Our first “Married” Christmas in Cusco, Peru

To celebrate our first Christmas as a married couple, we decided to fly to Peru, and eat and drink our way from Cusco to Machu Picchu to Lima. Here’s part one of our oral history of that trip: Christmas in Cusco.

Happy Llamadays and Married Christmas from Cusco!

Day 1: Views of Peru, Papachos, and Piscos

Megan: I slept through most of our flights to Peru. And when I woke up, I got to see breathtaking views of the green AF mountains of Cusco — mountains I’d soon be climbing on our trek to Machu Picchu!

Mike: But first, we had three nights to acclimatize in Cusco. It’s over 11k feet, and the altitude takes some getting used to. As Megan was a bit challenged by Bogota, which is closer to 8k feet up, I talked her into taking Diamox for this trip — and we planned to slowly ramp up our activities before the serious hiking began.

Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor

When I stayed in Cusco six years ago to go on a different Machu Picchu trek, I remember seeing the Palacio Del Inka and thinking it would be an amazing place to stay if I brought back my wife sometime for an almost honeymoon, or won the lottery. Luckily, the last eight months of working every day on ‘The Gifted’ made me feel just fine about spending a few ducats to relax — and this hotel was a perfect way to settle into Peru.

Megan: I’m so glad he went with “wife on an almost honeymoon” because the hotel is wonderful. The location is right next to what used to be an ancient Incan temple but got converted into a church. And I’m not mad at at all that it’s the view of from our tiny adorable balcony. The hotel used to be a museum in the ‘70s, so the layout is vast with almost endless hallways and rooms and it’s easy to get lost. Plus they have a constant supply of Coca tea which helps with altitude sickness side effects.

“Hey Hun, I know our food dropped 5 mins ago, but can you help me take this picture?” And then I didn’t even use the photo.

Mike: We fought off our exhaustion to venture over to Papacho’s for lunch. Getting burgers isn’t exactly the most Peruvian thing to do — but it’s the casual chain started by my favorite South American chef (Gaston Acurio) — and there were lots of tasty options.

The view of Cusco from Papachos.

Megan: I got my first sweeping view of Cusco from that burger joint, and I was instantly enamoured. I enjoyed the view of the town square (that was being set up for a giant Christmas market that would dominate the next few days) and realized that Cusco is nestled in a valley surrounded by rolling green hills. I could not stop staring out the window next to our table and just saying “Wow. WOW! This place is gorgeous.”

It’s amazing to just see old Incan walls everywhere!

Mike: After a quick nap, we hit up a more straight-ahead Peruvian joint (Cafe Moreno) for lomo saltado, a nice causa (potato dish), and Megan’s favorite: fried bananas for dessert.

Lomo Saltado, a Beetroot Causa, and Chicken Anticucho at Morena Peruvian Kitchen

We grabbed some quality cocktails at Museo del Pisco (not actually a museum – just a good cocktail bar) — drinking our first Pisco Sour of the trip — and our first Chilcano (Pisco and ginger ale – their variation had a little Chili kick and a guava flavor. It was amazing).

Marvelous drinks at Museo del Pisco – Cusco — Semi-spicy Chilcano being enjoyed by a fully-tired Megan, and a sublime Pisco Sour with our initials in the foam!

It was a glorious first night in Cusco, followed by a tough night in the hotel room… Continue reading “Our first “Married” Christmas in Cusco, Peru”

How I completed my Machu Picchu packing list almost entirely from one site

Athleta h2t.

For our first “married Christmas” we spent the holidays hiking our way to Machu Picchu. We started on Christmas day, and got to Machu Picchu on New Years Eve. It was amazing.

What I was NOT stoked about was having to shop (which I hate!) for clothes for something I had zero experience with (hiking trip through Peru during the Wet Season?).

Luckily I had three things on my side…

  1.  Mike’s already gone once to Machu Picchu in winter, so it’s nice that he has some ideas of what we were in for.
  2. A handy Machu Picchu packing list supplied by the company we used.
  3. My Athleta obsession.

Yup, I decided to manage my shopping anxiety by just sticking to one site, and in the end, I felt pretty great about it.

Clothes from my Machu Picchu packing list:

Since I am of the female varietal, and obsessed with athleisure wear, I took this packing list as an excuse to purchase a lot of things from Athleta. Check out my finds…

Broken-in hiking boots AND waterproof boots

Merrell Women’s Sugarbush Refresh Waterproof Hiking Boot

As “sneakers are not suitable” I had to buy actual hiking boots, and since they also put “waterproof boots” on the list, I thought I’d combine the two. Athleta used to have these shoes listed on their site, but I guess they sold out. (You can see them in a lot of their photoshoots.) Amazon has them though, and they’re awesome!

KEEN Women’s Oakridge Mid Waterproof Boot

Although they didn’t fit me all that well, so I ended up getting these instead and they were more comfortable, but not as waterproof as I wanted.

Rain jacket

Okay, here’s where I was already prepared and strayed from Athleta: I have a waterproof jacket from Marmot already — It’s super thin, lightweight, and packable, and saved me during many a light rain.

Rain pants AND Lightweight hiking pants (recommended)

Wander Utility Pant

But I didn’t have waterproof pants! So I decided to once again combine two list items into one: The Wander Utility Pant. According to Athleta these pants do all this:

  • ABRASION-RESISTANT. Resists nicks, tears and scrapes from errant branches and scrambling over rocks.
  • WATER-RESISTANT. Sleek outer fabric wards off unexpected light rain
  • PACKABLE. Packs down small in your bag (and comes out smooth as can be)

It did, indeed do all those things. Although, a couple of times during heavier rains and muddy treks, I broke out more industrial kind of rain pant.

Fast-wicking and quick to dry top and bottom base layers

My favorite purchases by far have been these fast-wicking base layers:

The Speedlight Heather Top.

I absolutely lived in this shirt because it’s:

  • UNSTINKABLE. Odor-controlling yarns.
  • SEAMLESS. Beyond-soft, chafe-free fabric stretches with your every move
  • WICKING. Pulls sweat away from the body so it can evaporate faster
  • BREATHABLE. Sweat can travel through the fabric so it can evaporate on the surface
  • IT FEELS: Lightweight, unbelievably comfortable
  • RATED UPF 50+ (Excellent Protection)
Pacifica UPF Top 2

I snagged this one on sale, and it’s also:

  • UNSTINKABLE. Wear it more. Wash it less.
    Natural silver salts give the fabric antimicrobial protection that lasts wash after wash
  • WICKING. Pulls sweat away from the body so it can evaporate faster
  • BREATHABLE. Sweat can travel through the fabric so it can evaporate on the surface
  • IT FEELS: Lightweight, super sleek, stretchy
  • RATED UPF 50+ (Excellent Protection)
The Power Up long sleeve in Abyss

Here’s a less tight wicking layer, the Power Up Long Sleeve (in my favorite color of theirs: Abyss) was good for warmer days. It is also:

  • UNSTINKABLE. Odor-controlling technology
  • Natural silver salts give the fabric antimicrobial protection that lasts wash after wash
  • WICKING. Pulls sweat away from the body so it can evaporate faster
  • BREATHABLE. Sweat can travel through the fabric so it can evaporate on the surface
  • IT FEELS: lightweight, ultra-sleek
  • RATED UPF 50+ (Excellent Protection)

Long-sleeve fleece/sweater

Funnel Fleece sweater

As a Los Angeleno I don’t have many fleece things, so I was stoked to buy this perfect cozy fleece sweater at Athleta! It was only ever used for hanging out during the cold nights. And I swear, I wore this sweater EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.

I got this Heat Generating Flannel in black and white. SO COZY!

I literally forgot to bring this with me, and I was bummed about it. There were many times when I didn’t want a puffy jacket, and just needed a thin flannel layer. This would have been awesome.

Cold-weather jacket

The Summit Parka. (And look, there are those shoes I got, but in brown!)

I love this jacket because it’s super-warm but also lightweight, and it’s water-repellant. But the fur hood makes me happy. Although, I didn’t actually bring it on the trek — I mostly just wore it in Cusco.

Instead when I needed even more warmth I threw on this:

Puffy vest

Responsible Down Vest

I wore this puffy vest just about every single day. It was probably my most important layer because it was super light, packs away really small, and it was water resistant.

Day pack

The Everyday Convertible Backpack

The Everyday Convertible Handbag had me at this review:

“I bought this backpack for a trip to Peru. I needed a nice travel purse as well as a backpack. This worked great for both, and saved me so much room. It held everything I needed, and was so comfortable…..even hiking Machu Picchu!”

Although it looks like that’s discontinued and this is the new model that’s two bags in one!

Made it to Machu Picchu wearing all my Athleta gear.


 Comfortable shoes/flip-flops — I rarely wore mine, except for running too and from a jacuzzi.
 Woolen hat — I wore mine a lot
 Baseball cap or sombrero — I wore mine not at all
 Buff or bandana
 Binoculars
 Headlamp
 Sunglasses
 Comfortable hiking socks (at least 4 pairs) — I ended up having to wear two at a time.
 Sunscreen
 Insect repellant
 Bathing suit
 Gloves — make sure they are waterproof. Cold wet fingers hurt.
 Photo/video cameras and chargers
 Trekking poles
Refillable water bottle

Other things to bring to Machu Picchu

Diamox for altitude sickness
Printed Flight Itineraries
World adapter
First aid kit

If anyone else has been to Machu Picchu, we’d love to hear from you — what were your favorite Machu Picchu packing list items?

The Dash and Dine’s guide to the best restaurants in Cusco, Peru

the best restaurants in Cusco - @thedashanddine
Megan inside MAP Cafe

For our first “married Christmas” we decided to fly to Peru and take a group trek to Machu Picchu. In doing so, we ended up spending a lot of time in Cusco, Peru — 3 nights to let our bodies adjust to the altitude, and then back again for 2 extra nights after the trek. We absolutely fell in love with the town, and along the way, we found some of our favorite restaurants in Cusco… Continue reading “The Dash and Dine’s guide to the best restaurants in Cusco, Peru”

How to make a Pisco Sour (according to Peruvians)

Hola from Peru! We’re deep in the Sacred Valley on our trek towards Machu Picchu. But we’ve found strong enough wifi + just enough time to post something we learned that involves alcohol!

A Pisco Sour made in the Huacahuasi Valley in the Andean mountains of Peru.

If you’re looking for something fun to serve at your New Years Eve party, or just looking for a quick way to get your friends tipsy (Peruvian pisco can range from 60-80 proof!) we learned this recipe in Peru for their national cocktail — the Pisco Sour.

We’ve been drinking and enjoying them all through our time in Peru, but we haven’t been able to drink as many as we’d like because alcohol and altitude don’t mix very well. But, thanks to some friendly locals in the Huacahuasi Valley, we learned how to make them for ourselves once we get home/back to sea level!

Fortunately for us (and you!) the recipe is surprisingly easy for how awesome this drink is… Continue reading “How to make a Pisco Sour (according to Peruvians)”