Lima Private Guide tour

Trip Start Jun 04, 2006
Trip End Jun 16, 2006

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Monday, June 5, 2006

Day 2 Don't try to find coffee at 6am. Just doesn't't happen. We did find extremely cheap Internet service around the hotel. Spent a whopping 33 cents to e-mail my daughter and family to let them know we arrived safely.

Breakfast started at 7am and we were ready to meet our private guide Cinthya at 9am in the lobby. She negotiated the $10 cab fare from Milaflores to central Lima. Instructed us that cab drivers do not get tips (which we ignored and paid him anyway). Then we hit the ground running.

Toured the San Francisco Monastery - which is a must see for more than it's alters and collections (about $1.75 per person). The catacombs were unusual with it's burial bins a little shocking at first. Cynthia told us that all churches in Lima "bury" bodies the same way. The body is disassembled and arms are put in one pile, legs in another, heads in another and so on. Makes it rough on DNA testing, cause your arm will be with hundreds of other corpses arms. The priests no longer allow photos inside the catacombs. Oops...

The Lima Cathedral was also beautiful. (About $3.10 per person) We toured beautiful plazas, including the Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas) saw the equestrian statue of General Jose de San Martin.

Without a tour guide we would never have noticed the statue at the base of the sculpture that has a llama on top of the woman's head. Seems this was a "language translation problem" The sculptor ordered a golden flame from Spain for head. The Spanish word for flame is lama. That's what was sent to Peru. It's more appropriate than a flame would be in Peru.

Also learnt that the buildings in these plazas are identical on each side. Turn around quickly and you don't remember which side you came in from. They were designed this way because there was only one gate out of each plaza. This would confuse any attacking forces if they were trying to retreat.

Viewed the famous wooden balconies, which are intricately carved. Loved the French architecture.Was amazed at the intricately carved reliefs on the front of the Church of St. Agustin. Cinthya explained that the Catholics did this to encourage the Peruvians to attend church.

Went thru the Post Office, which has a glass-domed street, under which the vendors are selling their products. Probably the first inside shopping mall in the Americas. There is also a Post Office Museum near the Palace. Very interesting displays. Peru changes its stamps once a month.

The Palace was off limits. It was the day after the National election and guards and armor were everywhere. The building is beautiful.

In between all the touring, Cinthya took us to her favorite restaurant, Aires Peruanos, about 6 blocks from the Palace. A downstairs kind of place that the locals like. She told us she would order "Lima's favorite dish,"

Turned out to be one dish. A huge platter piled high with a base of potatoes, vegetables, beef, onions, and on the sides were cooked bananas. We were given three plates and told to dig in. Ok, so we were a little leery at first, but one bite and we were goners. I split an Inca Cola with Cinthya. A yellowish drink just didn't't look appealing, but at first sip I said "reminds me of cream soda." Only a bit sweeter, and I was hooked for the rest of the trip. Don't waste your taste buds on Inca Cola light. My husband had a Peruvian beer, which was just the first of many. That bill was about $14 including tip.

After lunch we walked around Lima noticing all the casinos (as in gambling). Small store fronts were turned into slot machine heaven. We headed down to the Rimac River to see the old Inca city walls that were discovered recently during an excavation. Climbed a platform for a great view of Lima and Rimac.

Our brains were overflowing with tales of history, politics and people, tales of lost loves and revenge, but we did take some memories with us. It's almost impossible to get a photo of Lima with at blue sky. Lima is situated like San Francisco. Pacific ocean to the west. Huge mountain range to the east. Since it's almost always overcast, many of the buildings are painted a bright yellow, pink or orange.

Historic Lima is a beautiful city. Many areas are under redevelopment. I walked around for over 8 hours with an expensive camera on my shoulder. Not even in my bag. We felt safer in Lima than in our own hometown. People were friendly, even when we didn't't speak the language. I would advise, as we did, to get a private guide. Yes, you can see Lima with a guidebook, but you are missing the "behind the scenes" Lima. Her email is She also works with groups.

If you plan to exchange money in Lima, use the money exchangers that are wearing green or blue vests with "Euro" printed on them. They are usually standing outside a bank. They "stamp" the money they are giving you, so if it was a counterfeit bill, you could take it back to them. Their rate is higher than the rate at a bank. Also, tour guides prefer to be paid in Euros or American money, as they use these exchangers also. Cinthya doesn't give you a price for her tour. She says to pay her what we want at the end. I gave her $50 US and she was thrilled. She's young, energetic, polite and has a degree in tourism. She also does Ecuador hiking tours.

Back at the hotel to freshen up. Then we walked around Milaflores, again being amazed at the Tropicana Casino and others scattered thru this area. It was also interesting to see a whole block of buildings dedicated to custom made clothing. Stopped into "touch" the materials in some of the shops. First quality. Found the high end alpaca stores (Alpaca 111 is my favorite. All Alpaca is 2nd. Origin Alpaca comes in a 3rd .

A few other good ones out there - and we discovered they have branches in most of the towns. I am NOT a shopper, but I was hooked. The quality, the fibers, the designs. At least the food and attractions are inexpensive, cause my traveling funds were being used in every town for Alpaca sweaters.

Stopped to see what the big deal is about Ripleys Department Store. After 10 minutes we were out of there. Prices on name brands and designers are about 10% less than the US. Why drag the same stuff home?

Went up to the "Indian" shops. Here we found a lot of large one story "mall-like" buildings that are crammed with everything Peruvian. From to die for pottery, tapestries, t-shirts, silver and of course Alpaca - baby blankets to slippers to sweaters and coats. The prices were very good, but we were only looking. Not wanting to drag anything with us for the next 2 weeks.

Walked to some of the parks, admired the flowers. Kennedy Park is a nice one. Outdoor/indoor restaurants are located nearby. We ate outside even though it was a little chilly. We were not 't used to the "menu people" Every restaurant has them. They wave to you as you are walking, then rush down to meet you with a menu in hand. Within 2 seconds they recite the menu and offer you a free Pisco Sour with dinner. We got drawn in by the menu person, who was now our waitress at the El Tigre on Calle Lima N, Lots of seafood on this side of the country. And beef and chicken and other things that we had not a clue. No matter what you ordered it was excellent. And of course, cheap. Dinner for 2 with drinks (in addition to those small Pisco Sours was about 53 soles. Then, a walk (after a stop for ice cream) back to the hotel.
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