Return to Earth
Trip Start May 08, 2011
8Trip End May 16, 2011
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The Lima traffic is pretty heavy, and it seems to be mostly buses, trucks and taxis. In order to keep the speed down, buses and taxis are required to have GPS and an alarm goes off if they exceed the speed limit.
On our drive in from the airport to the Historic Center of Lima, we traveled through several Plazas with ornate colonial buildings. Many of the Spanish Colonial style buildings have ornate, enclosed Moorish balconies made of dark wood. The oldest ones are entirely enclosed and the "newer" ones (after major developments in glass making) had windows.
The Cathedral in the main Plaza is very impressive. We met up with Sheyla again, our guide from the first day of the tour, and she showed us around the many chapels within the cathedral. The first stop was the chapel where the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro is buried. It may seem odd that there is a tribute to the man who conquered the Incas here, but Pizarro was killed in a conflict with his own fellow Spaniards. Apparently folks in Lima preferred Pizarro to the man who took over after his death.
Another chapel partly honors the Virgin Mary, but the dress she is wearing gives away the true symbolism. It's shaped like a mountain and represents "Pachamama" or Mother Earth in the Peruvian tradition. We ran into this motif everywhere on our travels. When you drink chicha beer you always start by spilling a few drops on the ground in honor of Pachamama.
The fountain in the main square looks ordinary today but during one special weekend festival every year, it is filled with the other national drink, pisco. Pisco is a sort of brandy made from grapes. It is then usually used in a popular cocktail called a Pisco Sour, made with lemon or lime and a little sugar.
We strolled around the central Post Office with its gallery of shops in the back, past the Presidential Palace to the Franciscan monastery. St. Francis would have approved of the facade of the building, which was full of little cubbyholes where pigeons roosted. Vultures patrolled the towers and roof. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, which is a shame because it was a fascinating place, especially the catacombs full of skulls and bones.
Leaving the monastery we walked back to the main square, with a view of the shanty towns growing up the surrounding mountains. We also stopped at a park where the city's original stone ramparts are being excavated and preserved. Our last stop was at a downtown restaurant operated by a convent. The nuns appeared to be from a variety of countries and spoke several languages, and after dinner they sang a song for us. Finally we said goodby to the fascinating history and culture of Peru and headed for home.