Cusco- The Inka Museum & Qorikancha

Cusco Day 3- The Museums  
Following our EPIC riding tour in the morning, we still had an afternoon to play in Cusco and plenty still to see. What better way to polish our time off than with a trip to the Inka Museum and Qorikancha ruins.

First up was lunch at Ceviche in the Plaza de Armas. I’d never had Ceviche before but I am a fan of seafood and this restaurant brought the sea themes. The staff were the best and friendliest at any restaurant we visited. I got a delicious mint lemonade and roasted red pepper pasta (trying to remain frugal and not fully committed to trying Ceviche yet) While I didn’t try any of their seafood, the group did and said it was great, and the restaurant was beautiful!

After lunch we headed to the Inka Museum which I’d read was a little let downish but if you appreciate history and pottery, I think you will enjoy it. We breezed through most of it- reading what captions they did have in English. I loved learning about the different regions the Incas lived in, the types of food they ate in each location, and interesting pottery they made. 
The best part however was definitely the mummies. After visiting the Sacred Valley the day before and seeing some of the alcoves mummies were worshiped in, and learning about how cared for the mummies were, it was fascinating to see some! (even if they are in a dimly lit room behind a protective wall you have to peer through windows into) Like the cathedrals, the museum was a no photo zone so all I got was the one photo at the entrance! At only $3 it’s a quick (at your pace) interesting stop.
The museum is an easy walk from the Plaza de Armas. (no taxi needed) 
Inca Museum General Information:  
Mon-Fri 8AM-6PM
Saturday: 9AM-4PM
Closed Sunday
Cost: 10s ($3)
The Koricancha as seen from the solar garden (by the street)
After, we headed to the Temple of the Sun- the Koricancha – which was my favorite building in Cusco. It’s a nice walk from the Plaza de Armas or Inca Museum so no taxi needed. The cathedral next to it is free to visit, but as the Koricancha is a type of museum, it also cost $3 to visit. Luckily most of the building was photographable because it was SO cool. 

About the Qorikancha
Originally, this building was dedicated to the highest of Inca dieties: the Inti or Sun and was built with the highest level of stone masonry the Incas used- interlocking boulders, free of any imperfections, and fitted together using the lego style with no mortar. They also built the layout in a way to resemble what they were worshipping with the temple with sunrays moving out from a central point. The temple housed mummies and so much gold, the name of the building still reflects it, Qori = worked gold and kancha = enclosed or building. While none of the gold remains and barely any of the walls, the foundations still stand the test of time. 
The Spanish built the Convent of Santo Domingo directly on top of it encompassing the walls of the temple and building a cathedral adjacent to it. It was pretty insane to walk into what looks like a convent on the outside and see the inner courtyard to match, then look to the side and see Inca walls and ceremonial rooms. You can walk around the rooms, or go out on the stone balconies to look down at the Solar garden (another amazing viewpoint for the building) Some of the convent rooms house more artifacts and pottery, and some of the stone walls still show the etched designs from the Inca times. 
An example of the “lego” stone pieces that were used for building the Temple of the Sun. 
The inner courtyard of the convent
Another view of all inner courtyard for this massive convent 
The Temple of the sun on the inside of the convent
Looking out one of the balconies at the solar garden
The inner courtyard from the 2nd floor
Continuing upstairs is neat as this is one of the few cathedrals from  where you can gain access to the choir balcony (though again no photos are allowed as it is part of the museum) Once I explored the convent and ruins, I visited the cathedral and met up with my friends outside so we could walk back. 
Awesome views of the Cusco hillside from the 2nd floor of the Convent
Qorikancha General Information:
Museum Hours:
Monday-Saturday 8:30AM – 5:30 PM
Sunday: 12:00 PM-5:00 PM
Adult Price: 15s ($4.5)
Child Price: 5s ($1.50)
Church of Santo Domingo Hours
Monday- Saturday: 7AM-7:30 PM
Sunday: 7AM-11AM and 6PM to 8:30PM 
Cost: Free
Mass: 7AM, 6:30PM, 7:30PM (Sunday only) no tourists allowed at these times 
It was about a 20 minute walk back to our apartment where we had just enough time to shower and change into warm clothes. (Seriously gets so cold in Cusco at night) At 6 we had a meet and greet/ debriefing with our trekking company to meet our tour guide and fell hikers. The office for Salkantay Trekking was a little confusing as it is on the 2nd floor of a market space. Once there, tons of guides came over to check if we were on their team. Finally we found our guide and were taken to a smaller room to sign our waivers and find out more info on the trek. The guide gave us a map and told us details on how long each section of trekking would take, where we’d get our meals, start times for each day, extras, etc. The best part of the evening was our guide’s side hustle- renting out his own trekking poles for 20s cheaper than the company rents them. (Carlos you will never live that down) We were all pretty happy to save some money, so we decided to just rent from him

A little bit of a walk back to our apartment but a cool one nonetheless. 
More beautiful lighting from sunset on our terrace in the airbnb. 
All in all, it took around 1.5 hours before we were released to go find our dinner, pack the things we wanted for our trek in our provided duffles, and head to bed. Carlos (guide) recommended a restaurant nearby called Pachappa which was very busy and for good reason. It had a beautiful outdoor eating area with lamps and space heaters and cozy tables inside. We didn’t have a reservation, so we took what table they gave us. I got lemongass lemonade here which was really good and some steak (also good) Service was slow though so we didn’t even get back to our apartment until almost 10. We packed in a fury preparing for our early start (3:30 wake up) the next day. 
Awesome time in Cusco (particularly riding) But the journey was just getting started
Cusco Day 3 Costs: 
Breakfast at Cusco Plaza Hostel Buffet  $10
Horseback riding tour $65 
Tour tip $4.5
Inka Museum $3
Lunch at Ceviche $15
Museum $4.50
Dinner at Pachapapa  $17.30
Airbnb $45 – $11.25 pp

Day 3 Total: $132.16

Exploring Cusco- Plaza de Armas

I literally can’t read Cusco without singing it in my head exactly as it is sung in the Emperor’s New Groove. ( In fact I quotes/ sung a lot of parts from that movie throughout this trip)  Peru has been on my bucketlist for quite some time- specifically to do the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, but due to cost of flights and time off needed, this was the first year I was able to make this trip happen! And it all started when a coworker told me how he and his wife booked the Salkantay Trek. – Obviously I couldn’t let them have all the fun. So after researching a bit more, I found a SUPER reasonable tour and decided the flight prices were good enough to go ahead and book it. And here we are. 

After a 13 hour layover in Fort Lauderdale, and another couple hours in Lima- We literally had the earliest flight  we could get of the day from Lima to Cusco getting in at 5:45 in the morning. Let me start off by warning everyone that the Cusco airport is NOT heated and keeps their windows open so it is QUITE cold getting in that early. As soon as our bags came off the carousel we were layering up- hitting up the ATM- and then looking for a taxi. We paid more than we needed to I’m sure but overall, the cost of the $20 cab ride for 30 minutes to our Airbnb didn’t phase us at that point. We just wanted to settle in. 
We got to our Airbnb MUCH quicker than anticipated at 6:15 AM (thanks lack of traffic) and luckily our host was already on their way to meet us to let us into the apartment at 6:30! What a super host. He showed us around, pointing out how to use the electric heater for the shower as well as the mobile propane heater to warm the place up. We had an entire apartment to ourselves and it was awesome! There were 2 rooms, 1 with 3 twin beds, 1 with a double bed, a living room, kitchen, and my favorite: This terrace. 
It had awesome views out to the cathedrals in Plaza de Armas and the hillsides of Cusco. The place also had a washing machine so we could hang our clothes to dry in this little area.
Want to book this apartment? Click here

We thought about napping but looking out at the morning light convinced us we’d rather explore the main square (5 minutes by walking from the Airbnb) before the heat and crowds of the day.
Details along the street our apartment was on 
Our street! 
The sun coming up over the Plaza de Armas in view from our street
A view from our terrace 
More apartment views 🙂 
Walking down the street to the main plaza with the early morning light 
We walked around the square peaking in at the cathedrals hoping to explore them a bit more: but always seemed to have the worst timing as we’d be there during Mass. 
We did luckily get a glimpse into the Cusco Cathedral as the main front doors were thrown open in preparation for said mass- as well as getting ready for the big parade. (more on that later)

About The Cusco Cathedral
As far as cathedrals go- this one has QUITE the history in stone work. While we never made it inside, it’s important to meander to it in Plaza de Armas to appreciate the stone work and get your first sense of how the Spanish conquered the Incas. Finished in 1654- it took almost 100 years to construct and is a prime example of the Spaniards dominating the Incan culture. The smaller adjacent church, Iglesia del Triunfo (Chuch of Triumph) was the first church built in the Andes.  The location for the cathedral was specifically chosen as it was started only 26 years after the conquistadores entered Cusco and is built directly on the foundation of the Inca palace Kiswarkancha (the ruler’s palace). The majority of the stones for the building were taken from nearby Inca temple Sascayhuaman which remains largely in tact from its massive size. 
*Important to note : the cathedral is not open to tourists during Mass, no photos are allowed to be taken inside, and it costs 10 soles ($3) to enter.  *
An impressive facade! 
After meandering around the plaza, we grabbed breakfast from a hotel/café on the corner of the main square- enjoying the buffet of options and the view of the main square from the balcony. After breakfast and purchasing some paintings from a street hawker, we headed back for that nap
Unbeknownst to us, that Saturday was the first day in a month long celebration of Cusco! Every morning on the weekends, a cannon was fired on the hour and a parade with performances graced the streets.  We watched for a minute before heading back thinking to catch it another day when we would be less tired. (sadly not to be with our tour schedule the way it was) 
We spent a few hours resting at the apartment (and by a few, I mean the afternoon haha) and by the time we got up it was time for an early dinner/ late lunch. We found a restaurant 2 seconds from our front door that served traditional Peruvian fare and had good reviews. 
Wasting absolutely NO time on getting into the cultural foods- we celebrated our first day in Peru with Cuy – guinea pig as well as alpaca! The cuy was most similar to duck or rabbit- thin slivers of dark/ greasy meat with a very crunchy skin. (I wasn’t a huge fan but then, I’m not a fan of the other 2 either) The alpaca I ordered was good- most similar to a flank of very tender steak and with a yummy creamed quinoa sauce. I also started a trend of ordering banana milkshakes with my meal as for some reason- that always helped tame the headache I had from altitude during the dinner. 

A Note on Cuy

After learning about the traditions of eating guinea pigs, something they have done in the Andes for over 5,000 years, I wasn’t as shocked as I thought I would be. I was glad I didn’t order it- I just sampled some, but understanding that it is something they have ate for so long, eat at celebrations like Christmas and the like, made it easier for me to compartmentalize and not condone a culture that is not my own. Yes I’ve had guinea pigs as pets, and NO if I’d held one earlier in the day, I’d likely not have been able to eat one. BUT that being said- if you can try it, I recommend you do. It was quite the cultural experience. 
** Also it’s so ingrained in the culture, the cathedrals in Peru literally placed Cuy as the main dish in the Last Supper paintings. Not kidding – 
The alpaca and creamed quinoa I had for my dinner
After dinner, we headed up the stairs to get a great view over Cusco before meandering down through little streets to shop. We revisited the Plaza de Armas which under lamp light was so beautiful! We posed for a photo with some baby alpacas which I was absolutely obsessed with. *Warning it cost us 10s ($3) each to take the photo/ hold the alpaca. The women in charge of it were not playing around. We meandered down near the massive San Pedro market which appeared to be closing up at the time, and visited a grocery market for next day’s breakfast before heading back to the apartment to try and get another night’s sleep. 
Overall it was a solid first day trying Peruvian cuisine, admiring the architecture in the Plaza de Armas, shopping, and getting caught up on some sleep after 31 hours. It also would turn into a good day to acclimatize before further adventures the next couple of days. 
Exploring Cusco’s narrow streets 
Sunset on the city’s hillsides 
Cusco by lamplight 
A Note on Altitude Sickness
Everyone reacts to high altitude differently- you can be in seriously amazing shape and suffer from it- or (such as myself) in decent hiking shape and still experience it. From experience I know that I can breathe fine at 11,000+ feet and don’t really feel nausea, but can experience headaches… 
WELL headaches it was. Cusco sits right around 11,000 feet and only a few hours into our stay my headaches started flaring up. I did try to drink water (which I’m normally terrible at when travelling)  and also tried the tea (which I liked) but neither of those things really helped. Sadly advil/ ibuprofen only dulled the ache without ever really getting rid of it. SO with that being said- unless you are taking Diamox (high altitude sickness medicine) you really SHOULD plan a few days to chill/ explore Cusco BEFORE your trek – JUST IN CASE to acclimate. It definitely would’ve sucked having to hike with my head feeling ready to explode- especially considering our first camp was around 12000 feet. The other unexpected part of altitude sickness was inability to sleep. I’m already a terrible/ picky sleeper but the altitude wreaked havoc for me as well. So moral of the story: plan a couple days pre-trek or take Diamox if you don’t have enough PTO to make an 8 day trip like we did. 
Luckily after 3 days- the headache evaporated just as we began our trek. (Though I still struggled to get more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep)

Costs for the day
Taxi from Airport to Airbnb $22 – $5.5 pp
Breakfast at Cusco Plaza Hostel Buffet  $10
Water jug and laundry soap $4.75 – $1.7 pp
Dinner at Kusikuy Restaurant $15
Groceries $10
Airbnb $45 – $11.25 pp
Total: $38pp

Visiting the COOLEST Connecticut history sites

OK Time for the ULTIMATE CONNECTICUT HISTORY SITE TOUR! First stop: The Nautilus Submarine Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

I kid you not, this is one of the coolest museums out there. (AND IT IS FREE!!!!)
Hours of operation: everyday 9-5, closed Tuesdays.
They WILL kick you off the property by 5:15. haha

As the sub part of the museum closes a bit earlier than the museum, we hit that up first.

They have a 20-30 minute audio tour that guides you around the sub. We didn’t have to ask “Permission to come aboard” 
Tight quarters, steep ladders, and tight spacers. Do NOT recommend wearing a dress or flipflops. (My dad taught me well so you know I was in my closed toed shoes) 
Back on top with the “Don’t tread on me” flag. 
The entrance to the museum. I LOVE the contrast of the smallest sub vs. the largest marking the gateway to the museum. 

Overall AMAZING museum for history on the Nautilus as well as Navy Submarine uses. They have family friendly activities including being able to look through a periscope to see real time “outside the museum” as you turn in different directions.
Left: a crazy “bomb” planter that people would literally pedal to power and would use to put explosives on the ocean floor.

Nautilus cool history: One of the first subs to be powered by Nuclear energy (as opposed to Diesel fuel) which allowed her to travel far greater distances submerged under water and at faster speeds. She broke quite a few records in her day, most notably as being the first sub to make a submerged transit of the North Pole in 1958.

For those not cool with the confined spaces on the sub, there is a lovely model in the museum with explanations of the various sub compartments. You can get a pretty good idea of what life was like on the Nautilus without having to step foot on it. 

From Groton we headed across the water to Fort Trumbull in New London. Looking back across you can see General Dynamics (manufactures submarines!) 

Fort Trumbull was a HUGE fort that I bet would be SUPER cool to explore, but alas we were there before it opened for the year.
Hours of operation: Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm from May 21 through Labor Day. For entrance to the visitor center museum and for fort tours, there is a fee. 

The fort is considered a state park however and you are still able to walk around and enjoy the beautiful outside walls and ocean views FOR FREE!  The park itself is open daily from 9-8. So bummed we didn’t get to tour around the fort, but hey free is free and the outside was QUITE impressive.

History of the fort: The original fortification (nothing like the current fort) was completed in 1777 and was attacked/ surrendered to the British in the Groton Heights Raid in 1781. (Much more on that later) There is only one small building from that time period left which housed the battery. The current fortress was built from 1839-1852 and served many a purpose throughout the years including a Union headquarters for recruiting and training during the Civil War, as a headquarters for the many other forts in the area in the time after the Civil War, as a Merchant Marine officers Training school until WWII where lastly it was used as a Division of War Research that developed Sonar systems. It opened as a State park in 2000. 

My next favorite history spot is actually back in Groton at the Fort Griswold battlefield which I explored one day while Katie worked so Olive accompanied me instead. (so yes Dogs are welcome here as well as long as they are leashed.) Fort Griswold is ALSO a state park and the battlefield is free to explore and open daily. The monument and museum onsite is also free and open from 9-6 but closed on Mondays and Tuesdays which means.. I didn’t get to go in them. 🙁 (also like Fort Trumbull is only operational in the summer from Memorial day to Labor day)

BONUS THOUGH: Fort Griswold has a CELLPHONE Audio tour. and it is AWESOME. You just call (860) 424-4005 and select which stop you are at. (Unfortunately you do have to call again at each stop but there are only 5… so not a big deal) It took me maybe 20 minutes to listen and explore all 5 stops. The main gate and cannons at stop 2 (with the monument/museum being stop 1) 

It’s a bit small in this photo, but looking across the way you can actually see Fort Trumbull.

A summary of the battle here is that on September 6,1781 the infamous traitor Benedict Arnold led the British in a raid on the Groton area with troops of 1700 men to take down both Fort Trumbull and Griswold. The British forces were divided into 2 groups of around 800 men. Fort Trumbull fell first, after which the British were able to turn their full attention on Griswold. There were only 166 American volunteers defending Fort Griswold so to say they were the underdogs is an understatement for sure. This realization didn’t take long to sink in, however the British offered no quarter so the Colonel Ledyard led his men to continue in the battling in the fort’s defense. The fort did push the British back a time or two, however they still were able to overtake the Americans. When the British asked who was in command, Colonel Ledyard handed over his sword and said “You are now” and was reportedly then killed with his own sword. While some men were able to escape using the various dry moats around the fort, over 80 men were massacred as the fort was surrendered and another 60 men were “mortally” wounded according to General Arnold’s reports. The British losses were  45 men killed and another 145 men wounded causing General Arnold to complain of the high casualty rate on their side. As this battle occurred towards the end of the Revolutionary war, it was one of the last British Victories as only a few months later, General Washington led us to victory in Virginia.

This is the main gate into the fort. It was recorded that one British solider was able to successfuly scale the fort’s walls and opened the gate for everyone else to invade. The fort has sunk quite a bit in but still remains pretty tall, especially with the dry moat running around the outer edge. 

On the other side of the fort is a smaller tunnel entrance. 

 I absolutely loved the audio tour (if you couldn’t tell) as I actually remembered all of that information (though I did fact check my memory when I typed it all up) so I definitely recommend the audio tour. There are a few informational plaques that have a summary of the day’s events at the entrance to the fort. There is also a memorial plaque dedicated to those volunteers who fought at Fort Griswold, and another plaque within the fort dedicated to Colonel Ledyard (where it is said he was killed with his own sword)

A view from one corner looking at the inner fort with the monument in the background. The monument is super interesting as well as it was the FIRST obelisk monument built within the United States and was constructed from 1826-1830. It stands at 135 feet tall and has 166 steps, 1 step for each volunteer that fought in the battle for Fort Griswold. (I really wished it was open but alas… I was there on my last day, a Tuesday.)

Sooo there you have it, a lengthy overview of the incredible historic sites/museums that were all within 30 minutes of Stonington Connecticut. I’m glad that I was able to glimpse a bit more of American history both Revolutionary time periods and modern while I was visiting out there. As I visited over Memorial day, it was so much easier to ponder these battlefields and the men who fought on them.
Again price recap: All of these places are FREE (with exception to tours in Fort Trumbull which I wasn’t able to do anyways) If you are in the Connecticut area, I highly recommend a visit to each of these places.