Hiking the Inca Trail – Peru Adventures

Travel is my passion and my primary hobby – I am constantly revising my bucket list and planning my next adventure! My trip to Peru (October 2017) was an incredible experience and exceeded all my expectations! My awesome husband, who (fortunately for me) supports my wanderlust spirit, accompanied me on the adventure. Research revealed that a person in average physical condition would be fine on the trek …. so, I stepped up the workouts a bit :). My primary concern was the altitude – not really possible to train for that in Dallas, Texas. Let me stress here, we are not hikers – just decided to do this! I wanted to experience the views, see Machu Picchu and prove that i could make the 26 mile trek!

The Adventure Begins in Lima!

We started our Peruvian adventure in Lima! Our hotel (arranged by G Adventures, the La Castellana) was in a great part of the city – very walkable to everything, food – culture – and the Pacific ocean! Still at Sea Level in Lima – we had a full day to enjoy the sites, a few Pisco Sours and some delicious Ceviche before meeting with a local G Adventures rep for the welcome briefing.

On to Cusco!

We were up VERY early the following morning for a quick 1 1/2 hour flight over the mountains to Cusco – where the altitude increased to just over 11k feet (we began our acclimation and started drinking Coca tea and lots of bottled water). We got acquainted with Cusco via a guided Orientation walk with a G Adventures rep – who also recommended and accompanied us to Ima Sumaq Restaurant for a fantastic lunch (delicious local cuisine)! Note: Some menu items disturbed me (guinea pig????) – but the salmon was amazing! There was a Trail Briefing after lunch where we learned more about what we would encounter along the trek and rented sleeping bags, etc. Note here – get the trekking poles! Not being hikers, we declined (thinking it would just be something else to carry) … turns out, they would have been REALLY helpful, especially when descending! I knew from previous research that there were strict limits on what could be carried on the 4 day hike (5-6 pounds of personal items – not including what we carried in day packs). However, the briefing made it all very “real” – you cannot take much!!

Sadly, I must add a warning here about Cusco, primarily when out after dark: keep items at your fingertips, there are pickpockets at work. Luckily, we only lost an older model cell phone (easy to shut down and erase), but definitely keep an eye on valuables. In spite of this experience, Cusco is still a beautiful city – full of so much history and culture.


Before departing for Ollantaytambo, we met the other 14 members of our Inca Trail hiking group (of 16) – hopefully all tours are so awesome! The individuals were from all over the world (USA, Europe and Australia). The adventure continued with a tour of the Sacred Valley. We started with a visit to the Women’s weaving co-op where we met the women who produce the beautiful products they offer. They were SO nice and demonstrated traditional dying and weaving techniques, I now own a few scarves :).

G Adventures supports this small business venture which has impacted the community. They also support the Parwa community restaurant in Huchuy Qosco where we enjoyed a fantastic lunch! We warmed up our climbing legs with a tours of the Pisac ruins and Ollantaytambo ruins! We spent the night at a motel on the edge of Ollantaytambo (admittedly the very edge) and walked into the small town for dinner – then early to bed (Inca Trail tomorrow!!!!).

Inca Trail!

Up early again and we took a small bus/van to KM 82 – the start of the Inca Trail, the hike/trek began! We met our spectacular porters (seriously, they were the BEST!). Supplies were packed for the hike, then down the hill we went to check in with passports and permits (permits are very limited) and we were off – OMG!!! It was a bit like the point of no return (once you start it’s 4 days / 3 nights on the trail) – I cannot accurately describe the feeling, it was so life changing spectacular!  The first day on the trail was about 8 miles – an excellent preparation for day 2 …..

The next day took us to the highest altitude we would experience  (Dead Woman’s Pass @ 13,828 ft. – what??? :). Not going to lie, the altitude was a challenge! I hiked with a fabulous group who were also there to observe the incredible views and therefore stopped regularly enough to allow oxygen to reach important areas (i.e. lungs, muscles, etc.)! I dubbed us “The Rockers” … since our motto was – “there’s a good sitting rock!” :). The feeling I had when reaching the peak – unforgettable! The weather was interesting too – changing from warm blazing sun to cloud forest and cold winds.

The Inca Trail really should be called the Inca stairs – most of the trail is ascending or descending, on rocks – rocks that ‘loosely’ resemble stairs. It was nothing like what I expected – but was SO incredible! Camping along the trail was easy, in that the incredible porters set up and took down the tents each night (and even woke us each morning with a warm cup of tea) – but, sleeping was not exactly comfortable :). Still, the experience was awesome! Those spectacular porters produced delicious 3 course meals … in a dining tent … along the trail, at the end we even had a cake!! No idea how they pulled it off, but they were sincerely top notch!!! On day 4, we hiked up to Sun Gate, then on to Machu Picchu. After exploring the famous ruins, we took a bus down to town and celebrated our accomplishment with a delicious lunch. After lunch, a domed trained ride back to Ollantaytambo provided picturesque views of the mountains and much needed rest for our legs :). We returned to Cusco by bus and I was finally able to shower (the first in 4 days)!

What a fantastic adventure!!

AMA Waterways Paris & Normandy

My personal cruise on the Seine river aboard the AmaLyra was an unforgettable experience! Everyone should see Paris, such a magical city! This was my second river cruise and I am now even more convinced that river cruising is an amazing way to see Europe! It is literally a luxury hotel/stateroom that moves – for this trip, from an incredible city (Paris, with unlimited offerings) to spectacular towns and villages – including Normandy. Please allow me to share my experience!

Fun in Paris – love the Eiffel Tower!


I arrived in Paris, France a day before boarding this cruise (I did not want to risk being late for my cruise due to a delayed flight ;). Arriving a little early also gave me a chance to see a few sights  (like the Eiffel Tower, taking the stairs to the second level is the best!!) and recover from jet lag before embarking the next day. I also began my culinary venture with Paris meal #1 (French Onion soup, Camembert cheese and Escargot) – it exceeded expectations (even though I almost flung the snail across the room in my effort to act like I knew what I was doing removing it from the shell)!

Setting Sail on the AmaLyra

On Day 2, our scheduled transfer took us effortlessly from our hotel to the AmaLyra (after a day in Paris, so we arrived about 3pm, just in time for check in)! Note: You can arrive earlier, snacks and activities are available. We were met at the car by some of the amazing staff who insisted on taking our luggage, directed us up the walkway onto the ship where we were quickly escorted to our cabin – no waiting! Accommodations were fantastic! The AmaLyra is a bit smaller than some of AMA’s ships, but that also equates to fewer passengers – so it is easy to get to know people from all over the world! (one of my favorite things about river cruising) After unpacking and settling into our cabin, we made our way to the Welcome Cocktail party where we met the captain, the cruise manager, hotel manager, others in the crew and fellow passengers. We took a moment to select the (included) excursions we preferred for the week, then were off to the first (of seven) incredible dinners – each designed around the area we were visiting. I promise, you will NEVER be hungry :)! To offset all the irresistible food, AMA has a new fitness program with so many options – our host on this trip was Selina Wank (she impressed me in so many ways; so knowledgeable of all aspects of fitness and impeccable people skills). I adored the walks and workouts! Back to our departure … after dinner, with passengers on the Sun Deck, we detoured back a bit on the Seine to get a spectacular view of the Sparkling Eiffel Tower and replica of the Statue of Liberty.

The light show is incredible!

Day 3, found us sailing into Vernon, arriving around 10:30am, after a fabulous breakfast in the main dining room (you can dine from the buffet or order from the menu). There is a Late Riser’ option of pastries in the Lounge too (normally, this is me – but considering where I was, I couldn’t resist rising early). This day was breathtaking! Vernon is known for its vicinity to Giverny and Monet’s house – hint: check out the movie “Midnight in Paris”. The walk to Monet’s house and gardens was a treat and the story mesmerizing. The gardens were SO MUCH like the paintings! I am ready to return! Wonderful history is shared by AMA along the way (no spoilers from me :).

The gardens were so spectacular!

Day 4 brought us to Caudebec-en-Caux, the westernmost point of the cruise. A Farmers’ Market is located steps away from the dock! We did the afternoon Honfleur Excursion – a picturesque port, characterized by the pastel, slate-fronted houses (painted often by artists). The photos were exquisite and the area incredible! This is a great place to sample Calvados (a pear and apple-based brandy from the northern part of France – with a history dating back nearly 500 years, the region has a long tradition of distilling their ciders into delicious and complex spiritis). The day wrapped up with a lecture on World War II and D-day. This made me think even more about what our United States and world would be had that battle not occurred – so very surreal.

Day 5 took us to the Normandy Beaches and details about the battles of D-Day in 1944. Such an experience, everyone should have it – I really cannot describe. Pretty sure it’s something different for everyone, amazing for me (family and friends offered stories when they learned I was visiting). In addition to the immersion in history, the cheeses we dined on were out of this world!

An experience I will never forget

On Day 6, we awoke in Rouen – the historic capital of Normandy, it is like a walk through history with elegant spires, a restored medieval quarter, the soaring Gothic cathedral, galleries and antique shops. We started the day with a Guided Bike tour – in the rain (but, it was still an excellent experience!). We saw a Plague Pit, where students were excavating bones that were buried during the time when the plague claimed many lives – it was fascinating. Another great lunch and we were (somehow) off in the afternoon to a Gourmet Tour in Rouen – so much local cuisine to try! We learned about Joan of Arc and retraced her last steps. There were guest musicians in the Lounge after dinner, then an unforgettable Light Show at the Rouen Cathedral – the show was like nothing I have ever witnessed (such a unique treat!).

Day 7 brought a morning of sailing along the Seine River – to picturesque Les Andelys, through the lock of Amfreville (the locks are incredible). Upon arrival, we were able to tour the ruins of Richard the Lionheart’s Castle, Chateau Gallard (perched high on a hill overlooking the Seine Valley – what a breathtaking view!

Day 8 (this is such a wonderful trip!) finds us in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and off on another great biking Tour to Herblaye. We learned more about Vincent Van Gough and Josephine & Napoleon Bonaparte and enjoyed our last full day of this adventure. The evening included a Farewell Cocktail event and a fantastic Farewell Dinner, where we enjoyed sharing memories of the week with our new friends and adding them on Facebook :)!

On Day 9, our cruise came to an end (or in my case, it was just time to plan the next one!) – AmaWaterways made disembarking as easy as embarking. We were off to explore more of Paris! After dropping bags at our hotel, we activated our Paris Pass and started with the Hop On Hop Off Big Bus – to get an understanding of the city layout and the location of the sights we wanted to visit!

It took a while to locate the Mona Lisa, the Louvre is massive!

It was impossible to see everything in our remaining two days (I will definitely return to this spectacular city), but some of the highlights were: Climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, walking along the Avenue des Champs Elysees and dining at a wonderful sidewalk cafe, exploring the Louvre (the Mona Lisa was so much smaller than I envisioned), wine tasting, visiting Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, Musee d’Orsay, Musee de l’Orangerie, the Montparnasse Tower 56th Floor and the Pantheon. We strolled through the Latin Quarter, experienced the tube and wrapped up our visit lounging on the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower sipping Champagne. A truly magical vacation!