A seat on the balcony over Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas — its main square — draws people. Yet not many are available. Under the colonnades around the plaza barkers offer them, along with free pisco-sours, to draw clients to their restaurants. But some cafes and restaurants do not have barkers; they do not bother to sell themselves that way, even though they have great balcony seats. One of those, a classic and long lasting one, is Trotamundos Cafe and it does not have to sell itself.
On the upper story of a colonial building, Trotamundos has been a constant in Cuzco’s tourist economy through years of tourist boom and tourist bust.
During its some fifteen years, hundreds of thousands of people — if not more — have sat at its wooden tables. They ate, drank and conversed in a room with a large fireplace and wood fire at night, with big, glassed doors that open on to a vision of the plaza. During the day the long but narrow balcony with lots of seating fills with people sitting and watching while enjoying a coffee, hot chocolate, or pisco.
Trotamundos looks out on Cuzco’s imposing Cathedral, in what is the classic view for photographs. One could easily spend an entire day watching the light change over the plaza and on the Cathedral. Of course there are so many more things to do in Cuzco, but for relaxation or even a quick coffee and sandwich, Trotamundos is known
Not only does the plaza change as the sun and clouds bring different light, it fills and empties of people, tourists and locals. Similarly Trotamundos shifts through the day, from personal and intimate when the staff can converse with you, to packed and popping in many languages; from warm with the natural light of morning to the enchanting contrast of candles and Cuzco’s sparkling night while a wood fire crackles in the fireplace.
The cafe’s name, Trotamundos, is Spanish for a traveller or a vagabond, someone who has the itch to travel and does so. In English it is close to “world traveler”. And, long time travelers do come to Trotamundos. You can see them sitting in the corner, sometimes alone, sometimes with locals, and sometimes with tourists conversing but somehow apart.
Dozens of languages pulse in the cafe as the hours drive onward from its 8:30 am opening until its late closing. And, the tables get rearranged to accommodate large groups traveling together, sometimes with their guides and sometimes without, or to break into something more intimate and sometimes even romantic.
Trotamundos does not need to advertise itself. It is well known. But it has not settled into a middle life of complacency. Its formula works and the travelers who fill it are a testimony to the vision of María Cecilia Pacheco, its proprietor.
It has a balanced elegance with a touch of the Bohemian. Dark wood tables and chairs, as well as a bar, art on the wall–including an alluring photo from behind of a nude playing the piano–contrast with the light from the windows and the brightness and excitement of the Main Square by day, and the city’s lights at night.
While Trotamundos emphasizes coffee and hot drinks such as hot chocolate, it is more a cafe than a coffee house. It began before the Coffee House phenomenon and Señora Cecilia, as she is called, resists the model. For example, she has refused to instal WIFI, though Trotamundos does have a side room with computers and internet for those who need their fix. She would rather have a good cafe, with good food, alcohol, hot drinks and a constantly changing clientele.
Indeed, Trotamundos is a good place in a very competitive field to go for breakfast. And , with its standard combinations of Continental and American, as well as omelets, yogurt, granola, pancakes, fruit salad (though not the American pancakes), and granola.
For later, among a list of standards it also offers sandwiches with brie and emmentaler cheeses as well as smoked ham or prosciuto on specialty breads.
For when people want something more substantial, Trotamundos offers a fairly standard variety of creme soups, as well a Cuzco classics such as dieta de pollo–a classic, Peruvian chicken noodle soup. It also fields standard chicken and beef dishes.
But just as Trotamundos does not need a barker to pull tourists upstairs, it does not require flash and dazzle in its menu. Its traditions, with a mix of Peruvian Creole and international, work and continue to draw people.
It is not the foreground to tell people when you get home you have been there, like a celebrity restaurant. But it is a great setting to accompany and prop up a visit to Cuzco.
For many of those who just have that traveling itch, a visit to Trotamundos is a requirement, to sit and relax while time passes, or to enjoy a good company and food while Cuzco’s Plaza and the experience of travel stand in the stages spotlight.