Unlike many Americans, I haven’t been to Mexico much — only to the border town ot Nogales, an easy drive from Tucson where we used to visit my dad. But I’m getting a little more interested in the place — especially in visiting the colonial town, San Miguel de Allende.
Here’s a helpful story about it: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/in-central-mexico-a-retreat-thats-perfect-for-families/2019/06/13/130d39b6-86fb-11e9-a870-b9c411dc4312_story.html
Far from the packed resort beaches of Cancun, Cabo’s nonstop party atmosphere and the hipsterdom of Tulum, San Miguel de Allende exists as its own singular slice of Mexican life. Located in the state of Guanajuato, 170 miles north of Mexico City, it boasts cobblestone streets and colonial architecture, giving visitors the impression they’ve stepped out of time. It’s helpful to know traveler’s Spanish when making deals at the market or figuring out your lunch order, but there’s a large community of retired Americans, so the locals are used to English speakers. Overall, San Miguel de Allende is easy to navigate, safe and rich with activities — an ideal family vacation destination.
I’ve had such a nice response to my Peru story in the April issue of Delta Sky magazine, with friends, family and neighbors coming across it during flights. Even heard from a long lost high school friend. The latest act of kindness came today from another reader who liked it so much she gave her copy to friend – then realized that she hadn’t read the last page. So she found the black and white version I posted on my blog. She also made a color PDF of the story and sent to me. How thoughtful! So here it is. (see above.)
I am hoping this will work and you can click here and see the travel story I did about our recent trip to Peru for Delta Sky Magazine! Unfortunately there isn’t an online version and this copy is black and white, not in full color. You can find the story if you have an iPad, using the Fly Delta iPad app.
Most amazing train ride: Front seat on the train to the Sacred Valley. (on the way home, there was a fashion show on the train…)
Most dazzling monastery: Santa Catalina, Arequipa
Best old world/Inca village with most intense cobble stoned lanes: Ollantaytambo
Most bizarre landscape: the salt pans of Salinas and terraced circles of Moray
Best religious site with skulls and boxes of (human) bones: San Francisco Monasterio in Lima
Best church: That’s a tough one, in Cusco – the Cathedral and the Iglesia de Compania de Jesus and the church in San Blas. or the Iglesia de la Compagnia in Arequipa.
The Cathedral in Arequipa
Best market: Also a hard call. Pisac, Arequipa (below) and Cusco are strong contenders
Best folk art: Artesanias Las Pallas in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood
Best contemporary crafts gallery: Dedalo in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood
Best quality Andean Textiles: Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cuzco, on Av. El Sol or Shop of the Weavers of the Southern Andes on Tullumayo in Cusco.
Best hidden museum: Museo de Arte Popular, Cusco
Most spectacular site/ruins: Machu Picchu, hands down
Grandest plaza: Toss up between Cusco and Arequipa
Best service at a hotel: Apu Lodge, Ollantaytambo
Best art at a hotel: Second Home Peru, in Lima (below)
Most ancient-feeling hotel: La Casa de Melgar, Arequipa
Best hotel to bring earplugs: Ninos Hotel in Cusco, lovely courtyard but carries sound especially people wandering through at 5:30 a.m.
- Best sight for sore eyes: Our son.
Thinking back on our two week trip to Peru, there’s not much I would have done differently. Remarkably, all five of the hotels we stayed at were winners – and each distinctive; all the flights we took worked out (with only a few minor delays); some restaurants were better than others (which is to be expected) but none were awful; we liked all the cities/villages we visited a lot! So just a few lessons learned:
– It pays to book hotels early. We stayed at five great places – all reasonably priced (we averaged $70 a night), clean, attractive, unique. They were also full – so I am glad I booked them several months in advance, which wasn’t really a problem since there weren’t onerous cancellation penalties and I only had to pay in advance for one hotel.
The view from Second Home Peru, a Lima bed & breakfast in the arty Barranco neighborhood
– It also was wise to make reservations early at several restaurants, especially the really popular ones in Cusco like Cicciolina and Limo (I was particularly glad with Limo that I requested a table with a view in the room overlooking the stunning Plaza des Armes. One woman who tried to sneak one of these tables was immediately shooed back to the rear room, without the view…). But several restaurants – especially the more mediocre ones – didn’t require a reservation.
the lovely courtyard outside our room at the La Casa de Melgar, built in the 18th century in Arequipa (where we watched the U.S. Presidential Election.)
– I am very glad we did not rent a car. Peruvian drivers are very aggressive and the roads, especially in countryside like the Sacred Valley, weren’t the best. Hiring taxis and drivers was easy and pretty affordable. We even rode twice in a crazy contraption – sort of a rickshaw with a motorcycle underneath it called a mototaxi. Wow was that a noisy and bumpy and fun (and yes, probably dangerous) ride. (And cheap – cost 2 soles or about 75 cents to go a few miles)
– Although I was tempted to add one more stop to our itinerary – the Amazon or Puno/Lake Titicaca – five places in 14 days was plenty, as was three domestic flights (lima-to-Arequipa; Arequipa-to-Cusco; Cusco-to-lima). The flights were pretty pricey too (about $175 per). We could have maybe stayed one less day in Ollantaytambo (we stayed four days) – but it was nice to dig in a bit and the Apu Lodge there was where we felt the most at home of all the places we stayed. I also think we may have largely avoided altitude sickness by hanging out for several days in the lower-altitude Sacred Valley.
– I think D and I each had a little altitude sicknesses, with symptoms like a headache and stomach upset but nothing debilitating. I did buy some coca leaves right after we landed in cusco and started chewing them – and I also drank several cups of coca tea and later Manzilla tea (chamomile). Who knows if these helped but maybe?
– Skip a meal or two. We aren’t used to eating big meals every night let alone for lunch and dinner – so after a few days we learned to either skip a meal or share an entree at dinner. One night, after a large lunch with a Peruvian friend, we just had a plain roll for dinner. And that was just fine. Overall the food was excellent and varied – both the casual cafe/traditional Peruvian stuff and the fancier “novoandina” fusion fare. Although I appreciated the inventiveness of the fusion food, I often preferred the simpler traditional Peruvian food (and my digestive system did too.) Favorite Peruvian food – Chicarrones (deep-fried but not battered pork chunks), aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a creamy orange sauce that we’re told was spicy walnut sauce but I never saw walnuts and some was spicier than others) and Chupe de camarones – buttery, bisque with seafood. I was less impressed with the tacu tacu (panfried rice and beans). big-kerneled, starchy Andean corn, and rocoto rellena (stuffed red peppers). Cuy (guinea pig) isn’t bad if well-disguised. Ditto alpaca. Lomo Saltado – an asian-tasting beef stir fry – is the grilled cheese of Peru (i.e. a pretty safe selection). Causa (mashed potatoes sculpted around seafood or chicken or vegetables) was a bit rich for my tastes…As far as drinks, Chica morada – a deep purple drink made of corn – was a mixed bag. I liked the less sweeter versions I tried. For beer, I preferred Cusquenia. And we had excellent Pisco Sours everywhere. I never did try Inka Cola – couldn’t get past the color (urine-yellow) or the description that it tastes like bubble gum. (I did buy some Inka cola t-shirts as gifts though.)
Dinner at the famous Astrid y Gaston in Lima