A Peruvian Thanksgiving

A Peruvian Thanksgiving

Generally over Thanksgiving you get the turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy. This year, my family and I decided to change it up and venture to Peru!

Our trip started in Cusco. Orient-Express set up our transportation in Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu, with most of our tours included. As soon as we landed in Cusco, we got to the baggage claim and the hotel representative was expecting us. He immediately got our bags and got us to our driver and guide who were waiting outside. It was a breeze. Everything happened so quickly that I barely remember being at the airport.

Cusco is a little over 11,000 feet above sea level. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about getting to the altitude without the steady incline. Some people have no issues, while some get as sick as dogs. I was told…drink coca tea, eat lightly, drink more coca tea…I listened and all of us were fine.

We stayed at Hotel Monasterio, an Orient-Express property. This unique hotel used to be a monastery built on Inca Foundations. It is 2 blocks from the Plaza de Armas and Cusco’s central square, where the cathedral and museums are located. When we arrived, we were seated in the main area by a fire place and were given coca tea. Our Orient-Express guide, Rene (who was the best of the best) dealt with the hotel and checked us in. I’m not entirely used to not having to do anything, but it was a nice perk!

The coca tea, the main highlight in Cusco, was actually very tasty, and more importantly, really helped with the altitude. Having woken up early and have not had much to eat, we decided to sit in the garden area and order some food. In the middle of the garden was a 300-year-old Cedar tree, which is the last standing of its kind in Cusco.

The following day we took the Hiram Bingham train for four hours to Machu Picchu. The train itself is an experience and cannot be missed! They have about four cars which are dedicated to your table for lunch and dinner and then the back car is where the bar and lounge area are. They even have a little outdoor area, with the windows open, where you can take pictures on the ride up. The food was great, the company around us was great…I have no complaints!

When we arrived at the Machu Picchu train station, we had to take a bus up to the top. It was one of the more scary rides I’ve been on, but an experience, and totally worth it! Immediately when we got off the bus, our guide, Frankie, was there waiting. He was very knowledgeable, friendly, and fun, and overall, there is no other way to do Machu Picchu! It was the perfect day, no rain, no bugs, and sunny, I could not have asked for better weather! We were very lucky.

While up on Machu Picchu, Frankie received a call while we were hiking around and it was about our dinner reservations in LIMA! Who would have thought that we would be asked about our dinner reservations while we were climbing! We were all just dumbfounded and impressed with the level of service that we were asked if our dinner reservation in Lima the following night was okay, while up in Machu Picchu.

After walking around for a few hours and learning the history of Machu Picchu, we had afternoon snack and tea at the Sanctuary Lodge, another Orient-Express hotel. The staff was lovely, and if we were staying overnight, I would’ve loved to stay here!

The journey back to Cusco ended up being a long one. The rainy season finally caught up with us after our perfect day at Machu Picchu and it started to rain. This caused a mudslide and it was bad enough that our train couldn’t pass through. Luckily, the staff was incredible and made us feel safe and comfortable. I want to emphasize how amazing Orient-Express was and how professionally they handled everything.

We eventually had to return to the last station we passed to take a bus back to Cusco. Well, Rene, being the most incredible person we’ve met on this trip, met us with our driver and immediately got us out of there. We were the first ones out of the train and on the road. Again, just like when we landed in Cusco from Lima, everything happened so quickly, that I barely remember the process from getting off the train to our van.

Getting back at 1:30 AM safely was definitely a highlight of my trip. The drive was scary, going through mountains and fog, but again, I emphasize, I felt very safe with the Orient-Express crew.

For the remainder of the trip we were in Lima and stayed at Miraflores Park Hotel, another Orient-Express property. I think this is one of the most magnificent hotels I’ve ever stayed in. The service, the décor, the food, all get an A+ in my book. The breakfast alone was outstanding. Everything was fresh and again, the service was impeccable, even though it was a buffet style!

We did an amazing tour in Lima with Ker & Downey. We spent part of the morning going through a market and seeing all of the fresh produce. Some Peruvian delicatessens are potatoes, ceviche and corn (choclo). They have over 1000 varieties of potatoes and the corn kernels are about the size of your finger nail (and bigger)! After seeing all of this, Ker & Downey set up an amazing private lunch with a renowned chef, Jaime Pesaque. He opened his doors at MAYTA for lunch just for us!

He began by inviting us to the bar…perfect! We tried a few varieties of Pisco Sours, the drink of choice throughout the whole trip. Then we explored his kitchen while he was making us some of his signature dishes. My family and I are foodies: we love cooking and eating. So doing something like this was a dream come true. He explained how he made each dish, how he prepared it, cooked it in front of us, and then we ate! After having a few dishes in the kitchen, we sat down for a 4 course lunch, with just us in the restaurant! At the end, he gave us all of the recipes to each meal he cooked and served us. Will we ever be able to repeat them the way he did? Probably not.

Overall, all of our guides were top notch and we did not miss a thing. Our dining experiences ranged from deli meats to luxurious Peruvian cuisines. Both Cusco and Lima are very special places and I can highly recommend everyone to go at least once in their lifetime and experience this fabulous adventure.

By Maren Silberstein