I always say, the best places in the world are the hardest to get to. An eight hour flight to a one hour flight to a thirty minute bus to a three hour train to a 4am alarm clock to a thirty minute bus to here. Totally worth the journey when “here” is the amazing Machu Picchu. Being there, when the doors opened (and relieved we didn’t fall off the mountain on the bus ride up!) in the quite morning air, soft diffused light, and sounds of nature alone was more of a spiritual feeling of being one with the history of humanity, earth, and astronomy. A connectedness that is so easy to forget or not feel in our real lives at work in New York City.
We spent the first part of the morning hiking up paths to vista points, turning back to take it all in, photograph the majesty then continue on until we reached the farthest perch. We sat for a very long time, made some time lapses, watched birds soar through the valley, inhaled the smell of incense from people who came to meditate and feel the energy of this astonishing place and just be. Be in the moment. I was there, one of my dream places, and this moment meant so much to me.
Our entire journey to Machu Picchu was arranged by Grey Line tours which I can now highly recommend. Our private guide who took us to the citadel, Hector, was incredible and patient with us. He let us do our thing, took us to the best photographic spots and peaceful places and waited until we were ready for all the information… and boy did I have A LOT of questions. I won’t fill you in on the history of Machu Picchu, hello wikipedia, or even share too many photographs. I think, for this moment, it is best lived and I hope everyone has the chance to experience this place as I have and feel that thing which can not be expressed in pixels but in LIFE.
Machu Picchu. Did it. As my Dad and I like to say “Check.”
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I could barely sleep on the overnight Lan Airlines flight down to Peru on our next leg of #OnlyInSouthAmerica adventure. Machu Picchu has been on my travel wish list since I fist learned about it in elementary school but before we could make the main trek we started out in Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire before the Spaniards conquered it in the 1500s. You can see the layers and layers of history and culture – the original Inca walls resting under European style architecture. You discover a city that is more rich and mystical than what meets the eye as you learn about the centuries of battles, a lost culture, a mixture indigenous roots and Spanish influence and a strong connection to the earth. Mostly in Cusco, I enjoyed walking the little narrow streets, up and down the corridors, looking at the women in their amazing hats as they went about their day.
Most people ask me first about altitude sickness. I did not get sick, however, I would get winded on the first day walking up hill and just overall felt tired I think from lack of oxygen. By my 3rd day in Peru I was totally back to normal. It also made the effect of one pisco sour feel like you had ten… which I kind of loved. I also loved the flavor and effect of coca tea which was offered everywhere we went as a way to help ease altitude sickness… mostly for me it was like drinking ten cups of coffee.
Other things about Cusco I loved: the ceviche game here is STRONG. I have yet to have a ceviche as good since. The San Pedro market was amazing to see. An aisle for meat, an aisle for flowers, an aisle for cheese, an aisle for potatoes, it was endless and so rich with culture. Also, fruit smoothie with beer in it– game changer. Cacao tea, who knew! Wandering through all the little shops tucked away in courtyards to hunt down the perfect alpaca sweater or hand made pottery bowl was also very fun and with a very friendly exchange rate.
As a place that has such a strong unique culture there are exotic things you can try such as chicha beer (it was purple!) made from corn or the most popular dinner dish for locals- guinea pig… both things I’m glad I tried but I’ll leave those (and the frog juice to cure headaches!) to the locals.
If I ever find myself on the way to Cusco again I’ll look forward to the way the city transports you not only to a different place but what feels like a different time…
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The Pestana Convento do Carmo, originally built in 1586 as a convent, has now been carefully restored into the first luxury hotel in Brazil. There is a peacefulness to the corridors, a safety behind the stone walls. The outdoor living spaces, with their mix of antiques and art, made you never want to leave this timeless atmosphere. Each of the rooms, or apartments as they call them, have the original window seats that look over the center courtyard of the property, a view of history, nature and modern comfort.
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I hear there is a polar vortex in New York right now, which is making me love aviation even more today as I am traveling through summertime in Brazil. It was only a couple months ago this jetliner took me on my first South American adventure and I’m already back for more. What an incredible thing it is to fly – changing countries, temperatures, and cultures in mere hours – not to mention glimpsing the earth from so, so high above…
The view from a plane window is an amazing way to see the world. I love flying, I love seeing our life in a new perspective, I love being someplace totally different in the blink of an eye. Time does not exist to me in the sky, it’s only when your feet touch the ground (and your airplane mode turns off) that we start keeping track again… but for a moment, when you’re up in the heavens, all is peaceful out that little window below.
You’ve been on this great Chilean adventure #onlyinsouthamerica with me and I wanted to say thank you to Lan Airlines, the premier carrier for South America, for taking us to all these places I could only have dreamed of before. The greatest end to this unforgettable journey was coming home to New York on the new Dreamliner. Total game changer! The difference in cabin pressure, theatrical mood lighting that changes throughout the flight, the LARGER WINDOWS (by 30%), the friendly flight attendants and the wonderful food made the last leg home one of peace and relaxation. I’ve never enjoyed a flight more than this… I’ll come fly with you anytime.
Views out my window:
My top three favorite fun facts about LAN Airlines!
1. A LAN flight takes off every 2.5 minutes around the world. Can you believe it??
2. The TAM business class wine list is ranked among the top 5 in the world by Global Traveler Magazine in their article, “Wines on the Wing 2013“. And speaking of wine (which I always love to talk about!), there are 522,000 bottles of wine opened on LAN airplanes each year.
3. The airline created the Call for Social and Environmental Projects, which focuses on investing in nonprofit organizations that help develop sustainable tourism and environmental conservation!
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So vino a Chile y no toms vino a que vino ~ If you came to Chile and you didn’t have wine, why did you come to Chile
Part of our #onlyinsouthamerica tour of Chile was to show us the different landscapes this country has to offer. Considering Chile has nearly 4,000 miles of coast, covers a range of heights from sea level to 22,615 feet, and, from tip to tip, goes from tropics to near the Antarctic Circle, it is a place that holds all types of geological systems. The Casablanca Valley just outside Santiago felt just like visiting Napa Valley on our honeymoon…the beautiful tall Italian cypress trees lining hill tops and long driveways, the scenic vistas with avocado, olive, and grape plantations out the window of our vehicle as we made our way to tour two Chilean wineries: Kingston & Casa Marin where we had lunch at the top of the vineyard hill with the Pacific Ocean just off the horizon line.
From gold-hunting to cattle farming, the Kingston family has been in the Casablanca Valley for over 100 years. Surprisingly, their now award-winning winery is their newest venture. Started in the 1990s with a daring new business plan – growing cool-climate red grapes in a region known for white wines – their vineyard became known for creating some of the “best pinots in Chile”. Cows still graze in the fields, and gold is still buried underground…but dreams came true through grapevines.
After we took our tour of this intimate, quaint, quiet, and breathtakingly beautiful winery we went to their porch overlooking the vineyard and sampled the award winning wines with some local cheeses and their homemade olive oil which was SO GOOD I had to bring some back with me!
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Having just come off a plane from Paris, I had no idea what to expect from South American accommodations…As we know so well, hotel rooms in Europe are TINY (and this from a New Yorker! And you know we know small). By the time we got to Chile, all I knew was I wanted a good bed to rest in as we started our #onlyinsouthamerica grand tour of Chile.
At first I was so surprised – the exterior of The Aubrey Hotel looked German! How can this be? Come to find out from our Santiago Adventures tour guide, a couple of Australian men saved this building in Santiago from complete ruin from years of abandonment and turned it into one of the best boutique hotels I have ever experienced. The original facades, built in the 1920s for influential Chilean politicians and their families, have been kept and restored while the interiors have been brought up to modern times and modern luxury.
The fresh floral scent of the room, the spaciously designed but simple decor, the surprising pops of color in the art and textiles… it was a perfect balance. From hospitality to ambiance, location and room size – I never wanted to leave. Just scroll down to see what I mean…
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My whole life I have dreamed of going to South America. I think it had to do something with the million times I watched this movie as a little girl dreaming of adventure. LAN Airlines are the kings of the South American skies, and they wanted to take us around Chile to discover new things to be found #onlyinsouthamerica with them. The first stop: Santiago! I was expecting color and I was so pleased when I got it. Murals painted all up and down the street, some with the words of their Nobel Peace Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda and other times just beautiful birds or majestic headpieces and my favorite – romantic rusted iron roses crawling up the sides of buildings. We stayed in the Bohemian quarter of Santiago – Bellavista – where on a walk about we saw many beautiful cafés, artisanal shops, and toured the famous poet’s unique city dwelling, one of my FAVORITE activities of the entire trip.
The first thing I found quite surprising was the quality of food. The food found only in South America was phenomenal. I don’t know if it has changed since decades past or if this is just the best kept secret…or if I’m just a sheltered American. For lunch we had tapas with local Chilean wine pairings at Bocanariz meaning, appropriately, nose and mouth. Dinner was at Europeo in a neighborhood I called the Beverly Hills of Santiago with drive-thru Hermes shopping and Bentley lots. Europeo was unlike any dining experience I have yet to have, with a tasting menu by 2013 chef of the year Francisco Mandiola of single-serve plates that look more like works of art than mere nourishment. Afterwards when the chef came out to greet us he explained about our favorite dish (two little mushroom raviolis in sauce in a small glass bubble) that he wanted it to be like a little aquarium – the broth is the water, the raviolis are the fishes!
The afternoon was spent exploring historic Santiago from the Gabriel Mistral Centro Cultural, Plaza de Armas to the Palacio Moneda and on our final morning (day 2) we explored the fascinating and culturally rich Vega Central food market. This place was so big I felt like you could have fit all of Manhattan in it! The colors, the exotic fruits, the gorgeous seasonal produce, the man sharping a knife in the middle of the aisle with a machine as old as the city…this was the adventure I was looking for….
Take a look at my first steps in South America~
To do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
~ Pablo Neruda
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