SAM teamed up with The Seattle Times and PromPeru, the Peruvian tourist bureau, to give away a four day, five night trip to beautiful Lima, Peru. The only requirement? Describe in 300 words or less what you would do with 24 hours in Peru. (Get it? A sun and a moon, to match Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon.)

Over 300 readers responded. After much deliberation, the grand prize went to Sheelagh King! Her essay transported the selection committee, taking them right out of their offices and into the warm air and cobbled streets.

When we got Sheelagh on the phone, we found out that she knew what she was talking about—she once visited Peru for less than 48 hours and since then has been dreaming about going back.

“In 1940 my parent took their honeymoon in Peru. They ended up living in Lima for 3 years,” Sheelagh says. She feels a strong pull to explore a piece of family history; to stand on the edge of Lake Titicaca where a photograph of her parents was taken and spend time in Lima, where her sister was born. Her passions for culture, traveling and history are evident. We were happy to hear that Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon, the inspiration for the contest, increased her understanding as well as deepened her curiosity of Peru.

Sheelagh's father on Lake Titicaca, 1940

Sheelagh’s father on Lake Titicaca, 1940


Sheelagh’s mother in Lima, Peru


Sheelagh’s mother in the marketplace of Huaycan with a local Peruvian woman

After hearing (and becoming quite jealous) of all her plans, we ended our conversation with a simple question (or so we thought): “Who is the lucky person you plan on taking?”

“Well, that hasn’t been decided yet. My husband and son are currently vying for the position of fellow traveler,” Sheelagh answered with a chuckle.

Read Sheelagh’s winning essay:

I would wake early and watch the mist above the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley; put on my best walking shoes and have a light breakfast of papaya and a sweet tamale with raisins inside; watch the granite mountains, churning river, stucco houses and green fields fly by, from my seat on the Vistadome train; step off the bus at the top of the world and see for the first time that magnificent sight of Machu Picchu’s green terraces dropping off into space; overcome my fear of heights and climb to the highest point; run my hands along the smooth, seamless Incan stones; find a quiet spot on the lush grass above the remains of their dwellings and revel in the fact that the Conquistadors somehow missed this magical retreat of Pachacutec.

Retuning to Cuzco that afternoon, I would wander up and down the narrow, cobblestone streets of San Blas, looking for that perfect souvenir; try fried sweet potato donuts in the San Pedro market; have a chat with the ladies who come in to town with their big round loaves of bread, dressed in colorful embroidered clothes and wide brimmed hats; spend time with the magnificent art in the cathedral of Cuzco, which took a century to build; try to imagine a city covered in gold; enjoy a tart pisco sour by the fireplace of the Monasterio Hotel, feeling the ghosts of the Spanish monks who walked this place in silence; try alpaca for my dinner entrée along with several types of potato and a fresh tomato salad, accompanied by a glass of Peruvian red wine; fall asleep on an open air terrace, under the stars of the Southern hemisphere and dream of the ancients.

Top Image: Sheelagh’s mother on Lake Titicaca, 1940