Discovering Peru: Lima – The City of the Kings

When we departed Cusco, bid adieu to our International Expedition guides, Harvey y Miguel, and continued on to Lima. We were greeted at the airport by another IE representative who led us to our hotel. Most of our tour group would be departing for home the following day. We would be staying a couple extra nights on our own.

We discovered that we enjoy traveling with a group but also enjoy the flexibility and spontaneity that traveling alone provides. We wanted to see Lima – but we didn’t have any solidified plans or an agenda of any kind. We just wanted to relax and allow opportunity to present itself.

Lima: Ciudad de los Reyes @WellTraveledFamily.netLa Ciudad de los Reyes

Lima is the capital and the largest city of Perú. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central coastal part of the country, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as Ciudad de los Reyes, Lima is a fascinating city and a treasure trove of history.

Here tourists can explore ancient Incan archeological sites, stroll through the elegant cathedrals and palaces dating from Spanish colonial times, explore one of the many shopping areas, or spend the day at the beach.

Things to Do in Lima

  • Cathedral of Lima
  • Museo Larco
  • Plaza de Armas
  • Huaca Pucllana
  • Historic Center of Lima
  • Parque de la Reserva
  • Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco

wongmarketAfter a fast paced and exhausting tour first of the Galápagos and then Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, we wanted nothing more than to nap. We thereby didn’t venture far from our hotel, the Swissotel. I know – very sad considering all there is to do in the capital city.

We went for a couple of walks around the neighborhood to stretch our legs, enjoyed browsing the aisles at a local grocery, and caught up in our journals. We also found a wonderful pizzeria – where we actually dined twice. I don’t know if it was their pizza or their sangría that brought us back.

cirquedusoleilCirque du Soleil

One of the adventures that life presented during our stay in Lima was the opportunity to see a Cirque du Soleil performance. The company was on tour, presenting Corteo, a joyous procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown, on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

This was a fabulous introduction for the kids to the dramatic performances for which the company is well known. When we were shopping at a local mall the following day, we were able to see the magnificent costumes on display. Serendipitous!

Discovering Peru @WellTraveledFamily.net

This concludes my 5 day series Discovering Peru. In case you missed an earlier post,

Arriving in Cusco & the Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu

Ollantaytambo Temple & Peruvian Paso

Cusco – The Imperial City

travelguidesWhen we travel, I always purchase a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to familiarize myself with the country and the culture. Updated annually, each book provides a detailed description of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and lodging options.

Each guide divides the country (or city) into color coded regions enabling quick browsing while on the road. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are comprehensive guides that provide everything to see at a location. While comprehensive, the books give just the right amount of information to spark interest in the particular sights you want to see. They are organized intelligently for the traveler, and they always provide a map.

As a special expression of gratitude to you, I am giving away one DK Eyewitness Travel Guide of choice to a lucky reader. The contest closes on the 20th of September at 12 a.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing. You might also be interested in my post, 5 Misconceptions in Science & How to Dispel Them, on my homeschool blog.

Hopcotch2015

Discovering Peru: Cusco – The Imperial City {GIVEAWAY}

On our return to Cusco, we had the fortune to stop for a short time to see Saksaywaman. We then proceeded to our hotel, arriving late in the evening. Dinner was provided but we were able to take part at our leisure.

groupposeSaksaywaman

Saksaywaman is a citadel located on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco. Sections were first built around 1100 by the Killke culture who had occupied the area since 900. Beginning in the 13th century, the Inca expanded the complex and added dry stone walls constructed of huge stones.

According to Inca oral history, Tupac Inca “remembered that his father Pachacuti had called city of Cuzco the lion city. He said that the tail was where the two rivers unite which flow through it, that the body was the great square and the houses round it, and that the head was wanting.” The Inca decided the “best head would be to make a fortress on a high plateau to the north of the city.”

saksaywaman

The large plaza area, capable of holding thousands of people, is well designed for ceremonial activities. Because of its location high above Cusco and its immense terrace walls, this area of Saksaywaman is frequently referred to as a fortress.

While clearly ceremonial in nature, the exact function remains unknown. In 1983 Cusco and Saksaywaman together were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for recognition and protection.

La Ciudad Imperial

After a comfortable night sleep and a wonderful breakfast buffet, we spent the morning touring Cusco, La Ciudad Imperial. The city of Cusco extends throughout the Watanay river valley. It has long been an important center of the indigenous peoples, and served as the capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th century – 1532.

According to Inca legend, the city was rebuilt by Sapa Inca Pachacuti, the man who transformed the Kingdom of Cuzco from a sleepy city-state into the vast empire we have come to know. The city was constructed according to a definite plan, and two rivers were channeled around the city.

plazaPlaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas has always been the heart of Cusco, from the time of the Inca Empire to modern day. The Cathedral, on the northeast side of the plaza is the main attraction. On one side of the Cathedral is the church of Jesus Maria and on the other is El Triounfo.

The southeastern side of the main square is dominated by the church of La Compania de Jesus, which is easily mistaken for the Cathedral on first glance due to its ornate façade. However, it is obviously smaller and lacking the grand stairs in front.

The center of the square is a nice place to rest on the benches, soak up the gardens, and admire the fountain in the center. The area is also very lively and beautiful at night, with people mulling about and the architecture lit up with spotlights.

cathedralcuscoCathedral of Cusco

Construction began on the Cathedral in 1559 and completed in 1669, in the Renaissance style. It is built on the site where the Inca Wiracochas Palace once stood.

The Cusco Cathedral houses an impressive collection of art work, with over 400 paintings from the Escuela Cusquena. These paintings from the 16th and 17th century are unique in that they are European style with an obvious Andean Indian influence. In The Last Supper by Marcos Zapata, for example, shows the apostles dining on guinea pig.
Also of note in the Cathedral are the 400 kg main altar made from silver, the cedar choir stalls, and other wood carvings. Though we were able to tour the interior of the Cathedral, photographs were not allowed.

companiadejesusCompania de Jesus

Compania de Jesus, or La Compania as it is called, is a Jesuit church built in the 16th century. La Compania was the source of much controversy at the time it was constructed because of its grandeur,  threatening to surpass the Cathedral located in the same square. It looks particularly beautiful at night when it is lit up.
We concluded our walking tour of Cusco with a wonderful meal at a restaurant in the plaza. We spent the afternoon independently of the group – choosing to do a little shopping in the markets before returning to the hotel for a late afternoon siesta before dinner.
Dinner was served buffet style at another restaurant in the plaza and featured live music and traditional dancing. It was a fitting closure to our tour with International Expeditions.
Discovering Peru @WellTraveledFamily.netI hope you have been enjoying this virtual tour of Peru. Be sure to come back to tomorrow when we arrive in Lima.

Arriving in Cusco & the Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu

Ollantaytambo Temple & Peruvian Paso

Lima – The City of the Kings (coming tomorrow)

travelguidesWhen we travel, I always purchase a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to familiarize myself with the country and the culture. Updated annually, each book provides a detailed description of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and lodging options.

Each guide divides the country (or city) into color coded regions enabling quick browsing while on the road. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are comprehensive guides that provide everything to see at a location. While comprehensive, the books give just the right amount of information to spark interest in the particular sights you want to see. They are organized intelligently for the traveler, and they always provide a map.

As a special expression of gratitude to you, I am giving away one DK Eyewitness Travel Guide of choice to a lucky reader. The contest closes on the 20th of September at 12 a.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing. You might also be interested in my post, 5 Misconceptions in Science & How to Dispel Them, on my homeschool blog.

Hopcotch2015

Discovering Peru: Ollantaytambo & the Peruvian Paso {GIVEAWAY}

After our final delectable meal at the Inkaterra, we boarded the train and began our trek back to Cusco. I’d awoken with a terrible tummy ache. In fact, as I recall, I’d gone to bed not feeling so well. I thereby abstained from eating anything; drinking only one cup of Muña tea. {I wish I could find this tea in the states.} I wasn’t looking forward two the long journey with gastro-intestional issues.

Fortunately, by the time we arrived at Ollantaytambo – an Incan temple that had not been completed – I was feeling myself again. Well enough, in fact, to bound up the steps behind Jeffrey.

OllantaytamboTempleOllantaytambo Temple

The Ollantaytambo Temple is located in the city of the same name, some 60 kilometers northwest of Cusco. During the Inca Empire, the temple was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region and built the town. At the time of the Spanish conquest, it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance.

As we walked about the site, Harvey pointed out numerous architectural points of interest. When we reached the top, we had a magnificent view of the pueblo below, including the agricultural fields.

ollantaytamboIn town, the roads were amass with people. There was a festival taking place and as a result, the roads were blocked. We weren’t able to get through and thus were advised to stay near the bus just in case a last minute opportunity arose.

We managed to do a little shopping – I bought a watercolor painting and Geneva bought an oil on velvet painting. Both were are a peculiar size, so custom framing will likely be necessary.

After about an hour of delay, Harvey decided to have us walk through the crowds across town to two small vans he had arranged to meet us on the other side. There was so much going on in town – we wish we had done so earlier and to take in some of the festivities. This is one drawback of traveling with a group – you are forced to adhere to another’s schedule and unable to allow for spontaneity.

OllantaytamboPuebloWayra Ranch

We boarded the vans – assured that our luggage would make it’s way to our hotel in Cusco before our arrival – and soon thereafter arrived at Wayra, a ranch-style resort where we were to have lunch. The barbecue lunch at Wayra Ranch took place on the garden-view terrace located across the field from the stable.

Our meal was served family style with several courses: salad, empanadas, breads, potatoes, corn, tamales, beef kabobs, salmon and trout, and an assortment of postres for dessert. There was so much food and everything was delicious!

peruvianpasoThe Peruvian Paso

After our meal, we found a seat on the grass to enjoy a performance of the Peruvian Paso, is a breed of light pleasure saddle horse known for its smooth ride. It is distinguished by a natural, four-beat, lateral gait called the paso llano. They also put more weight on their hind legs and thereby kick up their front legs higher.

As the world’s horsemen moved from naturally gaited horses to trotting horses, the Peruvians continued to esteem and breed their naturally gaited “Caballo Peruano de Paso”. The Peruvian Paso horse descended from the bloodstock which was introduced to Peru from the Spanish, who at the time were the foremost horse breeders in the world.

Much to Jeffrey’s delight, he was able to ride one of the horses around a little. Geneva was content to stroke their neck.

We departed a short time later and continued our journey through the Urubamba or Sacred Valley. Originally, we were to have a few hours in the marketplace but due to the unforeseen delay in Ollantaytambo, we only had twenty minutes. Rather than do much shopping, I enjoyed speaking with the locals – meeting a young boy who spoke English quite well. He was delighted to learn we were from California and shared that he had had a teacher from California in the past. peopleofperuAlong the way, we caught a glimpse of an unusual lodging option. Suspended 400 feet above the valley are three capsules that resemble like airstream trailers. These transparent sleeping pods are crafted from aerospace aluminum and weather resistant polycarbonate, giving each visitor a 300 degree view of the valley below. I’m very pleased that IE didn’t arrange for our lodging here.

Discovering Peru @WellTraveledFamily.netJoin me tomorrow as we return to Cusco – The Imperial City. Be sure not to miss the other posts in this 5 day series:

Arriving in Cusco & the Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu

Lima – The City of the Kings (coming Friday)

travelguidesWhen we travel, I always purchase a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to familiarize myself with the country and the culture. Updated annually, each book provides a detailed description of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and lodging options.

Each guide divides the country (or city) into color coded regions enabling quick browsing while on the road. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are comprehensive guides that provide everything to see at a location. While comprehensive, the books give just the right amount of information to spark interest in the particular sights you want to see. They are organized intelligently for the traveler, and they always provide a map.

As a special expression of gratitude to you, I am giving away one DK Eyewitness Travel Guide of choice to a lucky reader. The contest closes on the 20th of September at 12 a.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing. You might also be interested in my post, 5 Misconceptions in Science & How to Dispel Them, on my homeschool blog.

Hopcotch2015

Discovering Peru: Majestic Machu Picchu {GIVEAWAY}

Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Cusco Region, Urubamba Province, Machu Picchu District in Peru. In native Quechua, machu means old person while pikchu means peak or mountain.

We departed the Aranwa Hotel shortly after breakfast and made our way to Machu Picchu Pueblo at the base of the mountain via train.

trainstationUpon arrival, we enjoyed a quick picnic lunch at the train station. There is a nice little deli on site with picnic tables beneath shade umbrellas for comfort. International Expeditions had arranged for our meals in advance so there was no need to wait in line. Porters transported our luggage to the motel so we didn’t have to worry about anything.

Something hidden. Go and find it.

Go and look behind the Ranges –

Something lost behind the Ranges.

Lost and waiting for you. Go!

~ Rudyard Kipling’s poem, The Explorer

We walked through town relatively swiftly – there would be time to shop and browse in the early evening if we desired. We boarded a bus on the edge of town and made our way along the switch backs to the entrance of Machu Picchu.

machupicchupuebloMajestic Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu stands in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, in an extraordinarily majestic setting. It was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height; its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. The natural setting, on the slopes of the Andes, encompasses a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

machupicchuMachu Picchu is among the greatest artistic, architectural and land use achievements anywhere. The World Heritage property covers 32,592 hectares of mountain slopes, peaks and valleys surrounding its heart, the spectacular archaeological monument of “La Ciudadela” (the Citadel).

majesticmachupicchuBuilt in the fifteenth century, it was abandoned when the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. It was not until 1911 that the archaeological complex was made known to the outside world by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become the largest tourist attraction in South America.

huaynapicchuWe entered the site with our IE guide, Harvey, in the early afternoon and were not surprised by the number of people.  He led us to a few key locations within the citadel, speaking at length about the historical significance and the incredible architecture of the area. I loved listening to our guide as he shared his anecdotes, peppered with Quechua. We got a real feeling for the lifestyle of the Inca before the arrival of the Spanish.

stairsThe Incan homes were built with a slight trapezoidal construction to withstand earthquakes. Niches, built into the walls, release weight and pressure – each perfectly matched to another directly across the room from it. Where there is a door or entrance-way, two niches balance.

terracesThe design is modeled after nature. What is not visible are the more than 130 underground channels that divert and redirect water through the city. Most evidence shows that Machu Picchu was built in the 1400s. The engineering feats are outstanding – a skill that is NOT matched even with today’s technology.

rockcontrastsAquas Calientes

In the early evening, we returned Aquas Calientes where we meandered the stalls of the open market only briefly. The altitude coupled with the intensity at which we traversed the ruins led us home to our hotel. The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, where we resided the next two nights, was incredible. As before, however, I will reserve my review for another time.

The small town of Aguas Calientes, otherwise known as Machu Picchu Pueblo is the village/town in the Urubamba Valley, northeast of the ruins of Machu Picchu. This is where trains come in from Cuzco and from where buses take tourists all the way up to the famous archaeological site. The Vilcanota River rapidly rushes near the town.

trainyard

While it is estimated that a million tourist come to Aguas Clients each year, most don’t take the time to walk around and explore the pueblo. It has its own attractions and it might be interesting for you to check them out, if you have the time. There are many hotels and restaurants in the town, which lives primarily out of the travel industry. From cheap hotels to expensive ones in the luxury segment, you will find almost anything here.

Return to Machu Picchu

The following day, we had hoped to be amongst the 200 to hike Huayna Picchu, but it didn’t work out. This is likely for the best considering it had rained over night and the rocks were undoubtedly slick – making an already narrow trail all the more treacherous.

Instead, we spent the morning within the citadel of Machu Picchu. Harvey was with us for only a short time – providing a little more interpretive information bur thereafter we were on our own.

llamasGeneva wasn’t feeling all too well so we didn’t stay too long. We hiked up to one of the higher viewpoints to take more photos. Patrick tried to do a short time-lapse video, but the park ranger asked him to move along.

In the afternoon, we returned to the Inkaterra where we enjoyed a leisurely orchid walk on the hotel grounds. I’ll share highlights from that walk in my review of the hotel.

Discovering Peru @WellTraveledFamily.netJoin me later this week as I share our discoveries in:

Arriving in Cusco & the Sacred Valley

Ollantaytambo Temple & Peruvian Paso (coming Wednesday)

Cusco – The Imperial City (coming Thursday)

Lima – The City of the Kings (coming Friday)

travelguidesWhen we travel, I always purchase a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to familiarize myself with the country and the culture. Updated annually, each book provides a detailed description of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and lodging options.

Each guide divides the country (or city) into color coded regions enabling quick browsing while on the road. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are comprehensive guides that provide everything to see at a location. While comprehensive, the books give just the right amount of information to spark interest in the particular sights you want to see. They are organized intelligently for the traveler, and they always provide a map.

As a special expression of gratitude to you, I am giving away one DK Eyewitness Travel Guide of choice to a lucky reader. The contest closes on the 20th of September at 12 a.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing. You might also be interested in my post, 5 Misconceptions in Science & How to Dispel Them, on my homeschool blog.

Hopcotch2015

Discovering Peru: Arriving in the Sacred Valley {GIVEAWAY}

We had a connecting flight from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Lima, Perú at the conclusion of our tour of the Galápagos Islands. Only two other couples continued on with us – Gary & Rebecca (from Alaska) and Rick & Karen (from Southern California). As we arrived late in the evening, International Expeditions (IE) set us up in a hotel directly across from the airport for the night.

We were able to literally walk out the door at customs, cross the street, and enter the door of the hotel. What a convenience!

Relatively early, we woke and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast buffet in the hotel lobby. Thereafter, we joined up with our Galápagos groupies and a IE representative to make our way back to the airport for our flight to Cusco.

cuscotracksCusco

A city in southeastern Perú, Cusco is located near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range (affectionately called the Sacred Valley).

The site was the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th into the 16th century until the Spanish conquest. In 1983 Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has become a major tourist destination, receiving nearly 2 million visitors a year.

We arrived in Cusco in the late morning and met up with the rest of our party in baggage claim. Our IE tour guide, Harvey, then led us out to bus.

CuscoMate de Coca

While we awaited everyone – some had a little trouble with their baggage – we were given a cup of Coca tea.

Coca tea, also called mate de coca, is an herbal tea (infusion) made using the (typically raw) leaves of the coca plant, which is native to South America. The tea is most commonly consumed in the Andes mountain range.  It is greenish yellow in color and has a mild bitter flavor similar to green tea with a more organic sweetness.

matedecoca

I had looked all over Ecuador for this tea only to discover it is more common in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Perú.  This surprised me because the elevation of Quito at 9,350 feet (2,850 m) is nearly as high at around 11,200 ft (3,400 m).

At elevations above 9000 ft, people may begin to experience some altitude sickness symptoms.

Many Andean indigenous peoples use coca tea for medicinal purposes. Coca tea is often recommended for travelers in the Andes to prevent altitude sickness. However, its actual effectiveness has never been systematically studied.

incaweavingWeaving Demonstration

When everyone had boarded the bus, we headed out towards our hotel. As we made our way, we enjoyed a few stops along the way to take in the scenery and experience life in the Sacred Valley.

One of the stops we enjoyed most was the weaving demonstration. Granted, this was a typical tourist trap – but it was fascinating to watch the young women weave the intricate patterns into the textiles.

backloomweavingThough both men and women created textiles, it was a skill at which women of all classes were expected to be accomplished. The principal equipment was the backstrap loom for smaller pieces and either the horizontal single-heddle loom or vertical loom with four poles for larger pieces, such as rugs and blankets.

Spinning was done with a drop spindle, typically in ceramic or wood. Inca textiles were made using cotton (especially on the coast and in the eastern lowlands) or llama, alpaca, and vicuña wool (more common in the highlands) which can be exceptionally fine. Goods made using the super-soft vicuña wool were restricted and only the Inca ruler could own vicuña herds.

naturaldyesI also very much enjoyed learning about the natural dyes they use to create the variety of colors. The principal colors used in Inca textiles were black, white, green, blue, yellow, orange, purple, and red.

These colors came from natural dyes which were extracted from plants, minerals, insects, and molluscs. Colors also had specific associations, for example, red was equated with conquest, rulership, and blood. Green represented rainforests, the peoples who inhabited them as well as rain and its consequent agricultural growth, coca, and tobacco (blue was rarely used).

weavingpatternAfter the weaving demonstration, we made our way to the Aranwa Hotel in the Sacred Valley. Considering the length of this post already, I will save my review for another time.

Discovering Peru @WellTraveledFamily.netJoin me later this week as I share our discoveries in:

Machu Picchu (coming Tuesday)

Ollantaytambo Temple & Peruvian Paso (coming Wednesday)

Cusco – The Imperial City (coming Thursday)

Lima – The City of the Kings (coming Friday)

travelguidesWhen we travel, I always purchase a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to familiarize myself with the country and the culture. Updated annually, each book provides a detailed description of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and lodging options.

Each guide divides the country (or city) into color coded regions enabling quick browsing while on the road. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are comprehensive guides that provide everything to see at a location. While comprehensive, the books give just the right amount of information to spark interest in the particular sights you want to see. They are organized intelligently for the traveler, and they always provide a map.

As a special expression of gratitude to you, I am giving away one DK Eyewitness Travel Guide of choice to a lucky reader. The contest closes on the 20th of September at 12 a.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My post is one of many hopscotch link-ups. Hop over and see what others are sharing. You might also be interested in my post, 5 Misconceptions in Science & How to Dispel Them, on my homeschool blog.

Hopcotch2015

Discovering the Magic of Theater Arts: Cirque du Soleil

In the past few months, we’ve had the wonderful opportunity to see two Cirque du Soleil performances that captivated not only our hearts but also our imaginations.

We were fortunate to catch Corteo while we were staying in Lima, Peru in October. Corteo, which means “cortege” in Italian, is a joyous procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown. The show brings together the passion of the actor with the grace and power of the acrobat to plunge the audience into a theatrical world of fun, comedy and spontaneity situated in a mysterious space between heaven and earth.

Corteo was a great introduction to the magic and theater arts of the popular Cirque du Soleil.  When we returned home and reflected on our trip, the kids stated that seeing Corteo was one of their most memorable moments.

cirquedusoleilIntrigued, my son began watching behind the scene documentaries and shared that he’d love to see another performance. When we had the opportunity to accompany Patrick on a business trip to Las Vegas, we selected Kà. Together my husband and I had previously seen O and Zumanity; he had also seen Kà. “The effects on stage of both O and Kà were mind blowing,” he stated. I was curious to compare the two.

These experiences provide entertainment surely, but I have also found that they have helped in creative writing assignments and art. For students interested in theater arts, dance, music, and even engineering, I highly recommend seeing a performance.

History of Cirque du Soleil

In the early 1980’s in Baie-Saint-Paul, a charming village nestled on the north shore of the St-Lawrence River, east of Quebec City, a theater troupe emerged. The performers walked on stilts, juggled, danced, breathed fire, and played music. Among these young entertainers was Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté.

During the 450th anniversary celebration of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada in 1984, the province of Quebec sought an event which would bring the festivities to all Quebecers. Guy Laliberté convinced organisers the answer was a provincial tour of Cirque du Soleil performers. With resounding popularity and public acclaim, the Cirque du Soleil performers have not stopped touring and sharing their artistry.

To raise money, Laliberte convinced his partner, Mr Ste-Croix, to walk 56 miles in stilts.

 Global Citizenship

Ever since Cirque du Soleil began performing around the world, it chose to become involved in communities, particularly troubled youths. Concerned with the future, Cirque du Soleil turned its attention and resources to global issues, such as the fight against poverty. Working together with valued partners, Cirque du Soleil is making a difference in nearly 80 communities, in over 20 countries on five continents.

CorteoCirque du Soleil‘s citizenship principles are founded on the conviction that the arts, business and social initiatives can, together, contribute to making a better world. Cirque du Soleil utilizes a sustainable development approach. It furthermore treats its employees, partners, customers and neighbors with respect, as it does the environment, laws and cultures of every place it goes.

Cirque du Soleil strives to be a responsible agent of change and a citizen of choice with a view to sustainable development. For the beach scene in , for example, the sand is created using 350 cubic feet of granular cork from Portugal.

Bring it Home

For students interested in music, like my son, consider researching the instrumentation of a specific Cirque du Soleil show. For example, the unique string instrument heard in the soundtrack of O is an erhu, a traditional Chinese bowed string instrument.

KaMy daughter has developed a growing passion for art. While we were in Las Vegas, we enjoyed visiting the Art Gallery of Richard MacDonald. It reminded us of one of our favorite artists, Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland.

His work focuses on the spectrum of performing life, capturing a fleeting moment in time and immortalizing the grace, strength, joy and discipline of dancers and acrobats.

Engineering minded students may be interested in learning about the contraptions behind the scenes. Hanging 49 feet above the stage, the carousel and conveyor system in O carries tons of equipment as well as performers during the show.  Additionally, the carousel horses have a small propeller underneath their tails that are controlled by a joystick located on the back of the horse.

OOther students may be fascinated by the elaborate costumes. To create the 131 costumes for the 41 characters in Corteo, Designer Dominique Lemieux wanted to accentuate the artists’ natural beauty. She used some 900 different fabrics, including natural fibers such as silk, linen, cotton and lace.

Cirque du Soleil On Demand

While not everyone may be able to attend a live performance, Cirque du Soleil televevision specials and documentaries are available in North America, On-Demand through your local cable operator, as well as through a variety of online platforms including iTunes and Hulu.