Cusco (March 26, 2008)

While Kevin was busy presenting at the conference, Melissa, Roger and Marjorie spend the day discovering the many wonderful sites in the city of Cusco. Cusco is the ancient Inca capital and it has lots a great sites in the city and all around it. We started our day at Qoricancha (also spelt Koricancha) or the Temple of the Sun. Inside the walls of the Catholic church are the remains of what was once the centre of the Inca Capital. It was filled with such fabulous treasures of gold and silver it took the Spanish conquistadors three months to melt it all down. It contained life size gold sculptures of men, women, children, animals and flowers. On the walls were more than 700 gold sheets weighing about 2 kg each! When the Spaniards arrived, the complex was awarded to Juan Pizarro, the brother of Fransisco Pizarro who was the conqueror of the Inca empire and the founder of Lima. Juan Pizarro in turn willed it to the Dominicans who ripped much of it down to build their church.

We visited the cloister and church and the remains of the temple. It also had a great garden in the back. After the visit, we went for lunch at a very nice spot called El Encuentro. Once again the menu was so cheap for so much food!

Afterwards, we went to the Plaza de Armas. We went to visit the cathedral which was very impressive. Beautiful altars, paintings and silver pieces. There are two important paintings: one is the oldest surviving painting in Cusco depicting the 1650 earthquake. The other one is a local painting of the Last Supper. The food on the table is local, with local fruits, local roasted rodent, and Chicha, the local drink. In the church, there is also a Christ that looks black. It is El Senor de Los Temblores, The Lord of the Earthquakes, who is being paraded through the main square the first day of the Holy Week every year. He is black because of the flames of the candles through the procession (so we were told). The choir was also amazingly sculpted with 80 saints and virgins.

Next we went to the church La Compania de Jesus which is on the other side of the street. Another beautiful church with an altar made of gold leafs. We actually took a guided tour and it was very interesting. She pointed out to us how the indigenous artists added their own intricacies based on their own beliefs in the many sculptures and paintings. We went up to the top and had a great view of the Plaza.

Since we weren’t yet churched out, we went next to the church of La Merced and visited the monastery and the museum. It had a beautiful cloister and nice paintings. The most amazing thing though was a gold montrance that is 1.3 m high and 22 kg incrusted with hundreds of diamonds and pearls. It was amazing, we were in total awe. It is crowned by an immense siren-shaped pearl, which is considered the second largest in the world . The guide had to get us out the room, we just could not stop looking at it.

We then had to go buy a tourist ticket to go visit ruins the next day. Since it was where we had to buy our tickets we did a quick tour of the Museum of Contemporary Arts which was really cool. All is all it was a busy day of seeing so many beautiful things, our head was spinning.

We met up with Kevin and went with him to an event from the conference. It was an exposition of photos on potatoes. It was great with beautiful pictures (plus the free cocktails :-)). Kevin’s thesis supervisor and wife highly recommended a restaurant called Map Cafe. We decided to go try it and were not disappointed!!! It is found in the Museo de Arte Precolombino. It is actually in the courtyard of the museum. The restaurant is housed in a glass and metal square box which in itself was very cool. The food and the service was just as amazing and unique as the setup. While it was certainly expensive for Peru it was still much cheaper that what an equivalent restaurant would be in Canada. It was a great way to celebrate Kevin finishing the “work” part of the trip.

After supper, we walked home and got another great night’s sleep. Kevin was presenting at the conference the next day and we were all tired from a very busy day.

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