We took dinner back in Miraflores at a local sandwich shop, El Peruanito at Av. Angamos Este 391. This chicharrón (fried pork) sandwich was served on fresh French bread, but the toppings were up to us…but we had no idea what the dressings were, and the counterman knew no English. “¿Todos?” I muttered, hoping that there was an all-the-way option. Raising his eyebrows, he proceeded to slather on every colorful condiment: white (mayonnaise?), yellow (mustard?), purple (taro root? black olives?) and pink (no clue!), alongside fried sweet potato and marinated onions, like a Peruvian Primanti Brothers!
Each spread made the sandwich even more amazing—savory, spicy, crunchy, chewy, scrumptious. Researching back home, the pink and purple spreads may’ve been based on local potatoes, but we’re still not exactly sure. Indeed, we were a bit apprehensive about the mayo, since our travel medicine nurse instructed us not to indulge, but our Roadfood stomachs pulled us through in fine form.
Before dinner, we caught a taxi to downtown Lima and the Plaza de Armas (above). Many of the buildings, bedecked by Moorish and Baroque architecture, resemble similar structures in Madrid, Spain. In addition to being the city’s first church, the famous Cathedral de Lima (below) also holds the remains of Francisco Pizarro, Spanish conquistador and conqueror of the Inca Empire.
The block-long Palacio de Gobierno serves as the presidential palace:
And the bright-yellow Monasterio de San Francisco boasts bone-lined catacombs and a 25,000-volume library containing books that predate Pizarro’s conquest:
Like many Andean cities, Lima was built in valleys between mountains, and growth has continued as far up these slopes as possible:
The next morning, we caught a flight to Cusco with our primary tour group (dubbed the “Core 7”). We’d met them the night before and quickly found out that we were the only Americans on the tour (score!). We held our breath a little as our plane passed over these snow-capped peaks, as the ground looked much closer than usual:
Cusco, once the capital city of the Incas, is now a major tourist destination for those headed to Machu Picchu. Luckily, we’d taken our altitude pills (thank you, travel nurse!) so the city’s 11,200 feet didn’t affect us that much. After settling at our hotel, we discovered a huge solstice festival taking place in the main plaza:
The costumes, music, and dancing got more elaborate as the parade went on:
Later we saw these masked figures standing in the median of a busy street, urging (with rope whips!) pedestrians to use the designated crosswalks:
On our first group meal, I was so hungry that I failed to get the name of this Cusco restaurant, but this alpaca cheeseburger was one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten (George Motz, I hope you’re paying attention…):
These fried yuca chunks (like potatoes but starchier with a firmer texture) really hit the spot, too:
And this was also the beginning of our group’s epic consumption of the local Cusqueña beer (many more tales to follow):
Next chapter: Caccaccollo, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and more Peruvian specialties!