April & May, 2005
April 25 - May 2 & May 5 - May 13, 2005

Cusco, is one of the few places we have been that still retains its Pre Columbian history and architecture, while also housing a plethora of colonial architecture and history.  While historically, Cusco was the last Inca Capital, before the Spanish sacked it around 1533, today, Cusco is definitely the "Gringo Capital" of Peru, but not necessarily in a bad way. It is a huge tourist attraction, for several reasons, and thus it has consequently become fairly wealthy.

  However, the city has done a good job of not becoming ridiculous.  Most people still overwhelmingly speak Spanish, and you won't find a Gap or Mc Donald's.  Having said this, the one big problem with Cusco is that there is a very high concentration of people selling things everywhere, and they don't easily take no for an answer.  Readers note, if you come here, avoid "Gringo Alley" no matter how good the restaurants and shops may look to you! Granted, it is a lot better than the begging epedimic in Bolivia, but it can be pretty annoying.  As charming, and fun, as Cusco is, we both think the city will have to go to a permit system for sellers soon or people will start going else where to vacation. 

In any event, overall Cusco is great.  The town itself has a glorious collection of colonial style buildings, many of which are built directly on top if Incan foundations.  It looks pretty cool to see a more modern building sitting on top of the irregular, but seamlessly fitted, large Incan granite carved rock remains.  The streets are all beautiful cobblestone, and the Plaza de Armas is maybe the most beautiful we have seen.  There is also no shortage of delicious food, and great alpaca products.  However, the products are a bit more expensive than in Bolivia, and of no better quality.

Moreover, Cusco is such a great destination because of its proximity to other great attractions.  Just above the town are the Incan ruins of Saqsaywaman, which are beautifully preserved and very relaxing to walk through with their birdseye view of the city.  Cusco is also only 2 hours from exceptional rafting on the Urubamba River, which we did for an afternoon, and was a ton of fun.  Finally, Cusco is only a few hours from the beginning of the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu. You can either take 3,4, or 5 day treks along the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, or take the train from Cusco to the site itself.  We did the 4 day trek, which was one of the best experiences we have ever had.  More on that later.

As for the city itself, we sort of treated it as a vacation/excuse to study Spanish.  Cusco has an abundance of good Spanish schools.  We chose Academia Latinoamerica, which was the same school we studied at in Boilivia, and will study with in Quito Ecuador,  This obviously made for nice continuity.  We also got a great hotel, Koyllur, just off of Plaza San Blas, which is on a beautiful hilly part of the city.  We pretty much treated Cusco as home for the week before the Inca Trail, and for a week after. 

Our days generally consisted of classes in the morning, wandering the city during the day, and having delicious meals all throughout.  It was definitely the closest two weeks we have had to your standard 2 week away from work vacation, which was nice.  We had been moving a lot for about 10 months, and Cusco was a very welcome vacation from our vacation. 

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