How we got there from here...
A few months before this blog post we were minding our own business when a friend started talking about a trip she and her husband were taking to Cuba with a local San Diego Restaurateur. He was a former Spanish bullfighter and from some of the stories, also a bit of a womanizer. What's not to love?
Since they were in the early stages of forming a group, we added our names to the list of about twenty other people who had also expressed an interest in seeing Cuba. What a great decision!
Miami to Havana, Thursday, October 1, 2015
We flew into Miami the evening of September 30th and met up with our group at the Courtyard Marriott Miami International Airport. One of our gracious hosts met us at the airport and whisked us away on the hotel's airport transfer bus. Even though it was just for one night, the people at the Courtyard Marriott were very helpful and accommodating.
Early to rise
We began our pre-dawn morning by boarding a bus for the ride to the Cusco airport in order to catch our flight at 8:00am back to Lima. Our flight was severely delayed from Cusco which threw our tour schedule into complete disarray. Warning: This is my only complaint about the trip so feel free to skip ahead if you want. We finally arrived in Lima around lunch-time, sleepy and hungry.
Even though it was well after a normal lunchtime our guide was on a mission to take us out to tour the city and more churches. Around 3pm that afternoon we finally had the opportunity to get a little rest and food at an art gallery/restaurant.
The church and Catacombs at the San Francisco Church and Monastery (Museo Catacumbas)
In the historic district of Lima stands the Roman Catholic, San Francisco Church (St. Francis) with its opulent gilded side altars and a very impressive lattice dome in the Spanish and Moorish style.
The giant main altar is made entirely of wood. The entire structure has survived several large earthquakes dating back to the late 1600's.
The monastery library has a very impressive collection of ancient religious texts including a Holy Bible dating back to the late 1500's. Some of the texts were brought over by the first wave of Spanish priests after the conquest of the Incas. We were told not to take photos inside the church and it's too bad because it was the most beautiful church we had seen.
Everything about it was lovely. The details are worth the visit even when you are a bit punch drunk from fatigue and hunger.
Also, worth noting is in this church St. Jude the Apostle (Patron Saint of Lost Causes) is highly regarded and there is a feast of in his honor where 40 people carry a one and a half ton silver stand in a procession (see Mr. Chong's photo above) which begins at the church on October 28th each year. My guess is that the place would be a madhouse to navigate so you would be better served traveling a different time of the year if you weren't there to participate in the procession.
After the church we walked over to the catacombs and our guide purchased/picked up our tickets. Once inside the dusty, dark caverns, we were guided to an area where we saw an abyss that was the equivalent to a five story building filled with bones.
Our guide conceded that the monks were probably a bit cuckoo. After decomposition, the monks separated the dearly departed from their bones and put all the skulls in one cavern, then they separated the femurs, etc. Bodies were soaked with lime juice and sand which apparently helped to mask the smell.
All in all, it is thought that the bones of at least 25,000 people are buried stacked in the brick and mortar pits. In addition, we were advised that secret passage-ways were used during the Inquisition which connected the estuary and the church.
Wow! If these walls could talk!
Finally after what seemed hours of touring churches, convents, catacombs and a historical museum of various artifacts we were seated for a very late lunch after which we once again checked into The Country Club Hotel where we were given several hours to rest, nap and/or shower before a group dinner in the hotel's lovely restaurant.
After a delicious dinner, we said our fond good-byes to our fellow travelers and departed for the airport at around 7pm for a very late flight.
**Worth noting: There is a civil aviation tax of $31.00 USD per person for any person who travels from Lima, Peru to anywhere. The fee applies to international travel and will be collected by "the proper authorities." Make sure you have some cash on you before you leave your hotel.
Michael and I travel mostly because we like learning and experiencing new things, seeing new places and learning about different cultures and food that only comes from getting out and about in the world.
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