Brandon and I are in Cuzco this weekend. Right now we’re sitting in a cafe, overlooking the Plaza de Armas, watching the shadows fall across the church steps and hearing a bunch of different languages from our neighboring patrons – patrons from everywhere but Peru. Cuzco is a deluxe city, sprawling and grand, covering the floor of a vast valley 11,150 feet above sea level. It is a city accustomed to tourists, quite unlike Urubamba, and we blend in well – even though visitors from the states are a minority here. This weekend is a treat for us, and we’ve been doing little else but walking and shopping and eating – spending more than we should from our tightly budgeted finances. Last night we had a delicious Peruvian meal, Aji de gallina, for $5 a person, and then stepped next door to a cushy wine bar, slopped on a couch, reading National Review and Vanity Fair from June 2007, and sipped our first delightful Pisco Sours – made from Pisco brandy and topped with frothy meringue. We returned to our hostel, and watched from our privately barred balcony as the younger tourists weaved drunkenly back from the discotheques whose heavily bass-laden music shook the walls of our tiny room until 5am.

Cuzco is so deluxe it even has its own Inca ruins, Sacsayhuaman, settled high on the mountains overlooking the Cuzco valley. We traveled there by foot early this morning, climbing smooth-worn stone steps through the city until we reached ancient, massive walls created from gigantic gray stones. Beautiful, mysterious, impressive ruins. However, our sea-level blood is still not accustomed to the altitude – or we are terribly out of shape – and once we were close enough to touch the stones, we leaned on them for support as we rested and tried to enjoy the sight between heaving gasps of air. We wandered through the ruins for a while until we got bored and until tour buses arrived, belching more tourists who unapologetically shoved themselves into our exclusive photos. Before we descended to return to the city, we visited the chalky-white, enormous statue of Jesus which neighbors the ruins, acting as a towering figure who watches over the city.  Tonight, from the open shutters of the cafe, we can see the brightly illuminated statue hovering high in the blackness surrounding the Plaza.

We are returning to Urubamba tomorrow afternoon sometime and will welcome the tranquility of the little town – at least until next weekend arrives.