Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Week in Peru

El Palacio del Gobierno
Hi everyone! It's been a while since I posted last, but that's because I've been traveling South America! I won't write about everything that I've done and seen in one post, because that would be an insanely long thing for me to write and for you all to read in one sitting.

La Catedral de Lima

The capital of Peru, Lima was the first stop for me and the other three GV study abroad students, Hayley, Kristin, and Emily. We flew in on Thanksgiving Day and spent the next day exploring the city. We started with the Plaza de Armas, or the city's main square, and saw El Palacio del Gobierno, or the Government Palace, and la Catedral de Lima, or the Lima Cathedral. These buildings were so massive and beautiful, and still retain the early colonial style in their architecture. 

The band!

One of the coolest parts of the Government Palace is that there are guards stationed in front all day long, and every noon hour there is the Changing of the Guard. We watched the majority of this ceremony, complete with a band, heralding trumpets, and lots of high-stepping... I was quite impressed by the ability of the guards to get their legs up that high, and I can't imagine doing that every single day without fail in all types of weather. It was rather impressive.

In front of 
El Convento de San Francisco
We also visited el Convento de San Francisco, or the Monastery of San Francisco. We toured the building and had the opportunity to learn more about the history of this beautiful church and see the ancient books in its original library --- as a book nerd, this was pretty awesome for me (: Then... we went into real catacombs! The catacombs under the church was the only burial ground until a cemetery was founded in the 1800s. Over 70,000 burials have been discovered in the crypts and ossuaries there, and many of the bones that have survived, mainly femurs and skulls, have been sorted into massive bins and lie neatly side-by-side to save space. We even saw a few full skeletons as well during the tour, which was pretty cool to me. It's so fascinating to compare views of death across the centuries and see how different cultures treat their dead.
Pretty ceiling

We also poked around Lima's Casa de Literatura Peruana, or House of Peruvian Literature. The building used to be Lima's train station, but in 2009 the station was remodeled and opened to showcase Peruvian literature. There are separate rooms filled with books and magazines sorted by theme just like a library, and an outside area overlooking the old train tracks to sit and read. I particularly loved the stained glass ceilings that allowed natural light to fill the station.

At el Parque de la Reserva
By far the best part of our trip to Lima was El Parque de la Reserva, or the Park of the Reserve, which is home to the world's largest fountain complex, El Circuito Mágico del Agua. Huge and intricate fountains fill the park, and after darkness falls there are light and music shows to accompany the fountains. 

There's a little area of fountains for kids, a huge pool with fountains for the nightly shows, a tunnel of water, and, my personal favorite, a challenge fountain where you try to make it to the middle without getting wet. I made it to the middle, but I will admit that I wasn't dry when I got there :P to see what I'm talking about, check out 1:12 in this video. It was such a beautiful park, and I absolutely adored every minute of our nighttime visit to this whimsical spot.
Emily and me in the Tunnel of Water!

The Peruvian flag and the Cusco flag
After our brief stint in Lima, on Saturday we flew to Cusco, Peru. I loved this city, which was the capital of the Inca Empire before the Spanish Conquest, and for its historical significance had a totally different atmosphere than Lima, much more rustic than the industrialized capital. The Peruvian culture was displayed so prominently there --- mostly for touristic benefit, I know --- and it was just incredible to see the remnants of history that have withstood the tests of time and man. 
La Catedral de Santo Domingo

On our first night we explored the city and planned out the remainder of our time in Peru. We went to the Plaza de Armas and watched the sun set over the clay-colored rooftops, and admired the beautiful cathedrals and churches that bordered the square. 

Me and the 12-Angle Rock
On Sunday we wandered further through the city in search of a few landmarks and things to see. We meandered down the ancient streets and the Inca Wall, a portion of the old city wall that still stands today. We found the 12-Angle Rock, and marveled that the wall hadn't been destroyed after earthquakes or the conquest. 

We witnessed a town celebration in the Plaza de Armas, then visited a museum filled with pre-Colombian art. It amazed me to see so much intricate detail in these pieces, and the thought and care that was put into each work is astounding. 

There were pieces on nature, on deities, on people, ancient jewelry and pottery, and religious items. Being the dork that I am, I was rather excited to find so many pieces about my favorite animals --- owls!
Lunchtime show!

During our lunch of typical Peruvian food (which is delicious, I can assure you), we had the opportunity to watch a couple of shows featuring traditional dancers in flashy garb. It was really neat to see the stories played out through the dances and enjoy the upbeat music accompanying the shows. 

A view of the convent and courtyard --- see the
difference in Inca vs.  Spanish construction?

Afterwards, we visited El Convento de Santo Domingo, which was built on top of the Inca palace and temple Qurikancha. Inside of the convent and outside still stand some sections of the Inca foundation, huge dark stones cut to fit together perfectly without any type of mortar. These walls were built to be earthquake-resistant, and have survived devastating earthquakes that leveled the Spanish portions made with small brown stones and heaps of mortar --- the Incas were incredibly intelligent and advanced in comparison to the conquistadors. I loved seeing the contrast between the manners of building, and marveled at the Incas' constructions' durability. 

On our last day in Cusco, after our trip to Machu Picchu, we visited El Monasterio de Santa Catalina, another convent that still is in use today --- we could hear the nuns reciting litanies and singing through the walls --- and learned about the life of the women that sequestered themselves within its walls. Ironically, this convent was also built on the site of a type of Inca convent for the chosen Virgins of the Sun. 

Successful shopping!
After touring the museum portion of the convent, we went to Cusco's market, which was a massive indoor complex filled with rows upon rows of stalls selling beautiful Peruvian handicrafts. I loved all of the colors and patterns that we found in Peru --- I have the best Christmas presents to give this year! After a full week in Peru, we flew out of Cusco and headed to our next stop: Argentina!

I absolutely loved Peru --- the history, the landscape, the culture, the colors. I am extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to travel and see more of God's beautiful creation in this gorgeous country. I really want to go back to further experience and explore Peru, and I hope to in the future.

That's all I'm writing for now! I know that some of you are wondering "But... what about Machu Picchu?!?" Fear not! My next post will be entirely devoted to my visit to this breathtaking site, so you'll all just have to wait a little longer (:

Thank you all for reading and for thinking of me! I will be back in the States in a week!

Love from Chile,


Ordering Thanksgiving dinner! No turkey for us
La Casa de Literatura Peruana
Outside of the Government Palace
The biggest fountain the in park!
Another view of the Cathedral de Santo Domingo
Map of the Inca's Cusco
The courtyard behind el Convento de Santo Domingo
--- it used to be an Inca courtyard as well
My favorite Peruvian dish --- aji de gallina
A monument for the Inca founders
Ancient Inca street next to the Inca Wall
Tortilla de vegetales omnomnom
I loved the colors so much!


  1. Looks and sounds wonderful Gail! Peru is definitely on my list of places to visit. Will you be back in Chile after Christmas??

    1. Hi Cara! I'll be back in the States after Christmas. And you should definitely go to Peru, it's fantastic!

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