Chinchero, Maras Salineras, and Moray in Peru

CHINCHERO, MARAS SALINERAS, and MORAY: This was our first day-trip in Peru after spending a night in Lima and landing in Cusco the following morning. These small villages are not so touristy but has magnificent Incan sites. While the highlight of Chinchero is its colorful outdoor market, Maras Salineras is an awe-struck site of thousands of years of salt fields, and Moray Terrace displays the innovative and scientific minds of the Incans.

Moray Terrace surrounded by Andes, in Peru

Moray Terrace surrounded by Andes, in Peru

The cab drive/tour guide was reserved before we reached Cusco airport. It was relaxing but once we were near Moray and Maras, I felt the altitude sickness little bit with dizziness and light-headed feeling. My girls and I fell asleep during our drive from Maras Salineras to Moray because we were feeling really dizzy.

Also, if you are going to be in Peru for few days and are planning to visit multiple Inca sites, it’s cheaper to buy the Boleto Turistico pass for 130 Sols for adult and 70 Sols for kids, which gives you free access to many ancient sites for 10 days.

Scenic drive to Ollantaytambo at the end of the day

TIME of TRAVEL: We visited Peru end of August, 2017. It was winter there and very pleasant for us. We did carry sweaters for all of us since it can get a bit windy in the mountains and chilly at night.

OUR HOTEL: We really didn’t stay in any of these places, since it was just a day-trip on our way from Cusco to Ollantaytambo. Please check my upcoming post on Ollantaytambo to see our hotel. Tourists don’t usually stay in these places and I’m sure there aren’t many options here either. Ollantaytambo is within an hour drive and has lots of choices for lodging.

EATING and SHOPPING: We had lunch in the open market of Chinchero before visiting Santa Cataline Monastery on the hill. The food in Chinchero market were all street foods and women were cooking right there…openly. Food was very cheap with a nice big portion. We had fried trout with rice and potatoes. I also ordered a stuffed bell pepper with vegetables (deep fried). Don’t expect nice sitting arrangements and cleanliness, but it’s an experience we loved. We were just happy to actually get a table with 4 plastic chairs and sat down with few other locals and tourists.

Fried trout with rice, boiled potato, and veges in Chinchero market, Peru

Fried trout with rice, boiled potato, and veges in Chinchero market, Peru

Chinchero is a good place for buying small trinkets and hand craft items. You can find jewelries, home decors, wall hangings, shawls and sweaters, potteries, stuffed llamas, and lots of local goodies here. But do bargain, especially if you are buying multiple items from one vendor. When you are in Maras Salineras, buy few packages of natural salt from the mine at the entrance.

Vendors at Chinchero open market with their crafts

Vendors at Chinchero open market with their crafts

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: As I mentioned before, we were picked up from the Cusco airport in the morning by a previously appointed tour guide and went off to explore ancient and present Peru with all the luggage and backups. We reached our hotel in Ollantaytambo in the evening after visiting the below sites. It was not packed or tiring at all. We took it slow and enjoyed every bit of these country-sides and majestic Peruvian Andes.

Just one thing to remember is that, some people may get mild to severe altitude sickness in these areas. So, it’s better to drink some chlorophyll or coca tea right from the beginning of your trip. We got ours from the Vitamin World and coca leaves can be found in all the hotels or departmental stores near Cusco. I even saw free coca leaves in the airport also. It’ll help a lot, better to be feeling good than drowsy in your trip.

  1. CUSCO TEXTILE: It’s called Figueroa Alpaca Textile. As we entered the complex, we were greeted by llamas, baby alpaca, and guinea pigs. There was a small shaded area with all the materials to demonstrate how alpaca wool get processed into making different items. A lady in traditional Peruvian clothes walked in and introduced herself with her broken English. As she started to demonstrate the process, another lady walked in with 4 cups of mint tea in beautiful blue and white clay-made tea cups (which inspired me to buy those tea cup from Chinchero market). One thing that was really remarkable is that they use all natural product starting from cleaning the alpaca wool (juice from a plant) to dying them in different colors (all natural colors), to weaving them into different products.
A weaver working with alpaca wool at Figueroa Alpaca Textile in Peru

A weaver working with alpaca wool at Figueroa Alpaca Textile in Peru

After the demo, we were taken to a lady who was knitting a shawl from the alpaca wool. I was just eager to get to their store and explore some goodies. We ended up buying ponchos, shawls, sweaters, table clothes, and few small things for really good price. Items made with baby alpaca are very soft (softer than lamb wool) but can be expensive depending on location and complexity of the design.

An alpaca in Figueroa Alpaca Textile, Peru

An alpaca in Figueroa Alpaca Textile, Peru

  1. CHINCHERO: Chinchero is situated on higher ground than Cusco at almost 12,500 feet elevation. The Inca ruins here consist of nested terraces rising up to a plateau which can be viewed from the Santa Cataline Monastery. This is a church that was built in the early 1600s. We didn’t go inside and not sure if it’s even an active church or a museum. The site is included in Boleto Turistico pass.
Santa Cataline Monastery in Chinchero, Peru

Santa Cataline Monastery in Chinchero, Peru

Before climbing the hilly path to the monastery, we stopped at the open market area which is a heaven for souvenir hunters. Prices are not necessarily cheap here, but most of these items are hand crafted by the surrounding villagers. You can find potteries, shawls, table clothes, and other decors. I bought two traditional tea cups (without handles) for 20 USD both…not that cheap.

A lady in Chinchero market selling street food

A lady in Chinchero market selling street food

  1. MARAS SALINERAS: About an hour drive from narrow mountainous roads of Chinchero was the Salineras. This is a natural terraced salt mine in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We could see the salt terraces from far as we were passing thru the mountains. Once you are at the gate, you have to walk for few minutes to get to the site, which I couldn’t do because my exhausted girls fell asleep in the car. You have to see the nestled salt pans in the canyon to understand how the salt from water at the Salineras spring has been transformed into salt crystals for thousands of years.
Driving to thru Andes towards MARAS SALINERAS in Peru

Driving to thru Andes towards MARAS SALINERAS in Peru

Salineras can be done in less than an hour.  Enjoy the high mountains and the drive to get here, it looks dangerous being so high up on the mountains and driving by the edge. But breathe in and trust your cab driver/tour guide and enjoy the peaks, cliffs, valleys, and fresh air.

Salt pans of MARAS SALINERAS in Peru

  1. MORAY TERRACE: Moray is very close to the town of Maras and sits in the Sacred Valley of the Incas about 3500 meters above sea-level. This was more like an experimental site for different types of produces for the Incans. Other than this archeological site of Moray, enjoy the surrounding giant Andes Mountains and small farms.
MORAY TERRACE in Peru, sits in the Sacred Valley of the Incas about 3500 meters above sea-level

MORAY TERRACE in Peru, sits in the Sacred Valley of the Incas about 3500 meters above sea-level

We stayed in Moray Terrace about half an hour. We didn’t go down to the terraces, but there are stairs for that. The site is included in Boleto Turistico.

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North or South? Best Vacations in France

If you have not traveled to France before, then you are missing out. It is such a stunning country with so much to see and do. The country itself is quite large, as far as European countries go anyway. So it can be a good idea to divide the country in half and choose some vacation ideas based on what is each half. Have you done any of these before?

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The North of France

You can’t mention going to France without mentioning Paris, which is right in the heart of the north of the country. The city of lights is a must! The history that the city has is just amazing, and there are so many fascinating things to see and do. The Louvre Museum has to be one of the highlights, home to the world famous Mona Lisa painting. A trip up to the top of the Eiffel Tower is one of the top things to do too. You can even book a table at the restaurant at the top of the tower for a quintessentially Parisian experience. Notre Dame is magical to visit too, as well as munching on a macaron or two down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

If you are looking for something to do with the family, then Disneyland Paris is only a short train ride out of the city. Paris isn’t the most child-friendly city ever, so many families visit Disneyland instead. It isn’t as large as its American counterparts, but it still makes for an amazing day out for any Disney mad family members.

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The South of France

If you’re planning on a trip to the south of France, then the chances are that you’re looking for something quite romantic and relaxed. The scenery and views in the south are breathtaking, with large mountains and valleys to boot. The great thing is that you can enjoy the south of France all year round. You could enjoy St. Tropez and Cannes in the summer, and areas like Chamonix in the winter. So don’t just dismiss the south as only being a place that will work if you like the beach. The French Riviera is, of course, stunning. But the mountains are just as beautiful. So you could look for luxury ski chalets to luxury beach accommodation. There really is something for everyone.

The south of France is also a great area to explore and take in some of the French culture. You could enjoy the range of bakeries and patisseries that are scattered in the small towns, as well as discovering the many vineyards of France. So hiring a car is a really good idea. In the south, the towns and cities are a bit more sparse than they are in the north. So hiring a car means you’ll be able to see everything without missing anything.

Have you ever been to any of these areas in France? Would love to hear any of your top tips for traveling to France. Knowing some basic French phrases is pretty important, in my opinion.

9 Fun Facts About Paris

One of the biggest things you get out of travel is the culture. Meeting people, trying new and exotic foods and embracing the manner and lifestyle of the place you visit all can make you feel like you’re part of the country rather than just a visitor.

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When you are an avid traveller, you make a point of embracing new places and one of the best types of break you can have is a city one. It’s more than paying for visas and travel insurance and packing your bags ready for an adventure. Travelling is about the memories and the experiences. You get to immerse yourself in the culture of a new place and city breaks really get you into the heart of the country you’re in.

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Paris is one such place that is dripping in history and culture. There’s so much about France that is more than just Paris and Disneyland, but Paris is the capital city and the cultural factor is huge. There is so much about the City of Love that many do not know, so we’ve put together ten facts about Paris you may not have known:

  1. Did you know that the famous Eiffel Tower was never supposed to be a permanent fixture in the city? It’s one of the most famous world icons that there is and it brings a massive amount of tourism to the city. Originally, the Tower was supposed to stand for twenty years. It was so popular, it’s still there now!
  2. It’s widely believed that Paris only has one stop sign. Is it true? Well, book yourself a trip to Paris and scout around to see if you can find more than one! The one that is widely known is situated at the 16th arrondissement.
  3. Notre Dame is one of Paris’ biggest monuments, and the bells are what makes it so popular. The largest bell in the towers is named Emmanuel and weighs a stunning 13 tonnes.
  4. The Eiffel Tower may not seem tall in the pictures, but it takes 1,665 steps to get to the top if you choose not to use the elevator provided. Who would choose not to use it, though?
  5. French people are famed for their taste, and Paris has over 400,000 trees, making nature a priority in such a city. Every tree in the city is referenced and measured for aesthetics!
  6. Coffee – and food – is a specialty of the French and there are nearly 200 places across the city you can get an espresso for just a Euro!
  7. Paris is lesser known for its shadow town under the southern part of the city. Underground tunnels and galleries are there for your exploration.
  8. You can define Parisians by which side of the Seine they hail from. Most northerners won’t venture south of the river, much like in London!
  9. Paris was originally a Roman city – and it had a much nicer name! Lutetia was what is was known as and the remains are currently buried underground.

There is so much to see in Paris, it’s easy to put together an itinerary and get exploring the city. The city of love, baguettes and art is a wonder that everyone should behold at least once.

 

Famous Quotes on Famous European Cities

Well, let’s just say this is more like a research post. I was looking up some cities in Europe and got distracted by what famous people have to say about some of my favorite cities from that continent. And boom, I thought I should put together all these nice quotes with some of my pictures, that maybe somehow represent those sayings. Again, it’s hard to pick and choose most appealing cities of Europe, but here are some of my tops ones:

  1. Prague: “The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plaster-work and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.” ―Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone 
Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

2. London: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. ” – Samuel Johnson

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Millennium Bridge on River Thames in London

3. Venice: “There is still one of which you never speak.’Marco Polo bowed his head.’Venice,’ the Khan said.Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’ And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.” ― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

One of the inner canals of Venice, look at those beautifully decorated windows

One of the inner canals of Venice, look at those beautifully decorated windows

4. Rome: “Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
– Giotto di Bondone, Renaissance painter

Trevi Fountain - The largest and the most spectacular fountain of Rome

Trevi Fountain – The largest and the most spectacular fountain of Rome

5. Paris: “Paris has history, it has art, it has wonderful architecture, it has literature, but much more important than all these, it has freedom! If a city cannot offer freedom to its dwellers, all its other beauties will be meaningless!”  ―  Mehmet Murat Ildan

Moulin Rouge in Paris

Moulin Rouge in Paris

6. Granada: “How lazily the sun goes down in Granada, it hides beneath the water, it conceals in the Alhambra!” – Ernest Hemingway

Alhambra overlooking Granada

Alhambra overlooking Granada

7. Amsterdam: “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.” – John Green

Endless canals of Amsterdam in The Netherlands

Endless canals of Amsterdam in The Netherlands

8. Salzburg: “Framed by mountains, crowned by the Hohensalzburg Fortress and divided by the turquoise Salzach River, the Salzburg landscape is pure drama.” – Frommers

Stunning view of Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress

Stunning view of Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Fortress

9. Edinburgh: “Edinburgh suited Ann; she liked the tall, dignified buildings of grey stone, the short days that sank into street-lamped evenings at five o’clock, and the dual personality of the city’s main street, which on one side had glittering shops and on the other the green sweep of Princes Street Gardens.” ― Maggie O’Farrell, After You’d Gone

Walking on Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Walking on Royal Mile in Edinburgh

10. Copenhagen: ” If Copenhagen were a person, that person would be generous, beautiful, elderly, but with a flair. A human being that has certain propensities for quarreling, filled with imagination and with appetite for the new and with respect for the old – somebody who takes good care of things and of people.” – Connie Nielsen

Burst of colors in Nyhavn (New Harbor) of Copenhagen, Denmark

Burst of colors in Nyhavn (New Harbor) of Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Surprise Your Taste Buds in Thailand – 5 Must-Try Thai Dishes

If you are heading to Thailand in the near future, keep in mind that you are going to have to eat. While there are McDonald’s restaurants and other fast food in Thailand, that’s a terrible way to experience the local culture. The cuisine in Thailand is something that you simply won’t find anywhere else on earth; the Thai food in the United States is often a poor imitation of what actual Thai cuisine tastes like so don’t forget to try these five amazing dishes during your next visit to Thailand.

Red Pork Noodle Soup

First up is Red Pork Noodle Soup, one of the most delicious Thai dishes that you will ever eat. You won’t be able to find this in the restaurants in Bangkok, but you can find it throughout the market at street vendors. The way that it is made might give you pause (the broth sits for a really long time) but it is absolutely delicious. The broth is made of boiled pork bones and onions, and it is combined with noodles, slices of red pork, sprouts and bok coy. You can eat it with sugar, fish sauce or even chili. You definitely need to check it out at least once while you are in Thailand.

Spicy Beef Salad

Beef salad is pretty amazing on its own. You can find it in restaurants throughout Thailand and it is made of succulent strips of beef that is combined with a whole bunch of things to give it a unique flavor like coriander, spearmint, lime, dried chili and onions. This salad can be enjoyed on its own but that’s definitely not the best way to eat it. As your Thai friends will tell you, you must experience spicy beef salad with warm delicious bread and covered in fish sauce. You can even make spicy beef salad at home if you want to fondly remember your time in Thailand.

Som Tam

Som Tam is one of the most prevalent foods in the Thai diet and you will find it being sold everywhere around you among the street vendors. The way that this dish is made is with shaved papaya fruit combined in a mortar and pestle with things like sugar, fish sauce, lots of chilies, peanuts, tomatoes and more. It is really spicy and if you can’t handle it, then get it made without the chilies. Even so, the mortar has a bunch of chili seeds already present when they start making yours, so you will get a little spice regardless.

Banana Pancakes

These aren’t your dad’s banana pancakes and you will be surprised just how prevalent this dish is within the marketplaces that you visit. The Thong Lor market in Bangkok has dozen of stalls selling this stuff. What is actually consists of is friend dough that is much more similar to a scone than a pancake, which is filled with chopped up banana and then topped with chocolate, or sugar mixed with condensed milk.

Krathong Tong

Our fifth dish on this list is the absolutely amazing Krathong Tong. This is an appetizer that you won’t be able to resist once you taste it for the first time. Fried appetizers have become more and more common in Thai cuisine and this is one of the best things to come from the Portuguese cuisine that has introduced them to the area. You probably won’t be able to find them unless you visit one of the nicer restaurants in Bangkok but they are very thin fried shells filled with chicken, corn, carrots, potatoes and a delicious, creamy mystery sauce.

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