Weekend Getaway: Paracas

I can't believe it's taken me a month to get to this blog post! Our stuff arrives Friday and Jack starts school next week - after that, I hope to get into a much more regular blogging routine.

Anyway, we took the advice of some friends here and escaped to nearby Paracas for a three-day weekend last month. It is worth noting that there aren't a ton of places to visit for long weekends outside of Lima. Paracas is a 3-4 hour drive, which is about as far away as I want to venture with small kids for a shorter vacation. Most other trips will require flying, unfortunately. The drive south to Paracas, though along the coastline, is not scenic. I was really grateful for a glimpse into what it's like outside of Lima, however. Up until then, I hadn't seen how many Peruvians live. The desert is dotted with small towns consisting of single-room cement or wooden homes, a stark contrast to most of Lima. Another thing worth noting: we were pulled over for not having our headlights on. We were let off because of John's diplomatic status, but tourists, take heed!

A relatively nice home we passed on the drive.

Pisco. That black smudge on the horizon is a massive flock of birds.

The worst part of the drive was through a town called Chincha. Traffic was horrendous on Saturday morning, and we were routed off the main drag onto a dirt road full of massive potholes, pregnant dogs, and mototaxis (motorcycle-taxi hybrids that zig and zag all over the place). Fortunately on Monday the traffic was much lighter and we got back almost an hour faster.

We stayed at the Double Tree in Paracas. It wasn't that much to look at from the front, and the day started out gray and gloomy. John and I were beginning to question the whole thing (especially when they charged us an additional $40 a night for Jack; $200 a night for a hotel in the middle of nowhere seemed excessive, although the included breakfast was nice).

But once we got outside and the sun came out, things got a lot better.

There's a separate kid pool, but alas, the hot tub is off limits for littles.

I'm not much of a swimmer, so I lounged poolside while the boys played. The pools aren't heated so it was a bit chilly; fortunately, the kids never seemed bothered by it.

The kiddy pool

There is a kids club at the hotel as well, but Will was too young and Jack wasn't interested. It's the kind of thing we'd probably do if Jack had a friend along, but I knew he wouldn't be comfortable with Spanish-speaking counselors, and the trip was so short we didn't care. But good to know for older kids, definitely!

Bowling for babies

The jacuzzi-side bar. Jack took this photo while John and I drank our complimentary pisco sours.

The hotel has a very nice restaurant, which is sort of the only dining option. Unfortunately it doesn't open until 7 for dinner, which is too late for my kids (who go to bed around 7:30 - Jack could have done it but Will would not have made a pleasant dinner companion). We ate room service both nights and enjoyed the food. The charge was small - something like $2.50 I think.

The beach at the hotel is small but nice. The water - well, it's not really for swimming - but it makes for a lovely view. Will enjoyed eating sand while Jack and I hunted for shells.

If you've got the time, you can drive from Paracas to the Nazca lines and take a flight over them. Other than that, the other nearby attraction is the desert. There's a giant national preserve nearby and John and I were amazed that we could just walk wherever we wanted and hunt for fossils. We didn't take any, of course, but it was sure fun to look.

Fossil shells in the desert

Further into the park is a remarkable beach. We were all getting tired by that point but if you didn't have kids to chase, you could spend a long time just watching the waves.

A couple side notes: people like to grab towels before breakfast, throw them on a lounge chair, and then disappear for three or four hours. Then they get mad if you take their chairs. I find this ridiculous and obnoxious, but it's something you might want to keep in mind if you go. Most of the people there were wealthy Peruvians or expats. The Peruvian families have a nanny for each child! I was in awe, and a little jealous. This was a fun trip, but not exactly relaxing since our kids are little and need near-constant supervision (especially Will). Fortunately the rooms are large - the kids slept in the living room and we slept in the bedroom. We brought a pack n' play for Will and there was a pull-out for Jack.

Um hi, can we borrow one of your nannies for a bit?

All in all, it was a fun trip but not something I'd do more than once or twice a year. It was nice to get out of the city, but we have so much to see in our two years here. Most importantly, we had some great family time, and that alone was worth the trip.


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