Looking back on Lima

So it has been quite a while since we were in Lima (july 23-july 26) and a million things have happened since then, but yet I still want to write about it before moving on. Lima, a city that at first sight seemed dirty, foggy and threatening (when we had seen it only from the airport´s perspective), opened itself up to us when we gave it a chance. Below are some excerpts from my journal and some thoughts in my head.

We arrived in Lima early Wednesday morning after spending all of Tuesday afternoon and night on a Transmar bus through the Andes (note: Transmar-transportation, a hostel and a restaurant in one…all for the low low price of S/.80). We spent one night in the clean and friendly Peru Backbackers hostel, and although a good Peruvian breakfast was included, it was a bit pricey at S/.90 a night so we opted to find a cheaper alternative for the next two nights.

And if you´re wondering what a good Peruvian breakfast consists of, to us it seems like an average breakfast here is some little usually round breads, some butter and marmelade, fresh made juice, and coffee or tea (At Peru Backpackers they even had Hierba Luisa tea in bag form!)

Flying Dog Backpackers became our home for the next two nights, and at S/.72 for the two of us a night with breakfast included (see above plus include a fried egg and cheese), it was easy to look away when we may have seen a cockroach scurrying around.

There we also met Irene, a woman from Hong Kong who was spending 6 months traveling through all of south america, alone. She was friendly and talkative, the first traveller we´ve met that we´ve really shared conversation with. It´s interesting really… in all the places we stay, most people keep to themselves and the group they´re with, curtly exchanging a buenos dias when your paths may accidentally cross. At one hostel we stayed at, there was a group of Americans, college students from Stanford, who even went so far as to ignore our hellos. One would think that travellers, be they from the same country or another, would want to acknowledge eached other, united by being together in a foreign land. This is not the case though. I think for a lot of people, traveling puts them outside of their comfort zone, making everything and everyone outside of their bubble seem threatening. I postulate this because I have noticed feelings like this within myself at times.

Traveling is so interesting. There is so much excitement, places to see, things to do, food to try (and hopefully not get sick from), and yet at times it can totally make everything seems so alien to you, so foreign (I mean yes, it is foreign in one meaning of the word because we are in another country, but also foreign as in how things work and people just don´t make sense sometimes). I got my first real feel of that foreignness when we were in Lima, a feeling of not belonging or understanding, even more than when we were in the Amazon because I mean come on noone would expect the Amazon to make sense to two travelers from New England! But Lima, Lima is a city, a big city, like a Boston or a New York, we should be able to fit in. We didn´t fit in.

We didn´t fit in, but each day we were more comfortable. Maybe if we stayed longer we could have fit in. Maybe.

One thing must be said for Lima though, it made us want to stay and fit in. Although it was so crude looking out at it from the airport (when we were standing outside, one woman even told us to go back to the airport or take a cab somewhere safer because we would be assaulted walking on those streets), Lima is not what it seems at first sight. Divided into several neighborhoods, like any city there are the good and the bad.

Our hostals were in Miraflores, one of the nicest neighborhoods, one that lies directly on the coast. Oh Pacific Ocean, Oh beaches, Oh huge waves and sand and surfers and oh the sound and smell and feel! We spent one day walking around Miraflores, the beaches, the shops, the parks. There is one beautiful park called Parque del Amor and there is a beautiful statue of two people kissing and mosaic benches that surround it all decorated with quotes from famous poets and writers on the topic of love!

Then there´s the center of Lima where the Plaza de Armas is located, so many people, so many street vendors and smells, so much construction, so much traffic. I can´t even explain the number of people selling things in this part of town. There was even a huge market area where people of all types were shopping, people dressed in dirty clothes, people in business suits, bumping, pushing, no order, watchout for yourself, don´t get stepped on or robbed, it seemed like all of Lima´s 8 million inhabitants cramed themselves here. And then there was the beautiful Plaza and Cathedral area, a calm square protected by police in elaborate uniforms and lined with garbage cans, the only place we had seen any so far.

And then there was the Ovalo (large rotary with a monument in the middle), that connected the neighborhood of Miraflores with another upscale neighborhood called San Isidro. Around this Ovalo is located a mall and movie theatre, a McDonalds (the only drive-in we´ve seen here) and McCafe (think MickeyDs trying to be cultured), a Chilis, a TGIFridays and Dunkin Donuts, along with some other shops. Hello US … I guess we could fit in here… if we wanted to embrace all of the US that we are trying to escape.

Thank goodness we only had to walk through it quickly and into San Isidro with its posh shops and decidedly un-US restaurants. It was here that we first experienced ceviche, a typical fish dish of Peru (raw fish and shellfish ´cooked´in a lime juice sauce and absolutely to die for). We choose the restaurant ´Segunda Muelle´(Second Pier) because it was recommended in our book as the best ceviche place in Lima. We were not disappointed and clearly other Limeños shared the same opinion. SHowing up a little after lunch time at 2, there was still a line outside the door. Not to worry though, they took our name and gave us a glass of chicha morada (sweet juice made from purple corn) while we waited.

For lunch we ordered an appetizer of ´tequeños´ or wantons filled with crab and then I ordered the restaurants ceviche special, octupus and sole with a spicy rich sauce, while Chris ordered the shellfish edition with shrimp, octupus, calamari and crab with a more traditional ceviche dressing.

It was the MOST DELICIOUS food we have eaten here! Mouth watering, melt in your mouth sushi fish bathed in goodness and flavor.

Not to mention the waiter´s were incredibly nice and the two ladies sitting at the table next to ours were friendly, chatting with us and giving us their business cards for if we ever need something and to contact them the next time we were back in Lima (“now you know someone here if you need something, thats important” they told us, making us feel quite welcome and happy). And to top it all off, our waiter brought us out free pisco sours, the typical drink of peru, made with Pisco alcohol and topped with beaten eggwhites… think citrusy and strong. It was an amazing experience, invigorating and nourishing us, and somehow all that delicious food and drink only cost us US$23.

Our afternoon was bright, our spirits were high and Lima with all of its neighborhoods and shades felt great!

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One Response to “Looking back on Lima”
  1. Chris's MOM says:

    Natalie,My mouth was watering reading about your great lunch.I could almost taste it!!

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