Wednesday, May 29, 2019

On the Ground in San Diego

Trip date: November 2018

After a morning of work from my room at the Kimpton Palomar, my brother and I took an Uber to San Diego's Old Town. We started with a great lunch at El Agave.

El Agave is a little nicer and has an amazing tequila collection (they call it the museum) vs. your typical taco joint. My tacos and margarita were great!

We had a nice walk around Old Town; I'd never been or didn't remember. It's touristy but also interesting to see the birthplace of California, and to wander around the old buildings. Mark even struck up a conversation with an actual blacksmith!

We hopped in another Uber and headed up to the UTC shopping center. This may sound like a strange destination, as I'm not much of a mall rat, but I wanted to check out the cocktail bar Raised by Wolves, and this is the location they picked for it!

You enter into a shop which has a nice collection of liquor and cocktail related products. We didn't have too much of a wait after they took our name and party size. And then 2-by-2, you are invited to sit in chairs in front of a fireplace, which then revolves to deliver you inside the "hidden" bar.

Mark and I both got quite a kick out of this. And when the lounge is revealed, whoa! It is very large and extremely opulent.

We sat up at the bar and had a few rounds of very good drinks. We didn't try any of the vintage cocktails; 1960's Very Old Fitzgerald 8yr, sugar, and Ango for $790.00 anyone?

Working our way back to the city, our next stop was George's at The Cove, which our bartender at Fairweather had recommended the day before. We sat up on the ocean terrace and drank black manhattans while having a light dinner of grilled octopus. I wouldn't go out of my way to come to George's but if you are in the area, the casual terrace bar was great.

Our last stop of the day was Grass Skirt, which is not so secretly hidden behind Good Time Poke.

We had both the regular painkiller, and the clarified painkiller, both excellent. I'm always tickled by clarified drinks, and I found these 2 to be amazing, or it could have been that I was just a tad drunk!
The next morning after packing and working, Mark picked me up and we had lunch at Ironside. We had visited this place on my last trip down, and I was looking forward to it again!

Clam chowder, cheddar biscuits, and a halibut sandwich all soooo good! Washed down with a couple of spritzes. Perfect last lunch.
Mark was nice enough to drive me to the airport, a whole 15 minutes away! And I had another very comfortable flight home as I was able to use another MVP Gold upgrade for 1st class on Alaska. While earning my last needed miles to secure another year of MVP Gold. A successful trip I'd say!

All San Diego photos here.

Also from this trip:
High Times in San Diego

Saturday, May 25, 2019

High Times in San Diego

Trip date: November 2018

There are a lot of reasons that I travel; to explore the world, have a chill vacation, visit friends, have an amazing dining experience, etc. In November I realized I was going to be barely short on miles to make Alaska Gold MVP again, so I started plotting a quick getaway to remedy the situation. Then my brother mentioned he was going to be in San Diego. Perfect.

I was also able to use one of my MVP Gold upgrades, so it was a very comfortable flight in first class. I left for the airport after work and after a bit of a flight delay, arrived at the Kimpton Palomar around 1am via Uber.

I was excited to see my brother, so after a 1/2 day of work in my hotel the next day, we met up for lunch at Fairweather. This is a great rooftop bar, right next to the baseball stadium. Mark told me the day's plans over cocktails and tacos. He was surprising me with an open-cockpit biplane ride over the city. HOLY SHIT! I am pretty much terrified of small planes, which he didn't realize, and hadn't packed my Xanax because generally a weekend with my brother is pretty chill! I ordered a 2nd cocktail.

We arrived at Montgomery Field and checked in with San Diego Sky Tours. Our pilot, who looked all of about 20, assured us that he was actually an active Navy pilot and was one of the owners. In their very cool hangar, outfitted with old flight memorabilia, and a bar for after, he went over the flight plan. Mark and I would ride the same plane but at different times, I offered to go first as I really thought I might bail otherwise, I was sooooooo nervous!

I'm so happy I had the guts to do this as it was amazing! We flew between 400 and 800 feet altitude over the city, the bay, and along the beaches. I was terrified of dropping my iPhone as I took photos, I hadn't thought to bring the wrist strap I usually use when adventure traveling!

After landing I grabbed a beer from their bar and decompressed while Mark took his turn. This was really such an amazing experience, I would highly recommend San Diego Sky Tours when you are in the area!

We headed back into the Little Italy area of town and found our way to False Idol, inside of the restaurant Craft & Commerce. This tacky tiki bar, with crazy Christmas decorations, and a menu for all occasions, was very fun and the drinks delicious! Rum was just what we needed after our afternoon of biplane flying!

It was a gorgeous night out so we walked to our dinner destination of Kettner Exchange and chose a table on their rooftop. We had an absolutely delicious dinner here, the shared plates were more than enough for the 2 of us. Our duck meatball, huge pork chop, and caramel dessert were all hits!

Right across the street, Mark introduced me to the historic dive bar, The Waterfront. Since 1933 this fun and enthusiastic bar has been packing people in, and it was no different on this Tuesday night. We just had a quick shot, but if you are in the mood to people watch, make new friends, or just spend a day drinking (they open at 6am), go in for a visit here!

My choice of nightcap is a bit different, so Mark kindly let me drag him to Noble Experiment, which we discovered on my last trip to San Diego. It's so pretty, so little, and just dark enough. Oh and the cocktails are amazing.

All San Diego photos here.

More eating and drinking from this trip: On the Ground in San Diego

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Return to Lima

Trip date: January 2019

Our big Peru adventure was coming to an end, we had flown back to Lima from Cusco, and were staying at the Inkari Luxury Hotel in the lovely Miraflores neighborhood. I have a theory that if a hotel has a descriptive name, it's usually the opposite experience (Comfort Inn/not comfortable!, Holiday Inn/that carpet does not a holiday make!) And the Inkari Luxury proved my theory. Not horrible but just enough fake luxury to make me annoyed. With so many well priced hotels in Lima I'd look elsewhere next time. You're welcome.

We dropped our bags and headed directly to Mayo Bar for cocktails. Chef Virgilio Martínez moved his famous Central restaurant into a stunning new complex in the Barranco district and just recently opened Mayo and another new restaurant Kjolle in the same space.
The drinks were very interesting, and incorporated ingredients from different parts of Peru. My drink, for example, was to represent the sea and had sea lettuce in it! We also had some casual bar food (suckling goat!) that was delicious if not overly rich.
We'd had a long day, both sightseeing in the Sacred Valley and traveling, so we headed back to the hotel where Forest and I taught the bartender to make a passable martini.
The next morning we made a quick stop at a grocery store for interesting things to bring home and then walked to a very cool shop called Dedalo back over in the Barranco. This place was amazing! There are a bunch of small rooms inside housing different artists' & designers' works. Everything you could want from jewelry, to clothes, to pottery, etc is here and everything is handmade. There is also a great outdoor patio cafe where you can get a beverage and a snack. Highly recommend this shop while in Lima!
The neighborhood is very nice to walk around in also, lots of old houses with very colonial design. It's definitely a hip and trendy area of town.

We were starving so made our way to our lunch destination Isolina, currently number (lucky?) 13 on the World's 50 Best list. We hadn't really planned this one well as we realized it was a Sunday afternoon and 1/2 of Lima was lined up for a table at the no-reservations restaurant. We put our name in and had a couple of pisco sours at a random spot a few doors down (which were delicious btw!)
After an hour we went to check in only to be told it would be another 30 minutes. We opted for another round of pisco sours, this time from the restaurant and served to us on the sidewalk.
We were finally seated after 2 hours of waiting! And we were famished! Luckily we had had time to peruse the menu and were able to order the minute our asses hit the chairs. Everything was absolutely delicious, especially the ceviche and the crispy pork ribs. I'd highly recommend but maybe work your timing out better than we did!
Caitlin had to dash for the airport and Thibault decided to head back to the hotel for a swim, leaving Forest and I up to our own devices. It took us all of about 5 minutes to decide to head back to Bar Ingles, which we'd visited when first in Lima 1 1/2 weeks earlier.
Thibault, Forest, and I set out the next morning to explore the Old Town. We had our Uber driver drop us off at Plaza San Martin, where the city's first hotel still stands. If you get up close to the woman on the statue you will see a tiny alpaca perched on her head!

We walked up the pedestrian only Jiron de la Union where honestly there isn't much to see until you get to the Iglesia de la Merced. The church is as old as the city and held Lima's first ever mass.
Besides the pretty alter, and impressive and funny Christmas manger scene they had constructed, the church also is home to a large silver cross that once belonged to Father Pedro Urraca who was known to have visions of the Virgin Mary. Worshippers were lined up to place a hand on the cross in hopes of receiving a miracle.

Next, we came into the Plaza de Mayor, the birthplace of Lima. It is huge and absolutely gorgeous! On one side is the cathedral and Archbishop's Palace. The Government's Palace is at the far end. The pretty fountain in the center use to be the city's gallows! That would make for a really different Instagram!
Businesses, shops, and restaurants are housed in grand yellow buildings on the other 2 sides. It's really one of the most beautiful squares I've seen!

It was also very hot! So after splitting up for a bit to explore the square on our own, we met back up at the Museo del Pisco bar for, you guessed it, a pisco sour! It's a cute little bar, just steps from the square, which made it a great spot for a sit down.

For our last lunch in Peru we decided to try some traditional roast chicken, Pollo a la Brasa. There are many, many "fast food" style places selling this most popular dish in Peru. We chose to go to Pardo's which was close to us and was a restaurant with outside seating. Their chicken gets marinaded in a tangy bath with 10-15 different spices and then is spit roasted. The skin is very crispy and the chicken is very juicy. What's not to love?

Then we headed back to the Museo del Pisco as we had learned while having a drink there that they do pisco tastings. It was very fun and interesting to have the bartender take us through the history of pisco, the distillation process, and taste through a few different styles.
We headed back to our neighborhood to do a bit of shopping before hitting the pool at our hotel for a refreshing dip.

My flight wasn't until 1am so I had one last dinner, unfortunately it was a Monday and many restaurants were closed. We opted to go back to Kennedy park and ended up at a cafe next to where we had been before. I had one last meal of cuy and we also tried the skewers of beef heart which are popular in Peru. There was also a stand in the park selling the picarones, fried donuts made of sweet potato, so we got to try those too!

I had arranged a driver to take me to the airport, which was strangely extremely busy at 11pm! I was on American Airlines in business class so I went to wait in the lounge but the line to get in was so long I skipped it! The cabin and seats were fine but again, as on my LATAM flight into Peru, not at the same level of business class flights as other airlines. I mainly took advantage of the lay flat bed and slept.
I had a 2+ hour layover in Dallas and then was in 1st class on American back up to Seattle which I had cashed some miles in for. On my way home I rode on the Alaska Way Viaduct for the last time, it would close 3 days later and be torn down! Crazy!

Getting to see so many sides of Peru, from the big city of Lima, to the remote & dangerous Amazon jungle, to the ancient wonders of the Sacred Valley, was an amazing way to learn more about this country. And a great bucket list experience!

All Lima photos here.

Other posts from this trip:
24 Hours Miami
Lima City of Kings
Welcome to the Jungle
Piranhas and Pink Dolphins
Ringing in 2019 in the Amazon
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
Discovering Machu Picchu
Dining at 11700 Feet
Cusco Daytrip

Monday, May 13, 2019

Cusco Day Trip

Trip date: January 2019

On our last day in the Sacred Valley, we checked out of the Hotel Inti Nan in Urubamba and had a taxi driver take us to the Incan ruins of Sacsayhuaman. The ruins, which are also called Saksaywaman, are in the hills behind Cusco, and were the largest fortress ever built by the Incas.

The fortress sits at 11,864 feet altitude and offers great views down onto Cusco. But the real reason to explore here is to marvel at the giant boulders which were hoisted to build the 60 feet high walls! There are also herds of cute alpaca :)

When we finished we had him drop us off at the Hotel Plaza des Armas which sits right on the main square in Cusco. The hotel nicely stored our bags for the day and we headed upstairs to their cafe for a coffee.
Cusco is beautiful! And it's down at a mere 11,152 feet in elevation. ha! The city is bustling with business people, locals in traditional village costumes, and tourists. And it is very easy to walk around.

Our first stop was to Qorikancha. This Inca temple was built in approximately 1438 and contained the Temple of the Sun, the most important temple in the Inca religion.

After the Spanish conquered the Incas, they built the church of Santo Domingo right on top of the temple in approximately 1680. That is some F-U! It also makes for a very interesting site!
Unfortunately all the sacred gold items were taken by the Spanish and melted down. What a huge loss!

Besides the Incan ruins and the cathedral, the 2nd floor houses an art exhibit which is interesting to wander through.

From here we walked to the San Pedro market in the central district. We could tell we were getting close when we started passing women, many in traditional dress, selling all sorts of things. There were wheelbarrows of watermelon, dragon fruit & prickly pear, food carts with fresh juice, or boiled quail eggs, piles of fresh herbs (which are used by Shamen), and blocks of cheese.

Once inside the large open market, my senses were assaulted with delicious smells. I would have loved to sit down at one of the stands, crowded with locals having lunch. But we had other lunch plans so we wandered the aisles checking out the many unique offerings!

Each aisle had multiple stalls selling similar items. All the bread products were in one, rows and rows of potatoes and tubers down another, and tables piled high with grains and rice.

There were butchers, and fishmongers, and lots of stalls which we had no idea what it was they were selling! It's a great market to wander thru, just don't go hungry as we did!

We made our way back to the Plaza des Armas and found the restaurant Rucula which had been recommended by a friend of Forest's. It's a bit hard to find, up a tiny cobblestone side street, but serves both lunch and dinner and happens to be very vegetarian friendly.
I had their take on the traditional Peruvian dish causa, which is a cold, layered mashed potato dish usually with tuna or chicken. It was very good and very pretty. In fact everything in the restaurant is garnished heavily with flowers and herbs, including our pisco sours!

The others decided they wanted to finish the afternoon at the restaurant over some cold beverages, but I really wanted to check out the cathedral in the square. The church is the oldest in Cusco and has the most amazing gold alter I've ever seen!

In here there is a painting of The Last Supper  with a roast cuy (guinea pig) as the main course!

Photos are strictly prohibited in the church so I had to hide my phone under my guidebook and shoot blind while pretending to read. Someone finally caught me and I was sternly reprimanded!

I had to meet the others back at the hotel, as we were leaving for the airport, so I didn't have time to go into the other church on the square. I also couldn't find a postcard anywhere near the square! Now that's a first.

It was a great day spent in the former capital of the Inca Empire!

All photos of Cusco here.

Other posts from this trip:
24 Hours Miami
Lima City of Kings
Welcome to the Jungle
Piranhas and Pink Dolphins
Ringing in 2019 in the Amazon
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
Discovering Machu Picchu
Dining at 11700 Feet
Return to Lima

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