In hindsight, the next two days were very much the highlight of the trip. On the first day after arriving we had the morning to wander the town a bit. I walked a few blocks to the main plaza, had a look around, and then spied the Sign of The Mermaid on the side of a building (Starbucks!) This made me happy indeed, although it was on the 2nd floor of a somewhat large building, and it turned out to be a little tricky to locate the entrance to the interior courtyard so that I could get up to the store. I had completely missed breakfast, so I was very happy for the muffin, Frappucino, and wifi once i found the door!
In the afternoon, we had a nice tour of four major sights of Cusco. We began with a short bus ride up to Sacsayhuaman, which was likely the palace of the Inca ruler for the entire empire. The main thing about it is the absolutely massive rocks making up the foundation (some up to 300 tons) and fitted very precisely in place. As usual, there are some llamas wandering around the grounds.
We then proceeded to a nearby site called Q’enko, (zigzag) which was of religious significance and has some very interesting altars and things carved out of the large stones making up the ruin.
Back in town, we then visited the main Cathedral which has some wonderful art produced not long after the conquest such as a Last Supper where the group is shown eating guinea pig, and another where camels are replaced with llamas- the artists had never seen real camels! We then finished up with a visit to Qori’Kancha across from our hotel which has some really nice examples of restored Inca architecture including the trapezoidal windows and doorways which have
proven to be tremendously earthquake resistant, due to the mutual support of all the inward leaning angles. I really liked this stuff because it is just so completely different from modern architecture with all of the square angles and corners, and yet appears to have developed for largely practical reasons.
Dinner was on our own, so the group (minus tour guides) headed off to a cafe back in the main square. The food was reasonable and we had a good time, but nothing to particularly write home about. We all headed back to the hotel afterwards, as we needed to be up very early the next morning for the trek to Macchu Picchu.