Mark McMenamin -- Interior Design, 10/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
A close examination of Machu Picchu ruins.
Farmland and the Andes viewed from the helicopter to Machu Picchu.
Artisans in formal indigenous dress in the Sacred Valley of Cuzco.
A seaside mosaic wall in Lima.
All photography by Mike Strohl.
For the young Mike Strohl growing up in a military family, foreign travel was as common as breakfast cereal. But even as an adult stricken with acute wanderlust, the founder of public relations firm Strohl & Company is still chasing the few destinations that got away. Until recently, Peru was near the top of that list.
Strohl was able to put the South American nation behind him by turning to a friend, San Francisco-based travel planner Michael Fried, who arranged a nine-day group tour of Lima, Cuzco, and—drum roll please—Machu Picchu. As luck would have it, a public transit strike preempted a ride to the high-altitude ruins on the super-luxury Hiram Bingham train. So, the group settled for aerial views of the Andes while climbing toward the site in a helicopter, feeling very lucky indeed.
During the Lima layover, Strohl explored the city's Spanish colonial and Incan architecture, and perused Peruvian decorative arts at Museo Larco. In Cuzco, he bedded down in a former monastery and toured the Sacred Valley, including the ancient Incan towns of Chinchero and Ollantaytambo. Top-meal accolades went to the seafood at Astrid & Gaston in Lima, but best atmosphere was claimed by the Fallen Angel in Cuzco, where a delightful hodgepodge of furniture styles mingles with the works of local artists. Of course, the filet of beef isn't bad, either.
While this was strictly a vacation, Strohl scrutinized his surroundings like one of the designers he represents. "I was especially taken by the intricacy and design of the floor coverings and textiles, and the degree to which historic buildings are perfectly preserved," he recalls. Back home in Manhattan, Strohl is already brushing off his hiking boots for next April's expedition to Bhutan, once again organized by Fried. He knows to keep his friends close, and his tour director even closer.
Mike Strohl's Top 5 in Peru
1. Macchu Picchu.
2. Walking through Cuzco.
3. Incan architecture in Lima and Cuzco.
4. Seeing the Andes by helicopter.
5. Discovering Latin American art.