Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru    Cuy (Guinea Pig) at Kusikuy in Cusco, Peru
Cusco, Peru

As with many travelers that swarm the notorious Gringo Trail annually, Cusco was the launching point for our two-week Peruvian adventure. Located at a not-so-comfortable 3,400 m (11,800 ft) above sea level, the historical Inca capital boasts numerous attractions that left us, quite literally, breathless.

Getting There and Around

From DC, it was quite the trek to Cusco. There are no direct flights to neither Lima nor Cusco from the three WAS airports, and all flights to Lima from DC take place late afternoon/evening…making an overnight at the airport to make your AM Cusco connection all too likely. Our journey went like this: IAD >> PTY >> LIM >> CUZ. A heart-stopping 42 minute connection in Panama City was followed by a 5 hour overnight layover in Lima, bringing our total travel time to just over 14 hours. Buenas suerte friends, buenas suerte.

From the airport to the Plaza de Armas (city center), a taxi will cost you 10 soles. You MUST negotiate fare before getting into the cab. If you don’t like the price the drivers give you, walk away and find another car. Meters are non-existent in the cabbies, so buyer beware. No need to tip unless the driver handles your baggage, in which case 1-2 extra soles would be appropriate. Once you’re in the city center, everything is reasonably walkable. If you get tired, a cab to various parts of town shouldn’t cost more than 5 soles max.Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru

Stay

We stayed at Hospedaje Turistico Recoleta on Jiron Pumacahua for $10 a night per person (4 bed, ensuite bathroom). The hostel is zero frills but has the necessities: free blowdryer, linens, towels, breakfast, and luggage storage (what, did you think I wheeled my Samsonite along the Inca Trail?). There’s hot water and heat, but both were of dubious quantity, a pattern that repeated itself at our various hostels across the country. The staff was friendly and spoke English if you need it. My only complaint would be that the hostel was located about 15 minutes walking from the Plaza de Armas, which wouldn’t be a problem except that we had to walk through the narrowest of alleyways, with traffic, to get there.

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Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley Murals, San Francisco Balmy AlleyMurals, San Francisco Balmy Alley     Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley
Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley

Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley Murals, San Francisco Balmy Alley

This is a scheduled post. We’re in Peru until late August and may be unable to answer your questions and comments until we return.

Located in San Francisco’s Mission District, Balmy Alley is the best place to see a collection of SF’s street murals. Many of the murals are considered a commentary about various social issues both at home and abroad. The alley is located between Treat and Harrison off 25th.

Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike  Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike Los Angeles: Runyon Canyon Park Hike

This is a scheduled post. We’re in Peru until late August and may be unable to answer your questions and comments until we return.

While spending time on the West Coast in June, I had the fortune of spending a morning at Runyon Canyon Park. My synopsis: fabulous views, and lots of trails to choose from. My brother decided to take me up the ‘difficult’ trail, which was difficult mainly by virtue of the overbearing heat that started beating down on us at 8 AM. Wear shoes with a good grip and plan on going early- the ‘difficult’ trail has no shade and gets hot fast. Park wherever (it’s limited. We set the GPS to 2001 N Fuller Ave and got lucky with parking) and walk the flat trail (look for lots of runners and kidnappable dogs) to the entrance of the difficult trail (doesn’t really look like an entrance). Enjoy the view at the top!

His & Hers: 5 Travel Essentials By Darwin, Discovered

Happy Friday! Since we’ve had packing on our mind this week (3 more days till Peru!), we thought we’d bring you a few of our travel favorites.

His

(From Darren)

1. New Trent Portable Battery charger
Don’t know where I would be without this one.  Now that I use my phone for everything when travelling (mostly looking at google maps for places to go and yelp for places to eat), I can always count on my battery dying at some point.  With a portable battery charger, especially one that has 5200 mah or 7000 mah, you can charge your phone 2-3 times while you are out.  Or if you don’t like carrying something extra (or your girlfriend dislikes carrying your gadgets in her purse – AHEM), I also use a built-in extended battery case like the Mophie JuicePack Air, which you can find on Groupon for half the price every so often.

2. TripIt
I’ve gone with four electronics devices as my other four travel essentials, so I might as well continue the theme.  TripIt takes a little while to set up to the way you want to use it, but once it is ready, you never need to worry about printing itineraries again.  It syncs everything online, so whether you access your itinerary from a computer, or on your phone, you’ll know exactly what’s next.  You have two options in the free version: you can forward your confirmation emails to TripIt, and it will automatically add it into your itinerary, or you can allow it to search through your emails for confirmations.  I use the former, and it works great, but if you use the latter, I would love to hear your experience!  TripIt is free to use, with a paid “Pro” version ($49/year) that enables instant alerts (like flight delays, cancellations, gate changes), frequent traveler points tracking, and seat alerts.

3. JVC Marshmallow Earphones
I’ve had several iterations of these for the longest time now, mostly because my ear canals are so oddly shaped that normal buds don’t stay in.  These I chose because they have a memory foam tip, ensuring a snug fit regardless of the activity.  They are dirt cheap (<$12, even for the one with the built-in remote) so you won’t kill yourself if you leave them on a plane, or in a cab.  BONUS: the snug fit of the memory foam makes sure creates a semi-noise-cancelling effect, perfect for drowning out the hum of an airplane engine.  Or a screaming baby.

4. Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad
This thing is awesome.  One, it serves as a sleek, magnetic cover for your iPad, complete with matching aluminum-casing, so you almost look like you are carrying a really small MacBook.  In its other form, it serves as a sleek, full-functioned bluetooth keyboard so your iPad really becomes your laptop replacement.  Keys are quiet, the stand is sturdy (and magnetic), and the battery life is off the charts.  Get one, and say good bye to lugging your now (relatively) brick-like MacBook around.

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Budget and Itinerary for Two Weeks in peru

In just under a week, Darren and I will spend two weeks traveling around Peru. About half of our time will be spent hiking and glamping the legendary Inca Trail, culminating in an early morning descent into the one and only Machu Picchu. However, we’ve also planned another week’s worth of adventures that we are equally excited about (okay I lied- perhaps not equally excited, but it looks and sounds promising nonetheless) that includes a visit to the floating islands of Lake Titicaca and an excursion through the vast Colca Canyon. Darren and I will be traveling with two other friends for the entire two weeks, and our group for the Inca Trail includes an additional four friends that we are thrilled to be sharing this experience with. A lot of forethought and planning went into making this trip happen, which we began booking five months ago, and we’re hoping that sharing our itinerary and budget with you will help ease the stress that comes all too often with big travel.

Since the Inca Trail is a planning beast of its own, we’ll cover the planning, packing, and other goodies in a separate post. Oh, and we’re planning (as usual) to fit everything that we need into carryons, so we’ll share our packing list in –you guessed it-  a separate post.

Please note that as this trip hasn’t actually happened yet, we cannot attest to the quality of each of the vendors we are using for our lodging and excursions. We’ll review and revise our recommendations as needed upon our return, but until then, rest assured that we did spend many hours combing through forums and reading reviews to ensure the best experience and value possible. I’ll go through the itinerary first, followed by a few extra tidbits of information and the estimated budget.

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How to Build a Home Mini-Bar: Part 1, BasicsWhether you enjoy the occasional cocktail or you frequently partake in a nice, stiff sipper, nothing says welcome home (or welcome TO my home) like a well-stocked bar. In the first of this three-part series, I’ll go over how I got my own personal mini-bar started, so that you too can indulge your Mad Men fantasy (drinks, not the crazy affairs or chain smoking).

In the spirit of transparency, I have to admit that this idea (as well as the initial components) were the brainchild of my fabulous girlfriend Winnie. While I’ve always enjoyed a well-crafted cocktail, taking the time to prepare and build an elaborate drink always seemed too complicated, considering a nice beer would satiate the same need. However, for this past Christmas, W decided I should get a bit more classy and gifted me the beginnings of a minibar, including a serving/storing tray, a cocktail set, and some quality liquors.

So onto Part 1: The Basics. What you need to get started:

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