Sunday, November 30, 2014

Museum of Saint Catherine of Siena Convent in Cusco Peru

Woke up about eight o’clock this morning and found that Jim was up and down all night with stomach cramps; must have been that “regular” food that he ate last night at dinner.  Whatever, he was not feeling well and skipped breakfast and church.

I went out about ten o’clock and used the ATM machine to get enough local currency to pay our hotel bill when we leave on Tuesday and also picked up a coke for Jim and our last bottle of water we’ll need.   The Plaza was still very busy with political speeches and marching bands; crowds of people were over by the Cathedral.  Not sure how late it went last night but I’d think they’d be getting tired by now.

When I went back out at 11:15 am to walk to church, the plaza was completely cleared of all of the political activities and it was rather empty; but nice to not have firecrackers going off during Mass.  I attended the 11:30 am Mass in the Jesuit Cathedral.   It’s never crowded and other than not understanding the language; a pleasant experience.  The priest has to be in his eighties and stands at the altar throughout the entire Mass.  At communion time they help him down the three steps and a nun holds the chalice and hands the priest a host; he dips it in the wine that he holds and places it on the tongue of each person.    During consecration the priest suddenly stopped, looked out at the aisle near me and said very distinctly; “Senor, sit down.”  He said it twice and the gentlemen (a tourist I suspect) who was standing in the aisle slipped into my pew and sat down.  Soon he knelt like the rest of us and the Mass continued.  As soon as we all stood he hurriedly exited the church.   They tell you at the door that no tourists are allowed unless you are attending the Mass.

After Mass I walked over to find two Museums that we’d considered visiting today if Jim feels better.  The first one was Museo Machu Picchu Casa Concha.  This one is the one that houses most of the collection returned by Yale University in 2007; the building is also famous as it was the home of a famous man during the time of the conquistadors.   It was locked up tight today.  
The second one was the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, and we actually visited this later in the afternoon.   I also checked out a restaurant that our hotel manager Yury recommended.  It looks beautiful but the name is Greens Organic Restaurant.  The name alone implies a pricy menu.  We’ll probably pass and go to another one tonight.

I found Jim back in the hotel on his computer and feeling a bit better but not up to food yet.  We sat in the atrium and enjoyed a game of our favorite cards:  Hand and Foot.  Love the new rules that you have to have two clean and two dirty books before you can go out.  It makes the hand last longer.  I won today but barely; it was touch and go!   About 1:30 pm we heard ran on the skylight; it really pounded for about five minutes and then stopped.  Otherwise it has been a nice day except the weatherman has been predicting ninety percent rain every day.  So, we never leave the hotel without umbrellas, but it seldom rains; however we do see lots of black clouds.   We’ve been very fortunate during our visit with the weather as this is the beginning of their winter/rainy season.

About half past three we headed out the door to visit the Monasterio de Santa Catalina better known as the Museum of the Convent of Saint Catherine of Siena.    There are only a few remaining nuns in this convent and tourism is one of their sources of income.   They didn’t have many “no photo” signs up so I took advantage of that fact and it also helped that there was only one guard per floor.  This convent was established about four hundred years ago by a widow and her daughter who’d both taken religious orders.  They established their convent in an Inka Palace that was used to house royal single women who were celebrant for their entire life.   The choice of location was perfect.  

They had mannequins of nuns throughout the museum; sitting around the table at mealtime, sewing, praying and even one in the box where they put nuns when they died.  We entered through the workshop where they created beautiful garments and altar pieces for the churches.  There was even a tiny sewing machine that they worked by hand.  Then the grieving room for the dead. 

Next we viewed the Chapter Room where they held meetings.  The walls were covered by beautiful paintings.  Up the stairs we found the living area for the nuns.  First, the large refectory, then the sleeping area; small cubicles sectioned off with curtains.  Each area had a switch on the wall for corporal punishment if they felt they deserved it.  Across the room was a private washing area, again sectioned off with curtains.    There was a two room suite for the mother superior.   The last rooms that we visited were an art gallery that houses their many valuable paintings including three of their most valuable paintings from the seventeenth century by Diego Quispe Tito who is most representative of the Cusco School of Art.  Truly an enjoyable visit.

We enjoyed some people watching time on a bench in the Plaza until we had so many street vendors asking us to purchase their wares that we left; especially one who remembered us from yesterday.  She actually sat down on the bench next to use and we chatted.  She had another hour to work and then she would get on the van/bus to ride home to Chinchero (we’ve driven through her town four times on our bus trips last week) over half an hour away and then she has to walk up the hill to her home.  But, we still didn’t buy another beautifully carved gourd from her!   

Back in the hotel room we discussed dinner.  Jim still wasn’t up to par and I wasn’t that hungry, so we opted for a small box of Kentucky Fried Chicken for each about six o’clock.   I walked over and brought them back to the hotel where we enjoyed them while watching television shows in Spanish.  No..…they don’t give us English subtitles.   It’s an early evening for us. 

Thanks for joining our journey on the last few days.  We have a day and a half to go and then it’s off to the USA on Tuesday.    The slideshow has a few photos for you of the Museum that you’ll enjoy along with some of the Plaza throughout the day. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Inka Museum in Cusco

We slept in again this morning.   Jim is already worrying about the Christmas decorations that have to be put up after we arrive home next week.  It’s giving him sleepless nights.  Me….sleeping like a baby except for the scratching of my seventeen bites from Machu Picchu.   Jim doesn’t have a one!   If you go and are prone to bites remember to use lots of preventive lotion!

Our quest today was to visit the Inka Museum that is only a block up the hill off of the square.  We decided to play a game of Hand and Foot cards before going so it was after eleven o’clock before we left the hotel. 
Our wonderful clerk stood at the door and waved goodbye to us as we started off.
The first thing we noticed was that it was a beautiful cloudy day; and secondly that there was no traffic on the street!   We looked over to the Cathedral and saw hundreds of people attending a political rally.  We’d seen about ten vans full of people arriving last night with police escorts during our dinner; but later didn’t see anything happening.  I guess they all stayed the night in preparation for today’s event.  There is an election coming up soon and we’ve seen many posters and other events while we’ve been here but this is definitely the biggest yet!   Yury told us this evening that the election is scheduled for December 4th.

Soon we walked up the hill to the Inka Museum; the single lane street was void of traffic so that made the walk up easy.  The building has been there for many years.  There was a large photo of a professor visiting this same building back in 1925 so it’s been a museum for a long time.  Jim said that Hiram Bingham had removed many artifacts from Peru when he was here in the early twentieth century and they had remained at Yale University until 2007 when they was returned to Peru.  Many of these items are in this Museum.

The exhibit was very impressive and took us over an hour to visit.  Again, it was in a building with a central courtyard and I was allowed to take photos there.  Several artisans were busy in the courtyard with weaving and painting.    We purchased a very small gourd that had been carved by hand. 
We walked up to the small plaza where the expensive hotels are located to check out the restaurant that we tried to go to last night.  The clerk at the hotel said it was closed for remodeling.  But, while Jim checked that out I started viewing paintings by a young man who is in his fourth year of art school; they were beautiful and very tempting but we managed to break away and head back down towards the hotel where we played another game of cards while we caught our breath.   So the score today was even; we each won a game. 

Back to our room where we worked on our computers until 5:30 pm and then we went out for dinner.  We walked to the restaurant that Jim had found on Trip Advisor.  Oops….not open until 6:30 pm; that’s a first since we’ve arrived!

By this time we’d agreed that we’d really like to purchase a painting from the young artist that we’d met in the square this afternoon.  So up the hill we trudged and sure enough he was still there in the plaza with his paintings.   We chose a watercolor painting of a Peruvian village.  Back to the hotel where we were happy to see the manager Yury.   Had a nice talk with him and he assured me that I’d be able to eat a Cuy by myself.   As we were leaving there were fireworks being shot into the air along with the firecrackers in the plaza.  Lots of excitement and political speeches still be given in front of the Cathedral.  

Back to the SumaQcha Restaurant where we were greeted and shown to a table.   There the waiter explained that the whole Cuy would be brought out for photos and then taken back to the kitchen and prepared for me to eat.  Much like eating chicken; in fact they encouraged me to eat it with my fingers but I ended up using a knife and fork as it was easier.   Very tasty…I had it fried (Cuy Chactado) as that method was only half an hour to prepare; if it was baked it would take an hour as all Cuy is prepared fresh after it is ordered.   I had a stuffed green pepper that was breaded and baked along with several black Peruvian potatoes.   We shared a large beer and Jim enjoyed a plate of chicken and beef on skewers.

Delicious dinner and about double the price that we generally pay; the Cuy was S/60.00 (about $20.00) but it is the national delicacy of Peru and now I’ve enjoyed a meal of it while in Peru.   We decided to walk a bit and headed up one narrow shopping street and then back down in front of the Cathedral to watch the political rally that was still happening.   There were two old vehicles; both model A Fords from the 1920’s.   I managed to get a photo of one for the slideshow.

Back in the hotel by eight o’clock; I think this was our latest night out in Peru.  I hope you’ve enjoyed our day and below you’ll find the slideshow.  Remember…if you click on the slideshow it will take you to the larger version in Picasa.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Visiting Museums in Cusco

It’s nice to be back at the Inca Wasi Hotel in Cusco.  We slept until 8:30 am and barely made it down to breakfast before they stopped serving.  It’s going to be a slow and relaxing day for us.  Time to recuperate from our adventure at Machu Picchu.

By ten o’clock we were out the door to visit two Museums that are on our Tourist Pass and both are located with two blocks of the hotel.  Our first stop was at the Cusco City Hall.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is located on two floors in various rooms along with their meeting rooms and offices.   We were allowed to take as many photos as we wanted; what an unusual event!  We were surrounded by groups of school children but you’ll enjoy the photos of the hacienda style building with the inner court that all of the rooms are off of.  

Our next Museum was the Museum of Regional History.   No photos, but I took a couple for you.  This was very historical art and artifacts.  One of the artist who’s work was displayed is also known as the Peruvian Michaelangelo:  Aloisio Bernardo Joan Democrito Bitti who lived from 1548 – 1610.  He was an Italian priest who came to Peru and stayed.  

A quote was printed on one wall that I took a photo of so that we could pass it on to you as it is so beautiful.  It was written by Mario Vargas Llosa – Peruvian, Noble Prize in Literature 2010
                “Museums are as necessary for countries as schools and hospitals….They also heal,
                not bodies, but minds of darkness that is ignorance, prejudice, superstition and
                all the defects that isolate human beings from one another, and fester them and
                push to kill themselves.  Museums….they sharp the sensibility, stimulate the
                imagination, refine the sentiments, and wake up people in the critical and self-critical
                spirit.  Progress does not only mean many schools, hospitals and roads.  Also and
                maybe, above all, the wisdom that makes us capable of differentiating the ugly from
                the beautiful, the intelligent from the stupid, the good from the bad and the tolerable of
                the intolerable, that we call culture.”

It was about noon when we walked slowly back to the hotel.  Stopped at an ATM to get enough cash for the balance of our trip.  Then into the hotel where we enjoyed several hours of playing our favorite card game Hand & Foot.    We’d played one hand last Monday which I’d won; we continued that game and Jim beat me by thousands of points.  But he agreed to a second game and I reversed the trend and did the same to him.  The ladies at the front desk brought us a plate of delicious chocolates while we played cards in the atrium.  

We’re in the room now catching up on computer work and plan to eat dinner tonight at a lovely restaurant that gets rave reviews and is located on the Plaza.  I’ll let you know when we get back how good it is before I close the journal for today.

Jim found another restaurant close by but a short walk uphill that sounded really good.    We walked uphill for about three blocks and found two Museums to go to tomorrow along the way.  We also found some five star hotels.  But the restaurant was closed.  We’ll have to check tomorrow to see if it’s open.  So we resorted to our original plan and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at El Meson de Espaderos overlooking the Plaza.  While we ate there was a political parade around the Plaza that added some spice to the evening.   Great food and nice d├ęcor; always nice to see cloth napkins on the tables.   We each had a beer, shared a plate of blood sausage and fries then we each had a bowl of soup.  It has looked like rain all evening but we made it back to the hotel without opening the umbrellas.  

While walking home I snapped a photo of this sign in an expensive shop: Black Friday....shades of America have arrived in Peru!

Another day is over and we’re enjoying an HBO movie with Spanish subtitles right now.   Not sure of the name but it’s funny. 

Thanks for sharing our day and it’s a small slideshow tonight.