SECOND LETTER FROM NANCY & MARK JAFFE
Galapagos Islands & Machu Picchu
22 February - 7 March 2008
Coral I and Coral II, Galapagos Islands.
It was truly a trip of a lifetime for our family...
-- Mark and Nancy Jaffe
From: "Nancy Jaffe" <vtjaffe@....com>
To: "'Martin Haggland'" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: INKA'S -- RESPONSES & QUESTIONS FOR YOU...
Date: Thu, Mar 13, 2008, 4:03 PM
Martin, Ive tried to answer everything for you!
1. How did you like the Mansion del Angel in Quito?
It was very nice; both rooms were nice and Mark and I especially liked the huge shower in the room we had. You sent us flowers and fruit, which although we were only there about 5 hours, came in handy as we left too early for breakfast there. We took the fruit with us to the airport and they let me keep it to eat there, and then they let me take the bananas and the apples on to the Galapagos!
2. How was the airport assistance in Guayaquil?
Perfect; he met us (I don't remember his name) and led us through quickly, and disappeared before we could think about giving him a tip.
3. How did you like Cafe del Museo (lunch at the Museo Larco)?
That was a very good lunch. Although the menu was fixed, with about 4 different options, they allowed us to mix and match them. Efrain took care of that before we went into the museum. Mark's meal wasn't quite what he had asked for, but since we had made so many changes he didn't mind at all. I think the Pisco Sours were included just about everywhere; we really enjoyed them!! Thank You! The boys loved Inka Kola, which I remembered from my trip!
4. How did you like dinner at Astrid & Gaston?
That was a special place, and the staff was very nice and the service excellent. I had wonderful scallops and a very good seafood ravioli, which I couldn't finish. Everybody else was happy, too.
5. How was the Alhambra restaurant in the Sacred Valley? We normally don't use it, but the usual one was closed for vacation.
That was a very nice place to go after the tour of the valley on the way from Cusco. We got there at 3:00 and the buffet was still completely available. The food was very good, with lots of variety. The grounds were just beautiful and there was a colorful macaw (I think; big bird!) and llamas and a vicuna that we went to see. The shop was also high quality and we got some things there. We all especially enjoyed that lunch and the grounds.
6. How was dinner at Sol y Luna?
We had 2 dinners there and they were both good. I especially enjoyed speaking with the waiters (in Spanish) about where and how they lived, how they were educated, etc. Although the menu was limited for us, it was different each night and we all found things that we liked to eat. The buffet breakfast was fantastic. The second day, I think because there were so few guests, we had breakfast a la carte. Unfortunately they were very slow so we almost didn't have time to eat as we were heading to the train in Ollayntytambo. (Which may be why Andrew left things there; we were in a tear to get out of there!) Of course they fed us on the train, too!
7. How about lunch at the Hacienda Huayoccari?
The drive up there was a bit much, I thought. Maybe I was just hungry after the wonderful hike in Pisac. We also spent a half hour in the market there (not to mention we spent some money.) The food and service were good and the Hacienda itself beautiful, however it was pouring rain while we were there (it stopped before we left) and Nate had terrible soroche, (a searing pain in one eye that would come and go) so I was distracted.
8. Did you like the llama ranch?
I liked it and we all enjoyed the drive there through the valley beyond Cusco. Such different scenery than we had seen before. It was fun to see the animals, but the shop itself seemed over-priced and we had already seen the weaving demonstration in Chinchero, which we did enjoy. It might be too much for some people, but with the boys it was a good suggestion.
9. Buffet lunch at Machu Picchu?
The food was very good; for some reason I thought it would be more exclusive and not a mob scene, but it must be much worse (more crowded) other times of the year. Everybody there was pleasant and the restrooms were clean; no complaints at all.
10. Dinner at the Pueblo Hotel?
Another good meal, also with good service. Nate couldn't eat his dinner, and our waiter insisted on carrying it all the way to the room with us! The buffet breakfast was beautiful to look at, and we had an order of quinoa pancakes; they were out of this world.
11. The Pueblo Hotel itself?
We all loved it and were so glad we had picked it and not the Sanctuary Lodge. The grounds were fantastic, and as a bird lover and a gardener, I could have stayed many more days. I was disappointed not to have time to take their organized tour (1.5 hours each and scheduled so no impromptu versions) but we did walk around a lot. The rooms were wonderful, with a nice sitting area overlooking the river, and we got our fireplace going as it was raining. The bathrooms were the best we had, although if you don't like showers people might not like it.
12. Lunch at Cafe Inkaterra (near the train tracks before return to Cuzco)?
They weren't serving lunch there, probably as it isn't the high season, so we ate at the hotel restaurant again. We had a waiter who was nervous and seemed confused by everything we said. Finally he told us it was his first day. We all calmed down then and he did quite well and I'm sure he will work out fine. Maybe they should have told us he was new, because in any language he seemed to disapprove of everything we ordered; we figured out that he was just trying hard to remember everything and do a good job! We did use the Café for the internet and it was a very pleasant place, but the internet was painfully s-l-o-o-o-w.
13. Restaurante Illariy (in the Hotel Monasterio)?
That was quite special. Live musicians, very impressive mirrors and antiques, comfortable chairs, great service. Once again we ordered and ate more than we had intended. Still, although I was very happy to have seen the Hotel Monasterio, I was glad we had chosen the Libertador to stay in. We had nice adjoining rooms and the internet room was far from ours, but the way there was very interesting with courtyards and paintings and wonderful furniture. The two breakfasts there were also excellent buffets, with friendly service.
14. Lunch at the Inka Grill?
We liked it very much. At first we were the only ones there, but gradually it filled up. Then it started to pour rain and we stayed a little longer; it was no problem for the staff and it we all really liked the menu and the food.
15. Dinner at the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (in glass cube)?
Yes, a glass cube! It was very nice; part way through a mime came up to the window and nearly scared the pants off of Andrew. After that the mime came in and scared a woman and she screamed bloody murder. They escorted the mime out after that (same mimes had been in Inka Grill at lunch, so we were familiar with them; they were promoting a performance/play in Cusco.) The food was once again very nice and it was quite pleasant to be back at the museum, which we had enjoyed. Actually, we all liked that presentation of the Larco materials better than the Larco museum in Lima; we were probably tired when we were there (boys having been a bit bored in the Cathedrals; sorry!) but the displays at the Larco in Lima seemed overwhelmingly huge and the Cusco display was so beautifully artistic. I felt we probably learned more about the different cultures there than in Lima where they were grouped in huge masses. Just an opinion.
16. Food at the Huaca Pucllana?
The food was excellent. Maria and Kike joined us and enjoyed it also; they had been there before. Once again we had a limited menu choice, grouped together, but they allowed us to mix and match so we could get what we desired. Victor waited until we had ordered and then paid for the meal and the tip; that worked out well for us.
Separately, please comment on the ambience. Was it well lighted at night as promised? Were you able to sit outside on the terrace?
We were right on the terrace looking at the ruins. It wasn't until about half of the way through the meal that I realized there was an absolutely huge tour group also on the terrace; that was when they got up to leave. It must have been an entire busload. We would not have known it if they hadn't left, as the staff was not at all distracted, but then when they did I realized there might have been tables closer to the ruins. No matter, they were beautifully lit and other people were wandering around in them (there were ropes) so the boys did, too. Which was good as we were speaking in Spanish at the table and I wasn't paying enough attention to them. Thank you again for inviting Maria and Kike; that was very special for me.
Additionally, if you have any comments about any of the excursions -- what you really liked or didn't like and any improvements you can suggest. I know that some may have gotten boring for your boys, but let's assume you were a couple traveling without children (as most of our guests do, partially because of the cost).
We combined the final day of excursions (Pachacamac and Barranco) into one long morning, and I thought that worked great. Maybe we could have spent more times in the ruins, as they were just beautiful and the setting near that valley and the ocean was amazing. The house/museum in Barranco was wonderful, and I think we really did get to see it all. Then we added a visit to the mall (Larcomar) which we all enjoyed. My point is that putting it all into an 8:45-1:00 window worked fine for us; maybe others could use a half day of down time, or if the plane is delayed in Cusco (as ours was) they could fit it all in the afternoon.
The excursions and guides were just great. For us, with the boys, the more hiking around the better. Eddie, in Cusco, was very aware of our abilities and I imagine if people want to do more or less he can cater to them.
I think we might have had larger than usual vehicles in all situations. That was great for us as we were able to spread our stuff out and not be on top of each other. The drivers didn't seem to have any trouble maneuvering them in tight spaces (well, there was one K-turn up at the salt flats through which I prayed.)
This was the first time we have ever had help planning a trip, and I am so glad I did choose to go with you and Inka's. We got so much more out of the trip than we would have had Mark and I tried to do the driving and the daily planning and the restaurant choices, etc. It was truly a trip of a lifetime for our family, which is just what I wanted. It didn't hurt the boys to be bored a bit by things that they will always remember and may someday appreciate having seen, and on the last day, when Nate said that his brain was on over-load and he just needed to go home, I knew that was true and I was glad he had taken so much in!
Thanks again, Martin, for the fruit, chocolates, and flowers in our rooms, for our Pisco Sours at each meal, and for all the thought you put into trip planning. There wasn't a bad hotel room or a bad meal in two weeks! Well done!
Inka's Empire Tours...
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