Published on June 18th, 2013 | by admin
My Cusco: Peru Travel Tips from Paul Jones, Totally Latin America
The historic city of Cusco, Peru (also spelled “Cuzco”) is a popular stop for travelers en route to Machu Picchu. But Cusco — once an important hub for the Incan empire and now one of South America’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites — is much more than just a stopover. No one knows this better than Paul Jones, who is originally from Bristol, England, and has lived in Cusco for seven years, married to a local Cusqueñan.
As managing director of Totally Latin America, a travel agency that specializes in Peru vacation packages, Jones is adept at finding the best of every destination. And he has lots of personal favorite Cusco travel tips — as well as interesting insight into what it’s like to live there (and how to make a good impression on the locals).
What do you like best about living in Cusco?
I have been living in Cusco for about seven years now. I first came here as a humble backpacker in July 2006 and essentially never left. Cusco is quite a strange city, like no other I have ever visited. The historic center, with its mix of Colonial Spanish and Inca architecture, is very unique. Although Cusco is considered a city, by most western standards it’s really just a big town that has expanded a lot. It’s a place where you get to know people like the locals, bar and restaurant owners etc. — far different from my home country, the U.K.
What’s the biggest challenge about living in Cusco?
There are many challenges about living in Cusco, where do I start! The biggest challenge is probably bureaucracy. You need to have a lot of patience, time and inner strength. I remember getting all the paperwork in order for my marriage to my Peruvian wife. It took almost three weeks to get things in order, only getting the final permission from the local council three days before the day of the wedding. It was worrying times. Time-keeping is another challenge here. La hora Peruana (Peruvian time) is a commonly used phrase in Cusco, meaning they’ll probably turn up sometime. A great example of this was my wedding, when the majority of my in-laws turned up after we’d actually finished the ceremony.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in Cusco?
Cicciolina’s (Calle Triunfo) is probably my favorite restaurant. It has great food, a tapas bar and a comprehensive wine list. However, what I like most about this eatery is it has vibrant yet incredibly relaxing atmosphere. Señor Carbon is another favorite of mine. Located in the district of Magisterio (10 minutes in taxi from the colonial center), the restaurant is a Brazilian-style rodizio restaurant. Over the course of a few hours, waiters bring a selection of different meats to your table, cutting you off a piece at a time. It’s superb value for the money, and great for passing a few hours with friends and family.
When you’re not working, what’s your idea of a perfect day in Cusco?
On the occasions that I find myself with a day free, I like to spend it with my family out in the Sacred Valley. In the southern part of the Sacred Valley there is a small village called Lucre, which is famous for its freshly made creamy desserts. The village also has a traditional but up-market Quinta (a countryside restaurant), which is set in a large orchard garden. It’s a wonderful place to relax and spend a few hours eating great food, before heading off to sample some desserts.
What are the biggest misperceptions that foreigners have about Cusco?
The biggest misperception that most foreigners have about Cusco is that it’s dangerous. For me, Cusco is probably one of the safest places in all of South America. Of course, as with any city you should always be conscious of your surroundings, but not once have I ever felt unsafe in Cusco. Another misperception is that Cusco is only really for backpackers. On the contrary, the city actually has some of the finest luxury hotels in the continent. Take for example the Monasterio Hotel, an historic monument and Icon in Cusco [also a member of Orient-Express Hotels and Leading Hotels of the World], or La Casona, a deluxe, 11-suite colonial house [part of the Inkaterra group and a member of Relais & Chateaux] where rock stars like Bono and Mick Jagger stayed on their recent visits to the city.
Any Peru culture tips to share? What’s the best way for a foreigner to make a good impression on a born-and-raised Cusqueñan?
First, you need to greet a Cusqueñan properly, with a good handshake (for the men) and a gentle kiss on the right cheek for the women. Remember that Peru is a Catholic country, and locals are generally more reserved than you might think. Always talk with courtesy and respect, and when speaking to anyone older than yourself and use the words señor or señora when addressing them. Also, sharing your beer with any Cusqueñan is more than likely going to score you quite a few points. Of course, if a Cusqueñan barges in front of you at a cash register in a shop (very common), feel free to say anything you like.
More info about Totally Latin America: www.totallylatinamerica.com or toll-free 855-217-9045.