Photo: Christian Vinces/Getty Images
With global travel on pause and almost everyone stuck at home, we know you’ve been dreaming about where you’ll go as soon as you can book that next flight. To help give you some inspiration, we’re asking our well-traveled staffers about their best trips. Here, editor in chief Ellen Carpenter tells us about her trip to Peru.
1. What about the destination made this your favorite trip?
My first thought is simply everything: the food, the sights, the art, the history, the ocean… Peru has it all. But if I give it a little more thought, then I realize it’s specifically the creativity of the Peruvian people that really sets the country apart, and seeing that is what made my trip so special. From the boundary-pushing restaurants to the thriving art scene to the mind-boggling architecture of Machu Picchu, Peru is bursting with creativity, old and new.
2. Can you pinpoint the moment you fell in love with the place?
I think it might have been when I discovered that Peru lays claim to the humble potato and boasts more than 3,000 varieties. THREE THOUSAND TYPES OF POTATO. I mean, what could be better than that? I think I learned this fact while dining at Malabar, where celebrated chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino explores Amazonian cuisine in shockingly creative ways (yes, I said creative again). In general, Peru’s agriculture is incredible. They grow half the world’s quinoa, purple corn kernels as big as grapes, fruits you’ve never heard of and can’t get enough of (Lucuma? Camu camu?), plus some of the best coffee anywhere. And don’t get me started on the fish.
3. What was your best meal you had on the trip?
That’s like asking me which of my kids is my favorite. Oh wait, I only have one child. OK, fine. If I had to choose I’d say lunch at El Mercado, star chef Rafael Osterling’s cevicheria. This trip was 10 years ago, mind you, and it was my first time having ceviche. I don’t think I had ever tasted fish so fresh, so bright, so shockingly delicious. I wanted to drink the leche de tigre (the marinade, potent with limón and ají amarillo). But instead I drank my pisco sour, which was just as delicious!
4. What was your favorite tourist attraction?
I was looking forward to seeing Machu Picchu, but I wasn’t prepared for the beauty, the mystery, the scope of it. It’s amazing—and totally incomprehensible! Why did the Incas decide to build this temple on a mountain in the middle of nowhere? How did they do it? And why did they abandon it? All you can do is shake your head and take a photo. Or 200. (And it’s OK if half of them are llama selfies.) A lot of people hike to Machu Picchu. Good for them. I cheated and took Belmond’s luxurious Hiram Bingham train back to Cusco, and boy am I glad I did. I dined in style in the 1920s-style parlor car and drank pisco sours and danced alongside a band roving through the train. Exploring the ruins and then taking that train? One of the most magnificent days of my life.
5. Did you have any memorable nights out on the town?
I went to Peru to write about the new generation of artists, designers, and musicians in Lima, so I had a lot of great nights out seeing bands and going to gallery shows. I remember one evening we ended up at this bar called Juanito de Chorrillos, which is the perfect late-night spot because they have everything you need: 1950s pinball machines, beer, and scrumdiddlyumptious ham sandwiches.
6. Did you meet any cool people?
I wanted to be best friends with everyone I met: the artist Abél Bentín, the band Autobus, the art curator Jules Bay… At the center of this coolness was Ale Llosa, who was working for the Peru tourism board at the time and was my guide/translator/buddy, and her partner, Pepe Valasquez, who runs the production agency Veltrac Music and the Veltrac Music Festival. I fell in love with Lima—the energy, the beauty, the, well… creativity—because I was able to see it through their eyes. And for that I am forever grateful.
7. Did you bring back any cool keepsakes?
My favorite souvenir from that trip is a beautiful red Incan woven textile that I use as a tablecloth on special occasions. I wish I had bought more of them.
8. What’s the first thing you’ll do when you go back?
Eat! Ceviche, tiraditos, causa, those ham sandwiches, pisco sours… The best thing is that most of the restaurants I went to back then are still around (a rarity in the ever-evolving culinary world), plus there are so many celebrated new ones to try. I can’t wait to dig in.