McCann Travels: 7 Days in Peru with Amadeo Plaza, Strategy Director
My wife and I believe quality time sans-child is critical in maintaining our identities as adults, not just parents. So, with that in mind, we strive to keep our tradition of one blowout international trip every year. This year, that trip was to Peru.
You’re probably thinking: You hiked Machu Picchu!? While that’s true, we did not hike the 3-day Inca Trail. It’s also not where our journey began. We started in Lima. Which, I’m sorry to say, didn’t impress me. Mainly because it felt more congested than New York, which is hard to beat. There was also an obnoxious misty cloud hanging over the city called la garúa. Apparently because of this climatic phenomenon, Lima actually gets less sunlight per year than London. No bueno.
Nevertheless, the stopover in Lima was worth it if for no other reason than to visit the McCann Lima office, where I met Rodrigo Revoredo, the head of strategy there (thanks, Suzanne). Fun fact: He produces reggaetón on the side. I will say, however, the few restaurants we ate at in Lima were top notch, as were the art museums and street murals. There are also some hip neighborhoods, like Miraflores and Barranco, that are great to just walk around in. They felt like a cross between SoHo and Miami. Humidity included.
Following Lima, we were off for Cusco and The Sacred Valley. The capital of the Inca Empire. After a short flight over the Andes Mountains, we were dropped into a world completely unlike the international metropolis that has come to define Lima. The people there weren’t just Peruvian, they were Andean; and unapologetic about the distinction. I loved everything about it. The people. The pride. The friends we made. And I admit, the hotel was pretty dope (J.W. Marriott El Convento), which made our stay all the better. Humble brag: We got to stay in the most coveted suite, which is nearly entirely enclosed by original Inca walls! I even ate fancy cutlets of cuy (Guinea pig) over parmesan puree. Tastes like chicken.
What was especially satisfying was the timing of our stay. We spent a couple of days in Cusco before heading to Aguas Calientes — a.k.a. Machu Picchu Pueblo — and were lucky enough to witness the Corpus Christi festival. One of the most important religious processions of the year. Streets were blocked. Statues were raised. Dances were danced. It was quite a sight.
After a couple of days in Cusco — which is advisable in order to adjust to the altitude — we made our way to Aguas Calientes, where our journey to Machu Picchu began. We spent a day and a half exploring the famous Incan citadel, testing the strength of our legs as we hiked through schizophrenic weather that kept fluctuating between sunshine and downpour. The elements didn’t stop us from hitting up the major ancillary sights including the Inca Bridge, Sun Gate, Huayna Picchu, and the immensely difficult-to-access Temple of the Moon.
After returning to Cusco, we celebrated a successful mountain excursion with our highly anticipated tasting-menu lunch at the newly opened Mil, by Virgilio Martínez of Central-fame. Chef’s Table fans know what I’m talking about. The remotely located restaurant is set against a gorgeous backdrop of the Moray Inca ruins, which was the birthplace of Martínez’s interest in elevation-based dishes. I can say without hesitation that it was the most interesting dining experience I’ve ever had; from the setting to the dishes themselves, which included more varieties of potato and corn than I ever knew existed.
We wrapped our trip up with a jaunt to the famous salt ponds of Maras, a long layover in Lima, and a weekend beachside in Fort Lauderdale. That last leg of the trip may seem random, but spend two weeks landlocked while on vacation in a country you didn’t realize was entering winter, and you too will be scrambling for warm water and sunshine.
There’s a lot of world to see, and while we may not be racing back to Peru in the near-term, it opened our eyes to an abundance of amazing destinations in Latin America that are just as rich in culture and history as any country in Europe. We were actually driven to Peru, in part, by John Leguizamo’s Broadway play “Latin History for Morons.” Being Hispanic, I’m shamefully aware of how little I know about the history of my heritage. But by broadening my purview of places to immerse myself in, I can slowly fix that. Whether you share in my shame or not, Latin American countries should be at, or near, the top of your travel list. And among those, Peru.