A Morning in Cusco

For our last night in Peru and of our 5-week adventure, we stayed at the  Palacio del Inka in Cusco, part of the Sheraton / Liberator Luxury Collection, and a sister hotel to the Tambo del Inka in Urubamba.  Here are some photos of the hotel:

We arrived on the evening train from Aguas Calientes and were famished, so we set out to find something to eat.  You can see the Inca-Spanish transition in many buildings in Cusco, with the signature Inca stone laying techniques along the lower portion of the building and the white washed adobe on the upper portion where the Spaniards built on top of Inca foundations or used the stones:

Based on the hotel’s recommendation, we found Greens, a few blocks away.  Greens offers fresh organic food and a great menu of options for most palettes (note the Inca walls at the entrance).

Exploring Cusco

We were met by a new guide from Alpaca Expeditions who took us on a 3-stop walking tour of Cusco.

Cusco San Pedro Market:

Our first stop was the Central Market near San Pedro Plaza, a huge covered but open-air market offering (really) fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, textiles, souvenirs, flour, cacao, and an amazing array of goods.

For the squeamish, you might want to skip the next couple galleries of photos. We’ll make the thumbnails very small…

Here is the the beef area of the market where beef carcasses are butchered on-site:

To be fair to the cows, there were pork and poultry sections of the market, too:

And there were flowers, cheese, bread, and flour:

There were also vendors outside selling bread and rubber goods – true cottage industry:

Plaza de Armas

Our second stop was the Plaza de Armas, in the center of the city, thought to be the heart of the Inca Empire.  After conquering the Incas, the Spaniards quickly built a large church and a cathedral.  The Church of La Compañía was built around the square and directly on top of the foundation of the Inca palace in 1576.

The Cathedral is in the center of this panorama and the Church is on the right.  A recent statue of an Inca pointing towards the Sacred Valley is on the left, however, it apparently caused some controversy when it was added in 2011 on top of a 19th century fountain (now covered by a fake stone platform):

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The Church:IMG_1229We visited the Cathedral which houses some massive displays of the diocese.  The Cathedral contains two altars (the main altar covered in silver plating), a 5-ton bell that was cast in 1659 (now cracked), many large paintings from the period, a black Christ, and portraits of every bishop dating back to the 1500s.  Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed.  However, it looks like the no-photograph rule has only been recently enforced as you can find a few photos online.

Qorikancha / Santo Domingo Convent

Our last stop was Qorikancha, or Golden Temple, so-called because it supposedly was filled with life-sized gold statues, had gold plates lining the walls, and had a large sun disk to reflect the sun.  After they pillaged the gold, the Spaniards built the Santo Domingo convent in the early 1600s directly right on top of the foundation of the temple.  You can see the Inca foundation and walls mixed with the Spanish architecture.  Inside, the museum is dedicated to the Inca culture and their building techniques (stone on stone, no mortar in between).  In the photo below, the dark lower wall was part of an observatory and Temple of the Sun.  The portion of the convent that was built on top of the observatory collapsed during an earthquake in 1950, however, the Inca-built walls did not collapse.

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Outside the museum, some of the locals were standing on the corners with llamas for tourist photo ops (note how tall our 8 and 10 year olds are next to these women):

Our morning tour was a good blend of walking and sightseeing in Cusco, and it fit perfectly into our 3PM flight departure.

Here are some other random shots around town.  We liked the Quechua women with their braids tied in the back.

With that, we packed up and headed to the airport for our flight home via Lima and Houston, closing a chapter on an amazing adventure!   Our only hiccup in the entire trip was missing our connection in Houston (we actually didn’t miss it – we were at the gate as people were walking onto the plane, but United gave away our seats because we did not arrive 15 minutes before departure even though we arrived on a United flight from Lima (which left late).  Fortunately, the next flight was an hour later, but in 23 flights, that was the only one we ever had an issue with:

United You can read the twitter war of words here.

Stay tuned for an RTW wrap-up and more adventures!

Happy RTW Travels!