes, rice, and beans! (Did I mention that we ate a lot and really enjoyed all of the food while traveling?!)  They also had an impressive cocktail menu to choose from, that probably only a hipster mixologist could truly appreciate. We ended our time in Lima with a trip to a very cool mansion that had been converted into several different bars all segmented off and decorated very distinctly. Ayahuasca is on all kinds of “best bar” and “trendy bar” lists to visit while in Lima, and I would have to agree. This one mansion is like visiting five different bars at once because of the different ambiance in each section as you move throughout the rooms, and the cocktail list is incredibly extensive with all kinds of options with lots of fresh fruits incorporated into many of their drinks. Truly a unique and cool place to enjoy our last drinks in South America.

ayahuasca lima

us enjoying drinks in ayahuasca


There you have it – our start and finish – in South America. We absolutely had a fantastic time in Lima and really loved our hosts showing us around. But again, don’t be fooled – Lima is a big city. Of course it does still have a South American feel, but it’s not that small-town, indigenous type of feel that may come to mind. There are really nice and upscale parts of the city, and there are more run-down and dangerous parts of the city – just like any big city anywhere in the world. The “in-between” stops on our trip are much more reminiscent of the small-town South American towns as you will see.



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The Peru Chronicles: Our Route and Itinerary

Now you know a little bit about the “How and Why” of our choice to head to Peru. Beautiful place, plenty to do, great people and food, and very cost effective. That whole “plenty to do” part actually made our trip a little bit tricky as we were planning.  Perhaps “plenty to do” really means that there’s just way too much to see and do in one trip (even with two weeks!). But that’s not a terrible problem to have… The main concern was trying to find a good balance between seeing as much as possible while not exhausting ourselves with too much travel and not enough time spent in any one place.  In the end, I think that we achieved that goal. We put together a fairly aggressive itinerary to keep ourselves on the move and see a lot, but we never got to the point where we were overly exhausted or running on fumes.

trip through peru


The map above shows our travel route. As you can see, it’s actually quite convenient as we were able to do a loop starting and ending in Lima – where we flew into and out of from Fort Lauderdale. The cities were also nicely situated; most of the bus rides between cities were between 4-6 hours, which wasn’t bad at all. The longest was from Ica to Arequipa (~11 hours) and we actually decided to take the bus through the night and sleep through most of that leg. [Note: The buses are actually quite nice – the seats recline nearly all the way, they provide little pillows and blankets, they have little meals/snacks included, and they show movies. It’s really nicer than almost any normal airline that you will find.]

We planned for about two days in each city, and we gave ourselves about a one day buffer so that we would have a little wiggle room if we wanted to slightly extend a stay, or – more realistically in South America – if we somehow lost a day due to travel complications. [Note: When traveling in South America, sometimes things do happen – there are strikes, routes get cancelled, roads close, etc. You should probably try to have at least some time built in as a buffer, and also go in with the mindset that you need to be flexible and things may shift slightly.] We felt very fortunate in that we did not face any significant travel complications – no missed or cancelled buses or flights (just some slight delays). [#WinningInSouthAmerica]  Below is the itinerary of what we actually did; our initial itinerary going into the trip had one extra stop scheduled that we decided not to do when we got down there – again, be flexible and open to some slight shifting here and there based on your energy level to travel, what you hear from others is worth/not worth seeing, and any unforeseeable hurdles along the way.

peru itinerary

peru itinerary

Could we have squeezed in another place or two? Possibly. Could we have done the same trip in a shorter amount of time? Maybe we could have seen the same places in 11-12 days versus 14, though it would have felt rushed. Could we have spent more time in certain places? Absolutely – we could have stayed another day or more in a couple of different cities. However in the end, we felt like we really got a nice feel for most of the places we visited, and that we got the highlights in those places. Obviously there were restaurants, tours, and sights that we had to miss out on, but I don’t think we regretted anything that we did. We didn’t feel like we wasted any of our days, and we didn’t feel like we went to any places that weren’t worth the trip.  So the traveling was about right for us with the above route and above itinerary.



Probably wouldn’t recommend traveling via carriage…





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Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Advice, Budget/$$, Food, Projects/Activities, Uncategorized


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The Peru Chronicles: Background

Friends, family, and those who follow me on social media are probably all aware that Em and I recently spent a chunk of time in Peru. In short, it was an incredible two week trip filled with amazing people, fantastic food, and tons of memorable adventures and experiences. The plan is to document some of those memories here on the old blog, along with some additional tips and info for those who may be interested. There will be plenty of pictures as well (I actually took enough pictures that my phone wouldn’t work until I cleared some space!). Be sure to check out our video at the bottom!


machu picchu peru

Yes, we were actually here and took this picture! So amazing, and the picture doesn’t even do it justice…


Why Peru? The Long Story:

I spent a semester abroad (~5months) in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2007. I absolutely loved everything about my experience while there – from the people (my norteamericanos that I traveled with as well as the locals I met down there), the food, the culture, the history, and all of my other adventures. Near the end of my time in Argentina, I was able to take a short jaunt through Peru – about 10-12 days, where a buddy and I stopped in several different small towns and absolutely loved it. A Peruvian friend, Marita, (that I met in Argentina) helped us plan our trip. We saw a lot, but definitely not everything!


Crew from 2007 in Argentina!

I met my wife at college the semester I returned from Argentina. Fresh off my travels, I was constantly talking about South America – specifically Argentina and Peru, of course. Again, the food, the people, the sights, and everything else that came with it. I must have talked it up enough that I got her relatively excited about South America as well. We always talked about going down and making some memories for the two of us in South America.

Flash forward about 6-7 years – I asked her to marry me, and she said yes. One of my wedding responsibilities was deciding on and planning the honeymoon location (pending honey’s approval). South America wasn’t really a consideration for the honeymoon – we knew that we wanted to relax and enjoy leisurely fun in the sun with cocktails. But we also knew that we wanted to make it to South America before kids were on the table at all. So we started putting a little money away each month – our “Honey Money” – to take cover both our island honeymoon trip and the trip to South America that we knew we were going to attempt before even thinking about kids.

The Decision:

When it came down to deciding where in South America – we knew that we were between Argentina and Peru. I knew both of these places relatively well – a substantial amount of time spent in Argentina, and a trip through Peru with a friend in Lima who I knew would be a great resource and help to us. I also knew that both are quite safe to travel in (of course, you always need to be careful and a savvy traveler regardless of your location), and both had plenty to see and do. In the end, there were several reasons we ended up choosing Peru over Argentina.

Cost/expense (one of the most important): We were able to get round trip airfare from Ft. Lauderdale to Lima for $400 / person. That was literally half the price of the airfare from Ft. Lauderdale to Buenos Aires. [Note: We saw some prices as low as $350 round trip, but for different dates than we needed.]  In addition, the US dollar is strong right now in comparison to the Peruvian sol ($1US = ~ 3.25 soles), which means you get a lot of bang for your buck once down there. And you can – and should – think in terms of soles (Peruvian) while there…you can get a very tasty steak dinner for 20-30 soles (about $6-10 US), so it truly is a good exchange rate that is hugely beneficial for us.

Things to see / do and location: There is so much to see and down in Peru (I will be telling you all about some of these places and things!) and most are all within a reasonable distance that can be traveled within a reasonable time frame. Argentina has plenty to see and do, but it is also more spread out – you will lose a handful of days to travel and it will be quite expensive if you try to make it to Buenos Aires, Patagonia, Bariloche, Iguazu Falls, Mendoza, and Cordoba (all very cool places in Argentina – but all spaced quite far apart – you would likely have to fly from place to place). However, in Peru, we were able to hit several cities – each with its own history, feel, and sites to see – without losing much, if any, time travelling and without spending a ton of extra money flying from location to location to location. You can see city, small town South America, ocean, cliff, countryside, mountains, desert, and jungle, all with easy, affordable bus trips from city to city. We were able to see a lot, on a reasonable budget, without losing days to travel and flights.

People: I mentioned a dear friend of mine who lived in Lima and was happy to host us while in Lima as well as help plan certain sections of the trip and give recommendations. She was absolutely fantastic and we can’t thank Marita enough for everything she did! When I mention people, I also mean Peruvian people in general; they tend to be very kind and welcoming – es una gente muy carinosa!


Friends in Lima. We look like the grandparents surrounded by our family!

Food: It’s all about the food, and the food in Peru is amazing! Argentina has a wide-reaching reputation of great wine and food, particularly steak. I will say that the food in Argentina was good, though it may not have fully lived up to its reputation. I remember being more impressed with the food in Peru during my travels in 2007, and this trip absolutely solidified this assessment. The cuisine is so flavorful with lots of vibrant tastes and dishes – don’t worry, I will be sure to recap some of our favorite meals we had while there!


peru dinner

One of our best meals of the trip – “La Trilogia” at Zig Zag restaurant in Arequipa. Three meats – alpaca, beef, and lamb,

along with delicious dipping sauces and quinoa.

So check out our video recap below (while it is a pretty cool video with some amazing footage, it’s just not possible to describe and capture the actual experience of being there – seeing, tasting, and hearing everything in person!). And be sure to stay tuned for more posts on some of our adventures in Peru! Such an awesome trip with so many great experiences.

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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Advice, Budget/$$, Food, Projects/Activities, Uncategorized


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pickled asparagus

She’s at it again…. I’m gone for an afternoon and I come home to a new project courtesy of my lovely wife. Thankfully, she is often successful. Even more thankfully, this particular project was successful – and edible. She decided to make pickled asparagus, which may sound a little bizarre when you first hear it, but it really just tastes like a nice pickle (which, of course, it is).

She was inspired by this recipe [of course, I think she was also partially inspired by the new mason jars she bought on the sly while I was away as well….nothing says pickle me like a new mason jar], and she said it really wasn’t too difficult.  She was also able to microwave the pickling brine rather than putting it on the stove which made it a bit quicker. She also went with no dill and no full peppercorns. You can adjust to your own taste, of course. One thing that is to our own taste when it come to asparagus generally – and also seemed to work quite well for the pickling – was to use thin asparagus stalks. Some people like the thicker, meatier asparagus, but we both prefer thinner, so it made perfect sense for us to use those when pickling as well.  We even used the asparagus as sandwich pickles for one of our favorite weekend lunches (tuna salad sandwiches with tomatoes – see previous post). And with the pickling liquid and spice from the recipe, I am sure that there are a number of vegetables that would be quite tasty pickled – give it a shot!.


pickled asparagus


As Always. Eat. Be Happy. 

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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Advice, Food, Projects/Activities


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