Cusco is a very pleasant town. Now that the Machu Picchu is open, there are many tourists here. The guesthouse where I stayed was full, while I was one of the few tourists here on my first stop in mid February.
I like the stone streets, the big Inca rocks holding Spanish buildings, the small and medium squares that appear at the end of a small street. I like the view on Cusco from San Blas, the small white street on the hills, the San Blas square and its old little church. I like the huge variety of people that one sees in the street and I love the life and colors around the main market, the voices, the faces, and the essence of all. I love the people too, very much.
The city is very large and expands for miles. I only moved around the city center, the historical part of the city. The outskirts are not especially pleasant. Although there are too many cars and taxis trying to kill you as soon as you put a foot on the street, there are also plenty of small streets and squares without any cars. The place itself has an energy that I strongly feel.
I’ve been involved with many kinds of people in Cusco, doing all sort of things, computer training, web site design and setup, blog trainings, tourist consultant for the Machu Picchu, reporter, confident and co writer of love letter. This last one was for a young American girl of 21 years old who had a boyfriend in Cusco. She wanted to write him a sweet goodbye letter in Spanish. But she got stocked fast in English. “I’ve never wrote a love letter,” she said! We did have a few good laughs writing her masterpiece of romance, Latino style!
So I stayed a bit longer in Cusco. My life was quite entertaining. Everyone who was staying at the guesthouse and going to the Machu Picchu was well informed and each one was returning with all sorts of reports that I was regularly publishing on my blog and a French Travel Forum. I was the exclusive reporter from Cusco. I made friend with all the travelers, from so many different places, speaking Spanish with so many accents and English, and occasionally French.
I got to truly enjoy moving around my neighborhood. As I arrived in Cusco, the son of Mario (See Ausangate blog entry) took me to a vegetarian restaurant which serves Peruvian meals –soup and segundo (main dish) – for 3.5 soles for lunch and 3 soles for dinner. I eat there twice a day every day. They never closed. Most of the meals had vegan options. I had not been eating so well in years! I also found a massage therapist who was giving me superb massages for 20 soles for an hour and half. I gave myself a series of 4 or 5 massages in ten days. So staying longer in town brought me plenty of good.
And then, I found the most amazing bar I’ve seen in a long long time. It’s facing the Santo Domingo church, between avenida del Sol and Tullumayo, on the Santo Domingo street, at the corner of Pampa del Castillo. This place is timeless. I can feel and see people from the 20’s, the 30’s, the 50’s that have been here drinking, smoking, playing cards and having sweet romances.
The bar is an old house with three floors. You enter from Pampa del Castillo. Downstairs, there is a table with three chairs, the counter and shelves locked inside an iron cage with heavy padlocks. Everything is locked into iron cages, including plants and the water tank of the toilet! On the second floor, there are cabins with a small table and seats and a curtain for privacy. I remember 3 or 4 of them. The third floor was a vaster open space with a few tables and even space to dance for 3 or 4 couples. The most exclusive touch of the place were these small private areas with a tiny table and three small seats, a curtain and a brilliant view on the city since we are on the balconies. Absolutely superb! They played old good Latino music, or anything that one would request. I spent a few afternoons in my little place on the balcony. I made friend with the young man in charge – Alexis -, even shared a spiced smoke with him the day after I returned after discovering this amazing place one evening with a young American girl. I can’t tell you how fun we had that evening! We went to three Peruvian bars, all within five minutes of our guesthouse. Alexis told me that they rarely see foreigners in these places. My American friend and I were extremely well treated by all. We met amazingly nice, good, and fascinating people, from the electric engineers of Puno, to the workers of the illegal gold mines of the jungle.
El Gate Negro 2 soon became my favorite place in Cusco. On a Saturday afternoon the place would get busy. Couples would fill up the private spots on the balconies. Music would be more contemporaneous. The air was filled of chatting and romance. Alexis would come from time to time for a few minutes and chat, while I was having fun writing my thoughts. From here I had a full view of one section of town. Red roofs over the green hills under a beautiful blue sky. On the other side, behind the church, dryer and wilder hills at the foot of the valley that lies at the feet of the Ausangate mountain. En el Gato Negro, I was in the original Peru, no influence of my universe of Gringo. Pure timeless Peru.
I did indeed enjoy Cusco. Curiously enough, it’s a city that grabs people and keeps them for a week or two. I met many backpackers that found themselves staying here much longer than initially thought. A magical and powerful city on top of the world in the Andes, Inca territory, timeless and majestic.