Days 32-39: Paracas to Lima (The Capital City!)

Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  , Lima Region,
Saturday, November 23, 2013

Although Lima is a huge city of 10 million people, we stayed and spent most of our time in the two smaller districts of Barranco and Miraflores. Both are in safe and beautiful neighbourhoods and run along the top of the cliffs that overlook the beach. Barranco is the artistic district with lots of bars and young people hanging around while Miraflores is the wealthy area next to the financial district with skyscrapers and lots of Landrovers in the streets. They had way different feels but we liked both a lot.

Barranco has a great slow paced vibe and is the perfect spot to walk around and relax but after getting our fill of relaxing as we came up the coast we wanted to find some things that we had been missing from back home. This meant heading to Miraflores and checking out the upscale Larcomar mall that is built into the cliff face. It had all the American stores like Quiksilver, North Face, Brooks Brothers, and a food court with TGIFridays, Chili's, and lots of others. Neither of us wanted to shop and couldn't afford it if we did, but walking through the familiar stores felt oddly comforting. We thought that we couldn't go wrong by going to Chili's to get nachos in the afternoon. We knew a chain like that was reliable for huge portions and a by the book plate of nachos. Funnily enough it turned out to be the only disappointment we had with food for the whole week. We couldn't do anything but laugh as they brought out a plate with 10 or 12 chips individually covered with cheese and a slice of jalapeño; we both instantly looked to see the disappointment on each other's faces.

We found out that in Peru they show all the new Hollywood movies in english so we finished off our taste of home day by going to see Gravity at the local theatre. Sitting in the theatre did make us feel like we were back home in Canada for a couple hours but the fact that the movie cost $4.00 ($2.50 on cheap days) and a large popcorn was $1.50 made it feel more like Canada in the '70's. Neither of us could remember watching a movie where you could hear the whir of projector and see the grain of the film on the screen but it added to the experience and we really felt like it was a bit of a step back in time. We ended up going back later in the week to see Rush and Hunger Games.

After the comfort of our North American day we spent the next few in Barranco walking through the bohemian and artistic district. There was always a lot going on with book fairs, concerts, and fireworks at night. We sat on the beach and watched surfers and fisherman then walk up the shore and through the neighbourhood stopping for drinks or a coffee. It's funny that at home where you always have access to decent coffee neither of us cared much about what we drank, but in a country where you are constantly getting instant it makes you want to get out and search for great coffee. Not only is this trip turning us into tea people, it may also be turning us into coffee snobs. Rachael is already researching what kind of high end coffee machine we're going to need once we get home. It wasn't all coffee in Barranco though, we also went out for a couple pitchers of sangria at a bar and saw some great live music. Every 20 or 30 minutes a new musician would come in with a guitar on his back and change out with the last guy to play a short acoustic set. It was a little hole in the wall bar and was packed full. We tried to go out to a place we heard had great live jazz one night but a bottle of wine and too many games of scrabble at the hostel made that an early night instead.

Moving to our next hostel in Miraflores felt like moving to a completely different city, as you are surrounded by a much different skyline and a lot more people in the upscale district. A big mission of our time in Miraflores ended up being the search for a good book to read as we both needed something to pass the time on nights off in hostels where tv is rare and english tv can be even rarer. We probably hit six or seven bookstores all over the city before we finally found one with an english section where we could both find something we wanted, and without a huge markup on imported english books. We also went to see the presidential palace and cathedral where Francisco Pizzaro is buried in central Lima. One of the unexpected highlights was going to see the water circuit in Parque de la Reserva. This is the worlds largest series of water fountains, all lit up at night and finished with a 20 minute light show where they projected images into the mist of one of the fountains. It was right up there with something you'd see at Disney.

One benefit we got from our time in a city without hikes, tours, and other things to fill our time is that is made us learn to enjoy a relaxing day. At the start of the trip we would try to kill a day where we had no plans, just trying to get to the next one so we could go on our hike. In Lima we learned to enjoy our free days. We walked the city, spent hours in coffee shops and parks reading the books we found, and enjoyed long casual meals. The culture down here of waiters not bringing your bill until you chase them down and ask for it was strange at first but I think it may be a good one. It was nice to sit and talk for 30 minutes or an hour after we ate rather than being rushed out, if you didn't ask for the bill they would be happy if you stayed until close. Enjoying a day off without needing to accomplish a goal isn't a great habit to get too comfortable with, but hopefully it's one we won't completely forget for the occasional weekend once we return to the real world.

Something that we were both looking forward to leading up to our trip to Peru was the food. We had heard and read so much about how it is becoming the centre of the culinary world and that we would never eat better. To be honest we have eaten very well in Peru but I didn't feel like it was quite living up to this reputation. This changed in Lima. Aside from the mistake of going to Chili's we haven't eaten this consistently well in our lives. We've eaten Peruvian, American, Vietnamese, Mexican, Middle Eastern, French, Japanese & lots of cafe desserts and it had all been incredible. I don't know if it's a mix of immigrants coming from different countries and bringing their foods or the fact that Lima's new reputation is attracting chefs from all over the world. Whatever the reason, limeños are lucky people.
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