10 June 2014

Peru: Day 1: Lima

Welcome to Peru!

After we landed at the airport, we took our time navigating the less-than-clear signage and made our way through customs to meet our driver. He was a nice 50-year old Incan with about as much English as I have Spanish. That is, enough to have a nice conversation, but nothing deep. He drove us to our hotel, giving us a little tour of our neighborhood in the process.

S and I both noticed how the billboards in foreign countries are slightly different, from a graphic design perspective, than American billboards. Maybe it's the coloring, or the cropping, or the focus.

Our driver drove us to our hotel, located in Miraflores, one of the tony districts of Lima. The first thing I noticed about Miraflores is that even in the fancypants district, the poverty is clear. Trash on the sidewalk, beggars in the street, housing projects in the near distance. Children wander into cafés to hawk cheap trinkets. The owners only half-heartedly chase them out. Everyone needs to make a buck. This is unlike the fancy sections of Paris, or London, or Rome, or Prague, or Istanbul, or even Dubrovnik. The line between rich and poor is blurry. Everyone cohabitates. Not sure if this is good or bad.

We checked into our hotel without a problem. S rested while I showered and went in search of lunch, money, and bottled water (we're not supposed to drink the water from the tap). I went to a little restaurant with a menu entirely in Spanish and ordered by guessing. First, a fish soup with rice (which I was told later is very good for a hangover). Second, Ocopa a la Arequipeña, a small salad of potato and hard-boiled egg, dressed with a garlic-dill sauce. Third, Rocoto Relleño, a red bell pepper stuffed with meat, peppers, and carrots! topped wit belted salty farmer's cheese. I was hoping I'd picked a ceviche, but no such luck. To drink, a local beer, Cusqueño.

The food was delicious, but the beer came out frozen. No matter! The proprietress shoved a butter knife into the bottle until the beer thawed enough to pour. At which point it started fizzing over, forcing me (never one to let good beer go to waste), to sip off the top. So, there I was, slurping the fizz off a beer while the proprietress is yelling at the waiter for giving me a frozen beer. The waiter, you should know, was cheering me on. The whole event reminded me of a story my mom told me about her and Aunt Penny at an Italian restaurant.

The food was delicious, and apparently, I'd picked well. As I looked around the restaurant, half of the people there had either the Ocopa or the Rocoto. Clearly, they were good choices.

A note on the climate: the weather here is humid and cool. High in the mid-60's. 93% humidity. Cool and wet. Apparently, it almost never rains in Lima. The plants are green because there's so much water in the air. It was cloudy today, but we were told that it had been sunny up until today. Guess we brought the clouds with us. Just like Eyeore.

Here's a view from the cafe where I had lunch. You can see the housing projects in the distance:

After lunch, we met up with G, one of S's friends for YSD. G works as a playwright, screenwriter, and translator in Peru, and he had some time to take us around to see the sights. First stop: Barranca, the bohemian district, with lots of artsy people and high real estate costs (a municipal restriction on buildings over four stories keep property values high):

The Barranca district is full of beautiful old buildings and wonderful nooks and crannies. We took a walk down to an overlook viewing the ocean:

On the way back up from the overlook, I found a tabby who seemed to be very photogenic, but when I got my camera out, she sure showed me what she thought of my photography skills:

Next, G took us into the main section of town, where the history lives. Lots of beautiful old buildings. Courthouses, cathedrals, presidential palaces, etc.

We walked around for an hour or so, dodging the busy locals leaving work. G showed us a few of the theaters where he's done some work, and we talked about the upcoming vote on civil unions for the LGBT community in Peru.

After the old square, G dropped S and I at one of his favorites restaurants for dinner. We had grilled octopus, breaded grouper, and beef heart kabobs. I had a Pisco Sour (ok, I had two). After dinner, a short walk back to the hotel. We were in by 8.45 ish. Not bad for being mildly jet lagged.

Right now I'm debating one more beer before bed. Tomorrow we meet a tour guide at 10 for a whirlwind of Lima before our flight to Arequipa!


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