A Walk Through Miraflores

This was the day I officially fell in love with Lima. The district of Miraflores is IT.

Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana

First I stepped back in time, to the 7/8th century, to explore Huaca Pucllana – the sacred temple for ritual games. This was the site of ceremonial activities during the Lima culture in the period 200-700 AD. The structure itself is in the form of a truncated pyramid, used for rituals, surrounded by an administrative section. The entire structure is made by adobe bricks – mud bricks which were moulded by hand and sun-dried. The arrangement of the bricks is like trapezoidal bookshelves, with gaps between the bricks to withstand seismic shocks.

We had a guided tour in English that took us to various sections, starting from the tiny museum, explaining some of the rituals like pottery smashing and human sacrifices, through the administrative section, the typical garden, a few animal pens, and some parts of the pyramid. In addition to the Lima culture, there are also some tombs from the Wari culture (500-900 AD), that contain burial shrouds and other remains.

Some of the animals in their pens: guinea pigs, llamas, alpacas –

We ended the tour back at the museum and attached gift shop.

Huaca Pucllana

By the time the Incas got here, the site had been abandoned for centuries. The Incas left it alone, and it stayed neglected until the 1980s when archeological and restoration work started in earnest. It’s a beautiful sight – in a single subdued colour, where you look closely to see the handiwork of people from centuries past, with the backdrop of present-day city.

After this time travel, I had to attend to my baser instincts of hunger. Walking down in Miraflores, I consulted TripAdvisor “Near Me Now” and was recommended El Bar Verde on Calle Berlin, that offered vegetarian food. Had a most delicious whole grain + avocado + olive sandwich in the beautifully decorated corner cafe.

I was so full after that sandwich that I could walk in and out of the Choco Museo without getting tempted to buy or sample anything. That only lasted a few minutes until I saw this pretty cafe selling desserts, and the one that got me was tres leches.

Miraflores Miraflores

It was an overkill, but delicious, and to walk it off I headed to Parque Kennedy. The park’s claim to fame is that it has more cats than flowers, or so it seems, because you barely notice the flowers in favour of the multitude of cats that wander around, looking for a cuddle, some food, warmth, whatever. All I had to do was sit on a bench to have one of these cute cuddly fellows climb onto my lap and try to squeeze into my warm fleece jacket. They are so adorable!!!!!!

Artists selling their work outside this park, and I was in heaven!

MirafloresMirafloresMiraflores

After spending an hour here, I had to tear myself away to head to Larcomar, where Souvik & I had planned to meet and have dinner. Not a long walk; as an added bonus to an already superlative day, I found a travel agent to buy me 2 tickets to enter Machu Picchu next weekend. Yeeaaahhhhh!

MirafloresLarcomar is one of the malls that I can call beautiful – built into the side of the cliff, facing the ocean, you can see nothing of it from the main road. We chose to eat at Tanta, a buzzing restaurant with great views, and settled for a couple of fruity pisco sours and shared a quinoa salad.

This is the route I walked:

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That Trip…Huitième Jour: A touch of the Bohemian

Our next stop in Paris was the area of Montmartre. Only about 3km from home, we set off walking again, this time through some more residential and humbler areas of Paris. The grocery shops, ATMs and other utilitarian spots that stayed out of view on the first day showed themselves up. I hobbled up the Rue de Temple (foot cramps, you see), we had our late breakfast of coffee and croissant.

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We turned left at the Republique statue, onto Boulevard de Magenta. It was Souvik’s day to navigate, and he did fine. It was a straightforward route, turning left onto Bd de Clichy, past a lot of wedding dress shops, up the hill to La Basilique du Sacre Cœur.

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It was a cold and windy day, inside the Basilique was warm but imposing. The place was teeming with tourists and touts, and we had enough quickly. We wanted to head to Rue Lamarck for lunch, but not before me doing to Souvik what he does to me sometimes – not believing the navigator. The Good Lord was watching, and made us climb the hill a second time as punishment. Now cold and tired, we still trudged to this cafe called Soul Kitchen. One of the owners/chefs here is the daughter of the couple who run a restaurant in Itterswiller, Alsace, and had given us the address. We were curious, so we stepped in. The cosy feeling in the cafe, plus the delicious aromas of food, and we were sold. The meal was as good as the smell, and we were transported back to Alsace with the 3-course set, though much more reasonable portion sizes. The highlight was the tomato soup and scone au Parmesan, and the dessert of frommage blanc with homemade jam. Ummmmm.

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After this deeply satisfying meal, we were rejuvenated to climb that hill for the third time, now headed to Place du Tertre, the artists’ hangout, my favourite part of Paris so far.

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The crowning glory was this man playing a beautiful version of Debussy’s Claire de Lune, setting up the mood of romantique Paris.

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Place du Tertre was as bohemian as an artists’ village ought to be. Souvik found a movie store, I found a quirky souvenir shop – Le Chat Noir, France’s answer to Hello Kitty! We then strolled over to the sleaze district of Pigalle, past the sex shops to admire from outside the Moulin Rouge.

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The walk back home via Rue Pierre Fontaine and Grand Boulevards had a few good food stops –
Chocolate

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Yoghurt La Fermiere

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Some bread, cheese, ham and wine, for a happy dinner at home

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With just a week in Paris, we’ve made a complex itinerary based on recommendations from French and Francophile friends and our own wish list. There’s river and canal cruises, marché des enfant rouges, Notre Dame, la Conciergerie, top of the Eiffel Tower, Trocadéro, Montparnasse, place de la Madeleine, the catacombs, not to mention interesting shops, macarons, glacés, and moutarde to chase.

If you have a favourite store/ spot in Paris, please go ahead and share!

That Trip… Cinquième Jour: the Big Ride

Day 5 dawned bright and clear. We had an ambitious plan of cycling up to the Maginot Line at the French-German border, and then getting back to Scherwiller (60 km). Wanting to beat the sun on this big ride, we were off at 6.30 in the morning, riding directly into the sun. Negotiated our way through Colmar, Horbourg-wihr, Muntzenheim, and found a dedicated cycling route all the way past Atrzenheim into Marckolsheim. Tree lined, canal running alongside, birds chirping, ducks swimming – just my idea of perfect cycling conditions.

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The Ligne Maginot was of great interest to Souvik, being the Great War buff that he is. I am neutral. The tanks and weapons from the French Germans and Americans are displayed, but it is a rather tiny exhibit. Here’s the memorial:

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From the Maginot Line we cycled across the river Rhin over to Germany. Found a beer garden on the banks of the river, ideal for resting and people watching.

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A couple of hours later, we set off towards ‘home’, following the direct route from Marckolsheim to Selestat and finally Scherwiller. The weather stayed good throughout, with a cloud diffusing the sun’s intensity. We could probably have made it a full military day with Neuf Brisach in the plan, but we didn’t have that weather forecast when we set out.
A few rest stops around Selestat, and we made it back well in time for a shower and snooze before dinner.

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As for dinner, our last 4-course meal is best described only in pictures. You get to see the veggie ones, because Souvik couldn’t wait long enough to take a picture :-D. Accompanied by a glass of Crémant, a Pinot Gris, and a digestif.

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That trip… Quatrième Jour: on Foot

We spent a rather warm evening in Eguisheim, and were taking it easy in the morning on day four. The plan for this day was to give the bikes and our ‘seats’ a little rest. After a typical French breakfast, we cycled to the neighbouring town of Colmar, parked our bikes near the town centre and set off on foot to enjoy the touristy sights.

Colmar is by far the biggest town we’ve encountered on our tour of Alsace. It was reminiscent of Florence, Italy, with the big cathedral and the sidewalk restaurants and hundreds of map-toting tourists, though on a much different scale.

It seemed to be little school kids’ day out, with many groups milling about the town centre and in museums, drawing, or having a lesson. Colmar’s most famous son is Frédéric Bartholdi (take a moment to guess what’s his claim to fame). Turns out, our last few holidays have had a little connection to each other. In Chianti, Italy, we heard of the explorer Verrazzano, who was supposedly one of the first Europeans to cross into New York Harbour, and has a bridge named after him. Last year we spent a part of our holiday in New York (hence the connection), and of course, admired the Statue of Liberty, which was gifted to USA by France, and sculpted by…Frédéric Bartholdi! Sadly, the Bartholdi museum in Colmar is closed on Tuesdays, and so we haven’t been educated about his other works.

After a just about average lunch of more Flammekueche (smaller the city better the food, and vice versa; Ribeauville beat Colmar hands down), we strolled over to the area of ‘little Venice’ and the covered market.
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It’s a shock for us to see how much the sun and heat are affecting our holiday. As the local grapes ripen in the sun, we wilt, and by 3 pm everyday, there’s nothing I like better than the shade of a big tree. We were lucky to find that in Colmar.

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And there was a well spent half hour!

Back into Eguisheim, we were quickly out exploring our own village which holds the distinction of being THE prettiest village. Our window looked out to the grand fountain, and there was not one, but two stork nests in the buildings next door. Eguisheim is another fortified town with very picturesque walks on the Rue de remparts.

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We wandered around until dinner time, then bravely entered the restaurant to face our ‘ordeal’. Luckily (!) they had no vegetarian food, so I simply munched down the salad (Souvik had the mandatory foie gras), but Souvik loved his first course of flaky pastry filled with fish and egg swimming in a cheese sauce. So much that he offered to finish mine, after I was done eating the sauce with bread. Naturally we were full after this, and all ready to refuse dessert until we were presented with this:

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I call it the chicken begging mercy, after being stuffed with pork. I was allowed to place mine aside, and eat the legumes below. Souvik needed his bed! But shamelessly agreed to eat his crème brûlée, as I downed some coffee. BURPPP!

All said and done, the highlight of the day has been the shop signs! Very artistic, many of them done by Hansi, a talented caricaturist from Colmar. See for yourself some of the coolest ones:

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That Trip…Troisième Jour: Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

We’re going away for a couple of days to stay in Eguisheim, so we spent the third morning packing our panniers. It’s a roughly 30 km ride; I say roughly because we tend to take wrong turns a lot. That’s probably because we’re working with paper maps after ages – no GPS! So we depend on the maps, the sun, the direction of the Vosges Mountains, and some landmarks along the way. Getting lost is fun, but the heat takes a toll on the legs and the spirit! I was so occupied by the packing that blogging took a back seat, and I’m having to post about two days together.

The day’s forecast was 34 degrees C! Is that why we travelled all the way from Jakarta to France – to soak up the sun??? Now we’re committed, and packed up on the panniers, so off we go!

This time we exited Scherwiller in the south easterly direction right away into the vineyards, passing through Chatenois, then Kintzheim, pausing only for a morning photo op.

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We were riding on the ancient Roman road, mixed with the Route de Vins, all of it steeped in history and present-day culture. As we entered Bergheim, we found a nice shady spot to take a break.

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Moving on, our first scheduled stop was the touristy town of Ribeauvillé. I’m tired of using the word ‘pretty’, but is there any way out?

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It was a welcome change to see lots of people milling about, shops open (gasp!), informal eating on the sidewalks. This region is famous for storks (les cignones), and we spotted a few in their nest.

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The lunch plan was to sample the regional speciality of Flammekueche; we simply chose the restaurant based on the aroma that tickled our noses and beckoned us inside. I used my very basic French to order one traditional dish with creme and onions and champignons sans lardons (bacon) to share. We were not disappointed.

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Followed up lunch with a welcome ice cream, and cooled off at the fountain before heading off towards the next pretty town of Riquewihr.
With some serious uphill climbs, we decided to forgo the detour to Hunawihr. Just then Souvik’s bicycle seat fell off, and we spent an hour getting it to fit back. Whew! Then promptly took a wrong turn into Zellenwiller. The crazy uphill made me pause and we wound around the village back on the main road.

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Struggled all the way to Riquewihr in the heat, but the walk into the village was so worth all the trouble. From Nick’s description, Riquewihr reminded me of a chawl, with ancient external toilets (from the days before plumbing), and what a chawl it is! Deservedly finding a place among the most beautiful villages of France.

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By this time it was quite late in the day, but the sun showed no sign of mellowing, and we had a hotel to check into, in Eguisheim. The ride was fairly uneventful, just a few stops for directions and water and groaning. Getting into Eguisheim, we realised we didn’t know the name of our hotel. Some frantic calls to Nick, and asking a few people, we managed to find the Hostellerie du Chateau behind the Grand Fountain, which is ironically the picture on the cover of the Eguisheim map!

And now for the best part – dinner. Amuse bouche of asparagus soufflé. Foie gras and salad with Riesling. Grilled fish with egg and a fishy salad on the side was Souvik’s main course. I was offered yummy grilled eggplant and other veggies, with a baked potato and cauliflower mash. Dessert was indecent – a mountain of cream topped with meringue, concealing a scoop of vanilla ice cream over strawberry sorbet. This was one meal we didn’t share (except for my foie gras), and licked each plate clean!

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That trip…. Deuxième Jour: Chapelle-hopping

The second day of our holiday dawned bright and clear, and Mr full-of-foie gras Basu decided to jog while I blogged. I was up at 4, from a combination of jet lag and the excitement of being on the bike.

Nick met us after our breakfast of croissants with cheese, Nutella and coffee. He had an exciting route mapped out for us – to Dambach la-Ville then Epfig, Ebersmunster, through Ebersheim and back to Scherwiller. As we’ve come to expect, Nick gave us some good ideas on where to stop and what to see.

Half an hour later, we were all saddled up and ready to go.

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First task – take the bike path through the village of Kientzville to The medieval town of Dambach la Ville. And we got lost. The good news is that the spires of the chapels in nearby villages can be seen from a distance, and a few wrong turns later we were back on track.

Dambach is a fortified city dating back to the 14th century. We stopped in the shop to pick up some lunch first – un baguette, fromage, pêches, deux oranges, then cycled to the town centre to park our bicycles at the Office de tourisme. Then wandered around to admire some 15th century buildings, half-timbered houses, fountains and other structures.

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Right out of Dambach, we turned left to climb the hill to the Chapelle St. Sebastien. That hill sucked the juice out of me, and I had to walk up from midway. For a fabulous view of Dambach La Ville below.

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We spent a few minutes inside the chapel, a cool relief from the intense sun. And it wasn’t even noon!

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Then we set off on a longish ride, through Bienschwiller, toward Epfig, through the farms and vineyards on dedicated cycle paths, to the Chapelle Saint Marguerite.

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The ‘highlight’ of this chapel is the ossuary – holding skulls and bones of juveniles during the peasant revolution. The interior of the chapel is calm and inviting, and they have a short commentary about the history in 3 languages. I loved it!

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We moved on towards Kogenheim, and turned off towards Ebersmunster. But not before stopping for lunch at a banc de l’impératrice (the Empress bench), built all over Alsace for peasants to rest. Feasted on our baguette and cheese, slurped our peaches and were refreshed for another long ride ahead.

The Abbey of Ebersmunster was to be our last stop, suggested by Nick as a study of contrasting styles from the previous chapel. And what a shock it was!

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The ornate interiors would not have put me off had we not seen the simple dignified structure just before. Interesting, though!
Getting out of Ebersmunster, we had a little confusion of the north-south direction, but just ended up taking the longer way to Ebersheim, and continuing straight home to Scherwiller.

Dinner that night was at a charming family run restaurant in Itterswiller (among the few to be open on Sunday evening).

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We had a detailed discussion on every course (!) during which I agreed to try the fish, knowing that Souvik would eat most of it. We started with a glass of delicious Riesling, then starters of toasty bread with salmon pâté and little shrimp (Souvik ate them all), salad with mushrooms and other standard ingredients (delish) for me, and chicken confit for the hungry husband. Followed by the grilled fish and noodles in a delicate cheesy sauce and fluffy pastry for me and a gigantic chicken cordon bleu with sautéed potatoes for the boy. I had a few bites of that fish, and passed the rest to Souvik, trading for the yummy potatoes. When we couldn’t finish the entire quantity, the lady offered the local Munster cheese with cumin. We were expecting some durian-type smelly cheese, but this one was harmless, and very nice with the toasted cumin. Not done yet – a small portion of citron glacé to round off the meal, and we were in food coma!

Day 18: Resting my feet and Stuffing my face

That’s all I did on Tuesday, under a nice shady tree at James Madison park for the entire morning. Finished reading a book, watched some people play on the grass, kids out on a nature walk from school, and a late bird looking for leftover worms. Such was my stillness that an enterprising spider thought I would be the right spot for his next cobweb!

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The hunger pangs soon set in. A search on trip advisor came up with Bradbury’s, reputed for crepes. Yumm!! That’s mine, strawberry with mascarpone and mint:

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Rukmini collected me soon after, and we spent the afternoon shopping for shoes (nice boots) and clothes (bo-oring!). Next came a round of putt putt golf, my big opportunity to be silly.

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Walking around for 20 meters had us ready for the awesome Michael’s frozen custard – supposedly it is never frozen, and thankfully not custard at all. Just fresh ice-cream. Nice!

There was still some day left, for a quick visit to Rukmini’s garden patch to harvest spinach and coriander, then tapas dinner at Eno Vino.

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