Yen's Blog

Lens, Wheels, Skates, Keyboard

Lima, Peru (Day 1 & 2)

Our Peru adventure didn’t start out well. Our flight from Boston was delayed for 90 min and managed to land in Newark 5 minutes after the connection had already left. We were rerouted to Miami and put on a flight to Lima that arrived at 4:30 in the morning. The streets were mostly devoid of traffic though surprisingly some street sweepers were out working. Leaving the airport we scurried through a warren of narrow streets not unlike San Jose, Costa Rica, but soon things opened up when we got on the highway that runs along the ocean. Our taxi driver had to use cheat sheet to find the hotel in Miraflores. We gave him 10 soles extra for his trouble and woke up a very sleepy receptionist. We went to bed around 5h30.

We woke up to the infamous foggy Lima morning. Breakfast was in the penthouse with a view of the Pacific.

It included a strange fruit with lots of small, hard seeds. The sour taste is reminiscent of the fruit we ate at Tilajari resort – Arenal) in Costa Rica . We strolled 3 blocks to the cliff overlooking the ocean. First stop was the Parque del Amor or Lovers’ Park with its Gaudí-like tile works and a large statue of a couple embracing in a rather awkward pose.

Lots of surfers were bobbing in the ocean far down below. Nearby was a paragliding field. All along the cliff is a large expanse of green space which was being expanded. Miraflores is a relatively prosperous district dominated by modern high-rises. Not surprisingly, it’s home to many hotels and tourism-related businesses.

We took a taxi to Plaza de Armas in the heart of downtown. Traffic wass pretty heavy with some crazy 5-6 lane merge. The drivers seemed to play a game of chicken resulting in some close calls. However, we were not surprised not to see any accident. Everything may seem maddening to foreign eyes but there is a certain order in chaos. The locals must follow a set of unwritten rules that allow them to navigate the jams with relative ease. They just seem to go along with it rather than throwing a fit of road rage.

The plaza is a popular place for locals and tourists alike.

We made the Lima cathedral our first stop, since the taxi pulled up right in front of it.

The original cathedral’s construction was begun by Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador known for the conquest of the Inca empire and the colonization of Peru. He was murdered by a rival conquistador and his remains were eventually interred here. It’s strange to see accorded such a place of honor the person primarily responsible for the deaths of millions and the destruction of one of humanity’s most remarkable civilizations. Justice would have ensured that it was at least a painful demise.

The cathedral is lined with ornate carved altars. For us, they are no more than works of art.

The plaza is lined with colonial-era buildings with their unique carved balconies.

Across from the cathedral is the Government Palace, residence of Peru’s president. Military police stood guard outside, carrying Kalashnikovs. Despite their deadly accoutrements, the guards seemed pretty relaxed, some even eating lunch or chatting away on their mobile phones.

For lunch we stopped at Los Escribanos, which was on a side street right off the plaza. In this picture, it’s at 10 o’clock behind the white-clad man.

We ordered ceviche, of course. I had resolved to enjoy this heavenly dish as much as possible, and luckily Kate went along! She also found that tiradito, which is another raw fish dish, is irresistible.

Lima is known as the city of museums. Since we had only a day here, we decided to spend it on a walking tour of the main atractions scattered around the historic city center. First up was the Santo Domingo church with its soothing pinkish-beige exterior and two-story bell tower.

The Santa Rosa de Lima Sanctuary, by contrast, is a striking salmon-red.

We passed by this beautiful building which seemed to be undergoing renovation.

The San Agustín church is the most interesting with its amazingly ornate façade.

As in San Jose, one of the streets, Jirón de la Unión, is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare. This building is almost Gaudí-like.

At one corner is the La Merced church.

To get away from the crowds, we headed toward the open space of Plaza San Martín.

It’s surrounded by regal white buildings.

More colonial buildings await. This is the Torre Tagle Palace.

And, presenting Goyeneche House.

Another church… San Francisco.

Returning to the main plaza, we had a good view of the Government Palace color guards.

What’s that commotion? Turned out there was a parade, I think for a Quechua language school. For the record I am 100% for the preservation of native language and culture.

This was a nice ending to a productive day. Taking a taxi back, I had intended for the driver to stop at Parque del Amor, but thanks to my limited command of Spanish, he dropped us off at the massive ocean-front Larcomar shopping center.

Fortunately, this turned out to be even closer to our hotel. To search for dinner we walked along the busy Avenida José Larco, which was lined with hotels, shops and even a casino. We decided to stop by Mezze, a Middle Eastern-themed restaurant. The food was the best we had during the whole trip. The ceviche was the most outstanding I’ve ever tasted, and Kate felt similarly about her pisco sour. Afterwards it was about a 10-minute stroll along a quiet residential street back to the hotel.

It’s interesting to note that lots of businesses in Peru take Discover Card.

Next up will be our long-awaited trip to Cusco, the heart of the once-glorious Inca Empire.