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We had the best holiday in a long time, with all our girls coming to Peru. Lillian and Neil came from Champaign, IL, Lyra from Los Angeles, and Amanda and Jim from Los Angeles. It wasn’t as logistically awful as it could have been, with one group arriving on the Friday night before Christmas and the others the next evening. It was the same with their eventual departures, one group leaving at midnight, the other at noon the next day, a couple of days after New Years.

We promised not to make plans and that turned out to be a wise decision. All five have jobs that keep them busy, they would quickly have been exhausted by spending their vacation traveling and sightseeing. We kept the visit local, starting with a visit to the Barranca market for pre-Christmas food shopping. Everyone got to request their favorite Peruvian foods to build menus. We had baby pig on Christmas Eve, beef filet on Christmas Day, and in the following days we ate a big flounder, duck breast, and home made tacu tacu.

Our visitors went out for lunch to taste ceviche up and down the beach, agreeing that El Cangrejo at the far end of the beach had the best. There wasn’t time to visit all the restaurants, during the summer there are a dozen places that open up.

Every day we stroll to the opposite end of the beach and back, taking the dog if there aren’t big crowds, and often one or more of our group would accompany us. It’s a chance to stretch, admire the waves, and chat. A relaxing part of the morning.

Every member of the group cooks, and each one contributed to the menu. In the evenings, all five guests took turns as sous chef with Jonathan, peeling, chopping, and making sauces. On Christmas and New Years some personal specialties emerged, like Lillian’s buche de noel, Neil’s caramelized onions, and Jim’s Vietnamese sauce for pork. When we asked for help making snacks for our New Years Eve gathering on the front porch, Amanda and Lillian made pate a choux (mini creampuffs), and filled some with a savory filling (cream cheese and those caramelized onions) and others with a sweet filling (chocolate mousse). Lyra made way for the others, claiming that despite being an excellent cook (oh, those cupcakes!) in this crowd she was the third-best baker. Jonathan, as the fourth best baker, or maybe the fifth, made pannetone, the best I’ve every eaten, with bits of his home made candied orange peel, dried blueberries and cranberries plumped in rum.

Food wasn’t the only theme, there was the beach and ocean. Some days we set up beach umbrellas and chairs right in front of the house. Other days, just a beach blanket for towels and sandals. Those in the mood would walk straight out to the water. The boogie boards got good use.

We took two field trips to visit other beaches. The Albufera de Medio Mundo is a coastal lagoon less than and hour’s drive south of us that we have visited with the girls regularly since we first discovered it more than ten years ago. Coastal lagoons are uncommon in our area, filled with brackish water, they are home to a variety of shorebirds and are visited by migrating birds all year long. Reeds that grow around the edge of the lagoon are harvested to make mats and baskets, a craft that is at least 5000 years old in this region. The strip of dunes and beach that separates the lagoon from the ocean is where many shorebirds nest. There is often good beach combing along the ocean side of Medio Mundo, too, and we set up our umbrellas and chairs overlooking the ocean. A long stroll in one direction or the other is always a pleasure. Eventually, though, the heat and sun drive us back to the car and home.

The furthest we got from our base in Barranca was Tuquillo Beach, a lovely spot north of Huarmey. It was almost two hours of driving, but the Panamerican highway is relatively empty north of Barranca. Anyone who tolerates reading in the car, or napping, passed the time easily.

Tuquillo is a place where two small bays sit side by side, like two U’s joined in the middle. The car park is in the center. We chose the slightly more exposed, less crowded side, and enjoyed the water and walking along the shore. A spur of headland separates the two bays so Amanda and Jim went off to see what kind of marine creatures could be found sticking to the rocks. When they eventually returned, she brought news that there was an area of beach glass in the gravelly inlets on the edge of the hill. We all went to have a look and each returned with a small handful of beach glass. Most of it ended up in my jewelry workshop.

Amanda surprised me even more when we went to the north end of our beach to look at the sea creatures on the rocks. Not only did we find a lot of sea stars and other critters, we found beach glass. This is just a few hundred yards from home! I realize that I rarely walk that far down the beach onto the rocks. Now I’ll have to make it a regular stop, just to keep up with what has washed up. I found a small piece of blue glass, one of the uncommon colors.

During the times of day we were avoiding the sun everyone had time to read, rest, stretch on the impromptu yoga mats (blankets), or work on a jigsaw puzzle. Amanda received a puzzle of a Frank Stella painting that she and Neil put together in a matter of days. I happened to have a second puzzle that had been sitting around for a long time, probably because it was 2000 pieces. Everyone worked on this big one, and by the time we left for Lima on the homeward trip, there were only a handful of pieces missing. I finished it off the day we returned from sending them off.

Everyone brought their skills to the party, too. Jim nailed the fabric backing onto the loveseat where the tacking was giving out. Neil consulted on the wifi system, though it doesn’t look like we would benefit from a mesh upgrade. Lillian reset our connection to the printer, and fixed Jim’s constant resetting after a messed up update. She also made the Christmas squid. Amanda spent her down time knitting, turning out half a hat while she was with us. Jonathan ordered a pair of throwing axes after seeing pictures of an axe throwing adventure and set up an axe-throwing target in the back yard. Lyra threw axes most every day. The group enjoyed trying it out, but Lyra became a pro.

We found a few other games to try. Beach paddle ball suffered from a dead tennis ball and we’ve yet to replace it. Darts had its moment, though its a good thing the shafts and feathers are easily replaceable. We had a rip roaring game of Yahtzee. It’s become something of a family tradition, full of shouts encouragement and chants of “Yaht-zee, Yaht-zee” on that last roll.

We watched the sunset from the front porch most nights, each person adding a chair as they emerged from the house. Jonathan and I play gin, and we played round robin with each new challenger playing the winner of the previous hand. Neighbors sometimes stopped to say hello and many, many pictures of the sunset were taken.

New Years Eve and New Years Day (see previous post) were followed by one last relaxing day with no new plans or destinations. We left for Lima in two vehicles, loading the luggage in our car with a few passengers and the rest in another car that we rented. We arrived in Lima without trouble and proceeded to the craft market to let the group complete their gift shopping. On the way to the hotel we stopped at the grocery store for candy for office candy dishes, and a few odds and ends.

Jonathan planned a big ending to the visit by booking us a table at Maido, one of Lima’s best restaurants. Our group of seven had to have a private room and we missed the people watching that good restaurants provide, but the food was excellent, start to finish. We began at 7:30pm and might have gone on for dessert had it not been time for Lillian and Neil to head to the airport at 10:00. At least they didn’t need airline food on their overnight flight to Houston.

The next morning, Lyra, Amanda and Jim set off for the airport at 9:00 am, arrived around ten, and by the time they stood in all the lines, they managed to squeeze in five minutes of shopping to use up their last soles before filing right onto the plane to LA. By the end of Saturday, all of our five were home again. (We miss them.) It was a wonderful holiday.