Friday, June 2, 2017

A Tribute to Café San Antonio:

This may sound a bit ridiculous, but in Lima there was this one restaurant that we went to time in and time out that never disappointed: Café San Antonio. It was amongst Professor Falconi’s favorite places to go and eat when he was a young boy, and we could see why.

The “café” is separated in two. You walk into a to-go section, where you simply pick out from either the pastry, sandwich, desert (ice cream, tarts, frozen drinks), cold meats, or empanadas sections. The other section is a sit-down section, where you are served by a friendly waiter.

Really everything on the menu surpassed our high expectations set by Profe so I will highlight things that I found especially delicious.

1.     La empanada especial- A meat filled empanada with onions and a hard-boiled egg and topped with powdered sugar and served with a slice of lime. Yes, the lime does make a difference. Take a bite of the empanada and then squeeze some lime juice into the empanada before subsequent bites; it makes all the difference.
2.     The sandwiches- They are not quite at big as American sandwiches, but when paired with an empanada can be very filling. The favorites of our group were the roast beef, the chicharron, and the English ham and cheese.
3.     The salads- These are the go to move if you are hungry but don’t want to overload on carbs. The salad bowls are truly humongous and there are a great variety of types, from Peruvian salads to your typical Caesar salad.
4.     The ice cream/gelato/deserts- If your sweet tooth gets the better of you, please be wary. Everything we tried was truly exceptional. I loved every flavor of ice cream that I tried, as well as numerous deserts whose names I have forgotten.
5.     The smoothies (cold drinks)- Apparently I have inherited from my Peruvian mother a true love of fruit drinks because I could not stop trying new ones at every place that we went to. Café San Antonio’s fruit smoothies placed in the top two of all the restaurants that we went to.

When visiting Lima good luck trying not to restrict yourself to eating at Café San Antonio. It will prove to be your best eating option quality and price wise in your vicinity.

Embracing our adventurous side: Our Last Weekend in Peru  

To be completely honest, I don’t consider myself adventurous; in fact, I usually prefer a restful day on the couch enjoying a good book or a movie to a day at the waterpark. Luckily, I fit in: most of this year’s Maymester’s participants were not particularly adventurous either, but we looked forward as always to an eventful weekend scheduled by Professor Falconi. He certainly scheduled an exciting (and frankly rather ambitious) weekend for us.

The weekend began with a drive over from Lima to Lunahuaná for the river rafting (canotaje en Español). Going barefoot in the inflatable raft was the move, as we were constantly soaked by the river’s cold waters. It was an exhilarating experience; the guides made sure that we were safe on the raft, but also ensured that we had a great time riding the river’s rapids.
Following the river rafting, we went to a beach called “El Raspón” in Paracas, a small town off of the Pacific. We arrived a little on the late side (the drive over took an hour longer than expected), so it was a little too late to swim, although this didn’t stop our TA Berna from giving it a go. We promptly set up camp on the beach to grill and enjoyed a wonderful sunset on the beach with great food.
Sunday was by far the most adventurous (and exhausting) day of our Maymester. In the morning, we got up early to take a boat from Paracas to Islas Ballestas. I’m not sure what everyone expected, but for me I expected to see sparse wildlife living on the islands; what we saw surpassed all our expectations. Thousands of birds inhabited these rocky islands, located about 20-30 minutes by sea from Paracas. There even were a few penguins who were enjoying the warmer weather, as well as some seals inhabiting the region. 
We then drove over to Ica, home of the famous Huacachina oasis and the massive sand dunes that mark the beginning of the Ica desert. Having lunch at the oasis was certainly scenic and relaxing but it did not prepare us for the thrill of the sand dunes.
The vehicle that we rode in we open faced, minus a small roof that protected us from the sun. Our driver raced up and down the hills, with little regard for minor bumps along the way. The result was a rollercoaster-like experience and it was absolutely thrilling, particularly when we raced down the hills. 
None of us had previously sand boarded before and it also proved to be a memorable experience. Our guide made sure we mastered our riding techniques on smaller sized hills before introducing us to the large ones. I can say with no regret that I crashed out on the largest of the hills. Profe even made the journey down, proving to us all that yes, he’s still got it.

For the record, in Ica I highly recommend wearing long sleeves, both shirt and pants. (It saves you from getting sand in all of the wrong places). Also, sunglasses are needed in order to see when we are racing through the sand dunes in the vehicle.

All in all, the final weekend was an absolute adventure. It still baffles me how we fit so much into the weekend, considering we still had to drive 5 hours from Ica to Lima the last night. Profe did a wonderful job this entire trip exposing us to different experiences and essentially hit most of the touristic bucket list for us as tourists visiting Peru for the first time.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Before The Incas

            During the Cusco segment of this trip, we were immersed in Inca history and culture but their predecessors were never mentioned, despite their important role in Peruvian history.  The presence of other native groups in Lima is much more clear. 
Friday was devoted to the study of these older groups, such as the Lima and Wari.  We visited a huaca in Miraflores, built by the Lima, which was very different than the Incan architecture we have become accustomed to.  The huaca was built out of many small adobe bricks, rather than large stones.  The huaca also did not have any stairs; rather, it had ramps.  This was a stark contrast to Machu Picchu’s seemingly endless staircases.  
After touring the huaca, we went to a museum full of artifacts from pre-Incan groups.  One of the most striking artifacts in my opinion was a large patterned cloth, used in funerary rituals, that was dated to 1250 BC to 1 AD.  The colors of the cloth were still vibrant and the threads were not fraying—overall, it looked nearly new.  I could not believe how well-preserved it was, especially since it predated Christ.  How well it lasted was truly a testament to the craftsmanship.

Another item that intrigued me was a human corpse, wrapped in rope and cloth.  That cloth was in really good condition as well.  There was an x-ray of the bundle which showed a boy with encephalitis.  He must have been a child of someone of high status, since it seemed like a lot of effort was put into his burial.