Our intern, Sean McBride shares his living abroad experience:
It is hard to think of an experience that is more eye-opening and rewarding than spending time abroad. I have been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to live in two cities outside the United States in the past two years. One of which was Lima, where I gained a finance internship in the summer of 2012, allowing me to spend nearly four months in Peru. Even though I had vacationed abroad before going to Peru, living there truly sparked my passion for travel. I lived in downtown Lima, in a district known as Miraflores, just blocks from the ocean, a plethora restaurants, and exciting nightlife. Growing up in a suburb south of Denver made living in the center of the fifth biggest city in the Americas a truly unique experience. I was forced to pick up Spanish, something I hadn’t studied in many years, and navigate through a completely foreign city.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Peru, I have a few recommendations that I would consider must sees and dos. Peruvian cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, the New York Times has written about its emergence in NYC, and the occurrence of top chefs opening Peruvian restaurants. For dining in Miraflores, Alfresco is a fantastic restaurant that serves traditional Peruvian dishes, specializing in the freshest of seafood (http://www.restaurantealfresco.com/). I personally recommend the “Arroz Meloso a al Tinta,” risotto with octopus ink, or the “Cebiche Tres Regiones,” ceviche from three regions; both are to die for. If you still have room for dessert I would suggest the “Tres Leches,” which is a cake made from “three milks.” It originated in Spain, but Peruvians insist their version is the best, and it is hard to imagine there could be a better version.
If you find yourself spending a day in Miraflores I would recommend visiting Parque del Amor, which was designed by Peruvian artist, Victor Delfin, and was inspired by Barcelona’s famous Parque Guell. It is situated upon a cliff above the surfer dotted Pacific Ocean with the beautiful city skyline in the background (http://www.mirafloresperu.com/turismo-miraflores-lima-peru/parque-del-amor.php). If you still haven’t gotten enough park time, I would recommend visiting Parque Kennedy, which is just a quick walk inland from Parque del Amor. This park is known by the locals as simply “Parque Miraflores.” It is most known for the gatos, or cats, that populate the park. Because of the clergymen at Inglesia de la Virgen Milagrosa, Church of the Miraculous Virgin, which borders the east ends of the park, these cats never go hungry. There are also plenty of vendors that populate the park. A must try are the picarones, a squash and sweet potato based donut served with syrup; a truly Peruvian dessert (http://enperublog.com/2010/03/10/the-cats-of-parque-kennedy/).
Once you’ve had enough of the bustling city, you must travel to Cusco, a city southeast of Lima known as the gateway to Machu Picchu. Cusco was the capital of the Incan empire, the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The city is situated in the Andes Mountains at 11,152 feet. This may lead you to believe that the Andes are comparable in height to our beautiful Rocky Mountains, but don’t let this fool you, Peru’s highest peak reaches over 22,000 feet. When arriving to Cusco, the first place to visit is Plaza del Armas. It is a beautiful Spanish style square in the center of the city surrounded by restaurants and hotels. Along the outside of the square is the Cusco Cathedral. Here you can see the influence that the Incan people had on the Spanish Catholic religion through things such religious artwork. I would recommend getting a guide who will be able to point out subtleties that are easily missed by an unguided tourist. If you are not feeling sick from the altitude, I would recommend driving a bit up the mountain to visit Saksaywaman, a military fort built to protect the Incan capital from invasion. It is noted for its large polished stones that perfectly fit together without mortar, something that to this day amazes and baffles archeologist and architects alike.
There is no way you can spend a day in the region without being offered coca tea, which is tea made from the raw leaves of the coca plant, which is also an ingredient in cocaine. The locals either drink the tea or chew on the leaves for the energy it gives them. It is also known to help tourists who are not accustomed to such high altitudes by curing altitude sickness.
If you are beginning to feel homesick for Boulder’s all-organic food, I would recommend checking out Greens Organic. It’s a great spot in Cusco known for their sandwiches and salads, perfect for lunch (http://www.cuscorestaurants.com/). If you are looking for cuisine that is truly unique and aren’t afraid to try something new, check out the restaurant, Kusikuy. This restaurant has great traditional Peruvian food but is known for having the best Cuy in Cusco. Cuy is a native dish of the region, guinea pig. If prepared well it is a surprisingly tasty dish. If the Cuy was still not enough, you must try Chicha, a fermented drink made from maize. What turns most people away from trying the beverage is that the maize is first chewed on, usually by the older woman of a family, and then spit out where it is left to ferment. Cuzco’s chicha is often infused with strawberries, something unique to the region. If I were to have to describe the taste of chicha I would compare it most closely to the flavor of Kombucha. The best way to find chicha is to look for small red flags above the entrances to houses in the region; this flag shows that they have chicha that is ready to be purchased.
Once you’ve gotten your fix of Cusco, it’s time to head off to Machu Picchu, an Incan site dating back to the 15th century. There are two ways to get to the site, first you can take a train to a small town at the base of the mountain and then hike or bus to the top, or if you’re feeling extra adventurous you can hike in on the Incan Trail. This is a four day hike and is the route that the Incan people took when traveling between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Unlike other Incan sites in the region, Machu Picchu was never found by the Spanish during their conquest and was therefore untouched until it was later discovered in 1911. Machu Picchu is truly breathtaking and an experience hard to put into words. It was ranked the top world attraction in TripAdvisor’s World Travel Awards 2013. It is truly a must see.
If you still have time in Peru after visiting Miraflores and Cuzco, you must visit the Amazon Rainforest. It is the world’s largest rainforest, is responsible for creating 60% of the world’s oxygen, and is the home to one in ten known species in the world. I was unable to make it to the Amazon while in Peru, but it is one of the many reasons I will be revisiting this amazing country.
Look for my his next post later this fall – Living Abroad: Cape Town, South Africa.