Friday, July 20, 2012

We're off to Peru!! Lima

We're off to Peru! First stop, Lima.  As a bit of context, Russell and I decided we needed to take advantage of the free time we have before Russell starts work full-time at Walmart in August.   This is sort of a "last hurrah" vacation since we will never has much time as we do now again to do this sort of thing!

Our travel there was very non-eventful so I won't go into too much detail.  Really, the only thing of note is that upon bag weigh-in at the airport, I tallied only 19lbs. for 3 weeks worth of travel.  That's got to be a personal best for me.

We landed in Lima on time around 11:00pm and thought it would take us max 45 minutes from plane side to taxi...2 hours later we were finishing up in customs. Yipes!  We arrived to our hotel, Miraflores Park Hotel around 2:30am where we were kindly greeted and shown our room (a junior suite) where we fell into bed until the next morning.

I'll have to let you in on a secret- we used Luxury Link and Jetsetter to book the majority of our trip which means we were able to score some great hotels and some great rooms for less $$$ than lower ranked hotels and basic rooms.  So far, they have not failed us!

Day 1:
We woke up bright and early, stuffed our faces and headed out to find Bike Lima where we would be taking a 4 hour bike ride through Miraflores, Barranco, and Churillos (I think).  Of course we started the morning off on the verge of getting lost (flash back to our Paris trip earlier in the year) but thankfully we weren't too far off track!

We biked with 4 other people (2 Americans and a couple from Hungary) and a great guide who was very friendly and had great stories!  Highlights included: beautiful views, school children who wanted their picture taken with us, the wishing bridge, the diving monk, the park full of abandoned cats and almost getting hit by taxis multiple times (making us thankful for purchasing trip insurance).

one of the look out points during biking

Our tour group

lookin' cool, rockin' the helmet

Our tour guide with lots of stories.  He had a knack for asking questions and answering himself. 

Beautiful haunted cathedral in Barranco

School girls in Barranco who asked to get their pictures made with us

Another look out point.  Would you like to live in this condo complex?  You can't! It has to be torn down because it was built illegally through governmental bribes.

The diving monk.  Below is a video of him diving.  Watch for his crazy climbing skills!  There are  many citizens who reenact the legend of the diving monk who killed himself out of heartbreak. 

After our bike ride we were a bit hungry and very tired so we headed off to find a coffee shop I'd read about in our Lonely Planet Peru Guide (also an invaluable resource).  Once again, we got a little lost and I got to practice fumbling through my Spanish phrases asking for directions.   Without a doubt, I should've paid more attention in my 4 years of obligatory second language classes. 

We did find Cafe Z and as Lonely Planet suggested, they had great food and the world's most uncomfortable chairs!

We took a break at the hotel for massages and then headed to dinner at Panchita.  A trendy Peruvian restaurant.  At this point of the day, my Spanish had gotten so bad it was comical but we somehow made it through! Panchita had THE BEST rolls we have ever eaten- if heaven has school lunch rolls, this is what they would taste like.  We split Peruvian chicken noodle soup and a third of a roasted suckling pig for dinner.  The soup was outstanding but, a little mushy and too fatty, the pig was not for us.

We then headed back to the hotel to prepare for the day to come.

Lima Day 2:
While we felt as if we had planned and planned and planned some more for this trip, we realized we hadn't planned enough. Our second day in Lima was totally open.  I woke up early (too early says Russell) to figure out what we'd be doing and how we'd be getting there.  After much deliberation...and a considerable amount of help from the concierges (who were fantastic)...we decided to visit two museums, take in the Plaza de Armas, go paragliding and experience chicharones and ceviche.  We decided to hire a drive for the day so that we didn't have to worry about repeatedly locating "safe" taxis throughout the town.

First stop (name of museum) .  This museum is in a colonial style mansion in Barranco.  It's small art collection by the artist (name) is a little like a bad dream but whimsical and interesting to look at. The art critics  Russell and I are not meant we were in and out in 30 minutes.  We were supposed to follow this trip up with a little paragliding.  Unfortunately there was no wind which made it unsafe and virtually impossible so we skipped that part and were off to Plaza de Armas in Lima's old city center.  

We arrived just in time for the changing of the guards at the president's mansion (their equivalent to the White House).  The ceremony lasted over 30 minutes.  There were many soldiers performing a highly choreographed marching routine but sadly and comically many were out of step.

We then visited the cathedral where we had a very informative tour learning of the history of Catholicism and the Spanish takeover in Lima.

Me, squinting to read my Kindle to determine where we would be eating.  That man beside me is our hired driver, Ronaldo, who awkwardly followed us around the city and made us feel like he was in a hurry.

Upon leaving the square we headed to a slightly rougher part of town to eat lunch at a sandwich shop.  Russell had the chicharrones, a Peruvian specialty of fried pork.- it was amazing!  We also tried Cusquena beer which is known to be the best's pretty much like a Bud.  Our penchant for craft beers in the states makes us a little snobby when it comes to having beers abroad.

Our next stop was the Museo Larco, a ceramics museum, where we learned of the native Peruvian cultures including their formation of societies, agriculture, spiritual beliefs and rituals.  We loved this museum and spent over  2 hours there!

NOTE: Ok, so a large portion of the Museo Larco is dedicated to "erotic" Incan pottery, etc.  It's, well, a fascinating experience if nothing else.  You will see your fair share displays of human, animal, and deistic affections.

We didn't take pictures inside the museum but there was beautiful bougainvillea on the outer walls 

Upon returning to the hotel, our cab driver awkwardly tried to get (unsuccessfully) more money out of us leaving a sour taste in our mouths but that was really the only hiccup in our day.

We ended the day with an out of this world seafood/ceviche dinner at La Rosa Nautica where we also experienced the infamous Pisco Sour which almost put us under the table.   Seriously.   It's sorta like a margarita designed specifically to knock you out for the count.  Efficacy on us?  Strong to quite strong.

Random: The dogs in Lima seem bigger and boxier than dogs in the USA.  We saw several labs, german shepherds and even mutts that seemed much more substantial (not fat) than US dogs.  Also, many owned dogs in Lima wander freely during the day or sit outside of their homes with no leashes.  In addition there are many strays  in the city center.  They all had such sweet faces and they just sleep in the middle of the sidewalks.

Overall Thoughts on Lima:
The scenery takes getting used to- the gray/white skies, crowded buildings, and lack of city planning or cohesive architecture gives an initial unfavorable taste of Lima.  When you look closer though, it is a city with so much character and individuality.  We grew to love our cloudy, almost dreary ocean view contrasted by the crammed city. All people we met in Lima were warm, friendly and patient with my horrible attempts to speak the language.  The food is spectacular, the history interesting and we loved our hotel.

Stop number 1 of our Peru adventure has been a success!

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