Tupananchikkama (Peru: Part II)

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Tupananchikkama (until we meet again)

That’s what we whispered as we peered over our shoulders to catch a glimpse of Huayna Picchu one last time.


…continued from Tupananchikkama (Peru: Part I)

The next day, I had booked us what I thought would be an casual bike ride through the Sacred Valley of Peru. Boy, was I wrong! Why did I not learn from the last time I did any sort of physical activity at 11,000+ feet?! I usually love biking uphill because I’m all about working out that bootayy, but man, even biking the slightest incline was extremely difficult at this altitude. Our lungs were NOT prepared for this shit.

There were two stops on this tour. The first stop was Moray, an Incan ruin believed to have once been used as an agricultural laboratory of sorts. Each level of the circular terraced bowl exhibited a different micro climate, allowing the Incans to experiment with various vegetation.

While we did not bike to Moray (thank goodness), we did bike to our next stop: Maras. The path went from wide open and fairly flat to narrow, downhill, on the side of the mountain.

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Scary AF

The town of Maras is known for the salt ponds that sit on the slopes of the Qaqawiñay mountain. Some 3,000 shallow pools are filled with the hypersaline water that flows through an intricate network of channels from the Qoripujio spring. Once full, the water in the ponds is left to evaporate and the remaining deposits are raked into a basket to be sorted, bagged and sold. An admission fee of 10 soles and a short hike from the small parking lot take you down to the salt mines. We bought a few bags of salt to take home for ourselves and as gifts for our foodie friends. Based on what we purchased, the grain size is a bit more coarse than I’m used to so I would definitely recommend for use as a finishing salt rather than a salt to cook with. The taste is more salty, for the lack of a better description.

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And (drum roll) for the main event, we traveled to Machu Picchu bright and early the next morning aboard the Vistadome train. This train was an upgrade from the normal Expedition train, but the panoramic windows and food service offered both ways were well worth the extra cost.

all aboard!

Our journey began with 20 min car ride to the Poroy Train Station and from there, it took 3.5 hours to get to Machu Picchu by train (~ 4 hours one way). The Poroy Station is only open from May through December so for those considering traveling from January through April, the trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu consists of a long BUS ride to the Ollantaytambo Station and then taking a train from there (~4.5 hours one way).

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Great views on the train – those gray things on the side of the mountain are the Skylodge pods
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Given the limited vacation days we had for this trip, we decided against trekking to Machu Picchu. Although now looking back, I probably would have given up one day in Lima for a day trek to Machu Picchu.

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You can see people hiking the trail

The last stop of the train was the Machu Picchu Train Station, located in Machu Picchu Town aka Aguas Calientes. From the train station, we walked 10 min into town to the bus station and after a 30 min bus ride, we were finally at the entrance. FINALLY. After almost 5 hours. FIVE. CINCO.

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We met up with our tour guide and got to exploring this new wonder of the world.

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Bucket list √

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Foodcation 2010: My Never-Ending Love Affair With NYC

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been to NYC, the city never ceases to amaze me and I find myself falling even more in love.

For our annual trip (last year was the Pacific Northwest, read here and here), I decided to create our own US foodie tour. First stop? NYC, of course.

We took an early morning flight to JFK on JetBlue. This was the first time I’ve flown JetBlue and if it weren’t for the cheap airfare (in comparison to other airlines) and no charge for the 1st bag, I probably would never fly JetBlue again. The terminal at LAX is HORRIBLE – the line to get to TSA was a total disaster. Before flying JetBlue, I had envisioned it being comparable to Virgin, given the TV screens and radio channels, but it’s not; JetBlue kind of reminds me of Southwest.

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After landing at JFK, we took a taxi into the city ($60 including tip: $45 flat fee + $5 toll + $10 tip). We booked a room at the Best Western Bowery Hanbee Hotel located at the edge of Chinatown. For those who are budget conscious, this is a great hotel, if you don’t mind the stench of the streets as you walk outside (don’t worry, you can’t smell anything inside). The hotel is conveniently located a block away from Grand St. Station (B, D) and a couple of blocks away from Bowery Station (J, M). From these two stations, you can get/transfer to anywhere in the city! The hotel offers complimentary continental breakfast (served until 10AM), but the selection is very limited: hard boiled eggs, make your own waffles, various pastries and fruit. To save money, the breakfast is sufficient, but NYC has so many good breakfast/brunch places to offer so go on, splurge a little!

[Source: Website Photo]

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So besides eating, you can’t go to NYC without doing some touristy things right? Right. Since we were in NYC during the summer, I thought it would be cool to check out Coney Island. A 50 minute train ride down to the south end of Brooklyn, Coney Island is home to Nathan’s, where they hold the annual July 4th international hot dog eating contest, and the world famous Cyclone roller coaster.

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If you’ve ever ridden on Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia and thought, wow, this ride hurts… well, let me tell you, the Cyclone at Coney Island is 100 times worse. Basically we paid $8 each to experience the roller coaster OF DEATH. Not only was it extremely jerky, but at every drop, I thought I was going to fly off and die. Now, I consider myself a thrill seeker; I’ve been sky diving and this experience was way more terrifying than jumping out of a plane. TRUST.

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Being that it was a Saturday, there were many people walking on the boardwalk or laying out on the beach. As we strolled along the boardwalk, we came across a large gathering of people and dance music blasting. Apparently, a dance circle formed in the middle of the boardwalk. There were only a few people with enough balls, or alcohol in their system, to get their groove on in the middle. The half-naked man in the blue pants and the boy in the red definitely stole the show.

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Coney Island was an interesting experience. Yes, it’s “dirty” and a little “run down”, but so is the pier in Santa Monica. If you’ve never been to Coney Island, it’s definitely worth a trip. But remember, Cyclone = ROLLER COASTER OF DEATH.

We took the train back and stopped at York station just so we could walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

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After so many failed attempts, I can finally say that I did it! But honestly, it wasn’t that impressive. Having biked across the Golden Gate Bridge, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge just pales in comparison.

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Walking from end to end took approximately 40 minutes, and that’s with stops to take a few pictures. If you want to walk across the bridge, I suggest starting from Brooklyn since you will be facing the skyline instead of having it behind you.

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During our time in NYC, we also visited the Met. Although the “suggested” admission price is $20/adult, you can actually pay whatever you want since it’s more like a donation, but please don’t be cheap; the Met is worth every penny. And by the way, the museum is HUGE. If you’re interested in visiting the Met, you should really plan your way around beforehand – look at the museum floor plan and map out which exhibits you want to see. As for me, I headed straight for the Egyptian exhibit…

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I passed through the American Wing and Medieval Arts…

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… to make my way to the Greek and Roman art exhibit.

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All this took about 4 hours and I didn’t even get to hit the SECOND FLOOR! 😦

What about shopping? Well, instead of shopping for clothes, I went shopping for a knife! I’ve been itching to buy another knife since it makes so much more sense for Henry and I to each have a “good” knife to use while we’re cooking. Not having to wait for each other and rewash makes all the difference!

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Korin is a distributor of exquisite Japanese chef knives, beautiful tableware and restaurant supplies. Their showroom/store in located in downtown NYC. Many chefs refer to Korin as a candy store and that’s exactly how I felt when I ventured inside.

With the help of the resident Knife Master, we purchased a Misono 440 7” Santoku. It is just as sharp as our Wusthof, but a bit lighter, which I’m starting to really appreciate.

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And that was that. Sadly, 4 days just flew by so quickly. Next stop: Philly.

I’ll end with 2 things that I must have in NYC…

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Shake Shack

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Halal Cart (53rd and 6th)

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NYC Eats (+our verdict):
Ippudo, 4/5
Russ & Daughter’s, 5/5
Katz’s, 4.5/5
Nathan’s, 3/5
The Stanton Social, 3.5/5
Shake Shack, 5/5
Halal Cart 53rd and 6th, 5/5
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