Peru: Lima

We didn’t arrive in Lima under ideal circumstances. We should have arrived at 9pm, taken a cab, maybe had some dinner, and settled in for a nice sleep, fresh in the morning. Instead, we missed our connection, transferred to another airline, roamed Newark airport searching for food, flew to Miami (arriving just as all restaurants closed), and finally arrived in Lima at 4:30am. Which isn’t the best time to encounter any city, really, particularly near an airport (don’t you tend to find those areas a little unsavory?). We found a cab and as it stopped at a light, I turned to see a man just on the other side of the door swaying as he fumbled in his fly for a pee. Don’t worry – I turned away in time. This entry is rated PG.

The streets were dark. Buildings appeared to be little more than boxes balanced on top of each other. And as we rounded the corner to the upscale neighborhood of Miraflores where we were staying, all we could really see was a gravely cliff on the left (because the ocean was on the right). We arrived at the hotel, checked in, and found that we’d been assigned a triple: three little twin beds waited for us. But we just shrugged, picked one, and curled up for a few hours sleep.

The next morning, things seemed better. Here’s the view from our window.

After a little breakfast, we headed out for a ramble, starting at the Lovers’ Park, which is along the coast.

You can see that it’s overcast and I couldn’t make up my mind whether I needed my jacket or not. The temperature was nice – low 70s. But lots of humidity there in Lima (as with any coastal city, of course), and it turns out that most mornings it starts out overcast like this. It gets better as the day goes on.

We decided there was no real reason to hang around a neighborhood mostly known for shopping and restaurants, and so caught a cab to the old part of town. The system in Peru is a pretty good one, I think. There are no meters. You just negotiate the price before you set out. If you don’t know how much something ought to cost, it can be a little difficult. But after a couple of trips, you get the hang of it. And the driver is not encouraged to take long routes or get stuck in traffic, because he’s not earning more soles just sitting there. I think this particular trip was S/.15. From the airport in the middle of the night, I believe S/.40. Yen would remember for sure.

Anyway, here I am at the oldest cathedral in town. Its foundation was laid by Pizarro, whose remains are actually inside. More on that in a moment.

Here’s the view from where Yen took the above photo. A really nice plaza with a lot of people hanging around.

Ah, OK. Now we’re inside the cathedral, and this is the aforementioned room where Pizarro’s bones are lying. It’s curious that he’s got such a place of honor considering what we did to the Incas. The tour guides all seemed to acknowledge this too. Because on the other hand, he founded Lima, which was how we were all standing there.

I found throughout this trip I got more and more angry with the Spanish. Of course they didn’t do anything that other cultures haven’t done to still other cultures. It’s only that we were reminded of it over and over during out travels. You’ll see.

The cathedral isn’t the same cathedral that Pizarro founded. That was destroyed in an earthquake, and this one was rebuilt. I think I read that this is one of the remaining original pieces. You’ll see that seismic activity is a big theme here too.

We spent about an hour roaming the cathedral and then decided it was time for fresh air. You’ll see in the coming photos all of the colonial architecture and their habit of building funny little overhanging balconies. I think they’re just adorable. They kept reminding me of the China House at PEM, though. Anyone else?

That’s the presidential palace behind me.

Here’s a quiet little street just a block from that busy plaza. It’s home of the tourist information office and six or seven restaurants. We picked one recommended in our guidebook.

You’re looking at two traditional Peruvian fish dishes, ceviche and tiradito. The former, we were already very familiar with and love. The second was new to us (and got serious approval). It’s another way of marinading raw fish and “cooking” it using a chemical reaction instead of heat. Much more mild than ceviche and a nice way to treat white fish, I think.

Here’s the start of the love affair with carbs we carried on all week. The people of Peru – in the highlands in particular – love rice, potatoes and corn. The rice tended to be undercooked everywhere we ate. The potatoes and corn, though, were fantastic. Neither was of a variety that we’re used to. They must be more like hierloom varieties. The potatoes weren’t too starchy and had a lot of flavor. The corn kernels were big and fat – twice the size of what we’re used to – and very hearty. You can see some above in the ceviche close-up.

After lunch, more wandering.

We definitely saw a lot of other tourists throughout our whole trip. A lot of people I know have either already gone, are actively planning, or say, “Oh! Tell me how it was! I want to go!” So Peru has definitely been “found.” But just the same, Yen taking photos all over on the streets of Lima seemed to be a novelty. People stopped to watch him, were very careful to wait or step out of the way, and generally acted differently from, say, Boston where stepping over a tourist is a matter of course. This little boy saw Yen and yelled, “Señor! Señor!” until Yen turned and took his photo. What you can’t see in the photo is that he’s carrying a Happy Meal. Yes, even there. And we also saw a Dunkin Donuts and a Papa Johns. Oh well.

This cathedral seems to be a major hangout for vultures. They were perched all over it, and several seemed to be guarding this dome in particular.

The best surprise of the day was as we were winding down and thinking about a cab. Suddenly we heard music and saw that a language institute was hosting a parade (or maybe a demonstration – we weren’t clear; but the police got their riot shields out).

That night we had one of the best meals of the whole trip at a place called Mezza back in Miraflores. Here’s me drinking the requisite Pisco Sour. In front of me is this wonderful shrimp dish served with a goat cheese sauce. Yen had some other kind of seafood dish. And waiting in the wings you can see that we ordered ourselves an entree-sized ceviche for dessert.

The next morning, we hopped on a plane, flew over the Andes (without crashing and being forced to devour each other), and arrived in Cusco.