“Weird… I’m not cold.”
This was my first thought when I woke up confused in a strange place I didn’t recognize.
I was only wearing undies and I wasn’t shivering or buried under three blankets.
Oh yeah, Lima…
It was already noon. I got dressed. Mark has a million of questions about the city and frankly, so did I.
Feng and I have been to Lima twice—in 2002 on our way to Cuzco and the Machu Picchu and in 2009 before going to Arequipa and the Peruvian/Bolivian highlands. But strangely enough, I don’t remember much about our stays Lima. I think in 2002 I found it clean compared to Ecuador. In 2009, we ended up in a terrible old hotel above a bar and we couldn’t sleep. I also vaguely remembered a very posh mall on the waterfront and our second hotel, right on Plaza San Martín.
Why Lima? Because we wanted to see if the city had changed and because it was a cheaper flight (probably due to the late arrival). Curiosity and opportunity—two very valid reasons to check out a place in my book.
And so we took the bus from Miraflores, the distrito where we stay, to go explore the historic centre of Lima.
At first glance, it reminded me of Antigua, Guatemala, for the Spanish architecture and an “old-world” feel—large plazas, colourful buildings, amazing wooden balconies, dozens of churches, fountains, monuments and statues…
“It smells like… like in Central America!”
Fried chicken. That’s what it smelled like. Fried chicken, rice, popcorn and fries, street food classics sold everywhere in Lima and yes, throughout Central America. Buildings aren’t as tall and modern as in Santiago, paint isn’t peeling or bubbling like in Rio or Salvador because the weather is dry. There’s no way you can pretend you’re in Europe like in Buenos Aires because the Andean culture is quite obvious—you can spot women wearing colourful woven lliclla (capes) and hear people speaking Quechua.
It didn’t take us long to realize the streets of downtown Lima come in two versions—eerily empty or jam-packed.
Ten years ago, I took a picture of the police blocking entrance to Plaza de Armas. Ten years later, same scene. On the first day, the square was open. On the second day, it was closed and so were plenty of streets around—sometimes the police let pedestrians through, sometimes they don’t so the city felt like a giant evolving, live maze. Why were the streets closed? Protests, apparently. Because reasons, most likely since new streets were closed every day we were here.
On the other hand, we found the barrio Chino (with a proper Chinese door!) and about half of Peru’s population shopping for Christmas around the mercado. Streets were insanely crowded with people selling Christmas decoration, inflatable Trump balloons to punch (??!… I wanted one!), food and anything you can imagine.
We found peace and quiet again at the amazing Circuito Mágico del Agua at the Parque de la Reserva. The four-sole ticket ($1.20) buys you access to a huge park and thirteen huge fountains—it’s the largest fountain complex in the world!