Vacation Days: Lima, Peru

Saturday, September 27, 2014
Hola blog amigos! Picking up where I left off in my South and Central American adventure, I'm going to rewind to the beginning of the trip and share with you my visit to Lima! Even though I spent a total of roughly 11 hours there (specifically in the trendy Miraflores neighborhood) before bouncing off to Cusco, I was able to sneak in a little sightseeing and have some amazing food (OBviously).

So let's get started!

^ How did that picture get in there? Huh...

The hostel I was supposed to stay in looked like this. But they were booked solid, so they put me up in an apartment that looked like this:

I mean, if you insist.

I managed to grab dinner at the lovely Huaca Pucllana. The restaurant overlooks the Pucllana Ruins, which are located smack dab in the middle of Lima. The food and view were absolutely breathtaking.

Peruvians are very proud of their Pisco Sours. And rightly so.

Because, #wine.

I was able to deduce that these were peeled potatoes with some cheese dip. I had no idea what I was ordering ever, but luckily it was all phenomenal.

I just made sure to train myself to say this: "No mariscos, por favor, unless you'd like to give my epi-pen a whirl, which I'll admit could be a barrel of fun!"

Again, I'm not really sure what you are, but you were delicious.

Look familiar? In the background that's Pucllana during the day.

And there you have it - my quick and delicious 11-hour stay in Lima! I've got posts on Cusco and Panama City coming your way soon. Are you pumped? I'm pumped.

Oh, and here's the lovely breakfast I had, courtesy of the great hostel I stayed at!

South America, you sure are tasty.

*All photos were taken with my Nikon D60 and my iPhone.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014
It's officially fall!

Which means the mornings are now somehow magically beautiful here, I'm drinking all of the pumpkin coffee, and my apartment smells like the entire harvest section of Bath and Body Works.

Because it's officially fall!

But let's rewind a hair back to the summer, shall we? When my friend Megan was off being amazing teaching children in Vietnam for the summer, I met up with her super cool boyfriend Jesse for brunch one day at Lowbrow. He said I had to try their veggie burger. But turns out they don't serve their veggie burgers at brunch. (!!!!) So I ordered their house granola with Greek yogurt and honey, which was great, but tasted exactly how you would expect house granola and Greek yogurt with honey to taste.

Fast forward about six weeks - Megan's back in town, so she, Jesse, my boyfriend, and I all meet up for dinner at Lowbrow one night to try this legendary veggie burger.

Oh yeah, I have one of those now. I sort of glossed over that in my last post about llamas, but I've been boyfriended. I suppose he should get a proper blog introduction. His name is Jon, and he's awesome and dreamy and we laugh a lot. Unfortunately, in the initial dating phase we visited a lot of new places, but I didn't blog about them because, a) I wasn't sure at what point one starts casually taking pictures of their food, while simultaneously making sure there's no broccoli in their teeth/trying to convince the totally dreamy person sitting across from them that they're completely sane and worth spending consistent time with (dating is exhausting, can I get an Amen?!), and b) introducing a new person on my blog? I don't take that stuff lightly! But I should have known everything would have been fine from day one when Jon started sending me photos of everything he ate.

(...No really. Everything.)

Moving along!

In true double date fashion, Jesse and Megan split the chicken-fried black bean veggie burger with an egg and cheddar cheese. They also ordered the mac-and-cheese for all of us to share. McDreamy and I jumped on that bandwagon and split the chicken-fried black bean veggie burger with an egg and cheddar cheese, and we ordered the curry fries for all of us to share.

Are we annoying? (Don't answer that).

BUT YOU GUYS. I cannot even begin to tell you how good everything was.

We'll start with the curry fries - Topped with masala curry, pickled shallots, jalapenos, and cilantro, these fries were great. The Boheme fries at Cafe Boheme will always be my favorite "fancy fry," but these are definitely up there. Eating the curry fries was an exciting experience because of their interesting complex flavors (the curry! the spiciness! WOW!).

But if I had to do it over again, I would have ordered a second helping of the mac and cheese in place of the curry fries because I'm sorry, CHEETOS ON TOP OF MACARONI AND CHEESE IS A REAL THING AND MY LIFE IS NOW COMPLETE.

This was just stupid it was so good. Something different from the standard elbow mac? Check. A beautiful melty cheesy mixture? Check. Cheetos crumbled on top????? Seriously, is this real life?

Promise me you'll order it if you go.

And promise me you'll order this.

First let me apologize for how this terrible picture shows you absolutely nothing about the ethereal veggie burger resting inside those fluffy bun pillows. (Also, let me apologize for ever saying "fluffy bun pillows"). There was an indescribably dreamy guy sitting next to me making me nervous as I worried about my Cheeto-covered face and whether or not I had dropped the "I have a food blog" bomb on him too soon and if I'd be able to find a way to watch the UK premiere of Downton Abbey months prior to the U.S. release.

(But seriously guys, dating. Amiright?)

I have a pretty solid running list of Top Five Veggie Burgers in my mind, and I can confidently say that this one has landed a secure spot in there. The patty adhered together so perfectly with the "chicken-fried" coating, and the runny egg and cheddar really sealed the deal. The texture of the patty itself had a slight crunch from the coating, which was pleasant to experience. Topped with avocado and served with what I believe was a chipotle mayo, the burg was full of flavor, cooked perfectly, and just downright delicious.

I am beyond glad Jesse was so adamant about us trying out Lowbrow. All of the food there was amazing, and it's a great little spot. Sit inside the somewhat dark restaurant/bar area, or park yourself on the large patio like we did and enjoy the cooler fall evenings we're starting to get! Oh, and be sure to check out the super cool retro wallpaper in the bathrooms, which is an homage to old school Houston (think Astrodome and oil rigs).

But if you're going on a date, word to the wise you may want to wait until you reach the "I-have-Cheetos-all-up-in-my-teeth-but-I've-already-tricked-you-into-adoring-me-so-you'll-hold-my-hand-anyway" phase of the relationship.

Lowbrow on Urbanspoon

Vacation Days: The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, Peru

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Hello there! Long time no see!

^ I haven't aged a bit, huh?

I came back this week from my 10-day solo trip to Peru and Panama, and of course I have been dying to share all of my adventures with you! Don't worry, I'm going to split it all up into a few different parts and throw some food blog posts in between so I don't completely lose you.

This post is going to be focused on the apex of my trip, the main reason for my travels, the torture of all tortures and beauty of all beauties: The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. So without further adieu...

Day 1 of the Inca Trail:
(AKA: "What in God's Name Did I Get Myself Into?")
(AKA: "The Awful Bathroom Incident of 2014")

Aww, look how happy and clean and excited and naive and not at all out of breath I look!

Too bad it was so ugly.


And, yay puppies!

My tour group consisted of a husband and wife from the UK in their 60s (who were unbelievably incredible and inspirational) and our amazing guide Ludwig. We were definitely one of the smallest groups on the trail, compared to others that sometimes had up to 12 people, and I really like the dynamic it created. It almost seemed like we had our own private tour! The tour group I used is called Enigma, and I cannot recommend them enough.

Day one of the Inca trail was by far the most challenging day for me. We hiked pretty much all day long, and the final few hours of the day were spent hiking uphill on steep uneven Incan stone steps. I was really struggling to catch my breath in this new world up in the clouds. The words of motivation I muttered under my breath ranged from "You can do this" to "Get it together Ogonosky" to "My butt better look amazing after this" to a string of very strong words that would make my mother rinse my mouth out with soap.

Oh, what is this bathroom incident I mentioned in the subtitle, you ask? During our lunch break I used one of the bathrooms along the trail, which was a hole in the ground of a little shack. The floor was covered in what I can only describe as growing cultures in a petri dish. I was super nervous and stressed out about it, and as I --er-- repositioned myself my sunglasses slid off my head and, you guessed it…….fell onto the petri dish ground. 


I quickly weighed my options: I could throw the sunglasses away and not have them for the rest of the trip, or I could douse them in copious amounts of hand sanitizer, suck it up, and go. It was a desperate moment, and I'm not proud of the decision I made. I won't tell you what I did, but let's just say I told my boyfriend Jon the story, and I'm pretty sure I'm never going to hear from him again.

Day 2 of the Inca Trail:
(AKA: "Peaking the Tallest Point")
(AKA: "What in God's Name Did I Get Myself Into? Part 2") 

Yeah, I woke up to this view. It was rough.

And I also peaked the highest point of the entire trail, at almost 14,000 feet! Fortunately I finally caught my breath on this day, and there were far less expletives coming out of my mouth on the hike. I also had a lot of quiet contemplative solo time, which I really cherished. Day two was another full day of hiking. The beginning of the hike was all uphill to this peak, followed by a few hours of sharp downhill climbing. My knees were singing, but again, I was happy to just be able to breathe and not die.

As much as I may try to convince you that I was really "roughing it" and the bathrooms were terrifying (well except for, you know...the one...), we had a team of porters who were total Herculean ninjas and a chef who cooked us   a m a z i n g   three-course meals. The picture above depicts the third course of lunch that day. It's stupid how good it was.

I got to my tent that night, shins throbbing, covered in bites from "midges," starting to smell myself a little, and still questioning my sanity, but I was pretty excited from all the events from the day.

And I had some really bizarre dreams.

Day 3 of the Inca Trail:
(AKA: "That One Time I had a Photo Shoot with some Llamas on a Peruvian Hillside")

Day three was by far my favorite day on the trail. And not just because of the llamas!

(Okay, that's a lie.)

Day three was only a half a day of hiking, and the views were absolutely stunning. Like the previous days, we stopped at a few archeological sites and were given some very interesting Incan history lessons from Ludwig (see above). 

I cannot stress just how downright magical this place is. The mystery, the culture, the beautiful world up in the clouds....

Oh, hey guys.

(My best friend from high school's name is Erica, and we must have watched Emporer's New Groove together 692 times, and she's literally going to need CPR after she sees this.)


What's that? You...want to take some pictures with me?

Promise not to spit on me?

Really promise me Erica?

How about a little kiss?

Llama = #OverIt

But seriously, that view.

Bye guys!

Then we visited another archeological site, and it rained a little, but I put on my "sexy pants" and was good to go!

Day three rocked my socks off.

Day 4 of the Inca Trail:
(AKA: "Arriving at Machu Picchu") 
(AKA: "That Magical Moment When I Encountered a Running Toilet Again") 
(AKA: "I Need a Beer or Four") 
On the last day, we woke up at 3:45 am to get ready for our morning hike to Machu Picchu. We arrived at the Sun Gate around 8:00 to be greeted with our first view of MP, shown above.

And of course I ugly cried like an idiot.

Our fearless group!

(please ignore the puffy faced girl on the left).

It really was as spectacular as it looks. Also, take a mental note of Waynapicchu - the tall, steep, scary mountain behind Machu Picchu there.

Huh. Where did those sunglasses come from…?

Remember how I said to take a mental note of that tall, steep, scary mountain behind Machu Picchu? Yeah, I decided to peak it. Because 4 days on the Inca Trail wasn't enough.

I literally had to crab walk up and down the thing.

But I did some yoga above Machu Picchu and almost fell off the side of a mountain, so that was cool.

But seriously, the views.

Oh, and did I mention the running toilets at the entrance to Machu Picchu? I didn't even care that it cost me 1 Peruvian sole to get in! I actually almost kissed a toilet, it was such a special moment!

Here's another picture of a llama to help you help you forget what I just said.

After we were done touring Machu Picchu and learning all about the history/mystery behind it, we took a bus down to a little town called Aguas Calientes, where we toasted to an amazing trip!

Hiking the Inca Trail was by far the most challenging and most incredible experience of my life. The Enigma crew of Ludwig, our porters, and chef was outstanding, and I couldn't have asked for better hiking buddies. If you've never taken a solo trip before, I say carpe diem! And if you want to push your mental and physical abilities to the limit, while learning more about yourself and expanding yourself spiritually, hike the Inca trail. You absolutely will not regret it.

And you'll probably make a few friends along the way.

*All photos were taken with my Nikon D60 and my iPhone.
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