After our adventures by the Amazon, Lima seemed a little bit tame. Lima isn’t my favourite city and to be completely honest, I wouldn’t have gone back but it is the capital of Peru and most flights depart from here. Dave hadn’t been before and I tried to not let my negative view sway his opinion of the city before we had even got there. I also wanted to see if the city had changed in the 7 years since my last visit.
We arrived in the evening and took a taxi to our Airbnb. We had sacrificed being close to Miraflores (one of the more popular and touristy areas) to get an apartment with a washing machine. Looking back it probably wasn’t worth the sacrifice. The weather was so terrible that even after 4 days, our washing was still damp. But it was good to be somewhere with a kitchen and to sort and wash our clothes how we liked. It seems like such a boring thing to say but after using a myriad of laundry services on the trip, I think our clothes feel cleanest when we wash them.
We used our time in Lima to recuperate from the hectic schedule we had kept since we began travelling. We spent a day wandering around the main suburbs, Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro, plus many a day just lazing around the apartment.
Miraflores is a touristy part of town which has a lot of shopping and an amazing park in the middle. The park isn’t large but it is home to lots of cats. They just live in the park, laze around, get fed and have a pretty amazing life. No dogs are allowed off leash and the cats sleep under the flowers, in trees and wherever else they want to go.
Dave also found a very hipster barber for his first haircut of the trip in Miraflores. He came out looking like a groomed man again, rather than a slightly dishevelled backpacker.
The next suburb on our hit list was Barranco. Barranco is a bit more up market but it still has a very bohemian vibe. Kinda like West End but not as developed. We had read about a café there that supposedly had great coffee, something we had been lacking this entire trip. The coffee was okay but not quite what we were after, it was still better than most of the coffee we had consumed.
There is a bridge in Barranco called Bridge of Sighs. While we were there, a guy had set up a proposal for his girlfriend. 2 friends held a sign saying “will you marry me” and he carried a bunch of flowers and a big teddy bear. There were tears had by both parties and thankfully she said yes otherwise it would have been awkward for everyone on that bridge.
After witnessing the very cheesy (but well received by the woman), we needed a drink. There just so happened to be a gin bar just around the corner. Gin was something I was missing. We tried a gin which was distilled with Amazonian botanicals and a few other Peruvian gins. There were all amazing. Each served with excellent tonic water and different garnishes. It was a good night.
We woke the next ready to explore the historic centre in downtown Lima. This was short lived when we went to pack Dave’s backpack for the day. We couldn’t find it. We looked everywhere in the apartment and started to freak out a little. It had our camera with all our photos (we hadn’t transferred the ones from Amazon to the computer) plus copies of our passports. There were a couple of places it could be. The gin bar and in the back of the cab that brought us home. All hope was lost if it we left it in the cab. Lima doesn’t have a central cab company like Black and White Cabs or Yellow Cabs. Mostly, I think it is people in whatever car just looking to make some extra money on the weekend. Like an unofficial Uber, with no means of contact.
So fingers and toes were crossed it was at the bar. The bar was also a classier establishment so we figured if we left it there it wouldn’t have been stolen by another customer. As we didn’t have a local phone, we went searching online for a means of contact. We found a Facebook page. Unfortunately, it also displayed their operating hours – they were closed on Sunday and Monday. We left Monday night. Nonetheless we contacted them and waited for their response. They got back to us super quickly and said that they did find the bag. Huge sigh of relief from both myself and Dave. And their manager would be there on Monday morning, so we could go and pick up the bag then. Major crisis averted. We have been much more careful with the backpack since that night. The panic and stress just isn’t worth it.
With that knowledge, we were ready to explore downtown. It was a lot dirtier than the other suburbs we had visited but we still walked around. We started at Plaza Mayor (the birthplace of Lima) and walked down Jiron de la Union straight to Plaza San Martin. Jiron de la Union is the main shopping street and mostly pedestrian. There were plenty of street performers, the ones that magically levitate above the ground. It was impressive plus they had sweeping orchestral music to add to the drama.
Within Plaza San Martin there is a statue of Madre Patria (the symbolic mother of Peru) which was sculpted in Spain. Instructions were included to give her a crown of flames. However, the word for flames (llama) also has a different meaning in Spanish. So rather than a crown of flames, Madre Patria has a little llama on her head.
From there, we went to Basilica San Francisco, an ornate church. We went through with a guided tour that took us through different areas of the church, the monastery and through the underground catacombs. This is the first time I have ever been into any catacombs. It was also the first time I have ever felt truly claustrophobic. There were so many tours and people going through that in every section you would be waiting for a good 5 minutes before you could move on. The sections had quite a low height and some were very small. I welcomed the fresh air once we left them. But there were interesting. The catacombs were used as a burial place until the early 1800s and house approximately 25,000 skeletons. In some of the rooms the skulls and bones have been arranged in patterns and put on display.
We also had our first experience of Peruvian fast food in downtown Lima. It was as delicious as the Macca’s of 20 years ago, before they went down the ‘fresh produce and real Aussie beef’ road. It was relatively cheap though so it had something going for it.
Lima was exactly as I remembered it, and while the food scene is growing it doesn’t have too much to offer to me. I might be back again but it would only be for a night or two and to dine at Maido (we tried our luck by just walking in one lunch, unfortunately they were booked solid and we were on a flight that night).