[Day 25] Exploring Vienna

This was my only full day in Vienna and I was going to make the most of it. I was going to meet my brother and sister-in-law for brunch so I had the early morning to myself.

My first stop was Karlskirche, a baroque cathedral. It was walking distance from my hotel so I thought of it as a morning stroll. When I got there, the square was empty and it seemed like the cathedral was closed. So I enjoyed the architectural details while walking around the square. I knew they had a huge Christmas Market here so I was hoping to see it but they had already cleared the market. But judging by the size of the square, it would have been worth a look.

You can also look at Karlsplatz station. They have the old station pavilion that serves as an exhibition hall. The actual station is underground but this pavilion served as a landmark. I really liked the old feel of it.

After looking around the square, I slowly walked towards Naschmarkt, Vienna’s biggest outdoor market for food and others (you can say everything and anything), and met up with my family. When we started to look around, I only saw restaurants so I assumed it was all food related but once you get to the end, they have vintage stalls for clothes, electronics, and even artwork!

The Market was bigger /longer than I expected! And it was packed with tourist! Navigating from one end to the other took some time and on top of that, it started to rain! So we decided to eat first. We did some quick google search and headed to Zur Eisernen Zeit, one of the restaurants on the Market strip.

The restaurant was pretty small on the inside but we were able to get a table. There menu also had information about the restaurant and I learned that this restaurant was the oldest restaurant at the Naschmarkt and that it started in 1916! They served mostly Viennese cuisine but they also had popular breakfast food during brunch time.

We ordered the Fiakergulasch and Wiener Schnitzel vom Kalb and they were both really good. It was a great combo: warm soup and fried veal. When we ordered the Fiakergulasch, we weren’t sure what it was going to be like and it was really interesting. Goulash with sausage and fried egg on top. We knew it had to be good and it was.

After a filling meal, we decided to walk around the market and luckily, the rain had stopped for a moment. The first couple blocks of the market was under a tarp so we were good. This area was mostly food and restaurants. And once the tarp ends, you could see a wave of stalls selling all sorts of goods. Most of them were vintage items and there were several people bargaining with the vendor.

One thing that caught my eye was the vintage camera stall. They were selling the camera body and parts and while they had newer styles and brands available, they also had vintage ones as well. There were lots of brands that I’ve never even heard of so it was a lot of fun looking at them.

We wanted to look around more but it started to pour so we couldn’t stay here anymore. So we started to look for something to do indoor and my brother found a sparkling wine cellar we could tour called Schlumberger Kellerwelten. It was about 15 minutes away from the city center and we took an uber.

They had a reservation section on their website but since it was off-peak season, they were able to accommodate us without a reservation. They had several different tour and tasting options and we went with the classic tour. The tour itself was a self guided audio tour and it took about an hour or so. There was a lot of history here and the cellar had several places that were used as exhibition space.

When you return to the lobby/bar area after the tour, you can start the wine tasting. With the classic tour, we got 3 glasses: Sparkling Brut, Rosé Brut and Grüner Veltliner Brut. They gave us all very generous pour and I ended up giving mine to my sister-in-law. I don’t know my wines and I usually prefer sweet wine so I thought I would enjoy the sparkling wine. However, they weren’t actually that sweet and quite strong for me. I still enjoyed the tour.

After ending the wine tasting, we headed back to the city center. We had booked a tour with Tripadvisor called Historical Hitler Walking Tour of Vienna. We wanted to learn some history on Vienna and thought this was our chance to learn more. The tour started at Albrechtsbrunnen and we walked for about 2 hours, learning about Hitler’s early years on how he wanted to become an artist to his rise in power, the relationship he had with Austria, and lastly, the Holocaust.

The guide was very knowledgeable and pointed out several building that influenced Hitler. One of which was the Vienna Opera House. Hitler used to draw postcards of the Opera House and sell them on the streets. The guide had a reprint of Hitler’s artwork and they weren’t bad. He was rejected from art school twice but history could have been very different if he became an artist. We also visited the institution that rejected him but it was under construction.

We also visited Heldenplatz (part of Hofburg Palace), the infamous place where Hitler made the annexation speech. Our guide point out exactly where Hitler made the speech and it was weird to know that I was looking up to where Hitler stood years ago. It was interesting to learn that when Hitler first came to Austria, many people welcomed him at the border. Austrians just thought that the power was being moved from one fascist to another. They did not know what was to come after the annexation.

And one of the last places we visited was the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial. The other name it goes by was “The Nameless Library” and you can see all the books that are on the shelf. However, no one can enter this library because there is no door knob and no one can read what type of books these are because the spine is on the inside. It represents the number of unknown victims and their lost stories and it was very hard and sad to hear this from our guide. It is part of our history and it is something we should never forget.

When the tour ended, we visited Cafe Central for a quick dinner but since the line was long, it wasn’t very quick. The line moved relatively fast and we were able to look at the menu before heading in. This cafe had a long standing history (opened in 1876) and became a famous meeting spot for key political figures in Vienna. They said that Hitler was also a regular here.

The cafe was huge! They had several sections and we were seated in the front side by the cake display. I was able to walk around and in the back section, they even had a live pianist playing some tunes. We ended up ordering several different desserts (Viennese Apple Strudel, Kaiserschmarrn, and tea cakes) and Viennese coffee and just enjoyed each other’s company.

Once we were done with our desserts, we headed to see our concert with the Wiener Royal Orchester. During my tour, I have seen several different concerts and I think this one was my favorite. This concert showcased classical music, ballet pieces, as well as opera pieces. I think it would be a great entry concert to the classics. For something we bought last minute, it turned out great.

After the concert, we ended up back at Albrechtsbrunnen and ended up eating some hotdog/Würstel at Bitzinger Würstelstand. This was a simple food stall and while they did not have seating, they had a small bar area to eat at. They didn’t have a full English menu so we ended up getting 3 würstel, all different styles, and just trying them. And it was really good! I would totally recommend this if you needed something quick and were on the go. They also sold alcohol here so a great combo could be a hotdog with a local beer.

We did not want to part yet so we ended up on the balcony of Albertina which was right next to the Würstelstand. The view of the Opera House from up here was really pretty and I could see people just relaxing up here. It was really too cold for us and we ended up just taking some pictures and heading out. It was really a full day!

[Day 3] Full day of City tour

Our first full day in Barcelona together. We were super excited to explore the city. First we headed to Firebug for some delicious brunch. They had variety of cuisines to pick from and also some good brunch drinks. The restaurant was very cozy and the staff were very friendly.

TIP: Most restaurants in Europe are not in any hurry. The staff are slower and they take their time. If you are in a hurry, please let them know.

After our meal, we headed to the Arc de Triomf. The only other Arc I knew was the one in Paris and I was excited to compare the two. The one in Barcelona was smaller in size but quite impressive as well. It’s a reddish terracotta color and it definitely has a presence. The brickwork really stands out and you cannot miss it. It is a gateway into the Ciutadella Park and there were many tourist working through. If you have more time to spend here, I suggest walking through the park.

We decided to skip the park and walked along the path from the Arc towards Santa Maria del Mar. This cathedral was in a residential neighborhood and at first glance, we weren’t sure if we were in the right place. The entrance we saw was the side entrance and did not have any signs. However, once we were inside, we were in awe.

The east end had these impressive pillars and stained glass and we just stood here, taking it all in. There were many student groups on field trips so I knew this was a popular spot. They had a view point that you could climb up but we were ok being at the bottom. We were walking around the cathedral and they started ushering people out. We assumed they might be preparing for a mass.

After leaving Santa Maria del Mar, we decided to walk around the neighborhood. I really liked the multi-purpose buildings were the first floors were shops and the upper floors were residential. Some of the streets were decorated for Christmas.

Following these streets, you will see the Museu Picasso. It was about 20 minute walk and I sort of expected the museum to be on the main street. There were several options for audio tour and I highly recommend the audio tour if you are interested in learning more about Picasso’s life and what and who influenced him.

I had imagined seeing several of Picasso’s artwork including Guernica and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. However, what I did not realize was that both of these paintings were in a different museum! So if you have artwork you are particularly interested in seeing, see where they are and then pick the museum.

After seeing the museum, we headed towards Barcelona Cathedral. On the way, we saw a Valor, a chocolate cafe. He said that this was a famous brand and that we should get churro and hot chocolate here so we took a short break. It was pretty packed but luckily we found a table. The waitress came to the table and we ordered chuuro and hot chocolate. Eating them on the spot was the best!

The chocolate was closer to a rich, dark chocolate and the churros were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. So good!! And after finishing the churros, we drank the rest of the chocolate and that was good too. Not too sweet.

After a bit of rest, we headed to Barcelona Cathedral. It was even more grand than Santa Maria del Mar. The Gothic architecture was just divine. Again, we were just speechless walking through the Cathedral. This place also had a viewpoint that you could visit and it even had a little gift shop.

Right outside the cathedral was the Fira de Santa Lucia, a Christmas market. It was bustling with tourist and locals and many of the shops were selling handmade nativity scene pieces. Very different from American city’s Christmas market where there are handmade goods that are not exclusive to nativity scenes and foods and more.

Once we were done looking around, we took an Uber to Barcelona Pavilion. My sister-in-law wanted to see it. It wasn’t too far but it also was not walking distance. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when we got there but it was a small house, very simple. Even the inside was very minimalist with only 4 chairs. But the water basin in the front and the back were great features of the house. If you are into modern architecture, you might like to see this.

After seeing the house, I wanted to stay for the water fountain show, the Magic Fountain, but we were all really hungry so we decided to visit again tomorrow and headed to eat!

We went to Bo de Boqueria, a quint restaurant next to La Boqueria. The market was closed but the restaurants around it were all open. Even during the winter, they had outdoor seating available. We ordered several dishes including arros negre paella, jamon, and of course, wine. When we ordered, we weren’t sure if we ordered enough but the portions were good here and with 2 paella, 1 salad, and 4 appetizers, it was enough for the 5 of us. (€85.90)

After the meal, we were stuffed and decided to walk down the street to see where we would end up. And we ended up walking all the way to the pier! We were on Rambla de Mar. It was practically empty but I really liked that feel.

We walked around the whole place, including the mall area and most of the shops were closed. We just enjoyed the night air and enjoyed each other’s company. What a great way to end the night.

[Day 16] Last day in Bolivia

Last day in Bolivia. I wanted this to be a lazy day and the accommodation I picked was the best for that. The official check out was until 1pm! I’ve never heard of a hotel’s check out time being this late. However, this was my only full day in La Paz so I wanted to check it out.

I packed my bags, checked out of the hotel around 11am, stored luggage at the hotel, and ventured out.

First, we headed to st. Francisco church to meet a new travel buddy for the day. As this trip was my first trip alone, I tried to gather people to travel with, before and during the trip. And I think I was very successful. Throughout my whole trip, I was with someone and everyone has been awesome.

So today, I met up with my new travel buddy and headed to Valle de la Luna. Before, I looked at tour agencies but could not find something that suited my schedule. So I decided to take the local bus. After some searching, a lot of people were pointing me to bus #43. However, after waiting for over 30 minutes, we asked the police for help. They told us to take #902 going to Mallas.

The bus was only 2 bol but the traffic was awful! If you are going to visit Valle de la Luna by bus, please go early in the morning. It took over an hour and the road was rough. The bus system was interesting. It was more l ike a mini van. People would fill in the seats and when it was full, the driver would not stop at any of the other stops until someone got off. And people paid the driver as they got off.

Once at Valle de la Luna, there was an entrance fee of 15 bol and there were several different trails, all marked with how long it takes, and we decided to take the 45 minute one. The trail was beautiful and presented itself with a very different kind of view than what I expected. Since it was named Valley of the Moon, I was sort of expecting craters or something similar to it. However, the Valley was filled more more sharp peaks and cliffs. Luckily, the trail had a lot of railings for safety. They also had lots of picturesque areas to take photos so even on the 45 minute trail, it took longer.

Also, it was really hot! The Valley did not provide any shade and since we were there around 1pm, the sun was really on top of us. Make sure to bring a lot of water because the trail doesn’t have any fountains. The trail is one way so you just have to keep going. There are lots of ups and downs so be ready to walk.

After finishing the trail, we decided to go back to the city. This time, we wanted to take the telefarico. So we took a cab to the closest line, which was the green line. The cab was 25 bol and at the green line, we bought tickets to Prado, which was 15 bol for 3 people.

From the green line, we transferred to the blue/celestial line and got off at Prado. From here, we walked to Witch’s Market. It was so small. Smaller than I expected. There were small, individual shops that all sold similar things like stones, perfume, incense, and items for rituals like dried animal and animal parts. I wasn’t sure what to buy here so I just took pictures. I wasn’t super impressed but very unique.

So we headed to dinner. We wanted to find some traditional Bolivian food so we searched for a place and found “Luciernagas Restaurant” and this place was amazing. It was all home cooking and tasted great. The restaurant is in a residential area so while looking for it, I thought we were so lost.

Once we were at the restaurant, we met the owner and his wife. The owner recommended our meals and the wife cooked for us. It was a family owned business and really great for home cooked meals. They had an extensive menu but there were several things that were not available, so ask! We ordered a soup and main entree to share. The portions were pretty big here.

After dinner, we wanted to see the city light up the night. I was told the best view of the city was at Killi Killi park. I was told the Park could be dangerous at night but when we were there, it didn’t seem too bad. There were several travelers taking photos there and some locals playing around. It was cold but the view was nice. The lights from the city sparkled and provided a good city view.

One thing that worried me was the ride back. Our hotel was nice enough to get us a cab when we went up to the park but the way down was different. We tried to call an Uber but they wouldn’t come. We thought about walking down but that was a long walk. Lucky for us, a tourist came up and we were able to take that cab back to the hotel.

While going back, we saw the night market and it was really lively. I wish I could have visited. It looked like there were lots of food vendors. Once we were at the hotel, I said good bye to my travel buddies and headed to the airport.

Since I was taking the night plane out of Bolivia, the airport was very empty. It took only minutes to check in and it was very simple and quick. I wasn’t looking forward to ending my trip but was looking forward to sleeping in my bed again. After checking in, I headed inside to use the lounge. It had a small selection of things but had warm food like pancakes, cold food like cereals, and drinks. They have 3 different local beers and pepsi products.

This concluded by trip to Peru and Bolivia. It was my first time traveling in South America and it was amazing. I cannot wait to come back soon.

[Day 10] Cusco City Tour and Cooking Class

We’ve been in Cusco since day 5 but didn’t get to explore all of the city yet! So we dedicated the morning to just wandering around town. This was also the first day I got to sleep in a little. The weather was perfect for a city tour. We decided to walk around some major parts of the town and just sightsee and shop around.

Our first stop was at the Plaza de Armas. We’ve seen it in passing so it was just nice to walk through it and take in the beautiful architecture. The two major buildings that stand out is the Cusco Cathedral and the Natural History Museum. During our visit, the City started to renovate(?) the Plaza’s central sculpture piece but the Plaza was just bustling with people.

Right next to the Museum, there was a Starbucks. One thing I like to do is to try different frapps from different country’s Starbucks. And Peru had one unique one called Lucuma frapp. I just had to try it. So we headed to Starbucks and was quite amazed at their courtyard and their view of the plaza. If you want to grab some coffee and get a nice view, I recommend this place! (Of course, you might be able to find a nice local cafe nearby too).

So Lucuma. I’m not sure if I would say I liked it but it definitely was interesting. The explanation the staff gave me was that it would be close to a butterscotch flavor? But to me, it was just a tad bit too sweet and I wasn’t sure how to distinguish the lucuma flavor 😦 If anyone else has tried this in Peru, please let me know what you thought!

After grabbing the drink and enjoying the view, we were getting a bit hungry so we headed to Plaza San Blas area to find some cafe. From the guide book, it said that the San Blas area was like the “art-sy” area and was up and coming. There was an outdoor market here as well (mostly handmade goods) but also a lot of cafes and smaller restaurants. It was definitely less crowded but you still got the beauty of Cusco.

One thing. San Blas is on the hillside so from Plaza de Armas, it is going to be an upward walk. Be prepared. (But most of Cusco is this way)

While walking around, we found a nice cafe named Pantastico and bought several empanadas and a pie maracuya to go. I’ve heard of the maracuya fruit and I wanted to try it. They packed everything neatly and we headed back to the Plaza to eat while taking in the view. The empanadas were amazing and filled our stomach but the pie was too sour. If you like sour things, try maracuya!

As I said earlier, there was a small open marketing happening here. While looking around, we found ladies who had alpacas for photos! I’m not a big fan of paying for photos, the baby alpaca just got to me. The ladies are very nice and they let you take pictures with the baby on your lap or you holding him. After several pictures and 5 sol later, we were off exploring again.

From San Blas, we started to talk towards Mirador de Plaza San Cristobal. It was a bit of a hike but the road there was full of things to see. Lots of cafes with great views, colorful drawings on the street walls, and just the view of the city from up top! 3 combo! At first, walking up the hill was so hard! I felt like it was never ending (similar to Machu Picchu) but the interesting surrounding area made the hike more enjoyable.

And Mirador! 100% recommend if you want to see Plaza de Armas from above. The view of the city here is spectacular!

You can see things that are only visible when you are up top, such as the EL PERU written on the mountain. Here is a video of the view from San Cristobal.

Once we were done walking around the city, we headed to our cooking class. It’s always fun to take local cooking classes to learn about the history of the food culture and also to learn some new recipes. You never know what you might learn.

So after some research, we decided to take a class with Peruvian Cooking Class. The classes were small but offered various types of dishes. The location was very easy to find and was about 10 minute walking distance from Plaza de Armas. The first floor of the building was the cooking station and the second floor was the waiting room/dining room area.

When you make the booking, you have the option to choose which menu you want to make. The choice of menu is decided by the person who made the first booking for that day. So if you have something you really want to make, make the reservation first! We decided on menu #2 : Pisco Sour/Chicha Morada, Palta Rellena, Lomo Saltado, and chocolate.

Once we checked in, we found out that we were the only 2 people taking the class. Score! A private class. It was awesome! They even let us change the menu a bit. So we picked Chicha Morada as our drink, Palta Rellena, Lomo Saltado, and Arroz con Leche!

With the chef of the day, Yuli, we first got to try some local fruit: Granadilla, Tumbo, Lucuma, Perito Abuel, Lima, Pacay, and Golden Berry. I hope I got all the spelling right 🙂 Granadilla was my favorite and it tasted like passionfruit but much sweeter. Tumbo was also good. It used to be used in ceviche back in the days but when the Spanish brought Lemon, it was replaced. I got a real taste of Lucuma here and it was closer to a persimmon. Perito Abuel was small and tasted like sour apple. Lima looked like a small citrus but actually it didn’t taste like a citrus. It can actually replace lemongrass. Pacay looked like cotton balls. Very furry. And Golden Berry looked like a cherry tomato but very super sour.

After tasting several fruits, we made our grocery list and walked to San Pedro Market to buy our ingredients. What we didn’t know was that the Market was CLOSED until Monday! They were doing a massive cleanup for the festival.

So we went to a smaller market behind it. It was more local and less clean but we were still able to get everything. While shopping, Yuli continued to talk to us about Peruvian food and culture. She even helped us get some Granadilla for later.

Once we had everything, we headed back to the shop and started cooking. It was so much fun. Yuli explained everything, step by step, and demonstrated just a little and we had to do most of the actual work. She showed us how to cook the meal as well as plating it just right. The Palta Rellena was a chicken and potato salad and Lomo Saltado was stir fried beef with rice (one of my favorite Peruvian dish) and Arroz con Leche was sweet rice pudding. The meal was extremely satisfying. The fact that I made the food made it even better 😉 After cooking, we took our food upstairs and got to enjoy it as dinner. It was delicious.

And satisfied, we went shopping. I wanted to get some alpaca scarves for my family members so I visited SOL ALPACA. I wanted to get them something that was more authentic and trustworthy when they claimed 100% alpaca. SOL was considered a luxury brand and everything gave it a high rating so I gave it a try. Everything here was really soft and it did not give any scratchy feeling what-so-ever. Everything was really pretty and I wanted to buy everything but I stuck to my plan and purchased different colored scarves. Next time, I want to buy more!

[Day 4] Last full day in Lima

I dubbed my last day in Lima, a eating day. This day was full of food and I travel to eat, so what a perfect day 🙂 My accommodation was nice enough to let me keep my luggage there so I packed up, placed my bags in the corner, and headed over to grab some breakfast.

While I was walking, I noticed a lot of the streets were closed off. Turns out, there was a marathon happening! I got to wave and cheer the runners, watch them get showered by locals, and see them push themselves to their limits. It was nice that the neighborhood got together to support the runners.

So for breakfast, Pan de la Chola was my choice. I found this place on several list for coffee and bread and I’m always down for some good bread. The cafe itself is spacious but on a Sunday morning, it was jammed packed with tourists and locals alike. The open concept made the space look large with all the natural lights and from the entrance, you had a good view of the kitchen. The aroma of coffee and bread alone made me hungry.

I grabbed a hot chocolate and croissant and they were delicious. The hot chocolate was rich but not too sweet and the croissant was buttery and super flaky. My type of croissant. I was able to get a seat by the bar and people watch while enjoying my breakfast. I could have gotten a sandwich but I wanted to leave room for other things.

At noon, I headed to La Mar to meet a friend. Luckily, Pan de la Chola and La Mar are really close to each other. About one block. And the line was just starting to form. I think I was about 10th group in line. And the line kept getting longer and longer. My friend got to the restaurant just as they were opening and we were seated at the bar. We both wanted to see the chef preparing the food and drinks. The restaurant was a good size with lots of natural light.

Inside La Mar

We came for ceviche so we ordered ceviche. We wanted to try something different so we ordered the Mixto and Leche de Tigre. The waiter asked how spicy we wanted the ceviche. We never thought there was a spice level to ceviche but since we were going for different, we ordered the regular Mixto and mild Leche de Tigre.

Left: Leche de Tigre – Right: Mixto Ceviche

It was definitely more fancier than the other ceviche places (and pricer too). But it was really good. Leche de Tigre was my favorite. The right amount of spice and the fresh seafood combo just captured my palette. It was also interesting that they used roasted corn. Unexpectedly, the crunchy corn was a great pair with the ceviche.

After lunch, we wanted some dessert and right across the street from La Mar was Amorelado, a gelato store. The store itself was small with only 2 tables but it had a very lovely atmosphere. I ended up with Pina con Albahaca (Pineapple with Basil?) and it was so refreshing. And the gelato was perfect for the 73 degree weather.

With our belly full, we decided to walk to Maido for our Nikkei Experience. We needed some exercise to become hungry again. With gelato in our hands, we happily walked about 2 hour to Maido. And it was so worth it.

Nikkei Experience at Maido

The course meal was at a good pace but still took about 2 hours and 30 minutes. They used local ingredients with lots of interesting flavors and twists. One example would be Cuy, the guinea pig. I wanted to try it and was glad I got it here. The flavor was close to turkey dark meat but extremely tender. It just melted in my mouth! Even though the portions were small, they were packed with intense flavors and I enjoyed the course immensely. And the dessert was also a sight to see! Using nitrogen, they create ice cream in front of you and also a wonderful sight to see.

what’s left of the nitrogen

And if you thought this was the end of the meal, think again. They give you a take home dessert as the final course and it perfectly sums up the meal: A present to myself. Overall, if you like Japanese food and want to try something unique, Maido is a great place. They have a la carte menu as well as the Nikkei Experience.

After the meal, we uber-ed to Lacomar Shopping Center. We were going to meet more people. While we waited, we enjoyed the view of the ocean. The shopping center was situated at the edge of a cliff, which gave us a panoramic view of the ocean. There were lots of food options here as well so if you wanted a place with a view, you could find something here.

Once we met up with everyone, we headed to Barranco. While at Barranco, we saw the biblioteca, crossed the La Puenete de Los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs), saw street art, and more. When we got here, it was already around 6pm and was getting dark. But the area was lively with locals and tourists alike. It was full of colorful street art and beautiful architectures that you can spend hours wandering about.

Bridge of Sighs at night time

I wanted to stay longer but also wanted to see the Magic Water Circuit since it was our last day in Lima. So we quickly headed to see the show. The entrance was full of people but it moved quickly. The fee was 4 sol and it was worth it. The park itself was large with multiple water fountains. The main one for the show was long… I mean… LONG. The show was filled with lots of exciting music, lasers, and colors being displayed against the waters and it was a sight to see.

Colorful fountain (main fountain after the show)

After the show, we walked around to see the other fountains. Many of the smaller fountains were full of people taking pictures, including several wedding and quinceanera photos. They were beautiful. There were also a lot of kids jumping into the fountains, playfully running in and out of the water. The night’s cool air didn’t stop them from having fun.

After all the walking, we decided to grab a late dinner (more like a snack). We wanted to try anticucho but many of the restaurants were already closed. So we ended up at Huaca Pucllana. (What we didn’t see is that there were lots of street vendors in front of the park that had anticucho). Once we were seated, we ordered Stuffed Potatoes and Anticucho. This place wasn’t cheap but the food was good. It also offered a view of the pyramids. While enjoying the atmosphere of the restaurant, we filled our stomach with delicious food and some pisco sours.

View of the pyramid site from the restaurant

Once we were done, we headed to Holiday Inn Lima Airport, our hotel for the night. My friends were leaving early in the morning for Cusco and I was waiting for another friend to arrive from the airport.

I say friend but actually it was our first time meeting. I had made travel plans with my college friend but the scheduling didn’t work out as planned so I was technically traveling alone. And I wasn’t too sure of traveling alone so I found a travel forum and put up my schedule and asked if anyone wanted to join me. And one person got in touch with me saying that her schedule was similar to mine and wouldn’t mind tagging along. So this was it. First time meeting. We shared our instagram and kakao to introduce ourselves and to talk about what we were excited about. It was my first time doing something like this and I’m very glad I did. We were a pretty compatible travel partner and I’m glad to have met her 🙂

Soul of Korea: Seoul

Seoul is an amazing city with lots of history. The city is a mixture of old and new, modern and contemporary. In most places you visit, you will get to experience them both. With this in mind, I started to plan for Seoul. Plus, spring time in Korea can be amazing! The Cherry Blossom festivals are something you don’t want to miss! (That is if you time your trip right) I’m so jealous my cousin is visiting in April. It’s PRIME time for the blossoms and there are lots of festivals on the weekends.

I was super excite to plan this trip because my cousin’s has been wanting to go back to Korea for a long time. And as I said before, I’m a bit of a scheduling nerd. So when I plan trips, I tend to use excel to manage my time…. By the hour. Sometimes by 30 minute increments. I know it can seem daunting but it can be very effective and efficient.


my tentative Seoul schedule for my cousin

It doesn’t look too detailed, right? Well…. I couldn’t fully plan her trip since she is staying with friends and family. Also, she wanted a more relaxed plan that can be altered if need be. She wanted it to be more of a vacation than a work trip. I wanted to give her the bigger framework (main sites) and let her pick what she wants in detail. But there were some main places that I wanted her to visit such as the Gyeongbokgung and COEX. I wanted her to be able to take in the history and culture of Korea, from the old to the new. She only had limited days in Seoul so I didn’t want to add all the palaces to the map and she has been to Korea before.

Also, to make it easier for her, I created a My Maps page on Google with pins, marking the places to visit, eat, drink, shop, and more. Click here to see the Google My Maps for Seoul

I color coded them by dates and used identifiers to indicate what the pins are. The reason I wanted to color code by dates was to make it easier for my cousin to see what was around and if she wanted to break away, she could easily see the areas that could be separated. I will do the same for Busan (one of the other cities she will be visiting).

Also, Seoul is a very walkable city. I should just say that cities in Korea are mostly walkable. So I tried to group areas together so she could just walk around and see/eat things. Mostly eat. There are lots of delicious street food in Korea. Plus, Seoul has a lot of these small alleys/streets that has rows of restaurants and shops so if you find one of these, you can shop-hop.

If you have more days, I would suggest visiting all the palaces and museums. There are so many interesting museums such as the “Witch’s Garden” which is an interactive play zone, “Sugar Planet,” an art exhibition on all things sweet, and more. There are so many of these in Seoul that you can fill your day with them.

And speaking of hop, there is also the City Tour Bus. This bus makes a big circle around Seoul and stops at all the major tourist areas and museums. If you are not so sure how to get around or what to see, this could give you an idea. You buy a ticket and just hop on. If you see something interesting, hop off. When you are done, just hope back on to the bus when you see it. Easy! This bus is very convenient so if you are not the planner type, this could be it. Just to let you know, you won’t be able to hop on and off at every stop in one day. So spend your time wisely.

If you are visiting Seoul but want to do something extra interesting? Plan a trip to the DMZ. DMZ stands for Demilitarized Zone and it basically is the border between the North and South Korea. You can only visit the DMZ through a tour so shop around to find one that you like. Most of the tours will include a trip to Panmunjom(Peace Village)/JSA, Freedom Bridge, and Dora Observatory, but many of the tours are unique to themselves so make sure to check them! It is a very intense trip since Korea is still at war (technically) and during your tour, you can see soldiers on both side of Korea eyeing each other, eyes like hawks. After the tour, you will be able to tell your friends that you’ve been to North Korea so I guess that is a plus.

I hope this peaked your interested! And if you visited Seoul and want to give me and my cousin more suggestions, please let me know! I could love to add more to her trip (or my future trips) 🙂