Jan 18

A birthday in Lima

by in Peru

Lima

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We left behind the lovely city of Santiago and headed up to Lima, our home for the next few days. Being Darin’s birthday week we had booked into a hotel called the Dazzler, and whilst I was disappointed that it wasn’t encrusted with diamonds, it was still a lovely hotel. I plan to bedazzle it with crystals if we go back…
Lima is the capital city of Peru, where we were hoping to bump into Paddington bear on our travels. I would look after him, no problem. With 9 million people living here, it is the fifth largest city in the Americas. It is massive, separated into 43 districts or barrios. In the pre-Colombian era (basically the time before European influences, also referred to as the time before Christopher Columbus – I had to look it up !)  Lima was occupied by Amerinidan (indigenous people of the Americas) groups under the Ychsma. These people were incorporated into the Inca empire in the 15th century.

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Palacio de Justicia

Inca, also spelled Inka, were the South American Indians who, at the time of the Spanish conquest in 1532, ruled an empire that extended along the Pacific coast and Andean highlands from the northern border of modern Ecuador to the Maule River in central Chile. The Inca established their capital at Cuzco (Peru) in the 12th century. They began their conquests in the early 15th century and within 100 years had gained control of an Andean population of about 12,000,000 people. That changed when Spanish Conquistador (explorer) Francisco Pizorro defeated the Incas and took the empire, founding Lima on January 18th 1535, just a few hundred years before were were in town to celebrate Darin’s birthday. What a coincidence?

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Anyway, back to the story. Lima flourished as a trade network, but still suffered from Pirates in the Pacific (no Johnny Depp unfortunately- he was sailing a different sea) and earthquakes. It wasn’t until 1940 that an earthquake actually destroyed the capital. As part of the rebuild rural people came down to the city to find work, and it has continued ever since . The city is big, noisy, full of people, but there are a lot of green spaces with city parks . On the coast there are many areas that are less like the city and more like a regular beach area, and here is where you can find all the American chains, Macdonalds, Burger King, Tony Roma’s … It’s almost a bit sad to see the place dominated by these Western places, but each day these places were packed. And we have been known to have an odd couple of comfort food meltdowns in the last 18 months. Please don’t judge…!
Anyway, Lima is a huge melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. With Mestizos of mixed Amerinidan and European ancestry being the largest group, followed by European -Peruvians. Many minorities include Amerinidians, Afro- Peruvinas, Jews of European descent and Middle Eastern people. And Lima has the largest Ethnic Chinese community in Latin America.

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View from the top of Miraflores

We spent our first day walking to the beach, and watching the surfers catch some decent waves. The sea looked pretty cold, I tried to tempt Darin to go in but he wasn’t having any of it (wise man) so we spectated. There are loads of old camper vans and beetles here, brought up from Rio, and some looked like they needed a bit of love and attention.

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Ah, we miss Ada….wonder where she is now…?
Back in town we passed a travel agency called K and D travel… Was it a sign ? Should we settle here in Lima and run tours?? Who knew, but we figured it wasn’t enough to sell the house and move out here for. We need something a bit more concrete than that…!

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That evening it was Darin’s birthday so we walked over the Rafael restaurant. It was a Peruvian fusion menu and once we got in (they only open at 8pm and won’t let you in any early…) we had one of the best meals so far on our trip. It was scrumptious. Ceviche (which Darin did say was THE best he had ever had – even better than the one with the fish we caught in Fiji with Hylton , Anya, Cathy and Paul), sea grouper with an Asian sauce, I had the tuna which was divine, and then a chocolate explosion pudding. Yum. It was really good. Highly recommend it if ever you are in Lima searching for Paddington and get a bit pecking as you were relying on sharing his marmalade sandwiches…
The next day we had a tour of the city center. You can see the Spanish influence here – same as in  Santiago as they have a Plaza de Armas, a square, cathedral.

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Very similar in lots of ways. One thing we didn’t see in Santiago but did here was the catacombs at the monastery of San Francisco. Aside from being a church and monastery it also houses a famous library and the catacombs. The library is like something from Indiana Jones. 25,000 books in category order but literally left and covered with dust. The first Spanish dictionary is there, and a Holy Bible from 1541.  Even Fly Fishing by JR Hartley… Ok, that’s not there…. Won’t be borrowing anything from them as it’s not that kind of lending library anymore…. From there we had a tour including seeing a massive silver stand that weighs one and a half tonnes that is paraded and carried round the streets on the festival of St Jude. I tried to distract the guide but it wouldn’t fit in the bag….shame…

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The highlight if you can call it that were the catacombs. This was Limas first cemetery and it was right under the church. Discovered in 1943 it is estimated 70,000 bodied were buried there. Luckily you couldn’t take pictures as they have opened the graves and they are full of bones. It’s grim. That’s all I can say about that. It was dark, damp and claustrophobic. And I was glad to get out of there…

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“The Kiss” statue int he love park in Miraflores

That evening we were meeting up with Rachel, one of our guides on our India tour last year who is now a good friend. She is working through South America taking her group through to the Rio Carnival, and was arriving in Lima that night. We were leaving the following morning so had arranged to meet up in Chinatown. We took a cab from our hotel, they recommend you not to pick one up of the street as there are allegations of corruption and violence. So once we had persuaded our driver that Chinatown was open ( he said it wasn’t!) we were on our way. It always disconcerting when the driver has to make half a dozen calls to check where we are going, but after a nice tour of the city at night, we eventfully found Chinatown. Rachel was finishing up dinner with her group, so we sat and chatted about all the good times we had, and then found a bar for a few beers and some more chat. What a fun evening, so good to see Rachel again, and hopefully we will see her again soon. Walking back to her hotel we had planned to get the receptionist to call for a taxi. But he couldn’t, for some reason could only get us a cab to the airport. Random. So the night porter came out with us and we got into a very old very yellow car that looked as if it wouldn’t make it the 10kms home. Again, not so reassuring when the night porter takes a picture with his camera phone of the taxi number…’ Just to be safe…’ To be fair, he got us home and we didn’t even have to get out and push. And he was half the price of the guy who didn’t know where Chinatown was… Just shows you, never judge a book by its cover…..

What a fun end to a fun few days. Happy Birthday again to my prince. I love you

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Sunset at Miraflores

 

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