Saturday, 8 December 2012

Unlikely Places - the Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel

At the end of a day where our tour had taken us up and down mountain roads, to see Andean weavers with their centuries old craft, past farms and fields in the Sacred Valley, then through the nondescript town of Urubamba, the last thing we expected was the exquisite Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel.  The bus dropped us off within a walled estate in the valley and it was tucked away in a world on its own - completely unexpected but nevertheless an experience to savour.

Here's a tour of the amazing grounds, starting with the stunning stained glass in the lobby:

Verandah to the living areas

The chapel - clearly the star of the show 

With the Andes as the backdrop

Spacious room (with jacuzzi!) looking out onto our own private garden - too bad we were only there one night, not enough time to enjoy it

Lovely landscaped grounds

The courtyard of the 17th century hacienda

Its own private museum
and art gallery
One of several stunning photos in an exhibit of works by Teo Allain Chambi

The spa - it would be heavenly to spend a week here

This would be a great place for a wedding 

The valley outside the walled estate

This wraps up the posts on my Peruvian trip.  I left this till the last as it is not the sort of place we would typically stay at on a trip if it were not part of a tour package.  But it does give us a glimpse of a different kind of travel...

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Peruvian Portals

I have a fixation for portals!  There is always a hint of mystique behind each - you never know what you'd find, although most of the time it's quite predictable, especially corporate portals.  I encountered a variety of portals on our Peruvian trip, especially closed ones in Lima because we visited on a long weekend - what luck!  (there's the glass half full for you...)

First day of arrival - portal of a church in San Isidro

Incan portal in Cusco's Koricancha Temple
Portal of the Pre-Colombian Art Museum in Cusco

Portal of the Gran Hotel Bolivar in Lima 

Have to sneak these elevator doors in here even though they are not technically portals

Classy doors in the Casa Belen, home of the Museum of Minerals in Lima
Inside the Convent Church of Santo Domingo

Museum of the Central Reserve Bank (the closed door meant we missed it)

International Bank of Peru

Lima Stock Exchange

Museum of Italian Art (yes, in Lima)

Entrance to Machu Picchu

Here's a different one, off the Jiron de la Union in downtown Lima

Restaurant in Miraflores with interesting door handles

Random door with unique knocker on the streets of El Centro

Another closed bank (it's a long weekend)

Sunat corporate portal

The Cathedral was closed too!

As was the Archdiocese administrative offices!

Inca portal in Ollantaytambo

Monday, 3 December 2012

Lima - El Centro

Lima's downtown, El Centro, is very different from the suburbs of Miraflores and San Isidro.  We happened to be there on a long weekend and the streets were very crowded with locals mixed in with the tourists.  In the streets like the Avenue Abancay, where the locals were shopping, it was wall to wall people.

There were enough historical landmarks for a couple of days of sightseeing.  We spent more than two days in the area and still missed seeing some important sights like the Cathedral because it was unexpectedly closed on the day we went.  It was a last minute public holiday because of an economic summit of oil producing countries and there were many visiting dignitaries in the central square where the Cathedral was located.  We were able to show a photocopy of our passport and followed a tour group in the first time and so got some unexpected shots of a motorcade.  But when we tried again later, we were denied entry.

But it was overall a very worthwhile visit to the capital.  While we missed the famous Museo Larco again because of poor timing (we were so glad we did the museum on the same pre-Colombian theme in Cusco!), we found a hidden gem in the Museum of Minerals in the newly restored Casa Belen, a historic 18th century building.  We caught a surprise procession outside the Cathedral and a wedding in a side chapel even though we missed seeing the inside of the cathedral.

More than anything else, rubbing shoulders with the locals on the busy streets were invigorating and gave us a taste of street life in Lima.  A walk down Av Abancay let us see how the locals shopped and lived, and a visit to the National Library on the same street, gave us a glimpse of the dire need for resources in this country where a monumental gap existed between the 1% and the 99%.

The photos below provide a snapshot of the highlights during our 3 days in Lima.

The glass dome in the Hotel Gran Bolivar, constructed in 1924

The beautifully restored Casa Belen which housed the Museum of Minerals - gorgeous setting for an interesting collection of rock and crystals

Another amazing skylight - this is inside the Municipal Palace, builtin 1551

The colonial arcade along the front of the Municipal Palace 

This so reminded me of Cuba - graceful architecture from another era now used as a street market

The Church of San Francisco of Assisi.  Guided tours only of the cloisters and the catacombs below the church.  No photos allowed but the cloisters and a glimpse of the ancient library were worth the trip.  The library of 25,000 volumes included illuminated manuscripts - it was heartbreaking though to see the books crumbling on the shelves underneath two skylights...

The uniquely decorated arcades of the San Francisco Church.  

The Mario Vargas Llosa reading room in the library of the Casa de Literatura Peruana , a former train station

Convent Church of Santo Domingo and its charming cloisters and courtyard below

A procession outside the Cathedral - the altar resting on the shoulders of 24 faithful who walked with shuffling steps for about 50 ft then another shift took over.  No wonder the silver altar at Cusco was permanently placed on a chassis to eliminate all this pain - but where would the sacrifice be if it were all so easy...
Watch a short video on the shuffle -

Plaza de Armas with the Cathedral as its centrepiece
The Governor's Palace on the day of the summit - officials only
A wedding in the side chapel of the Cathedral
A different kind of bride doing a promotion on the busy Jiron de la Union
Jiron de la union - for good reason, a pedestrian only street
Quail's eggs 10 for 1 sol on the Av Albancay - yummy!

The entrance to the reading room at the National Library, also on the busy Av Albancay.  The busiest station is the photocopying service .  Lots of marble but no computers in sight.

A pretty decent selection at a Chinese BBQ takeout in Chinatown

The internal courtyard of the Museum of Art - another case where the architecture trumps the content

A lovely sunset over an incredibly smoggy city