food, toronto

MeNami

TLDR: Pass on MeNami – extremely poor customer service and underwhelming and overpriced food. 

If you’ve been following me on social media long enough, you probably have noticed that I no longer write “food blog” type posts any more. I felt that my writing wasn’t very good over time and that I was writing more to have a post than to truly share an interesting experience.  Nowadays I only write about certain restaurants that I go to that are more unique / new, but it has still been quite rare.

Maybe because I don’t really take pictures much any more, or I already post it on Instagram that there is no point to write about it twice. Recently I’ve started doing Yelp reviews though if you’re interested you can follow me there.

Anyway, the main point of this post is because I am still very disgruntled about my dining experience at MeNami last night and I feel the need to reflect the restaurant more justly as from what I see on social media (Instagram, Facebook and Yelp), it has been extremely and inaccurately overhyped.

First of all, I LOVE udon. And I have been wanting to try out MeNami since it started popping up on my newsfeed upon its inception. Specifically their Mentaiko Cream Udon as Toronto has FINALLY started to get onto the mentaiko train. So, I was quite looking forward to trying the restaurant out as I’ve seen many pictures and read many Instagram captions of people gushing over the dish. As mentioned earlier on how I just recently joined Yelp – I did go a bit crazy with reading all the reviews prior to my visit, and there did seem to be a bit of a trend of some complaints over service. I’m usually not too picky on service especially for Asian restaurants honestly and especially since I knew that going in, I had low expectations.

However, MeNami literally brings forth a new low of poor customer service.

1) Upon entering the restaurant I walked straight to the host desk as there was a crowd of people already waiting and had eye contact with the hostess twice. She makes no acknowledgement of me nor attempts to offer to assist me soon, and continues on to do various other tasks for about a good 5-10 minutes. There were 3 other wait staff who scurried around the bar/host desk area who also ignored us. I guess maybe they cannot tell who was already helped and who wasn’t but it was more of the fact that they did not try to see if anyone needed help that was the issue. Eventually when the hostess decides to make her way to the desk she still did not try to ask me if I needed a table and I had to ask her if I could put my name down (on their list which was visible).   It’s funny because there were some customers who she paid attention to right away as they walked in and also some other ones that were given the cold shoulder just like us. The inside joke we made is that we weren’t good looking enough (read: rich looking enough).

2) After a half hour wait for seats (which was expected for a popular new restaurant) we had to wait for another 20 minutes to find a waiter to take our order. They all literally scurry back and forth past us and pay us no attention so flagging them down was extremely difficult. And we sat RIGHT by the bar / cash register so it was not like we were in a back corner that was not very visible.   It makes one wonder whether the long wait for tables is due to their lack of efficient wait staff resulting in low table turnovers.

3) We never got our teas refilled during the whole dinner, yet we saw the table beside us get refilled twice (once where the bartender himself purposely left the bar to refill their waters). I know it sounds stupid, like why didn’t we just ask for water? I have no problems putting my hand up and flagging them down or speaking more loudly to ask for service…however it is excruciatingly difficult when they literally do not even LOOK at you to do so.

4) This is a bit of a petty complaint but given the service provided thus far it just added to the fumes. The waitress/hostess kept walking between my chair and another customer’s chair and consistently would be shoving my chair as she squeezes through. She could’ve said excuse me, or sorry for doing so – as I’m SURE she must’ve felt it. Or she could have been less lazy and just walked properly in the actual aisles created between tables.

5) They tried to bring us an alcoholic drink that we didn’t order and also nearly tried to bring us a 3rd udon dish. Not really a complaint, but it goes to show how poorly organized their wait staff are – and these were the only times that any of the wait staff engaged in conversation with us first! Not once did they ever come to ask us how our meal was or if we wanted any more water/drinks/food etc.  And they track their orders on an iPad! How did it go wrong?

Now, if the udon was great and delicious, it would make up for a bit of the experience…but it wasn’t!! Matt got the Tsuke Shrimp Tempura Udon and I went for the Black Sesame Beef Udon (to try something different for once).

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I didn’t try any of Matt’s but he didn’t like how there was only one shrimp tempura. For mine, it was mostly just weird. It tasted too sweet from the black sesame sauce and reminded me more of a dessert. The dish had very few bits of beef and spinach so my dish was 90% pure udon, and mind you, this is a $15 dish. All in all, the black sesame was a failed innovative attempt as while it wasn’t necessarily bad tasting, it had a confusing flavour profile and makes you wonder why this is even a dish to begin with.  Personally I like the Udon Carbonara at Inspire much much more, or if you are ever in San Fran, Udon Mugizo is amazing too for udon fusion type dishes.

Maybe their raved dishes Mentaiko Cream Udon and Corn Kakiage are very good, I didn’t try either to make a comment – but I can’t imagine it is good enough to justify the prices that they are charging whatsover as from what I saw it was still also about 90% plain udon. I’ve always preferred Urbanspoon over Yelp because I feel that from my reading experience on Yelp that reviewers tend to give high ratings extremely easily painting an inaccurate picture to readers on the quality of a restaurant and of their dishes. Unfortunately we no longer have Urbanspoon and Zomato sadly is unable to truly take it’s place as a successor. And that is the main reason why I have decided to make Yelp reviews now, to try to help provide  more accurate and unbiased reviews (and also to get on their Elite event list :P).

Trying to be the Yelp hero our city needs😀 (Matt will kill me if he sees me butchering  this The Dark Knight quote). Let’s see how long my passion for reviewing lasts.

 

MeNami Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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food, San Francisco, travel

Christmas in The Golden State

When in San Francisco, you have to give some love to the Warriors right? It just so happened that the Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers game was playing in Oakland on Christmas Day, so we decided to get tickets to watch it. I mean, it was their first re-match in the season since last year’s NBA finals! Now, I’m not a huge basketball fan whatsoever (this is the 3rd game I’ve gone to, read about my awesome 2nd time experience sitting courtside) and only watch when it’s a social thing during Raptors playoffs season and finals…however, I agreed to paying the extremely pricey ticket because Matt was already going on the whole trip for me, so figured we should do something that’s more for him.

We supported opposing teams, and I, of course, was on the winning team!!!! #katsucurry To note, these were the teams we rooted for at the last finals too..which I also won, by the way:)  I had to shush Matt when he kept cheering for the Cavaliers because obviously primarily everyone in the crowd was a Warriors fan as it is a home game. JUST in case there were some bigoted fans that would start an argument over choice of teams:/

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To the left of the guy in the Santa hat.

Drake was also at the game! #The6ix

For dinner, I had pre-booked a reservation at The Crab House at Pier 39 via OpenTable. We think a large herd of tourists were ushered there because there were so many Asian tourists specifically at that restaurant. I was quite worried that we would have to wait beyond our reserved time due to the large crowd in front, but they were very timely and we were seated almost exactly as scheduled.

The meal was pleasant – menu was quite similar to the likes of The Keg. We ordered less than we anticipated so were quite pleased with our not-too expensive bill. We are both very frugal at times…. especially when it is just us 2. We started with the Bruschetta and a Crab Chowder Bread Bowl, and then shared the Mussel, Shrimp & Crab Iron Skillet combo.

I’m wearing a bib that they provided by the way, which Matt refused to wear until we started eating so it wouldn’t be in his photos.

Our last full day was on Boxing Day, which apparently is a thing in US too. Sales were good, but the Canadian Dollar was poor. I impulsively bought several Lululemon pants which after conversion on my credit card, I’m not too sure if I even got a discount…

We had our last meal at our favourite place BonChon, in San Mateo. This was our 3rd time eating it…we always forget to take pictures previously because we always got take out and dived right into it.   Amusingly enough Bea & Leander bumped into us there where they were going to grab take out home too, haha.  That’s how much we love it.

The evening was spent again at Bea and Leander’s where we played board games until about 4am when they drove us to the airport for our early morning flight. Worked out perfectly for all of us:) They are major night owls and probably were less tired than we were!  Side note: Don’t fly American Airlines/Delta Air…we had delays for both of our flights home, one being for over an hour long. If our connecting flight wasn’t also pushed/delayed we would’ve missed it. And there’s also no food!

All in all, it was a great week to spend some time away from the city and to see Bea again. I have a bunch of other close girlfriends in Toronto, but no one exactly like her. It was sometimes shocking (since it has been a while) yet extremely lovely and nostalgic when we have the exact same opinion on very silly simple things or have the same reaction. At those times, I remember instantly exactly why we are such good friends. It’s a bit bittersweet at the same time knowing that we can’t hang out as frequent as we used to. We’ll have to come back again, or vacation together at another place:) !! My only regret is not taking more pictures together!

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food, San Francisco, travel

San Francisco

I had looked up a few tourist spots to hit up while in San Francisco which Matt and I went around to do on our own. We booked a few days at the San Francisco Downtown Hostel to save on money as it was even cheaper than Airbnb and in a much better location in the city core.

One of the most picturesque things we did was a mini hike to Lands End where you can get a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought it was chilly, and I definitely did NOT look like a Canadian there as I was all wrapped up in a scarf and headband. But I was ready for the photographs😉

We also had a mini photoshoot of ourselves..

While exiting Lands End’s hike paths we somehow ended up in the middle of a golf course :S Still not quite sure if this is a public one or private..

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Because I know Matt likes science, we went to both California Academy of Sciences and Exploratorium (we liked the latter more). It had a lot of hands on activities and stations, and must say it is better than Ontario Science Center. Matt tried to teach me physics…and as we spent time at almost every single station, we only made it through 2/5 “areas” before I got tired and hungry. All I’ve learnt is that there are magnets in motors (who knew? not me) and why sunsets are yellow.

Food wise, we visited Japantown which was not bad (great udon at Udon Mugizo restaurant! and they have quite legit crepe stores just like Harajuku!). Our other favourite place to eat was Super Duper Burgers. You HAVE to get their garlic fries, it is the BOMB!!!

The Ferry Building another must see attraction, was also very nice, we purchased the famous Blue Bottle Coffee and some cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, as we were frequently having wine & cheese at Bea’s place throughout the week. They did have their market going on the same day, but as it was raining, and outdoors, we skipped it.

Our evenings were mostly spent at Bea and Leander’s playing board games, doing “wine & cheese” and watching movies. It was very nostalgic to simply hang out with them so casually especially when back in the day Bea was someone I used to see probably every week!  There isn’t too much tourist attractions to do in San Francisco so one week was just about right.

Next post will be the wrap up of our San Francisco trip on our Christmas Day spent watching the Warriors vs. Cavaliers game in Oakland!

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San Francisco, travel

Yosemite

We had scheduled for a 2 day, 1 night trip at Yosemite right before holiday time officially kicks in and before prices go crazy. We opted for the cheapest option – a heated tent at Camp Curry. Everyone I told was in shock that we would cheap out so much to live in a tent.  But surprisingly and to our delight, it wasn’t that bad at all if you just plan to simply sleep in it. It’s a mini cabin size but has tent-like tarp walls instead of log cabin.

Originally we had intended to borrow a ZipCar which Matt signed up for shortly before we flew out to SF, however his account still had not validated in time for us to use. Thankfully, SF being most technologically advanced, they had an app made for borrowing cars! Getaround would allow you to search for cars (make, year, location parked, price) and once chosen with a start time, the app would allow you to unlock the car via WiFi, to enter the car and grab the physical keys!! How amazing is that?

Unfortunately this car did not come with a navigation system as expected so we navigated our way the old-school way, with a physical map. I’m horrible with directions but luckily for us the way to Yosemite wasn’t too difficult to guide out. Though we did get lost a few times from missing our exit (one time being because I fell asleep and Matt didn’t want to wake me up yet).  However, the weather was not on our side for this trip. Bea always tells me how it never rains in SF and how they are in a drought…and the ONE day we go on a road trip, it rains all day. Our 5-6 hour drive ended up being around an 8 hour drive and we arrived quite late in the evening. We were so happy when we first saw the welcoming Yosemite sign :’)

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The glorious Yosemite National Park sign we were waiting for all day and night.

For a note, if you ever go to Yosemite in the winter, apparently tire tracks are a thing, and they may be required if there is snow. Although its quite temperate in the Bay area, it’s chilly up in Yosemite! It wasn’t cold enough that we needed the tracks, but snow was visible in the valley of Yosemite. Which makes total sense considering people ski up there too.

With the snow and rainy weather that was unexpected, we didn’t really have the gear, nor the time to do any hikes – we initially wanted to do a day hike on both days.  It rained the whole night as well, so the next morning we decided to just do a driving tour of Yosemite Valley and did a very small 20 minute hike to Lower Yosemite Falls – just to have met some landmark.  I would also like to note that Arcteryx jackets are my new love, not only did it work amazingly in my Peru trip, it worked extremely well for the rain in SF. I have the Beta LT worn if anyone is curious..

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We also saw a reindeer on the way out of Yosemite. Such in the Christmas theme!

Driving back to SF was progressively sunny though!

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View is like one of those Windows screensaver / backgrounds

We stayed the night at Bea and Leander’s and got to try Crawfish Fusion (similar to Boiling Crab in Las Vegas, and Captain’s Boil in Toronto!) and played a bunch of board games. We got them Quantum for Christmas and everyone loves it. Though be cautioned that it can ruin relationships….

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Garlic Butter was our favourite flavour and clams! Crawfish is decidedly too difficult to de-shell.

I’d definitely like to go back to Yosemite again sometime to do some actual hiking! And take better photos of course.

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food, friends, San Francisco, travel

San Mateo

I’ve slated my trip to San Francisco for probably a good year ever since my best friend Beatrice moved there semi-permanently for work. At my previous employment, I had mandatory vacation holidays to be taken around Christmas for 2 week office closure so that ended up being the most optimal time for me to go, despite high holiday prices. I had been planning to go alone at first but luckily, Matt ended up joining me on the trip:)

Bea and her boyfriend Leander live in the San Mateo area so we had spent our first 2 days living at their apartment and checking out their area.

Our first meal was off to a great and impressive start at Pokeatery which was very ” So Cal”. I feel like this would be a huge hit in Toronto especially in the financial district. It’s also extremely easy to prepare as it’s basically a salad…however seafood prices are high for importing. Any takers on trying to make this into a business?

As I loved all things Japan-related we also tried to visit the Japanese Tea Garden but unfortunately it was closed. Matt and I ventured there the next morning though. The garden isn’t that exciting but it reminds me of my memories of visiting gardens in Japan❤

Dinner on our first night was a bit awkward as we sort of crashed Bea and Leander’s friend’s surprise birthday. We wanted to cheap out and get fried chicken from BonChon (their fav and we also love it now) afterwards so we literally shared 2 appetizers amongst the 4 of us, but everyone else seemed to have split the entire bill completely evenly by all. It ended up being $50 USD each while our 2 appetizers didn’t even add up to $50 in total. Luckily, Leander stepped up for all of us to dispute the charge, and we were able to pay $50 for Matt and myself – which was acceptable as we did partake in some of the shared appetizers and wine (ordered for the table by someone else)

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Later in the evening, they brought us to Twin Peaks to see the SF skyline too. Great view, but didn’t turn out well in photos due to the night sky. In addition, as it was much colder than expected, I couldn’t bear to stand outside for very long.

The next morning, Matt and I explored on our own as everyone else was still sleeping and went to Ike’s Place (highly recommended by Leander) and back to the Tea Garden. In the afternoon we toured around Stanford and headed to Testarossa Winery for wine tasting tour! Their friend Wayne had a friend who was working there and was able to get us into their more VIP tours. We were able to get 2 bottles of Chardonnay for about $40USD (with employee pricing) and it waived our tasting fee as well.

I was so excited to go home and drink it, but I ended up being tipsy from the wine tasting and I passed out after dinner very quickly. I believe Matt drank most of it as he had a new found love for Chardonnay.

We both try to appreciate wine & cheese now, which is also why if you hang out with us you’ll notice our frequent suggestions of socials and get-togethers to being “wine & cheese” themed.

 

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Peru, travel

Jumping Through Peru – Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, here we come! The day we had been looking forward to for months. The spot Alicia and I were most excited to ‘JUMP’ at!

The morning started off in a huge rush for everyone. The plan was to head to the Sun Gate by 4:30AM (or so) to line up to enter, so that we could see the view of a sunrise upon Machu Picchu itself. The Sun Gate was at a higher elevation and overlooks Machu Picchu – it is supposed to be a very scenic and picturesque spot. In order to do so we had to wake up at around 3:40AM to get dressed (or in my case, I believe I just got dressed the night before), pack everything and get out of our tents so the porters could pack up all the gear. They too were in a huge rush as they had an early morning train booked to catch to return back home for work right away.

Unfortunately as the Sun Gate does not open it’s doors until about 6AM, we had to wait outside to enter. Our group was one of the latest groups to arrive in line too > < so we felt like it was a bit redundant to wake up extra early just to line up in the dark…

I had always counted Day 4, this last day, as a non-real hiking day, but was I ever in for a surprise. There was a good 1-2 hour of walking from the entrance of the Sun Gate to the actual “look out” point! We missed the sunrise by the way, because it took us too long to walk….  Next there was also another 30 mins – 1 hour of walking from there to Machu Picchu itself. By now, my feet were starting to get worn and that made me tire quite easily.

I’m not sure if it’s because we were having a more overcast day, the view at the Sun Gate was not the best… Machu Picchu still looked relatively small from the distance. However, group photos were taken and Alicia and I managed to successfully get a Jumping Shot. Apparently jumping is not allowed at ruin sites, we were warned shortly after….It was a bit disappointing to hear as throughout the whole trip we had been taking jumping photos at each tourist attraction to lead up to the grande finale of one AT Machu Picchu😦 We didn’t dare to jump there in the end. However, apparently our group mate Michel took a piss at Machu Picchu LOL (He said he had to go, and then shortly had to run away from the workers who probably saw)

The only aspect I would say that unfortunately draws away from Machu Picchu’s beauty (one of the New 7 Wonders of the World), is the sheer amount of tourists. You can distinctly tell who was a hiker on the trails and who was a tourist by not only the clothing, but laughably also the smell. Some tourists had a very distinct lovely laundry smell.

We had a bit of a history lesson from our guide Javier, looked at llamas and alpacas who walked freely in the area, and then had free time to walk around and explore.

In the afternoon we headed to the nearby town Aguas Calientes for a quick lunch before going on the train to head back to Cusco. We had our ‘last supper’ in Cusco with everyone, and then only us youngins (Corrine, Derrick, Alicia, and our guides Javier and Yenrri, and myself), went to a popular club for tourists in town, Mama Africa! What’s funny is in Peru they have promoters in the streets giving out free drink tickets. Being me…I usually say no to everything that is passed around by strangers, we had to scramble back tot he promoter grab it when we noticed Javier got it, and that it was for a free drink.

The night was fun and enjoyable, I always enjoy going out to experience the night life in foreign countries. There is something amazing and oddly freeing in partying in a place where you don`t know anyone and vice versa (not that we do anything crazy). It was a great way to say goodbye to Peru.

In the morning we said goodbye to a few other groupmates who were in the same connecting flight as us from Cusco to Lima. It was quite bittersweet as we had really bonded with some of them throughout this time. Doing this hike was tolling, physical, and tough, so our group really did feel like a family as we spent a week travelling, eating, and living together:) #hungryhikers

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This was a very adventurous trip compared to travels that I have gone to in the past. I went to a new country, a new continent, and even hiked/camped! Many people told me they were shocked or impressed with me on embarking such a trip. I’m not really sure how I feel about these comments to be honest. Maybe subconsciously throughout the years I’ve grown into someone that liked adventures, or maybe I was always that person but just didn’t have the chance or take the jump to do it. Nevertheless, I am really glad that the idea of Machu Picchu was instilled into me from my friend Adrienne which ultimately led me to pursue the goal, and for Alicia who joined me in this journey❤

I’ll be continuing my travel blogging on my trip during the Christmas holidays to San Francisco, and on trips that are scheduled for 2016 so far. I’ve got Boston for this upcoming long weekend, and Jordan & Dubai/Abu Dhabi with Alicia (again, hehe) in May 2016! Very excited!!!

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Peru, travel

Jumping Through Peru – Inca Trail Pt. 3

Day 3 of the hike was relatively supposed to be the easiest, as it would be a steady decline, but it would be for the longest length at 16km.  This day we actually had a lunch break in the middle of the hike as the total hike would’ve taken too long. I thought it would only get easier since we had already completed 2 days, and my legs weren’t even sore! However, slowly but surely my feet itself started to hurt from each step’s pressure on the rocky ground floor.

Before going on the hike Alicia had attempted, and successfully, scared me on how her co-worker’s friend got their big toes all numbed from the hike it had to be amputated off.  I was VERY worried about it especially when my toe started to feel a little weird!!!! No lie, parts of it were slightly more numb (or rather it had less sensory feeling) than the rest of my toe, or other toes for a couple WEEKS after the trip even! #thankyoutoes

 

She also tries to scare me every time the plane take offs and lands😥

 

The day felt like hours on end of walking mostly because we don’t know where or when the finish line would be. The one eventful thing that happened was we all had to walk through a little cave where our tour guide, Javier, hid in a dark corner to scare each person (mostly girls) as they walked through. I was arriving to the cave just shortly after Karen entered it, so I heard her scream and seeing its a cave….it was a bit no brainer that someone was definitely hiding in there. So the prank didn’t’ work on me:)

 

Day 3 was also going to the our last night of camping. As a celebratory surprise, the chefs baked for us a whole cake! They basically are so much more competent at the hike they had time to spare to prep, bake and decorate a whole cake before we arrive, *sigh*.

 

There were many memorable moments throughout the trip and mainly at the camp-site that I can’t help but want to share and be nostalgic about. Fore-warning….as I type I realize, they are mostly poop related. Not for the faint-hearted.

 

1) The Lava Story: 
Alicia and I quickly befriended our fellow Torontonians Derek & Corrine as we were well, easily the youngest and from Toronto (and Asian!). At dinner we were talking about the Lava short that aired in the theatres with the movie Inside Out, and how Corrine loves it. As Alicia didn’t see the movie or short, we were explaining to her the plot. As we reached the ending of the story where the volcano erupts, Alicia says “gotta go” and darts away. Alicia had a lot of washroom issues throughout the hike, so we could ONLY imagine what she left for. To make matters worse, she forgot where the washroom was and had to come back asking for directions, Javier saw her gather leaves, and our other tour guide Yenrri lost his appetite after hearing that she didn’t make it to the physical bathrooms. Only she and God will know where those landmines were dropped.

 

2) More Cake
Usually after dinner, and after our hot waters😉 the 4 of us would kind of chat outside the food tent before going back to our own. The topic of course was on poop (namely Alicia’s). Javier, who was also young would walk up and talk to us, and the topic didn’t seem to go very well with him and he would awkwardly laugh with us and step back & away. In about a minute or so, he would return to the conversation only to realize the topic has been unchanged:) and repeat.

 

3) A Manly Dump
I have no shame in admitting that at times, especially at night I am far too lazy to walk to the dirty/dark/smelly porta-potty or bathroom at site and would simply just go (pee only, okay) in the bushes.. Alicia on the other hand, had a midnight dump one night by our washroom spot which was a large tree a bit beside our group of tents.  Unfortunately said spot was near our group mate, Mark’s tent…and said tree was also HIS peeing spot.   I sat with him on the train ride back to town after Machu Picchu and he was telling me a story on how he woke up and was so upset when he nearly stepped on a pile of poo while trying to take his morning piss. He was saying how he can’t believe some guy would do that! Key point he thought it HAD to be a male.   I was thinking to myself that this sounds SO familiar….and it clicked to me that it was Alicia’s -_-  He was in shock because he said the poo just looked like it had to be a man’s, whatever that means! We laughed.

 

4) Anis Tea
This was our tour guide, Javier’s favourite tea. Just read the name and that is all.

 

5) Coca Leaf Dealer 
Even in Cusco our group mate Chris was extremely affected by the altitude. One morning at our hotel we noticed that there were a lot of tea bags available on our tables and we suggested to Mark that we should take some bags for ourselves on the hike, and also for Chris especially. He agrees that it is a good idea and proceeds to take more and more of the tea at our table, and then even to all the other tables. There were no more bags for anyone else. It was very entertaining as this is a 40 year old man, who is jokingly yet very seriously taking all the tea bags with no shame.

There were so so many great memories where if I had to write about them all, it would be an essay, but these were some of the most memorable. Next post will be the finale of my Peru journey, what we’ve all been walking for – Machu Picchu!

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