Hotel Crashing: Two Starwood/Libertador Hotels in Peru

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but I sometimes have trouble sleeping. (I know I’ve told it in person to every person who’s crossed my path. And everyone on Facebook and Twitter. And in the comments section of a couple of other blogs).

Anyway, it’s actually a fairly frustrating form of insomnia – I am quite able to fall asleep on my couch at 9:08 in the evening but find myself awake at 3 or 4 am, unable to quiet my mind enough to fall back asleep until somewhere around 6 am, or 15 minutes before the alarm goes off.

i_cant_sleep_under_this_pressure-111971

The funniest part about all of this is that I used to be an amazing sleeper. Seriously, I could have done it as a job. If there had been a Sleep Olympics back in the day, I would have taken gold, silver and bronze. I’m practically a founding member of the National Sawing Logs Association of America (acronym: ZZZofA).

In my 20s and early 30s, I used to be able to sleep for 8, 9, 10 hours at a time. On weekends in my wasted 20s, I would sleep even more if left to my own devices. My mind was never racing at 4 in the morning, although considering the very sad state of my finances and job security prospects at the time, I should have been bugged-eyed and wide awake with worry.

Now, with a good job and a comfortable bank account, I am very, very wakeful.

(Although, knock on wood, for the last week or so, I’ve been in one of my good sleeping stretches. Probably due to getting up in the pre-dawn hours to go to the gym with XFE. Who knows how long it will last, but I’m definitely enjoying it.)

But, I slept like a champion in Peru.

I’m not sure if it was because there were exceptionally early morning flights (5:30 flight to Cusco) or because of the WuaynaKihlPhoe parasite, but most nights (parasite-symptom-wakefulness excluded), I was knocked right out and did not wake up until it was time for another delicious breakfast.

I’m working on a self-funded (OK, fine, an XFE-subsidized) study on the correlation between sleep satisfaction and expensive luxury resort hotels. The key to a sound sleep might be related to the weave in a set of Egyptian cotton linens + peace of mind from having a concierge/butler at one’s beck and call.

Room at Tambo del Inka in Peru

This was confirmed at Libertador hotels in Peru. I was not familiar with the Libertador hotel collections (funny fact: when you get to a certain price point, I’ve noticed that the language changes from “hotel chain” to “resort collection.”) but apparently, they’re a really nice line of hotels in Peru.

Thanks to their alliance with Starwood Properties, we stayed at two of Libertador’s seven hotels – Hotel Paracas in the southern coast of Peru and Tambo del Inka, near Machu Picchu.

Hotel Paracas was a typical beach-type resort—white stucco buildings, lush green manicured grounds, a beach view with white sands, an outdoor beach lounge/bar area near the beach with those big round wicker chairs and an outdoor fire pit and tiki torches.

 Hotel Paracas in the southern coast of Peru

 Hotel Paracas in the southern coast of Peru

The pool, which looked huge on the website, was actually a narrow strip of pool that got crowded with vacationing families pretty fast. We also ran into some difficulty renting a cabana, which limited our pool time a bit.

Pool at Hotel Paracas in the southern coast of Peru

The other problem we had was with the onsite tour agency, T’ikariy. They were unresponsive to our (admittedly, numerous) emails ahead of our visit, and gave conflicting information when we went in person. We were trying to book a sunset sand buggy excursion with them and after a few starts and stops (“We can’t do same day bookings.” “We can’t book you for tomorrow because it’s less than 24 hours.” “We can’t book you at all because our jeep is broken.”), we gave up and went to our concierge who gave us the number to another excursion place (he couldn’t book it since he’s supposed to use the onsite agency. Who didn’t have a working jeep. So, that makes sense.)

At Hotel Paracas, we stayed in a balcony suite, which, oddly enough is on the first floor. It had a lovely porch overlooking the grounds, which we made good use of, buying our own beer and cokes from the nearby town. We’d sit out there in the evenings with XFE’s iPod, eating snacks we’d brought from Trader Joe’s and drinking beers. It was probably my favorite part of the day.

Our villa at Hotel Paracas Peru

The room was very spacious. It had clearly been two rooms converted into one with a living room (with sofa bed), wet bar, and full bathroom with shower on one side; and a bedroom with king size bed and large bath on the other side. It’s the perfect set up for a family.

Living room at Hotel Paracas Peru

Bedroom at Hotel Paracas Peru

The service from the hotel staff was overall impeccable – everyone on the property was very friendly and quick to help with anything. Not that we put them through their paces or anything…other than a few calls for ice, we stayed pretty low during our two night stay.

Tambo del Inka would be where I really put Libertador hotel staff to the test.

Tambo del Inka is Incan for “Rest Stop of the Incans” and it was the perfect rest stop for us on our way to Machu Picchu. It’s located in the Sacred Valley in a town called Urubamba, about 50 minutes from Cusco. It opened only about a year ago and it is obvious that no expense was spared.

Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

The resort is small—only 128 rooms—and the entire place blends beautifully into the countryside. It’s got a whole, ski-lodge kind of vibe, with giant wooden doors opening onto the lobby with its floor-to-ceiling double-sided stone fireplace and a soaring ceiling with exposed wooden beams. However, the colorful Peruvian folk art hanging from the walls and decorating the surfaces reminds you that you’re not in Colorado.

Lobby beams at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Lobby at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

We checked out the indoor/outdoor multilevel swimming pool, but unfortunately it was too cold to swim. It’s supposed to be heated, but I would have to say, no way. We also peeked into the spa area and water circuit, which looked amazing. Our biggest regret was that we didn’t book a spa treatment at Tambo.

Indoor pool at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Pool at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

But the most stunning place was the bar right off the lobby. It had this jaw-dropping wall of translucent, backlit golden marble. The bar also has a lovely outdoor deck that made it even more difficult to choose where to sit.

Bar at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Deck at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

The check in was slightly unusual, but in a very nice way. They lead you over to one of the comfortable couches in the lobby area, and bring over some mate de coca tea (it’s supposed to help with altitude sickness) or a choice of other beverage. Since I wasn’t feeling too well and we’d been up since 3 am, we tried to rush our check in a bit to get to our room. The staff was understanding.

We were immediately upgraded to a very spacious senior suite room overlooking the Urubamba River, which came with its own butler, Alan. The room was just as gorgeous as the lobby, with a large walk in closet and one of the best beds I’ve ever slept in. Which I promptly did, right after a long bath in the sunken tub.

Room at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Bath at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Living Rooom at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

I was full on sick by this point (thanks, coconut popsicle in Lima!) and XFE was left to his own devices. He went to the afore-mentioned bar for a late lunch and then wandered into Urubamba for a look around. While taking pictures of the square, he made this little friend, who kept popping up just as the camera clicked.

Urubamba
Urubamba photo bomber

I still wasn’t feeling well that evening, so I ordered chicken soup from room service. I think it was great soup, but honestly, I was just incredibly hungry by that time. It could have been dirty bathwater and I think I would have slurped it down. They also brought me a birthday cake, which, while it didn’t help my stomach, it did make me very happy.

Birthday cake at Tambo del Inka in Peru

We chose Tambo del Inka because it has a train station taking hotel residents to Machu Picchu, which is a huge perk. The train leaves at the crack of dawn (Of course. Why must everything on vacation occur when the sun is not even up yet?) and a staff person walks you over to the station. Not because it’s a long and confusing walk. More likely, because you’re so sleepy and bleary eyed, they’re afraid you’ll end up snuggled up next to an alpaca in some farmer’s field somewhere. That’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen.

alpaca cuddles in Peru
But we’re so soft and cute, come sleep with us….

Most of the Tambo residents went up to Machu Picchu for just the day, but we stayed overnight at the Sanctuary. We packed a small overnight bag and the staff at Tambo held our bags for us, bringing them back to our room upon our return (we were put in the same room, which was nice.)

We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant our final morning (full buffet plus cooked-to-order eggs) and it was delicious. Well, as delicious as two scrambled-to-oblivion eggs could be, since I was still pretty sick and not feeling adventurous enough to try the quinoa pancakes (although I really wanted to).

Lobby at Tambo del Inka, Peru
Another lobby view.

We also looked at the dinner menu while we were checking out and really regret that we didn’t get a chance to eat there. It looked incredible and the prices were very reasonable.

Just like Hotel Paracas, the service was spot on, perhaps even a bit better. When walking through the lobby of Tambo del Inka, you literally ran a gauntlet of “buenos dias” and “hellos.” Our butler Alan was very helpful and concerned about my health, and offered to call a doctor to the hotel. I stoically, and stupidly, refused. Regret #3: if you’re sick, let them call a damn doctor in.

Tambo del Inka, Peru
More grounds at Tambo.

We loved our Tambo del Inka experience and just wished we’d booked a couple of extra days to enjoy the resort some more. Or, as was my case, roll around in that giant soft bed some more.

It’s a gorgeous place and definitely on my list of top 5 places we’ve ever stayed, intestinal parasite notwithstanding.

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Peru Eats that May or May Not Make You Ill

Well, well, well. Looks like I brought a souvenir back from Peru and I’m not talking about the gorgeous alpaca sweater I got at Sol in Lima.

Giardia

No, I’m talking about a parasite in my small intestine. Actually, there’s probably more than one of them. So, a pack of parasites, if you will. (they look so happy in the picture above. Very disconcerting.)

I went to the doctor on Tuesday and she quickly diagnosed me with Giardia. Doesn’t that sound like some sort of lovely plant or bush? “Just look at that Giardia flowering over the balustrade over the portico.”

It’s apparently quite common in cats and dogs. Guess I should have taken my preventative Frontline before the trip.

Anyway, it all continues to be unpleasant and fairly disgusting. I’m on antibiotics for the next week.

Not surprisingly, my new favorite pastime is to go over (in my mind) again and again everything I ate or ingested during the trip. I thought it was a fairly clean cut case against the coconut paleta I had in Lima, but who really knows? Let’s review some of what we ate while in Peru.

Pisco Sour

The lovely national drink of Peru. It’s composed of Peruvian Pisco (it’s kinda like a brandy), lime or lemon juice, simple syrup, ice, egg white and a drop of Angostura bitters.

Pisco sour in Peru

Our scientific findings, which included consumption of Pisco Sours at no less than four upscale hotels and more than a couple of restaurants, was that the best Pisco Sour in Peru can be found at the executive lounge at the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center. Amazing. The bartender didn’t use a mix (as some other places did) and he vigorously blended it in a shaker by hand – not a blender, as was more common. It was our first Pisco Sour of the trip and it was smooth and creamy and not too sour. We spent the rest of our time chasing another one like it.

Ceviche

The lovely national dish of Peru. It’s made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices until the chemical reaction causes a sort of cured/cooked state. Sorta like pickling.

ceviche in Peru

I’d like to think that the three or four times we had it the fish was fresh, but who knows. When we had it, we shared it, and while XFE has had some slight stomach issues, they’re not nearly the scale of my own, so I’m willing to give ceviche a pass as the culprit.

Cuy

Yes, despite my sworn protestations, I did partake in some guinea pig. BUT, it was a very small bite and was one course in a 17-course tasting menu at Astrid & Gaston, one of the finest restaurants in Lima. It was done in a Peking style, so I could barely taste it between the corn crepe and the sauce.

Cuy at Astrid & Gaston, Lima Peru

Alpaca

I had an alpaca loin at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge on the night of my birthday. I’m not sorry to say: It was really, really good. Kind of like a cross between lamb and a pork chop. Very tasty. I’d definitely eat it again.

Alpaca at the Sanctuary, Machu Picchu

Cancha salada

Toasted dried chulpe corn,salted and crunchy. These awesome little snacks were frequently put out when we ordered drinks. Delicious. I loved them. Sorta like  Corn Nuts (but not as processed).

Cancha_corn_snack

How to be Completely Useless

This might be one of the most frustrating images I’ve ever come across in my many years of reading blogs.

 

I saw it on Sojourning Abroad and it claims to be a color coded map with a list of local emergency numbers. Hmmm, I think to myself, wouldn’t that be a nice, permanent addition to the Poe Travel Binders.

So I clicked on it. And this is what I saw. Is it me or are those numbers teensy-teeny tiny? I mean, seriously. You’d need a microscope to read those numbers! I can just imagine the scenario now:

Poe walks absently down some foreign street, distracted by many shiny things. Would-Be Robber (WBR) lurks stealthily several steps behind, waiting patiently, yet intently. Poe reaches down to pet some mangy stray cat, leaving her purse dangling. WBR seizes the opportunity and slices the purse strings. Poe pulls out her trusty travel binder with a map of foreign emergency numbers, but alas, her map-reading microscope was in the purse that just got snatched. Poe sits on dirty foreign curb and cries while mangy cat rubs around her legs and gives her foreign fleas. 

AND SCENE.

I tried opening the image in a separate tab, but that has not helped at all.

I’ve been looking around my browser for ways to blow it up, but frankly, I’m too bone-weary tired to worry about my safety anymore. Well played, WBR, well played.

So, It’s Shark Week.

I can tell by the keyword searches that are bringing folks to thePoeLog that the worldwide Interwebs audience is breathless with anticipation to hear my thoughts on Shark Week.

The keyword searches this week have consistently been shark related (well, except for a very odd and brief divergence into Kate Gosselin territory in which someone on Monday searched for news about Kate Gosselin and visited my site for said information THIRTY-FIVE times. Wouldn’t you figure it out, oh, say, after the first five times?)

Anyway, there have been some pretty funny searches, including “sad shark,” “sharks in Australia,” “sharks killing people,” “shark riding bears,” and my personal favorite: “shark week themed appetizers.” Because, honestly, how can you have a pseudo-self-proclaimed holiday or highly marketed week of themed television programming, and NOT have the appropriate snacks to accompany it?

(I’ve actually put a lot of thought into this and have decided that “shark week themed appetizers” should definitely include lots of red food coloring and ripped off limbs of things, like chicken wings. And those Goldfish crackers. You are welcome, Martha Stewart.)

shutterstock/Iriana Shiyan

Thanks to these shark-related searches, Everybody’s a Comedian When They Get Bit By a Shark and Shark Week is Apparently EVERY Week in Australia have been my most popular and visited posts this week.

So, as you can see, my feelings on sharks are well documented and run the gamut from hated to loathed, with more than a dash of fear thrown in. Why anyone would want to watch hours and hours of sharks attacking things is completely beyond me. I find it quite alarming just how much footage there is.

Y’all know sharks are having a big ol’ laugh at our expense, right? They’ve heard about Shark Week. And they think it’s morbid that we insist on watching what basically amounts to snuff films of our own species, all right there on the so-called Discovery Channel. As this guy put it in a very good Huffington Post article on the popularity of Shark Week:

Newsweek’s Isia Jasiewicz mused more cynically, “It’s a sadistic fascination with the horrific misfortunes of cute surfer boys, friendly marine biologists, and… innocent dolphins.”

The guys at Discovery are going all out. There are a truly alarming number of so called “games” on their website, including Shark Week Bingo, Shark Week Chompdown, Shark Munch, and a feature that lets you “shark yourself.”

No wonder the incidences of shark attacks have been steadily increasing. How are you going to have a healthy dose of fear if the Discovery Channel is going to make sharks all fun and playful??

Not helping.

Then, there are the shows. “Sharkzilla,” “Air Jaws Apocalypse,” and perhaps, (OK, no, definitely) the most terrifying of all: “Adrift: 47 Days With Sharks.” Here’s the description for that gem:

During a routine search and rescue mission over the Pacific in WWII, an American plane crashed into shark-infested waters. This is the inspiring true story of two war heroes — one an Olympian, one a pastor’s son — who managed to survive a record-breaking 47 days at sea in a life raft. They subsisted on only the food they were able to catch from the ocean and the water they were able to collect from the rain, all while fighting off a gang of sharks that were their constant companions. But when they finally did reach land, it was only the beginning of their troubles. What happened to these men is one of the greatest tests of faith, will and endurance of our time.

I might have just chummed my pants. “Gangs of sharks?” No, thank you. The only gangs I roll with are one of the 1700 species of shark-killing parasitic copepods or the two pugnose eels that somehow swim their way into a shark heart and kill it (warning: that last website is pretty gross).

Maybe we can convince Discovery to start having Parasite or Eel Week. I’d watch that.

Or, combine Shark Week with the Olympics. That might be “fun.”