Seafood and serious relaxation at Hotel Paracas, Peru
Words and photos by Nadia Ibanez
I’m a sucker for a great hotel. Yes, I love the outdoors and I loved roughing it on the Inca Trail. But sometimes a girl’s gotta check into a four-star hotel and lay in the bathtub for a full reset after a strenuous adventure. Our travel group saw so much in Peru. From Rainbow Mountain and Macchu Pichu to city living in Lima, our bodies and minds were exhausted. So when it came time to chilling out on the beach in Paracas for the two days before we all had to head back home, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for a stay at Hotel Paracas.
After a three-hour bus ride from Lima, we landed in Paracas, a small beach town offering all kinds of tours (more on that later), water sports, seafood, and R&R. While the rest of our group checked into a super rad hostel down the street, the girls and I checked into Hotel Paracas. We were still a bit early for our room so we ended up checking out the grounds and grabbing a drink to kill time.
And what a place to kill some time. The grounds were sprawling, the property was quiet, and everywhere you looked, you found a comfy spot to just sit and relax for a bit.
Once we were able to check into our room, I could not have asked for anything better. The room was enormous, my bed was perfect, the rainfall shower head was calling my name, and the patio was just waiting to be sat on. The hotel also offered free use of their kayaks and paddle boards, as well as a 30-minute catamaran ride, weather permitting. Had we had more time at the hotel, we definitely would have hit the water.
We weren’t able to spend too much time in our rooms before we went back to the hostel to meet up with everyone and share a meal and some drinks. Our friends were staying down the road at Kokopelli and their place was so fun. The hostel had its own pool, bar, hammocks, games, dogs, everything. If you’re in town and need a cheap place to stay, this place is it.
Dining at Hotel Paracas
I’m usually weary of hotel breakfasts because they can be so terrible, but the one at Hotel Paracas was stellar. We had our pick from fresh breads, local fruit, eggs, bacon, yogurt, charcuterie, granola, and so much more. There was even a gluten free section and an entire slab of honey comb on the brunch spread. We seriously could not stop eating and we loved every moment of it.
One of the best meals we had in Peru (and quite possibly the best ceviche I’ve had) was from one of the hotel’s restaurants, Chalana. Located just a short walk from the pool, the restaurant sits on the hotel’s boat dock in a beautiful outdoor space. Sans electricity and fuel, the restaurant specializes in cold dishes and uses seafood caught in the bay that day. The menu was small, yet mighty: ceviche, causa, chalacas (Peruvian steamed mussels), and tiraditos (Peruvian-style sashimi). We ordered one of everything.
The dishes were amazing. I’m usually not a mussels person, but Chalana’s were bright and briny. The tiraditos were perfect and I could have licked up the sauce if the girls would have let me. The causas were packed full of flavor. And the ceviche…I’ve never tasted anything so fresh. The colors, the smell of the water, the sunshine…it all worked together to make for a wonderful lunch.
Our stay at Hotel Paracas was perfect and I made sure to make time for a dip in the tub. I just wish we had one more time to lounge around the pool. For more information, visit http://www.hotelparacasresort.com/.
Agradecido: How the Inca Trail showed me my true inner strength
Words by Nadia Ibanez, photos by Alaina Hower, Romina Rossel and Nadia Ibanez
Editor’s note: The times of day, our wake up calls, distances, anything number related. These numbers might be slightly off because I was likely delirious with bliss and pain on the Inca Trail and also because I’m really bad at numbers. My apologies, I’ll let my travel mates let me know if I miss anything 🙂
Spoiler alert: If you have not seen the finale of “The Great British Baking Show” Season 3, please scroll down few paragraphs until I tell you to stop. I know, a British baking show is a tall order, but I figured I’d offer the spoiler alert so that I don’t get my first piece of hate mail 🙂
“I am never ever going to put boundaries on myself ever again.
I’m never going to say, ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m never going to say ‘Maybe.’
I’m never going to say, ‘I don’t think I can.’
I can. And I will.”
These were the words that home chef, Nadiya, said after winning Season 3 of “The Great British Baking Show.” My roommate got me hooked on the show and just a couple days before I left for Peru, I realized I never watched the last 45 minutes of the season finale. I was giving my brain and body a rest before leaving for the trip so I turned the episode on…not realizing it would leave me bawling at the end.
When I heard this contestant say these words, I couldn’t help but put myself in her footsteps. And it wasn’t just because we shared the same name. Feeling like an underdog and having to prove herself (in a group of men, no less), Nadiya had a certain attitude and prowess I started to see within myself.
These words were haunting me because I knew I was about to embark on not only an amazing vacation, but the hardest thing I was ever about to do.
OK, THE COAST IS CLEAR! SPOILER ALERT OVER.
When Romina asked if I would be interested in hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, I said yes without even thinking about it. She mentioned words like “long trail” and “camping” and “trek”. I still instantly said yes. I had an approximate idea of what the trip would be: Hike and camp for a couple days. Be out in the middle of nowhere. Altitude.
No joke, you guys. I’m not going to lie. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
As I’ve grown as a traveler, I’ve found this weird new habit of deciding to go to a new place or check out a new thing without doing a lick of research. I love the surprise of just showing up somewhere and having no preconceived notion of what that thing would look like. I did it once before when my man took me to Gas Works Park in Seattle and I have loved that moment of awe ever since.
I knew the Inca Trail was going to be insane. Yet, I continued this habit of doing zero research…other than what to pack. I knew I was about to walk — a lot. And I figured that I knew my body enough to understand that it was possible to do this trek. I work out pretty much every day. I’m fit and I can walk long distances without a problem. It sounded like I had all of the prerequisites to do this trip.
I didn’t know anything. No clue how many miles we would do everyday. No idea about the change in altitude or how to treat it. (I ended up getting some meds from my doctor, and hallelujah that worked out.) I had no idea what I’d see and I didn’t mind keeping it that way.
We acclimated in Cusco, approximately 11,100 ft. in elevation, for two days before we left for the Inca Trail. The night before, we met with our guide, Clima, to get a brief on what to expect each day and how to prepare. He named off historical places we’d see, the slowness of what our pace should be when we started Day Two, what we needed to pack, and so much more.
All I kept thinking about was how crazy day two was supposed to be. It would be the hardest day but the shortest distance. We’d have to climb something called Dead Woman’s Pass with a peak of 13,800 ft. What the eff did I just get myself into?
Alas, I played it cool in front of everyone. I even remember telling my boyfriend the night before on the phone, “Oh, I feel so much better now knowing what I’m getting myself into!”
We woke up around 3:30 or 4 a.m. to catch our two or three-hour ride to Kilometer 82 in Piscacucho (9,200 ft. above sea level), the start of our trek. Clima started us off on the trail, teaching us the medicinal values of a few of the plants we’d pass along the way. We were a group of seven friends with one trekker who was dealing with food poisoning from the night before and another who was still nursing a neck injury from a surfing accident. Clima called us the Sexy Llamas but really we should have been the Sexy Tortugas (turtles) because we just needed some extra time. Clima probably thought we’d be hopeless and take forever to everrrything.
We started day one and it was hot. We must have been in the desert, or at least that’s what it felt like to me. We were baking and my altitude pills said I couldn’t be in direct sunlight. Grrreat. We made it to our first stopping point after what Clima said would be a five minute hiking sample of what the insanity of day two would look like.
Good lord, these hills do not love you. They want to break you down so much so that you can feel every muscle fiber light on fire. It burned and day two was starting to sound even more nuts. After a few more hours of hiking and Learning Corner with Clima, we made it to our lovely campsite alongside the Urubamba River.
The food on the trek was unbelievable. Sure, our blood sugar levels were probably through the roof when it came to meal time everyday so anything would have tasted delicious. But our chef, Florenzio, was fantastic. We had some of the best guacamole, grilled fish, lomo saltado, fresh vegetables and salads, the most amazing popcorn, and hearty soups. Each meal was like sitting down for a private three-course meal from a fancy Peruvian restaurant in our own little tent. One of our porters even took it upon himself to sculpt animals out of food for all of our meals.
I will forever be grateful to our porters on this trip. They took care of us in every way we needed, from serving Romina and I Chicha Morada when we’ve had enough of the trail to preparing warm water for us to wash our hands before meals when it was freezing out. While we had a bit of a language barrier, we made friends with each other. I called them my “novios más fuerte” and I will always remember you all.
Washingtón, descansa en paz.
The start of day two was hours away. I popped a sleeping pill, since we had an early wake up call, and fell asleep underneath the stars and to the sounds of the river.
The entirety of day two was a bit blurry. We were to hike up to “Dead Woman’s Pass” (because the shape of the mountains resembled a woman, not because it’s named after a horrendous incident). Clima warned us again to take the trek very slowly. I took the tiniest of steps as we started approaching the peak of the Pass. I could barely breathe. I would take a few steps and instantly have to stop because I felt my heart pounding unlike I’ve ever felt before. Nonetheless, I was determined to finish and I kept telling myself, “The more steps you take, the closer you will be to the peak. Just get there. You are stronger than you think you are.”
The scenery on day two was amazing. We passed through the tundra, mountain ranges, the forest, and up into the clouds.
That entire morning, I kept hearing
I’m never going to say, ‘I can’t do it.’ I’m never going to say ‘Maybe.’
I knew that my body was capable of getting to the peak. I realized that I’ve proven myself to my actual self and I started to cry. The closer I got to the peak, the more emotional I was getting. My breathing was becoming even harder and I knew that if I didn’t keep my cool until reaching the peak, I’d have way more problems breathing.
Finally. We made it to the highest point of our four-day trek. Clima gave us all hugs and congratulated us. We took a group photo at the top and everyone started to head down the crazy steep exit. Clima said I had three minutes until we all needed to get down. Apparently, your body can only handle a few minutes in that altitude. I climbed up a small hill (the breast of Dead Woman’s Pass, if you will) and sat for a moment.
“You did it. You f*cking did it. You made it. You are so strong,” I remember telling myself.
I started to cry — like full-on bawling. I couldn’t control it. I was so happy and felt an emotion I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. I had just accomplished something that seemed so unattainable. I will never forget that moment.
The insanity of day two wasn’t over. We still had to hike down some treacherous steps for a few hours to get to base camp. But we all survived and celebrated. Camp was in the middle of the most amazing mountain range and we arrived with enough time to watch the sunset. We even had our own stream alongside our tents for us to fall asleep to. It was mystical and magical.
Day three was definitely the most beautiful day of the trek. We climbed through mountainsides, the valley, clouds and jungle. We walked through tunnels and hugged the mountainside when the trail narrowed only to show off the massive and dramatic cliffs and drop offs just inches from our feet. Day three was the longest but somehow we didn’t notice because we were surrounded by beauty 100 percent of the time. We learned about the Phuyupatamarka ruins, the indigenous Andean religion, and the symbolism behind the native lands and animals.
We continued crossing through the jungle that seemed to closely resemble the movie Tarzan and I watched and listened as the birds and butterflies flew around us. We could see Aguas Calientes below us, a small town near Machu Picchu and the absolute finish line of our trek and where we’d say goodbye to Clima.
After hours on the trail, we made it to base camp. We shared our last meal with Clima and our porters. I think we all lavished in the idea that day four was going to be a breeze and that we’d end up at Machu Picchu by 8 a.m. the next day.
Our wake up call on day four was around 3:30 a.m. We started the trek when it was still dark out and we passed through the clouds and vines as the sun started to rise. It was such a magical experience and I took a few breaks to just sit and listen. We finally approached the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu. Unfortunately the clouds didn’t have enough time to burn off by the time we passed so we didn’t get a clear shot of the ruins.
Clima gave us a tour of the grounds and taught us the significance of the stones, how the ruins were discovered, how the sun and moon played a role in how people used to live in Machu Picchu and SO much more. We had our own time to roam before eventually making our way to the bus out of the ruins to start the next leg of our adventure.
I wish I had all the words to say about the four days we spent on the trail. Knowing that only 500 people (with only 200 as fellow trekkers) are allowed on the trail on any given day, June 27-June 30, 2017 will always have a special place in my heart.
Pachamama, te recordaré. Siempre estoy agradecido.
And for all of you numbers people out there… (Thanks to Alaina’s Fitbit)
Savoring San Francisco – My Golden Gate Park urban trek
Words and photos by Nadia Ibanez
The thought of leaving San Francisco has crossed my mind recently. The city can be a real bitch sometimes. The weather has been a serious issue for me. Coming from San Diego, these “SF summers” have shown me the monster that is seasonal depression.
San Francisco is stupid expensive, the city streets are harsh, and it’s not always easy to find an escape from the chaos when you just need a moment to think something through. Thankfully, living by the beach – away from the epicenter of downtown – has offered some solace.
And of course, now that everyone knows I’m dating the man of my wildest dreams, everyone is asking when I’m moving to Washington.
I love San Francisco and sometimes I wonder if I’m ready to leave it. East Bay is tempting me with its warmer temperatures and its true understanding of community – two things I’ve been craving since I’ve made the move.
In an attempt to break in some hiking boots to prep for my trip to Peru, I spent a sun-filled afternoon trekking across the city starting at the entrance to Golden Gate Park and ending up at the Ocean Beach, all while making friends and discovering hidden gems along the way.
At the end of my nine hour urban trek and sun bathing trip, I had walked 10.4 miles. Want to see the journey? Here’s the beauty that is Golden Gate Park…through my eyes.
My girlfriend and I started our day with a visit to my favorite croissant shop (and apparently everyone else’s), Arsicault. I’ve been coming to this place for about a year now but after the bakery received some national headlines, my trips have been less frequent. The stars must have aligned because we showed up with only four others in line ahead of us while trays of freshly baked ham and cheese croissants waited for us.
We walked from the bakery to entrance of Golden Gate Park at Arguello to the lawn of the Conservatory of Flowers. I love coming to the park on the weekends because the main roads are closed to cars and you can usually find some form of music playing in the background. We had a jazz quartet playing in the cave by the Conservatory and decided to lay out a blanket and get some sun.
When my friend had to leave, I walked through Haight Ashbury to see if any excitement was going on before walking back to the park and starting my trek. I made my way to the Shakespeare Garden where I’d often walk by and see a wedding ceremony or someone taking photos. The sun was blazing by this point and I laid in the grass while a newlywed couple took some family portraits.
The wind and clouds weren’t making an appearance yet so I decided on some new change of scenery and headed back to the courtyard in between the De Young museum and the Academy of Sciences. There was a concert going at the Music Concourse but I pushed through and headed toward John F Kennedy Dr. Before I could make it to the road, I met the most adorable dog and his equally sweet owner. After getting my dog fix and making a friend, I continued on to the Rose Garden.
I’ve walked by this place dozens of times and finally checked it out. You could see the roses blooming from afar and the scent of English roses permeated the area. I’m in love with this place and might end up spending some other sunny days in the flowers.
I walked up to Stow Lake to see all of the couples rowing in their little boats before laying down at Hellman Hollow. I love this hilly and grassy part of the park and it’s perfect for people watching. After walking up to the Polo Fields to see what this place looks like when it’s not infested with Outside Land attendees, I walked up to the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club to watch some neighbors practice their casting skills. It never even crossed my mind to check this place out, but I quickly became hypnotized by the fishing lines as they gently touched the surface of the water.
After saying hello to the bison at the Paddock, I kept walking until I reached the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden and Dutch Windmill. The sugar from the croissants was finally started to wear off so I treated myself to a late Lobster Roll lunch at Beach Chalet to re-fuel. The sun was still out and the wind was picking up but I found myself standing on the boardwalk looking out onto the ocean.
The water seemed calm and tons of people were out on the beach. I must have stood there for an hour watching the surf and a pod of whales that were feeding. It was a beautiful sight to see and I’ll never forget how magical that afternoon was. I started to head home, admired the neighborhood’s curiosities and walked up a massively steep hill to complete my trek.
That Saturday afternoon, from the croissants, coffee and girl talk with one of my dearest friends, to the impromptu whale watching trip, was absolutely perfect. I didn’t expect to spend nine hours in the sun walking around, but when you’re surrounded by so much beauty, time definitely escaped me.
I always tell people, “San Francisco is what you make of it. You can be a recluse and stay in and be weary, or you can see all that it has to offer.”
While I might not always live in San Francisco, I will forever be grateful to this city and all that it showed and taught me.
Puff, Pass & Pastry at Cannabis Creative: Integrating cannabis into cooking classes and beyond
Words and photos by Nadia Ibanez
Work and life has been pretty insane lately. I’ve had to use the critical thinking and logical part of my brain heavily for the last few weeks at work and I’ve found myself mentally exhausted each evening. My workout routine has amped up and I love it, but I’ve found myself looking for more creative hobbies to mellow out my brain and body.
Cannabis has become a huge part in my effort to find the creative side of my brain again. I’ll find an uplifting and creativity-inducing strain and take a long walk in the park, re-organize my room, color, paint, or watch a movie. I’ve always been a creative and imaginative person and cannabis has really helped the functions of the right side of my brain shine through again.
Enter Puff, Pass & Pastry. My love for baking, eating, and weed all in one room? And with like-minded people who also think it’s OK to smoke a little before starting a new creative project?! YES, please.
The Puff, Pass & Pastry event is an off-shoot of Puff, Pass & Paint, a Denver, CO-based company specializing in offering pottery, painting, and culinary classes in a cannabis-friendly environment. Local edibles chef Sallie B of Slim’s Baked Goodies lead us through a 2.5 hour class as we learned the basics of cannabutter and how to integrate medicated oils into everyday cooking.
The class was held at Cannabis Creative in West Oakland at a super rad warehouse in the middle of an emerging neighborhood. Upon walking in, we were greeted by the owners who handed us mimosas, a vape pen presented by Alchemy, and a sweet little joint rolled by one of the lady bosses.
The work room was covered in art from previous Puff, Pass & Paint classes, bright murals, plants, and other adorable accessories. If I had my own creative studio, I’m pretty sure it would be identical to this place. (If you guys make it to the studio, ask about the baby pineapple they’re growing!)
We had some time before class to settle in while all of the students arrived. We sampled all kinds of vape pens and drank mimosas while a FAT joint was passed around. The energy was festive and silly; everyone was in the mood to learn and create.
Chef Sallie told us a bit about her story before diving into the basics of cooking with cannabis. We nibbled on some brunch items she had already prepared before we made our own stuffed French Toast infused with cannabis. The food was awesome, the conversation with everyone at the table was engaging, and I was already thinking about when I’d come again for another class.
Oakland Cannabis Creative and the Puff, Pass folks have definitely helped to shift the way I think about cannabis and its integration into everyday life. I’m still a pretty new smoker, but I’m so happy that the Bay Area is able to offer events like this one.
This is the time of year when all kinds of new faces are flooding our favorite local gyms, yoga studios, boxing rings, and Pilates places. For the past two years, my workout regimen has seen little variance: Hot yoga or sculpt three to five times a week with a spattering of weekend hikes or long urban treks.
While I’m a usual suspect at my favorite hot yoga studio, I decided that one of the best ways to explore SF this year was to change up my workout routine while exploring the neighborhood around it. Thankfully, my new membership with ClassPass is helping out immensely.
From hot yoga and Pilates, to boxing and high intensity training, here’s a look at some of the best ClassPass San Francisco classes I’ve taken along the way.
The Park Gym for a total, get-all-of-your-rage out, workout
If you’re looking for the best workout after a long work day or an outlet to get out some nasty energy, the All Levels Boxing class at The Park Gym is your best bet. Class starts out with a few laps around the gym before diving into punches and dedicated time on the punching bag. I was covered in sweat by about 15 minutes into class and the sweat only managed to increase exponentially with each punch and duck. Amenities are pretty standard and the gym is lively and exciting at full capacity. Don’t make the mistake I did and wear a cute lululemon outfit because you will be rolling around on the floor during cool down. (To the single ladies out there, this is a great place for you. There are men everywhere who are eager to help out and spot you. I’d be alllll over this place if I wasn’t with my man.)
Burn SF for a sweaty, empowering work out
I usually find all-girl or female-focused workouts to be a little silly; I can go toe-to-toe for a push up challenge or beat the living hell out of a punching bag if you catch me on the right day. But there’s definitely something to say for the attitude you’ll experience during the female-prevailing Total Body Burn at Burn SF. I left class feeling motivated and empowered by my womanness. I’ve done Pilates for years but the fact that Burn incorporates weights and cardio while maneuvering around the springboard-centric class really is the game changer here. Like the class name states, your entire body will get worked; my arms, quads and ass were sore in the best of ways the following day. There’s a rad, female-empowered community vibe at Burn, which is hard to come by in a place like San Francisco.
Rogue & Saint for full body boot camp training
As I’m writing this, it’s been two days since my first Rogue Body Signature class at Rogue & Saint and I’m still incredibly sore. (Seriously, guys. Never have my forearms and biceps been this stiff. I can’t even open a jar, but it hurts so good.) It’s been a hot minute since I’ve taken any sort of boot camp class and this training promises a full-body workout spread over 80 minutes of intense, constant movement. This advanced class is not for the faint of heart or really anyone who feels out of shape. You will be running on steep inclines on a treadmill (we’re talking a 7.0 speed on a 7.0 incline), you will be doing a ton of pull ups, and you will learn how to do a proper lunge – so much so that your body will uncontrollably shake by the end of class. I decided to take the class with R&S fitness guru Michael G. Not only did he pay personal attention to me when I felt like I was going to pass out, but he also motivated me to keep running on the treadmill and lord knows I’ll get out of anything that involves running. He will call you out if you stop running; he will call you out if your form is off. So if you don’t like the extra nudge/occasional yell, this class might not be for you.
Wheel House for workouts motivated by music
I have a true love-hate relationship with spinning. I often get distracted and bored during spin, but now that there’s a sense of mind-body connection to modern-day spinning, I decided to give it a whirl again. The WH Smart Rhythm at Wheel House incorporates hand weights into its class, along with bangin’ music, mood lighting, and rhythm. The instructor sits on a slightly raised stage (spotlights, light controls, and all) and guides you through the “cardio dance party” workout. The cycling room itself is pretty high tech and remains fairly cool for the duration of class, making it ideal for a mid-work day workout. But if you’re like me and want to sweat, ask for a seat not directly under the fans. The amenities are spa-like (there’s even a snack table for an after workout pick-me-up) so you might find yourself taking your time before moving on to your next destination.
Ritual Hot Yoga for a sweaty, hands-on yoga
I first wrote about Ritual Hot Yoga back in early 2016 and I can’t tell you how happy I am to find this studio on ClassPass. The classes itself haven’t changed much but the studio has added a couple new amenities to make your time there even more enjoyable. I especially loved all of the new lockers and the essential oil station to add a drop of lavender or mint to your towel to enhance your senses even more. If you’re a yogi in the city and haven’t tried this place out, you’re missing out on so much.
Salt for full-body workouts in the cutest of studios
I’ve only tried one class at Salt and I can already see this studio becoming part of my weekly workout routine. From the activated charcoal they put in their water to help with flushing out toxins to the girly details found throughout the space, I LOVE everything about Salt. I took a Barre Fight class the other weekend and loved everything about the class. We worked out on the barre, did a short round of kickboxing, used resistance bands to work our legs and butt, and finished up with some stretches. Apparently their 7×7 HIIT classes are the most popular; I’ve been trying to get into a class for a few weeks now. I’ll finally get to try it out next week so come back soon for more details.
Stay tuned as I add more ClassPass San Francisco classes and gyms to the list!