Lima – Impressions of an Old and Large Imperial Capital

NOTE:  This is the first of a series of posts that relate my experiences during a 5-week trip to Perú earlier in 2008. 

Arrival in Lima

I arrived in Lima in a direct flight from Atlanta.  The airport in Lima is very modern but the lines were long, especially landing at midnight US time. The taxi ride took about 30 minutes and I finally went to bed around 1AM.

The hotel, as many hotels around here, is a standalone operation. The building itself looks like from the 1970s. You would be amazed at how little concern for safety there is in the design, something probably that would not pass muster in many places… I can open the window (which is over 6 ft wide) almost to the full extent but the worrying thing is that the wall below the window is about 2.5 feet tall. Yikes! All you have to do is trip on some shoe left around and, sayonara room and hello gravity!

Low wall on the window of my hotel room

Said low wall on the window looking out from my 11th story room

View from my hotel room

View from my hotel room

Hard City to Move Around

The first work day started with the car that was supposed to pick me up not showing up. It was to be an omen for later in the day when waiting for a taxi to take me back to the hotel took 2 full hours by the clock!  This all was a good reminder to not expect things to be like they are at home – always a good reminder.

I was advised against renting a car due to all the construction going on re-paving streets. I was told the government decided belatedly to tear them up and re-do them ahead of an upcoming international summit – but they were doing most of the work concurrently making driving even more chaotic in this labyrinthine town. However, I also suspect that even with perfectly paved roads, the city road layout was confusing enough that I would not want to drive on them!

Street on the outskirt of Lima, Peru on the way to the highway to Huaraz

Street on the outskirt of Lima

The Parts of Town Where I Operated

The area where I stayed was called Miraflores. It is a very nice residential area. Not an area of mansions per se but lots of high rises, nice streets, etc. The hotel, as most places around here, does not have A/C or heating. It seems the weather is fairly mild for the most part. With the windows open, the climate in the room is quite nice but you get the traffic noise. After a night, you are used to it so it isn’t as bad as it may seem (plus I always have earplugs handy!).

A street corner in an older part of Lima

Work is in another district called Jesús María (“Jesus Mary”, kind of odd-sounding even for a Catholic like me…) with a lot of old houses that have, for the most part, been converted to offices but which retain a lot of architectural charm.

Building in Lima, Peru near the Jesus Maria area

Old style building near work

Near work is an old ministry building (about 10 or 12 stories high and monstrously large) which has a very large crack running through the outside of the building caused by the recent earthquake in Pisco – the building has been condemned, thankfully, but the building sits there as a reminder of the risks Lima runs as a large city in an earthquake-active zone…

My First Lunches – A Great Sign of What to Expect in Lima!

On my first day, lunch was at an early 130PM… I was starving! There was nothing around work so a colleague drove me to a restaurant where I committed 3 cardinal sins in the span of 3 minutes. The restaurant was very nice and my colleague told me not to worry… My 3 sins were:

  • eating sauces that were cream or milk based (milk here is not always pasteurized)
  • eating raw fish (ceviche)
  • drinking a lemonade that I didn’t see prepared with bottled water.

If there was a good time to teach me a lesson this should have been it… 36 hours later, I was still good – whew!! Of course, a good restaurant would not be a problem but I was still a little out of sorts to remember that with it being my first day in a new country with little sleep, and in a new work situation…

Another day for lunch we went to a home-style place that had a nice and complete lunch for 8 soles (about $3). It was delicious (chicken soup was the appetizer and it isn’t the run-of-the-mill chicken soup!). With prices like these, I knew I was going to eat like a king!

A Lunch I Will Never Forget

I tried the traditional mountain / Inca delicacy at lunch one day: guinea pig. It took a bit for me to accept the idea I was to take a bite of it but a coworker invited me to her restaurant, her treat, and I could not refuse the hospitality. I made sure I drove a deep work conversation during the lunch so I would not think of what I was eating.

Yes, folks, it tastes “like” chicken though it has less meat on it (some say rabbit but I disagree, though it has been 25 yrs since I had rabbitt…). I was lucky enough (God takes care of me) to mention to my colleague that I didn’t want to see a picture of one before eating it. Boy, was I glad I said that flippantly! When ordering, my colleague was kind enough to specify to the waitress to bring it without the head on mine and on hers. Can you imagine if that had shown up with a head??!! I would have likely gagged.

A Couple of Interesting Areas of the City

  • The area of Barranco is a beautiful, seaside part of town. It is just a few minutes from Larcomar, the mall hanging off the cliff by the Pacific Ocean, and offers quite a few options for dining and shopping.

 

Barranco

  • I visited the Lima city center at night. It was VERY impressive. Colonial architecture on a grand scale which makes sense since Lima was in effect the capital of South America (more or less) during the colonial times due to the riches of Perú. It was very well policed, lively, and I felt safe.
  • My hotel was in Miraflores, on Ave. Larco which ends at the JW Marriott and across from it, Larcomar, a shopping center with lots of restaurants overlooking the Pacific Ocean from its perch on what seems to be a cliffside.  Cool place to go.
  • Miraflores has a park, further inland than my hotel, on Ave. Larco that is very charming with a plaza and neat architecture around.  There is also a GREAT and big place to buy arts & crafts from Peru nearby (Mercado Artesanal, close to Narciso de la Colina).  Finally, lots of shoe shiners who, for like 40 cents, will do a great job shining your shoes!
Miraflores Church on Ave. Larco in the Parque Central de Miraflores

Miraflores Church in the Parque Central de Miraflores

Building on the Parque Central de Miraflores in Lima, Peru

Building on the Parque Central

Getting a shoe shine in the Parque Central de Miraflores, Lima, Peru

The after (left) and before (right) of the well-priced shoe shine!

On the Road Again

I found out on the first day I was not to be based in Lima as I had understood before the trip. In fact the first week was the only full week I was to spend in Lima. The flipside was that I was going to get to see the country!

That first weekend I was to leave for Cusco, the base for going to Machu Picchu, to spend 3 days visiting projects and, over the weekend, go to MP (as a tourist). Originally I was planning to see MP at the end of the trip but since the local office had decided I should go to Puno (which is higher than Cusco), it made good sense to go to Cusco before Puno to acclimatize first to Cusco which would then make acclimatizing to Puno a tad easier.  I liked the plan because Puno is up at 12,421 ft (3,860 m)!

– Read about my Puno visit here and here.
– Read about my Cusco visit here.

Some Random Observations and Musings about Lima

  • I got to try a Peruvian Malbec wine while in Lima.  I haven’t had wine so sweet without it being supposed to be sweet! Clearly sugar was added to the wine by the “winemaker”  to cover its poor quality… I couldn’t finish it. Of course it cost only $4 – you get what you pay for. I was just hoping that good, basic local wines would exist. I switched to water…
  • The city streets are kept very clean of trash and all streets have street signs with their name (not something I have seen consistently outside of US/Canada/Europe)
  • Though the city is very polluted, it is not as bad as, say, Beijing.
  • They have this dish called tacu tacu which consists of smashed beans and rice served with beef or seafood. I tried it with seafood. Though I don’t eat calamari and other seafood items, I ate it ALL, except the octopus. The sauce was superb.
  • They always serve a plate full of corn kernels to snack on while you wait for appetizers or food. It is a different type of corn than regular corn (it is larger and whiter) and they toast them and put some salt on it. It is quite nice.
  • Oh, and did I mention I worked close to Chewbacca from Star Wars? It took me a few days to realize the Chewbacca noise I heard every 15 mins or so was a creaking door around the corner from where I sat…
  • Finally, Peruvians are super nice!  I would love to see more of this beautiful country and its great and proud people.

These are my impressions and experiences in the bustling, large, and noisy city that is Lima, Perú.  What have been yours??


Trackbacks

  1. […] I left Lima on a Saturday AM to go to Cuzco, the launching point for visits to Machu Picchu (MP).  Cuzco holds a LOT more than just Macchu Pichu and the Inca trail so make extra time in your schedule to explore!  Before getting to what I saw during my visit there (with work), some final thoughts about Lima (read more about Lima on my earlier entry http://ilivetotravel.me/2008/09/08/lima/). […]

  2. […] Cusco may be better known for being the launching point to Machu Picchu (MP) but the city and its same-name region hold a LOT more in store than just MP and the Inca trail – so make extra time in your schedule to explore!  I flew to Cusco, the older continually inhabited city in the continent, from Lima on a Saturday morning (read more about Lima on my earlier entry http://ilivetotravel.me/lima/). […]

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