Travel and Become A Storyteller: The Beach House Wanderlust Diaries 2016
Cusco the Captivating
At our Beach House, we have wanderlust running through our veins. We are a collective of dreamers, adventurers and escapists – yearning for the exhilaration that comes from trying something new or discovering a new taste or flavor. We are in love with cities we’ve never been to and people we have never met. Throughout 2016, we are documenting our adventures in a blog series called ‘The Beach House Wanderlust Diaries.’
In this installment, we are speaking to JV Russell, Communications Coordinator, about her unforgettable experience in Cusco, Peru.
Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Cusco is rich in history and culture. Inhibited by the Quechua-speaking descendants of the Incas, it was once the capital of the powerful Inca Empire and is now the undisputed archaeological center of the Americas.
It is a fascinating balance of old and new – filled with ancient art and artifacts as well as colonial mansions and churches built atop Inca foundations. Cusco is the center of Andean culture and the gateway city where explorers can easily visit countless cities such as the famous Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
When asked what JV loves about Cusco, she describes how there is no other place in the world like it. She said: “The walls in almost every building in Cusco are oozing with history and culture – you can’t help but be completely captivated. I don’t think I have visited a place that can compare – the beauty of the architecture, the historical buildings, the people, the food, the list goes on. You can see how proud Cusqueños are of their culture and heritage. There are traditions that have been kept alive for thousands of years that have been untainted with time. That to me is awe-inspiring. There is also a mysticism that surrounds Cusco that is difficult to describe. I can’t put my finger on it, but the city is shrouded in folklore and mystery. I would have loved to spend more time discovering the different sides to this magical place.”
When asked how Cusco inspires JV, she talks about the Cusqueños’ closeness with nature and their environment. Pachamama is known to Andean people as "Good Mother." Tradition says that there should be a toast in her honor before every meeting or festivity. One modern day ritual is to spill a small amount of chicha (beer derived from corn) on the floor, before drinking the rest. She described: “Pachamama is a concept that is embraced throughout Peruvian culture. I love how there is a deep awareness and respect of Mother Nature that is embedded in the fabric of their everyday life.”
One of the places that JV visited that she will never forget is nearby Machu Picchu. She explained: “When you step foot in Machu Picchu for the first time, words cannot describe the beauty of the scenery. It is a breathtaking place, with its historical and mysterious structures and magnificent landscape. The mysticism and spiritualism you feel as you enter the place is undeniable.”
She concluded: “Machu Picchu commands a respect that you do not anticipate and you cannot help but feel the significance of the surroundings. It draws you in and before you know it you have spent more than half a day there, climbing its terrain and admiring its views. For me, I left a changed person and I felt the experience affected me on a very basic, fundamental level. At the time I didn’t realize how much it has an impact on me – being there prompted me to ask questions about my life that I never thought of before. It was definitely a spiritual journey!”
JV’s Top Three Things To Do In Cusco
Cusco is full of vibrant markets, beautiful architecture and enchanting landscape.
San Pedro Mercado: A lively and colorful market filled with stalls featuring delicious fruit and produce, cheese, meat and breads, as well as textiles, clothing and souvenirs.
JW Marriott Cusco: Visiting this hotel, you will have the opportunity to peer back into history. This impressive resort was constructed over preserved ancient Incan ruins and is situated around a 16th century San Agustin convent. Having undergone multiple incarnations including a chocolate factory and bakery in the 1970s, along with surviving many earthquakes – its beauty and symbolism have never been lost. Painstakingly rebuilt and preserved by hand, it took six years for a team of architects, engineers, excavators, restorers and curators to revive the property to its former glory.
Barrio de San Blas: Cusco's most atmospheric and picturesque neighborhood, San Blas is lined with a multitude of artists' studios and artisans' workshops as well as trendy bars and fun restaurants. It is worth a visit during both the day and night!
JV’s Cusco Adventure In A Nut Shell:
Best food: Lomo Saltado.
Best drink: Pisco Sour – the signature drink of Peru!
Most memorable smell: Smell of the fresh dewy mountain air at Machu Picchu.
Fondest memory: There are many – but the one I wasn’t expecting was a night out in Cusco. I had so much fun walking around the town with my friends and discovering the local bars and clubs. We danced all night long to both traditional Peruvian music as well as the latest hits!
Favorite landmark: I really loved the topography and landscape of the Andean mountains. When we drove from Cusco to the surrounding towns of the Sacred Valley, I was blown away but the majestic presence of this beautiful mountain range.
Top three travel essentials: Coca tea to help you acclimate to the nearly 12,000-foot Andean elevation, good hiking shoes to climb Machu Picchu and a journal to write about all your adventures and epiphanies.