Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Tahoe

Posted by laura on May 24 2010 | Awesome, Fun, Holiday, Travel

As it turns out, things are looking up for me, too! Months ago, I was invited to join a group of friends (all fellow mothers from our elementary school) for a Tahoe overnight. One of my friends has a house up near Donner Lake, and I was lucky enough to go up this past weekend for a visit. We got up there Friday afternoon, and here’s what we found:

Yee haw! What an awesome house. It was beautiful, laid back and cozy all at the same time. Here’s something else we found:

Snow! I guess nobody told the Sierras that Memorial Day is only a weekend away. It sure was beautiful though.

We took some nice long walks and appreciated the landscape around us.

It kept alternating between grey skies with snow blowing horizontally by, and bright spots with long views.

Here are the friends contemplating Donner Lake. They’re probably also contemplating their numb toes, but it still felt wonderful to be hiking around. It was simply amazing ¬†- no agenda, no worries. We did some of this:

And some of this:

(That’s homemade tortillas – yum.) And some of this:

And, frankly, some of this:

Although not all at the same time, mind you. We were simply well prepared.

When I got home Honey asked me, “So what did you do? Did you go anywhere?”

I replied, “Well, ahh, let’s see – we went hiking, and we cooked, and we worked on a puzzle, and we talked…” She gave me a concerned look and said, “I’m sorry. It sounds like you didn’t have very much fun.”

Little does she realize. I keep replaying moments in my mind – doubling over with laughter, fresh cold air, delicious flavors, DJing for each other from our iPhones, swapping ideas and stories. It was rejuvenating. We stretched time together and still got home in time to enjoy Sunday with our families. What a gift.

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17 Minutes

Posted by laura on May 17 2010 | Fun, Travel

until my cousin Eileen’s lunch break, and I’m absolutely committed to getting something up before she checks in to find that old lame-o has let another weekend slip by with no post. So here goes:

Boston rocked. As always. Not a whole lot of photos to show since I took mostly people shots, but here are a couple of highlights.

The plane touched down at 6:30am on Wednesday morning, so I got to see my niece and nephew off to the bus stop. It was a gorgeous summery morning.

Here was an early morning find. Score! Got to love inchworms.

After school, my nephew showed me the sarcophagus he made at school – complete with mummy. He filled me in on the Egyptian unit they were working on in his class. You know, a couple of weeks ago, my niece told me on the phone, “Second grade isn’t what it used to be, Laura,” and I’m starting to believe that the same can be said for kindergarten!

Since we always go back east during the summertime, it was a particular treat to get a glimpse of the school life for all the kids in our family. I had the chance to check out Eileen’s daughter’s pre-k room – it was awesome. It’s in my old junior high school, which is now an elementary school – a vast improvement, if you ask me. So fun to see those halls now filled with cubbies and art everywhere.

They were having a spring concert on Friday and the kids were all dressed up – remember those perfect spring days? The end of school is so close you can almost touch it, there are final projects, concerts, events, and the days are mingled excitement and hope. Summer might just actually arrive. It still gives me butterflies.

On Thursday I traveled out to scenic Worcester with my parents and my aunt Carmen, to help my great aunt Agnes move from one side of her residence to another. She lives in the Notre Dame du Lac Assisted Living Center, which is an amazing place. First off, it’s gorgeous:

This is the view from the front door – the grounds are long and lush.

And here is the front door itself. Not too shabby. This used to be the convent for the Notre Dame nuns – it has so many beautiful details today, but wouldn’t you love to have seen it when it was first built? Even more impressive than the grounds, though, is the staff. What a stunning group of people – from management to nursing to grounds staff, they were friendly, kind and professional. We had a fun day moving and packing and having a great lunch with Aunt Agnes, who was witty and elegant. The move went a little too smoothly, with no fights or swearing at all, so naturally I’m concerned that we might not have done it properly. We’ll keep our fingers crossed on that one.

On Saturday, my goddaughter made her First Communion and she had a spectacular day. It poured, of course, but that must be good luck for more than weddings, right? There was a wonderful party at my sister’s with relatives from all over the place. Her grandparents and great aunt flew in from Ohio, cousins drove in from all around New England, and it’s difficult to describe the feeling in the house without sounding corny. It’s a certain chaotic embrace that every child should get to feel.

There she is, beautiful girl.

It was all just wonderful. Four sweet, dense, flourless-chocolate-cake days. I wished Tom and the kids could have been there to see everyone and hear my nephew’s Amazing Talking Dog joke, but July will be here before we know it.

Ding dang it – looks like I just talked right through lunch period. Someone needs to work on her time management skills…

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Weekend

Posted by laura on Apr 19 2009 | Fun, Holiday, Travel, Uncategorized

This was a weekend of anniversaries. Yesterday was Carmen’s Anniversary of Profession! Yay, Carmen!! A year ago on that wonderful day, Carmen and I were here:

machupicchu1

Yep – Machu Picchu. Not a shabby way to celebrate, eh? Want to see it again?

machupicchu3

machupicchu2These photos aren’t very fancy, but I like looking at the scale – people, structures, mountains. It’s impossible to truly capture on film, particularly with my little camera, but if you squint and use your imagination, it might make you say wow.†(And no, these weren’t the only photos I took on that trip – I did post about them last year. But chances are you’ve already seen them and are All Set in that department.)

So that was a pretty nice way to celebrate her anniversary. This year we decided to go to Mount Everest. BOY was that chilly! Ok, just kidding we didn’t actually do that at all. We were together in spirit, though!

What I actually did on the 18th this year was go to gorgeous Limantour beach with our great friends Amy and Andy. It was a unseasonably warm weekend here, and we packed a picnic and stayed all day. Limantour is a superb beach because it’s a little ways north and off the beaten path – not hidden but not swarmed on a warm Saturday. It’s also where Tom and I got engaged 22 12 years ago. Woohoo!†

As we approached the coast, we could see it was completely fogged in, which usually means that once you go up and over the dunes you’re blasted away by a cold wind and not exactly tempted to settle in for a long visit. However, we lucked out and the beach was a great temperature (although a bit windy) and the fog gave us a perfect, moody backdrop. Here’s our friend Andy playing catch with their son:

limantourball

Wouldn’t this make a cool painting?

Here’s Tom and Hot Wheels down by the water:

limantourdig

Somewhere out beyond them in the ocean is a whale we saw spouting off from time to time. A whale! Sweet!

And here is Amy and Andy’s dog Gus:

gus

It was Gus’ 10th birthday, and he was as happy as a dog can possibly be. At least until the ranger strolled up and issued him a citation for being off-leash. He wasn’t too happy about that, I tell you.†

Other than that – it was a picture perfect day.

Today is the 19th. It is my wonderful Great Aunt Winifred’s Anniversary of Profession today, as well as my other Great Aunt Carmencita’s birthday and Joe and Kristen’s wedding anniversary. That makes this one heck of a good day. I wish I could be there with you all to celebrate, but I’m sending lots of love and hoping your weekend was as lovely as mine.

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Sauce

Posted by laura on Mar 08 2009 | Awesome, Tasty, Travel

Every summer, as most of you know, we head back to Boston for a few weeks to see our family and spend some time at the beach. When I was growing up, I’d start planning for our August beach weeks sometime around now, in March, when the grey and the cold and the slush were just never ending. Not much has changed, except now I have two kids who do the same thing. We might not have slush, but we are already pining for Boston and the beach.

Most of the huge joy of this trip is seeing our extended family – there are cousins and aunts and uncles and second cousins and greats and once removeds and twice returneds… there are even some great greats. It’s awesome, and our kids are lucky to know so many members of their big wonderful family. The only hard part of the visit is how much it makes us miss everyone when we’re not there.

Last summer, the kids and I were at Rosemary Pool one late afternoon with our cousins Eileen and Kevin and their three superb kids, and they were kind enough to invite us over for dinner. It was a perfect end to a perfect day, and it fit neatly into our conniving scheme to not cook for ourselves once during our vacation. Don’t look at me – it was all Honey’s idea. We rocked up to Eileen and Kevin’s that night, and even from the driveway we could smell the delicious dinner cooking. We were impressed, then excited, then suspicious, because I swear they left the pool at the same time we did. Sure, we made a pit stop at Trader Joe’s (and bumped into Mary, which was a treat), but it wasn’t nearly enough time to get the whole neighborhood smelling so good. Something was up that night – some kind of superhero dinner thing – because the the food they cooked was beyond delicious. They made a pasta sauce that was so amazing I swooned, but they told me that they’d never give me the recipe, not even if I saved them all from a burning building, and I’ve never had that divine sauce again.

Ok so that last line is a teeny bit untrue. They did give me the recipe, but I can’t find the very important, specific tomatoes required, so I haven’t had the sauce again. Humph. I’ve never been a great one for making sauce – it always seems to come out thin and uninspired instead of rich and beautiful. (I know I know, story of my life.) Well a couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a new way of making sauce that’s making up for lost time. It’s a slow-roasted sauce, and it’s easy (yay!) and really quite good.

roastedsauceYou take a bunch of tomatoes (8ish has worked well for us), slice them in half, and toss them in a large ziplock bag. Add some veggies if you like – onion, red pepper, mushroom – just wash them and chop them a bit, although the pieces can be pretty big. Then add some olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, some honey, salt and pepper, garlic. I like to save any herbs until the end. Close up the bag and shake it all about until all the contents have mingled and gotten to know each other, then roll everything out of the bag and into a pan (like a brownie pan) and slow roast the whole thing at about 280 for the afternoon. I’m not kidding – you let it cook for about 4 hours.

When it’s cooked, you just pop it in the blender and you’re done. You can tweak the spices and throw in some fresh herbs to tailor it to your taste, but that’s it. No blanching or peeling or stirring or anything. It makes the house smell divine and it has a lovely flavor. There you have it – sauce. This should tide me over until July.†

tortellini

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Quest: The Ideal Bookshelf

Posted by laura on Aug 03 2008 | Holiday, Travel, Uncategorized

We keep reorganizing our art/guest room. I’m crazy about this room, but it’s looking more and more likely that it’s a slightly above average room without any magical qualities whatsoever. So, out of my astronomically high list of requirements for the space, it will probably accommodate many of them gracefully, a few more with cajoling, and the last ones – well that room’s going to look me square in the eye and say, “Honey, those are not requirements. They’re pipe dreams.” ¬†

One non-negotiable requirement is a good bookshelf, and because this is our guest room, one thought led to another until it hit me that it would be fun to try to come up with the Ideal Guest Room Bookshelf. What would be the perfect set of books to suit any guest?

It’s a challenge, since really it ought to have something to offer visitors of all ages and interests (ha! looks like we’re back to the ‘lack of magical qualities’ conundrum).

I’m figuring the length of stay to be between one night and one month – anything over that and you’re pretty much a resident, and you need a library card.

 

When I was back in Boston, I really started to think more about this, since I was sleeping in the study at my parents’ house, where there are books floor to ceiling and layered three rows deep all around the room. Cheaters. But what if they had to edit the offerings down to just a few shelves? What would make the cut?

Here’s my first stab at it -¬†

- Local interest: guides, maps, historical stuff about where we live

- Humor: P.G. Wodehouse, Dave Barry, Nora Eprhon, Gerald Durell, Bill Bryson

- Action/Mystery: Lee Child. Ok, and Michael Chrichton, John Grisham, Agatha Christie – you have to have a good bunch of these

- Science: I love Oliver Sacks and James Burke

- Classics: Austen. Do we seriously need anyone else?

- Fiction: there’s always some great new fiction out and about, so this one has to shift around. There must be some fresh material in there (like Water for Elephants this year). But then I’ll always want some favorites like Sue Monk Kidd, Kaye Gibbons, Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Lamott, Kurt Vonnegut, Harper Lee…

- Short Stories: Bailey White…(Oliver Sacks works well here too)

- Poetry: does anyone read poetry on vacation? Ok just kidding, I know some people do, and I have something for both of you. I have Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Annie Dillard, Paul Marion…

- History and Non Fiction: I like nonfiction grippers, like Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm

- Children’s: This one is hard – we have a zillion kids books and I love many of them. I guess I’d have a rotating assortment ranging from Curious George up to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, or maybe a bit older. And we’d definitely have some local flavor, like Lissa Rovetch and Martha Weston – authors and illustrators and family.¬†

Alright I’ll admit it – I thought this post was going to be FUN. I thought it was actually going to be easy. But once I started writing actual authors and titles down, I became incredibly stressed out at the thought of leaving out a favorite writer. There are so many great books out there. How can I not mention Toni Morrison or George Orwell? How can I possibly not name all the books that have meant so much to me? But that’s not what this is supposed to be about.

As my neighbor Michael says – your guest bookshelf says more about you than about your guests, and rightly so. He’s even opposed to anthologies, because he thinks they’re a cop-out. Pick what you think people will like, even though it really represents what YOU like, he says.

My feeling is that the perfect shelf should have some reliables (short enough to read during a visit and dependably funny or exciting or illuminating) and a few new windows. 

When Tom’s parents were here last – they left with having read a Dick Francis and Sandra Dallas’ The Persian Pickle Club. It was fun trying to find a match for them with authors and stories that were new to them. This summer, back in Boston, I re-read a couple of Lee Childs, Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, John Grisham’s A Painted House, Sara Gruen’s Water For Elephants, and Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle. It was awesome.

When I was staying at my brother and sister-in-law’s house, it hit me that there’s a hidden danger in having an excellent bookshelf… your guests might very well stay up too late reading your wonderful books and not hear their children when they wake up in the morning. That’s purely hypothetical, of course, but I could surely imagine that it could happen.

But now, please enter our audience participation part of the program here:

What’s on Your Ideal Guest Bookshelf?

Let me know what you think makes a great read for a visitor. All comments will be automatically entered into our Grand Prize drawing.

 

No purchase necessary. Simply submit your top guest bookshelf ideas to Something Like This, Inc. to be entered into our Grand Prize drawing. Multiple entries per person.¬†Employees of Something Like This Inc., its contest sponsor, advertising and promotional agencies and their respective affiliates and associates and such employees’ immediate family members and persons with whom such employees are domiciled are absolutely included in this contest. Heck, we’re pretty sure they’ll be the only entries.

GRAND PRIZE for entry in the Guest Bookshelf Idea survey is free accommodation in scenic Mill Valley, CA for 2 (or more), for as many nights as desired by the winning party.¬†The prize is not redeemable in cash and must be accepted as awarded.¬†Decisions of the contest judges are final – no substitutions will be available. Grand Prize winner must be related to, or friends with, the prize sponsors. ¬†Excellent reading material for the duration of the winner(s)’ visit is guaranteed.

 

 

 

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Random Acts of Beauty

Posted by laura on Jun 15 2008 | Awesome, Great design, Travel

Here are some random shots from my beautiful trip to Peru. Of course the greatest beauty I encountered there was undoubtedly in the people I met. I’ll be frank – Peru seems to have an overabundance of gorgeous people, but it was their warmth, generosity and humor that knocked my socks off. I don’t have permissions to post their photos, though, so I’ll focus on a few other lovely sights.

Up in Cusco, Carmen and I went to an evening performance of traditional Peruvian dance. In the back of the theater there was a small costume museum filled with absolutely stunning pieces like this one. The color and complexity of the patterns and pieces just blew me away.

Here’s Carmen’s church – it’s such a lovely structure, with an open and clean design inside. It had great warmth with minimal fuss. Check out¬†the fence around the church – they have a wonderful gardener who talks to the flowers and they evidently listen to him. I was really taken by the way the flowers seemed to burst out of their container.

Now here’s an interesting one. Carmen’s great friends, Marg and Eileen, are Presentation Sisters – their order was founded by an Irish woman named Nano Nagle. Marg and Eileen live not too far from Carmen, in an area called Las Flores de Villa, and there they have created two amazing centers. One is primarily for women and the other is for children. They provide holistic therapies, access to psychologists and counselors, art therapies, places to work and receive all manner of support. These buildings are beautiful because of where they are and what they provide for the great people who live nearby.

The building pictured above is their center for children. The next shots are from inside:

Above, you can see a shot of the neighborhood. The cyclamen below really summed up the inside of the building for me – in a rocky, dry environment, the center springs like an oasis, filled with lush color and growth.

This shot was from what Carmen called our ‘Pilgrim Day’ in Lima – starting here, at Las Nazarenas church, where on a busy working day people stop and buy a beautiful candle and have it lit for them while they pause and say a prayer. I liked how some people would group several candles into one holder, and others would stick with one. Some went for simple white candles, and others really went all out with the elaborate purple ones. This church is the starting point of the famous celebration of Se√Īor de los Milagros in October each year.

From Las Nazarenas we walked up to the Santuario de Santa Rosa – Saint Rose of Lima’s home.

There’s a nice ritual at this well – people write down their hopes and intentions on a slip of paper, press them to the statue, and then drop them into the well. Carmen told me that in the past she’s seen long lines of people waiting to reach the well. We were fortunate that the day we visited was surprisingly quiet, and we were able to meander around a bit and then drop our wishes into the well. (I’m pretty sure Carmen asked for a Ferrari.)

Last stop on the tour was Saint Martin’s home.

This was a gorgeous building with incredible tile work, entirely dedicated to providing services to the poor. Saint Martin was super cool – not only was he tireless in working and advocating for the poor, but all the statues depict him with a broom in hand, because he considered all work sacred. I can get behind that.

I had to pop in this photo from Huaca Pucllana – a pre-Incan site right in the fancy district of Miraflores. According to my reading, it dates back to 200-700AD, and is an extremely significant site. We were simply floored by the excavation – particularly one demonstration of the process of collecting and reassembling the zillions of pieces to a huge smashed vessel. It was ulcer-inducing just to consider how painstaking the project was! I also couldn’t stop looking at the patterns created by the adobe bricks.

The last shot is of the coast, from the Larcomar shopping area in Miraflores. Pretty sweet view! 

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Food

Posted by laura on May 12 2008 | Tasty, Travel, Uncategorized

Finally. Let’s talk about food.

Before I flew to Peru, I read a bunch of books and blogs about the country, and they all had recommendations regarding local tastes and treats. “Have a Pisco Sour!” they said. “Ok!!” thought I. “Definitely try some ceviche,” they advised. “You got it!” I promised. Once I arrived, my husband was dying for specifics. “What have you eaten?” he wanted to know. “What do you have for breakfast?” Food has to be one of the most exciting immersions into a different culture. So I started taking some pictures.

peruraillunch.jpg

Here’s one of my meals courtesy of Perurail – on our Machu Picchu trip. We were in First Class, baby. We’re talkin’ table cloths and real dishes and even lap rugs for that cold early morning departure. This was Carmen’s fifth trip to Machu Picchu, and as we rode along in luxury, she thought back to her first trip, which she took with my Beautiful (and intrepid) Aunt Mary. On that particular train ride (8 hours round trip now, probably a bit longer then) the seats were wooden, and there wasn’t much in the way of amenities. Carmen was thinking that Mary might not believe the lovely ride we were having – we joked about calling her later and telling her that now they provide food rubs and aromatherapy and read to you while they feed you bonbons… very civilized indeed.¬†

Having been spoiled silly on the ride to Cusco, our only real option upon arrival was to order room service.cuscosoup.jpg

Turns out neither of us has all that much room service experience, so we were pretty giddy when the ‘light chicken soup’ and the sandwich ended up looking like this. Or maybe it was the lack of oxygen. Either way, this soup was ridiculously good. And you can see how they stacked the fries – very nice. You can also see our coca tea on the table there as well.¬†Carmen taught me many things on this trip, and one of them was the altitude-adjusting diet; eat light, eat mild, and drink your coca tea. Very good advice.

Up at Machu Picchu, we saw some of the natives having their lunch:

llamalunch.jpg

Tasty!

Back in Lima, I was loving breakfast. We had this delicious fresh cheese from Cajamarca – it looked a bit like a tall block of feta, but wasn’t crumbly. It was moist and mild and addictive. Plus buckets of fresh grapes that tasted just like the Concord-style grapes I grew up with in the back yard in Massachusetts. Fresh fruit and a wheat roll and a cup of tea made it a breakfast I could wake up to happily any morning. One morning, though, I came down to see this on my plate:

limabreakfast.jpg 

Now that’s a breakfast of champions! 2 chocolate eggs, 1 real egg (with the promise of being cooked any style), a Reese’s, and smile of grapes. Look where the cheeks are – those are piles of dried corn from the mountains – crunchy, light, amazingly good.

Then, on one of my very favorite days in Peru, a gorgeous group from Carmen and Martha’s parish came over with lunch. (Another note for the possible one non-family member here – Carmen and Martha are Sisters of Charity in Chorrillos, Lima, and they belong to a truly brilliant parish there.) The Vicentinas, as they’re called, are mostly women, with one great guy in the group, who look after pretty much everything and everyone in the parish. One of them basically was the parish, back when it was starting up. Many of them have grown children, they all have jobs and families and are the kind of people who give and give and give. I was one of the lucky recipients that day.

I’ll never forget the sight of them all walking into the house in a line, arms filled with baskets and dishes and wine and glasses and flowers and the biggest ceramic baking dish I think I’ve ever seen. They embodied that group of women¬†(the one man didn’t arrive until just before lunch)¬†from the village that you remember from old stories; laughing, preparing, correcting, knowing, providing and just being the very heart of a place.

Here’s what they made for us -

papas.jpg

It’s called Papas a la Huancayina – a traditional potato dish with a cheese sauce. It’s one of Carmen’s favorites, and now I know why. Lovely. We also had a chicken and rice dish from the magnificent clay pot they brought with them – the rice had been cooked in a light puree of cilantro and spinach, so it was green and crazy good. The chicken was also so tasty I’m glad there were lots of people there or I would have eaten it all! That meal was memorable not only for the tastes but for the laughter and conviviality – the Vicentinas were so warm and welcoming and we had some fun trading recipes around.¬†

limabuffet.jpg 

Martha’s stunning nieces, Romina and Roxana, run a tour company called¬†Highland Peru Tours¬†- I couldn’t recommend them more if you’re headed to Peru. They set us up with our brilliant guides in Cusco and Machu Picchu, and they managed all our arrangements with absolute ease and efficiency. It was a gift to meet them. As if that weren’t enough, they also treated us to a beautiful buffet lunch in Miraflores. Oh, yum. I finally had my ceviche – it was perfect. In fact, I could have eaten nothing else. But I did. It was so good! At the top of the photo, you can just see my glass of chicha morada, which is made from purple corn and in this case was not fermented (I had serious food to attend to and needed my wits about me) and the flavor was mild and sweet.

This lunch was wonderful and varied and at the end of it I figured I was set for the rest of the week. But oh, no – we had a birthday party that night at one of the Vicentina’s homes and they brought out an enormous dish of chicken and potatoes with super spicy delicious sauce. I explained, or rather Martha explained, that we’d already eaten – so they disappeared into the kitchen and brought it back to me, minus one small piece of meat. It was a tough job, but someone had to eat that beautiful meal. I have no regrets.

What an abundance of wonderful tastes. I wish I had photos from the markets – bags and bags of every possible color and size of potato. Spices, grains, cheeses, fruits – all beautiful and varied. I wish I had some shots of the dishes that Martha made for us – her father was a chef, her mother an amazing cook as well – and she put together the most beautiful soup, wontons, chicken and potatoes… oh la la I wish I could intern with her! I did get a shot of one treat she made for me:

piscosour.jpg

That’s my Pisco Sour in there!!! What’s hard to see in this picture is that the bottle on the left just has a piece of tape stuck to the front with ‘PISCO’ handwritten on it. Bit dodgy for a Sister of Charity, don’t you think?

It was delicious. 

 

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Rocks

Posted by laura on May 04 2008 | Travel

Back again – now trying to figure out what to do with this crowded head of mine. All the memories from my trip are very rudely pushing each other around in an effort to be the first ones onto the page. I’ve never been comfortable in a crowd, so just sitting down to this blog has been intimidating. In the end I decided to let them out just one section at at time, and it made sense to start with the rocks, since, well, they’re rocks and I don’t want to make them testy.

[For the one possible non-family reader here, I went to Peru to visit my amazing Godmother (and aunt) Carmen. She's lived there for 25 years, and although we've discussed this visit many times, I just managed to sneak it in before she moves back to the States this spring. Whoo! That was a close one.]

As part of our great Peruvian adventure, Carmen and I flew to Cusco and spent 4 days there. We breathed it in deeply – mainly because if we didn’t we’d get a big altitude headache. But more seriously, we wandered streets that were the foundation of the Incan capital city, took a fantastic city tour, spent a day in Machu Picchu, and saw tons (literally) of truly spectacular rocks. Check these out:

sacsayhuaman2.jpg

¬†These beauties are from Sacsayhuaman, a site just outside of Cusco – the Spanish called it a ‘fortress’ but its real use is hard to determine. That might have something to do with the fact that the Spanish also took heaps of stone from this site to make their cathedrals in Cusco. Funny how it’s hard to get an accurate read on a place when it’s been mostly destroyed.

Looking at the remaining structures, though, we were awed by the size and precision of the stones – you really cannot slip a paper between many of them. There is no mortar holding these stones together – just precision and placement. Talk about elbow grease!

sacsayhuaman1.jpg 

Our guide, Jos√© Angel, pointed out something interesting to us. These incredibly massive rocks were hauled to the site from quite a ways away, when a short distance across a field from the site we couldn’t miss this:

sacsayhuaman3.jpg 

So the obvious question is – why haul mammoth rocks from far away, when they could be quarried right across a field? Jos√© explained that we were looking at a huaca – the Quechuan term for a revered natural formation. I’d love to fly back in time and understand what determined the sacredness of one place over another – do some stones just resonate? And what did the landscape look like then?

Here are some cool Cusco walls:

cuscowall.jpg

More of that amazing stonework. And you can get a bit of a feeling for the angled walls – part of what makes them immune to earthquakes. Check out the street too – the roads were beautiful. Here’s some of that rock patterning from the courtyard of the Regional History Museum in Cusco:¬†

cuscohistorymuseum1.jpg

And a closeup:

cuscohistorymuseum2.jpg

Now, Machu Picchu is really a place to see rocks. Because it lay hidden for so long, it’s preservation offers a breathtaking window into Quechuan genius. Check out these agricultural terraces:

mpterracing.jpg

And steps!

mpsteps.jpg

And retaining walls. (YIKES I’m here to tell you that this would not have been a relaxing detail. It’s a loooooong way down and as you can see, it’s not exactly a gentle slope.)

mpwalls.jpg 

Wagner, our guide at Machu Picchu, was an engineering student before he worked in tourism, and he really illuminated the science under the beauty of this city. These were some crazy smart people. And boy did they move fast. From what I’ve read, they had a couple hundred years of development in Cusco, but the expansion period – the Inca Empire – was only a bit more than a hundred years in length. They must have been downright persuasive and motivating, as well as brilliant,¬†to build the thousands of miles of roads, the sophisticated farming techniques, the architecture, the aqueducts. Unbelievable.

They certainly weren’t afraid of heights.

Here’s one more rock shot:

mpheights.jpg 

¬†Check out the terracing at the top! Kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if the Spanish (and the smallpox) hadn’t arrived.

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There and back again

Posted by laura on Apr 26 2008 | Travel

Things have been quiet on the blogfront for a while here – I’ve been a little busy. You know, just a little of this and a little of ¬†that:

machupicchutower.jpg 

YEAH, that was me, taking the postcard photo from the guard tower at Machu Picchu. I had a stunning, eye-opening, life changing trip to Peru.

More photos and stories to come, after I take a little nap.

 

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