NEW YEAR IN PERU AND HIKING THE INCA TRAIL
We’ve seen the ruins of many great civilizations (Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Mayan and Aztec) but none have compared to the architectural ruins of the Inca. Their mastery of city planning, myth-making, astronomy, engineering, agriculture and precision construction was unparalleled.
We began our 2016 annual New Year trip in Lima, Peru with the goal of hiking the Inca Trail and ending in Machu Picchu on New Year's Eve. Lima is a sprawling and intimidating city that can be difficult to navigate so it was nice to stay at Hotel B in the quaint Barranco neighborhood, which was a former seaside retreat for Peru’s wealthy. Designed by French architect Claude Sahut in 1914, Hotel B’s recent conversion from a mansion into a 17-room boutique hotel has won numerous awards. We loved the glamorous Belle Époque style architecture, the airy skylights (teatinas), the daily afternoon tea and the modern art that keeps the vibe casual and current.
Although we didn’t spend a lot of time in Lima, the food was phenomenal and focused on indigenous Peruvian ingredients such as corn, peppers, quinoa and potatoes (we were told Peru has 10,000 varieties). We highly recommend having lunch at Central, which is commonly listed among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Chef Virgilio Martinez’s approach to cuisine is deeply thoughtful and meticulous. Each course consisted of ingredients gathered from a particular Peruvian land elevation: ocean (-10 m), plains (600 m), jungle (1200 m), low Andes (2000 m) and extreme altitude (4000 m). We loved the concept, which was very architectural, and have fond memories of the green coca leaf bread and the unique vessels presented with each serving.
From Lima, we flew to Cusco and acclimated to the higher elevation (11,000 ft!) by walking around the city for several days and taking day trips to the nearby Sacred Valley. It’s impossible to convey how extraordinary beautiful and strong Inca walls are. 500 years of earthquakes have done remarkably little damage. Stones were precisely cut into interlocking shapes and fitted together without the use of mortar on top of moveable foundations. And - though it’s nearly impossible to grasp in our modern age of mass reproduction - every block is unique and many blocks are massive. We tried to imagine the amount of coordination and people power needed to construct even a small wall. Impossible.
We also loved the agricultural terraces and the Salt Flats of Maras. We spent hours wandering around mesmerized by the patterns and microclimates created by the stepping.
The highlight of our trip was the 3-night/4-day Inca Trail hike, which had been on our bucket list for years. I prepared for the trek by religiously using the stairs instead of the elevator to get to our 10th floor office, and the trail still wiped me out. We laughed every day when local porters ran by us carrying our group’s provisions while we huffed and puffed and inched forward. But we loved every moment. Yes, you can take the train to Machu Picchu, but walking reinforced the extent of Inca Empire and the intricate system of roads and waterways it took to maintain it. In addition, the hike helped us understand how in tune the Incas were with nature and the solar system, and how this sensitivity helped them build so harmoniously within their environment.
We ended the hike on New Year's Eve as planned. After we said goodbye to our group I bought a pair of yellow underwear in Aguas Calientes, which was a local tradition meant to be symbolic of good luck. Happy 2018 everyone!
PlansMatter in the News
We recently enjoyed a very interesting and thorough interview with Sujatha Kumar for her piece about PlansMatter, The Power of Space, in The Hindu newspaper. Her lead warms our hearts: "'All architecture is a search for paradise on earth,' said Finnish designer Alvar Aalto. Architects Scott Muellner and Connie Lindor do just this at PlansMatter."
Speaking of international publications - for all of you polyglots - take a look at some of the non-English speaking press we've received lately: Elle Decoration (France), Zingarate (Italy) and Somos Gama (Mexico).
Visit our press page to see all of the recent articles.