Lima

Lima

On Saturday morning we took an Uber to LAX to board a LATAM flight to Lima. No, mom, not Lima, Ohio. Lima, Peru.

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Somewhere off the coast of Mexico, we watched a stunning sunset over the Pacific.

We landed shortly after midnight, Sunday. A driver was waiting. Why did we have a driver, you ask; are we special? Sam is; the Peru trip came out of nowhere a few weeks ago after Sam responded to outreach from the Peru Trade Office about touring the garment manufacturing there. She gets free airfare and hotel in Lima for four days and we both get a chance to go to Machu Picchu (a life goal many times deferred).

Our driver took us to our hotel (we would have two days in our own hotel to explore the city before the business part of the trip would begin) where we crashed at 2am local. Crashed in bed, not in the taxi, though the drivers in Lima are a bit more liberal with their lane choices than elsewhere in the world.

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One of the “nice” areas of Lima; San Isidro.

After sleeping in, we walked to Parque El Olivar de San Isidro.

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Okay, okay, little girls on bicycles. Not so scary. I don’t know what the internet was talking about, but I’ll keep my guard up and eyes open.

The park was just the route to reach the Huaca Pucllana, an ancient city still under excavation.

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Who likes bricks? We got a lot of bricks and we know how to stack em’! Not in a pyramid, or nothin’, but you came here for bricks, who cares what shape they’re in, right?

The city itself was just stacks of mud bricks, not very exciting, really, but a few times a day (week? month? we don’t know how often) a group of traditional dancers come and put on a show in the courtyard with a band, which pulled Sam into the dancing for the finale.

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I’m sure Danny Carey came here at some point looking for inspiration.

The Indian Market wasn’t too far away so we went there to buy souvenirs. Lots of llama fur, carved animals, and vibrant colored scarves were on display. Seemed more like an Andean market than an Indian market, but there’s probably some history there that I’m unaware of.

Continuing southwest into Miraflores we realized we were hungry so we ducked into one of the first non fast-food restaurants on the route for some entirely forgettable chicken and beef plates. But we weren’t there for the animals; we had waited all day to try the famous pisco sour. Spoiler alert: there are many more satisfying Peruvian alcoholic drinks to abuse your brain cells on than pisco sours!

Before first and last taste of a sweet and sour margarita with whipped egg white on top. 

Sam being Sam we had to visit the chocolate museum next. They have classes and raw beans to taste, but it seemed a much smaller operation compared to what we found/did in Switzerland. It was nice tasting the many varieties of chocolate alcohol, though none were good enough to prod us to a purchase. (instead, I purchased raw coco beans, which I first discovered in Hawaii and have since enjoyed when I get the chance)

The museum is a few blocks from the ocean, so our first stop on the coast was the Miraflores lighthouse.

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No, it was not empty. These opportunities only last a second.

We watched the sun set behind the Parque del Amor.

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Nice sunsets were reliable in Lima due to the high humidity. Although the forecast called for rain every day, it never did.

From there we went to the famous Larcomar Mall, perched high above the beach, hanging right off the side of the cliffs, for dessert and drinks. We tried a sour fruit drink derived from camu camu. It’s good but not as good as yuzu, which we had the pleasure of discovering in (and bringing home from) Japan only a month earlier.

On Monday we took an Uber up the street to the hotel booked by Sam’s business handlers: a Westin so swank a new Aston Martin sits in the lobby. We were too early to check in so we took an Uber to Plaza de Armas de Lima to watch the changing of the guard at the government palace.

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Yes, they played the hits, including El Condor Pasa. Sadly, without a celebrity cameo from Mr. Simon.

At a nearby restaurant tucked into a side street of the main square we filled up on ceviche, traditional soup, and a traditional duck dish. All very good.

At the Basilica and Convent of San Francisco we took the organized tour, which included the skulls and bones in the catacombs, but not the opportunity to take photos of the 20,000+ bodies.

Inspired by the tombs, Sam decided to lay down flat and take a nap at La Muralla Park.

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The closest we got to the famously dangerous (for gringos with nice cameras) Favelas. Also the only photo of the cat not licking itself.

On the way back to the main square we stopped at the chocolate museum (again) for an early dessert.

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Your eyes can see farther than you can walk on the congested street down there.

As night fell we ubered back to the Westin to check in to one of the nicest hotel rooms we’d stayed in on any trip. It was a mini-suite with a walk-in closet, full desk, fancy tub and waterfall shower. Even a separate toilet room with a full bidet. This in a country where most bathrooms include a sign that says “do not throw toilet paper in toilet!” That said, constant street noise and construction pervaded the suite even six floors up at 3am. The Peruvians are a very horny people. Wait, that didn’t come out right. They love to toot their own horns. Better?

The traffic in the city really was atrocious. Every driver makes their own way, running red lights in front of police and generally operating by a wild sense of whatever-goes which results in honks so constant I’m sure it’s how the birds think humans talk. Beyond the honks are only slightly-less-frequent shouting matches that end as soon as the luckier driver scoots away. In Peru, you must be an opportunist to make your way whether walking or driving. I sound like I’m complaining here, but I do realize (based on experience now) that the majority of the honks are simple “I’m here, don’t turn into me or walk out in front” notices to fellow drivers and pedestrians who make impulsive decisions behind the wheel or may not hear/see a car determined NOT to let you cross the street just yet.

On Tuesday I was on my own for the day (and the next two after that). I retraced our steps from Sunday until I reached the bottom of the park. Instead of turning towards huaca pucllana, I tried navigating by the position of the sun to the cliffs in Miraflores. I came to the cliffs far north of the lighthouse and headed down the stairs to the ocean.

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Is that the PCH? Peruvian Coastal Highway.

Lima has been renovating the boardwalk beneath Miraflores and the work is still ongoing, this meant that benches and light posts by the beach were often wrapped in plastic.

I snuck out onto one of the rocky promontories to snap pics of surfers until  an abnormally large wave soaked me. I managed to turn away and crunch my camera in my chest in time to save most of my camera from moisture, but everything else from head to toe would get salty for the rest of the day.

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“hahaha wipe-out,” cue the Dick Dale, and I don’t mean my dad’s political jokes on facebook.

I spent the next several hours walking south along the new boardwalk toward the famous La Rosa Nautica, drying off in the sun and taking more surfer pics.

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Bueno. Lo entiendo. Aquí es donde me dices que la “regla de los lugareños” y que los insectos Yuppie como yo no deberían estar surfeando el rompe, ¿verdad?

South of the restaurant I reached a transition point downslope from Barrancos where the sidewalk (the new nice version, anyway) ends.

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Peru’s monument to Shel Silverstein, perhaps? After all, he did give Peru a shout-out in The World’s Greatest Smoke Off.

I soldiered on against the crazy traffic through construction until coming out at….Arnold’s.

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¡Oh no! qué hacemos?
No mires ahora pero perdí mi zapato.

yes, that Arnold’s. Probably the biggest WTF moment in Peru. I wonder if this is an officially licensed restaurant, or more like those Flintstones hotels in Thailand. Although I was starting to get hungry, I didn’t want an America-themed burger. I continued down the coast and took a break on the benches shortly before Chorrillos, trying to dry my cotton socks and give my developing blisters a break.

Eventually, I made it to the Pescadores area where the sidewalk literally and finally ended once and for all in a flood of old boats and cheap seafood.

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This is the “Lake Erie Beach” part of the coastline, muddy and crowded with as many people as old rowboats, with waves tempered into runny slosh by the multiple piers.

I could see another stairway up the cliffs a bit further south, but to get there on foot required going straight through an unknown number of sketchy restaurants. This was an area inexperienced (and alone) foreigners clearly don’t enter. A woman working for one of the restaurants tried to sell me on her seafood and led me deeper into the forest of cheap beer and mud-shrimp. After saying maybe later (God knows if she understood) she led me to what she called “beautiful view” in Spanish, even deeper into the heart of darkness: a skinny pier with a gate at the entrance only wide enough for one to pass through and three of Trump’s “bad hombres” watching on the other side.

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This guy was in a big hurry to get in there. Not for me, thanks.

As I calmy reversed course I became aware that I was being watched, and not the kind of watched where the watcher glances away when you notice; the kind where the men look you over for weaknesses and the women assuage any sympathy for your fate with envy for your mobility.

Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. People were looking at me as the only gringo at the market, and staying for dinner with my $3,000 date named Sony would probably not be wise, but it didn’t otherwise feel terribly unsafe. The larger concern was the lack of a clear path to get up the hill further south, so I had to turn around. I had wanted to walk all the way up to the feet of Christ of the Pacific, but that plan had to be scrapped.

In another few minutes I had climbed the Chorrillos stairs and walked up to Barrancos. At the first restaurant under the Bridge of Sighs I let their advertiser court me into a desperately needed dinner. Ceviche and a free drink? Sold! The restaurant had a nice view above the Barrancos walkway to the beach so I ordered a large beer and risotto mariscos to watch the sun set. The free drink was a chicha sour, which I found much better tasting than the famous pisco sour.

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What you can’t see is the dirty (literally) hippie busking backpackers smoking joints below the balcony.

After dinner I walked around Barrancos for a bit heading north in a misguided attempt to walk back to the hotel in my blisters and still soaked socks (what they say about not wearing cotton if you’re going to get wet is true, folks).

I stopped at various clifftop outcroppings at the outer edges of the parks, including the famous view of the highway splitting those cliffs with a vein of traffic rushing east into the collonade of southern Miraflores high rises that can still see the coast.

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Sometimes I regret switching from a wide angle lens to a prime. A wide-angle would have captured the coastline as well.

I started to walk north on the street that looks down into the highway, but realized my feet deserved a rest around 8:30 and hopped in an Uber for the final two miles.

Wednesday I had the great idea to walk to the Lima Art Museum, about 2.5 miles straight north of the Westin.

After spending 45 minutes to go maybe a quarter mile in the twisting maze of pedestrian un-friendly freeway ramps that line the road I gave up and called another Uber. Ironically the Uber took me right back down to the Westin to circle back onto the  freeway.

At exposition park it became clear that the large building I had seen on Sunday from our Uber back to the hotel from the main square was not the art museum. The art museum is much smaller and the park a bit sketchy, with many homeless snoozing on the grass or lurking in the shadows at noon. I walked up to the mall, which is nice inside, but called it quits soon after as the area is definitely not an impressive one when you reach the limits of artificial sunlight and air conditioning.

Out of ideas, I headed back to Barrancos to finish the day, sketching in the artist quarter until sunset. I returned to the sunset viewpoint and dined at the same restaurant, this time sampling the passionfruit version of pisco sour (also tasty).

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Full of ceviche and alcohol, I ambled down the busker jammed stairs to the unlit highway crossing bridge to take photos.

By the time I returned to the main square in Barrancos the place had spring to life with dancers showing off and water fountains flowing.

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The choking is an important part of the dance they were practicing. No idea what that means.

Eventually I felt a small twinge of hunger so I perused the restaurants east of the square. A waiter at an upscale restaurant called Ventarron Gourmet assured me his English was good and he would help me choose. Turns out his English was not good and me just pointing and asking questions he took as me ordering those dishes. So, before I could “order” anything a plate of ceviche came out. That was okay, I intended to order that one anyway, but when I flagged him down to order beef hearts (a specialty here I hadn’t tried yet) he brought out pork belly, insisting I had already ordered it, when in fact I only wanted to make sure that’s what the unintentionally funny words on the menu translated to so I could send a photo of it to Sam (who loves pork belly).

“Is this pork belly?” translates to “I want to order” at Ventarron Gourmet. (Keep in mind the menu is in Soles, not USD, so it wasn’t as terrible a financial mistake as it first looks)

I suppose the red flag should have occurred much earlier when I asked him what types of pisco they had and he pointed me towards something with cinnamon. The drink came out quickly, but a few sips in I thought it was really watered down. A few sips more and I realized he had sold me on an $8 (USD) glass of nothing more than gingerale with cinnamon powder on top.

Oh well. The total bill was still only about $27 USD, which is at least half what you’d pay for similar quality foodie appetizers in a fancy LA place.

I ubered home and waited for Sam. Her dinners sponsored by the Peru Trade Commission stretched later each night and on this day she didn’t get home until five till midnight. The residual anxiety kept me up another few hours and didn’t allow for the snoozing in I had recaptured the previous nights.

Because of this, and because I had run full out of ideas for places to go and things to do in the city I decided to stay in the room and nurse my blistered toes for a day – only 48 hours until we scale the infamous “stairway of death,” after all.

After Sam came home on Thursday we had a late dinner together at the hotel restaurant.

Friday I woke to Montezuma’s revenge and prayed my guts would hold together until we reached the airport. I had planned for this eventuality with Kaiser travel sand picked up antibiotics when I got my yellow fever shot. However, I chose not to take it because I hoped it was just the seafood I had the night before (I reacted similarly to fresh shellfish in Baja earlier this year).


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