June 2, 2013 by jiejie768
After arriving early (5:45 a.m.) and catching a couple extra hours of sleep in the Hostal El Patio sitting room, Keegan, Meg and I, joined by GeGe, set out to see what Lima had to offer on a Saturday (May 18) morning.
The three of us had just arrived from two days in Huaraz, and GeGe was in town for a brief weekend getaway and grocery trip. Our first stop that morning, as it usually is when in Lima, was Starbucks. This was followed shortly by a trip to Subway for breakfast sandwiches before GeGe headed out to do her shopping and the three of us went in search of the Lima Marathon (and 10K) race expo.
Since we couldn’t get into our hotel room to shower until after noon, Meg and I wanted to check-in for the 10K we’d be running the next day. We knew it was at a park near the National Stadium bus stop and hoped against hope there would be signs directing from the metro platform. It turned out signage was unnecessary as the park was literally right in front of us once we exited the bus complex.
The marathon expo turned out to be one of the best organized public events Meg and I had experienced in Peru, and we were able to acquire our race shirts, numbers and timing chips in no time at all. After collecting our goods and perusing the merchandise stands, the three of us took a trip around the park.
The park is a pretty popular tourist destination that features several intricate fountains and sculptures. As it was early in the day, the fountains were off, but it was still interesting to wander around and see the park. Someday we’ll have to come back at night for the light and water show (though we’ve heard it’s best to do so on the tourist bus, as the neighborhood can be sketchy at night).
By the time we’d seen the park and checked in for our race, it was approaching noon, and we figured we’d head back to Miraflores and our hotel to see if we could check in and get cleaned up. We were in luck, and there are few showers in my life that were more welcome than that one (we had spent the previous night on a bus, and had walked through a temperate, but humid, Lima for a few hours that morning).
Feeling clean and refreshed, we looked to Keegan’s last afternoon/evening in Lima before he had to head to the airport for his 1:40 a.m. flight to the States. The Wednesday before, we had spent the day in Lima checking out our favorite haunts in Barranco and Miraflores, so this day was set aside for visiting Lima’s historic city center.
To get there, we once again hopped on the Metro bus and were on our way (Note: there may be amazing things to see in Lima that aren’t on the Metro route, but I’m not sure I’ll ever go there. I love that bus, it’s quick, convenient and relatively cheap … a big plus for locals and visitors alike).
Unlike the mostly-modern Miraflores and San Isidro neighborhoods where Meg and I spend most of our time, downtown Lima features dozens (or more) towering colonial structures. The centerpieces of which are the national palace and the main cathedral, which occupy adjacent sides of the city’s Plaza de Armas. While we were visiting, we noticed at least three bridal parties leaving the cathedral having, apparently, just wrapped up their respective wedding ceremonies.
After a spin around the central plaza, we wandered up the street to another church and eventually to a park built around an old stone wall. I believe, and I’m remembering this from a visit in September, that the wall at said park was built in colonial times to protect the Spanish governors who were occupying the city’s central area. Or, perhaps it was built even before that by native peoples who occupied the area before the Conquistadors came. I really should have read the informational signs again on this visit. (EDIT by Meg: I’m 98% sure that is predates the Conquista and was built by the indigenous people.)
The park of the wall also offers a view of a Lima hillside dotted with colorful houses. Atop this hill is a massive a cross and, apparently, a mirador that would offer a great view of the city center. Keegan jokingly asked “Why didn’t we visit that neighborhood?” as we peered out at the scene. Let’s just say that’s not the kind of neighborhood it would behoove three tourists to wander through snapping photos of the locals.
After our stroll through the park, we were starting to get hungry and set our sights on the authentic Chifa meal (Chinese-Peruvian fusion) that we’d promised Keegan. On a visit in January, Meg and I had eaten at a great Chifa place in Lima’s Chinatown with our friend Fabiola, and we set off in hopes of finding it again. We’d only been to Chinatown that one time, but we knew it was only a few blocks from the city center and we had little trouble tracking down (we did have to consult a bus map to confirm we were where we thought we were, but it assured us we were on the right track).
Lima’s Chinatown is pretty reminiscent of Chinatown in any major city across the globe. There is an abundance of restaurant options, dozens of stores and stands selling knick-knacks and clothes of varying quality and legitimacy, and the random Gatorade-guzzling, vaguely (or overtly) racist Chinese mascot costume. In other words, the ideal place to order a tasty meal off a menu you can’t understand in the least.
Our lunch was a fantastic, family-style affair featuring chicken, duck and tofu. Keegan was the brave one who ordered the duck after only half understanding the waitress’ description, but it was a winner. I believe it was called the Yin-Yang Duck and was half covered in a savory mushroom sauce with the other half bathed in a sweet pineapple and peach topping. It was crispy and delicious. Meg and I were more conservative, ordering the same thing we’d had before, and it was just as good this time around. I’d tell you the name and location of the restaurant should you ever be in Lima, but the truth is I don’t have a clue on either account.
After lunch, we wandered back through Chinatown toward the city center and the bus stop. Along the way, Keegan snapped photos of the surroundings and, more often, the spectacular street art on display. Some of the pieces must have been commissioned murals, but others were obviously just intricate, detailed and impressive works of ambitious local graffiti artists.
We returned to Miraflores and our hotel just as the sun was setting. With just a few hours left in Peru, Keegan’s goals were simple: drink enough (but not to much) so that the plane-ride was a relaxing and sleep-filled affair. I was only to happy to help him achieve this goal. Meg’s goal, on the other hand, was to grab a few items in Lima’s grocery store that are not always available in Ayacucho (namely, brown rice and black beans).
The first spot Keegan and I visited was a trendy wine bar with overpriced beers and mostly terrible art on the walls. We drank a single Cusqueña before moving next door for more reasonably-priced drinks and a superior atmosphere.
Over the next couple of hours, Keegan and I took advantage of the 2-for-1 happy hour with a couple Pisco sours (his first in Peru) and a Chilcano (his first ever: A chilcano is Pisco, ginger ale and lime); Meg, I believe, had a fruity milkshake of some sort. (EDIT by Meg: Nope.) We also were intrigued by the restaurant’s food menu, and ended up eating a very tasty sandwich-based dinner there as well (Keegan and I had some kind of pork sandwich, while Meg enjoyed a tasty vegetarian option).
After dinner, with Keegan confident that his blood-alcohol content was at the ideal level for traveling, we headed back to the hotel. While we waited for Keegan’s cab to come, we watched (most of) an episode of Game of Thrones and bid him adieu. In a stroke of bad luck, Keegan’s flight ended up being delayed until 3 a.m. and he was forced to take a later connection from Dallas to Seattle. Even so, he made it home by the late afternoon Sunday, and hopefully, will look back fondly on his Peruvian adventures.
We certainly enjoyed the trip, and were sad to see him go, as his departure marked the beginning of the end of our adventure. He was our last American visitor, and left us with only three or so weeks remaining in Ayacucho and Peru. When you start such an adventure, nine months seems like forever; when you reach the end, it feels like no time at all. We did not, however, have much time to be reflective on that day; we had to rest up for the next day’s 10K run in San Isidro. One we had been training for at 10,000 feet and hoping would be easier in the thick, sea-level air of Lima.
Catch up on all of Keegan’s visit: