The City of Kings : Lima

June 20, 2009

¡Hola! from the City of Kings!
Our flight arrived Lima at 5.10am. We were beyond exhausted, what with very little sleep the night before, and the 5 hour delay in SFO, you can imagine how relieved we are finally arrive in Lima. After a mixup with the hotel, mostly because the receptionist speaks Spanish only, and me.. well .. I know probably 2 Spanish words .. he told me over the phone that their guy is somewhere there in the airport waiting for us, and I thought he meant for us to just take a cab to the hotel ourselves. I swear I did scan the sea of people meeting passengers holding up signs and didn´t find my name anywhere.. I did it not only once, but thrice .. and didn´t find him. Anyway, what´s important is we reached the hotel safely.

After a much heated argument between the hotel receptionist and the cab driver on how much the cab ride cost, we finally settled in to our room. After 27 hours being inflight, we all crashed as soon as our backs hit the mattress. It felt like I slept for days, until the phone woke me up. It was only 9.30am. The receptionist was kind enough to tell us our breakfast is ready, and if we still want it .. since we asked about it earlier. They brought plates of fruits, eggs, toast, ham and bread plus coffee and juices to our room.

By noon, we were all showered, stomachs full, and ready for Lima. We walked towards Plaza Mayor, along a major Avenida. Buses with conductors shouting the bus´destination passed by and street food vendors were selling snacks whenever the bus stops (familiar?). We walked and inhaled the thick smog that envelopes the thoroughfare but enjoying ourselves nevertheless.

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After about 20 min, we reached a pedestrian-only black-and-white tiled street, lined with colorful Spanish-colonial-inspired stores and restaurants. I loved the entire surroundings. The aroma of chicken being roasted in about every other corner made its way to our noses and right there we decided what our lunch is going to be. As an teaser, we couldn´t resist the churros though (1 sol each! that´s 30 cents!). It was yummmmy! Churros in our hand, we kept walking, stopped by a Nuestra Basilica on our way and made it to Plaza San Martin, where Pizarro´s statue proudly stands, facing what used to be Lima´s grandest hotel, Gran Hotel Bolivar.

After taking a few photos of the colonial buildings around, we followed the crowd of people which we knew leads to Plaza Mayor.

As we approach the plaza, we saw what sort of looked like a procession of saints… which, to our utmost delight, turned out to be more than just a procession. They were celebrating the Corpus Christi of Cusco – a very elaborate festival commemorated by a parade of performers wearing colorful costumes, dancing and chanting to the music of a band following right behind them. There were saints being held up high on a platform (like in a procession) followed by several performers, adults and kids alike. We were so overwhelmed at how lucky we were to happen on this festivity ! I must have done something good lately to the shutter gods, as I was in heaven clicking away on my camera.

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The performers are very kind and would all pose along – and sometimes with us! We walked around trying to get ahead of the different groups so we can take pictures of them. I couldn´t keep up – we fought our way through the thick crowds as the performers danced, chanted, and went forward. It was one of the most amazing form of celebration I had ever witnessed in my life (ok, I haven´t seen Carnaval in Rio =D ). My pictures definitely don´t do justice. I was smiling from ear to ear, I thought why did I waited so long before coming to this country!

400 pictures later, the parade was over and we were hungry. We went back to Norky´s and had our fill of roasted chicken, pisco sour and Inka Cola (for Jilly).

After lunch, we headed to Monasterio de San Francisco and took the tour of the 17th century monastery. It was amazing to see the original cloisters, choir, refectory and most of all, library of the monastery. The musty, old-book-smelling library houses 25,000 books. Going through the monastery reminds me of Umberto Ecco´s ¨The Name of the Rose¨. The book replayed through my mind as we went around the monastery. The last part of the tour was the catacombs. In the olden days, people got buried under churches, in the belief that this will bring their souls closer to God. We ducked through the maze of low-ceilinged hallways made of bricks and cement until we reached the piles and piles of bones. The common grave has the skulls, now arranged by archaeologists in concentric circles. The San Francisco Church, just like the other church we´ve been to, has a very ornate altar with very detailed wood carvings. The church had maroon and white arches, which matches it´s ceilings and domes. It´s very beautiful I´d rather show the pictures than describe it.

It was starting to get dark when we got out of the church so we started heading back to Plaza Mayor to take a cab. The street lamps are now lighted and it gave the colorful colonial structures a different hue. The buildings, with it´s wooden balconies, looked even more spectacular as the street lights lent their amber color throughout the street. Plaza Mayor looked so different at night as well.

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We wanted to stay longer but it was already dark and we knew better not to stay in downtown Lima at dark – plus we wanted an excuse to be able to have a quick peek of Miraflores, a more ritzy seaside neighborhood in Lima.

I told the cab to take us to Larcomar in Miraflores (yay! by this time I could somehow give directions to a cab driver! ha). I knew that Larcomar is a strip mall, but we were yet again pleasantly surprised to find that this shopping strip sits on a cliff, right next to the ocean! We can see the waves coming in the ocean despite the dark night, and the street lamps which curves along the shore. We walked around and chose to sit in a cafe, and ordered some coffee and cakes. We sat and marveled at this lovely place.

I didn’t have pictures that night of Miraflores but we did stop by Miraflores again on our way back to San Francisco and had wonderful seafood dinner at a restaurant recommended by our hotel.

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