I had no idea what to expect of Lima. As it turns out, I could live there. It’s the first time I’ve said that in all the places we’ve visited in South America but Lima certainly ticked the boxes. In a similar way to London, the city is made up of multiple barrios, each with their own traits and personality. We stayed in Miraflores, a 15 mins bus ride from the city centre. I can’t quite put my finger on why I was immediately so at home there, maybe it was being transported out of the tourist world and back to the day to day for a while. There were local gyms, bars on the corner and we got the washing done. The tourist touts were gone despite there still being tourist sites to see. Of course when we got into the centre of the city this changed a bit but only as you would expect from a capital city.
Our accommodation in Miraflores was a few blocks from the sea, although we didn’t quite get what we expected at the end of our happy little jaunt to the beach. On turning the corner ready to reach for the bucket and spade we found that we were actually at a sheer cliff edge. Looking down we found ourselves above a busy motorway and across that was the sea.
Finding a path down to the seafront was a mission in itself but once we had, we found it to be a strange experience with the crashing waves on one side and the roaring traffic on the other. There was a 1920’s style pier that has a famous restaurant at the end of it that apparently has seen better days but is still pleasant. Too pleasant for our pockets unfortunately so I can’t report on that!
The soundtrack to Lima is definitely the car horn, we were used to taxis beeping at us constantly but here it’s everyone, all the time. I couldn’t tell you what they were beeping at, sometimes I think it was just to fill a silence or keep themselves awake. Even as a passenger I was at a loss as to what the driver was honking with such ferocity at, perhaps it was a competition, maybe it was a new kind of music, who knows but there is no escape.
Walking around Lima city centre we found incredible buildings sandwiched between shoe shops and burger joints and like many capital cities we had to make sure that we didn’t forget to look up. There was also a phenomenal plaza mayor. The plaza hosts the government buildings used by the President and formally the site of the Inca king, there is also the cathedral and museums.
Another plaza is that of San Martin which sits in the historic centre of Lima, a UNESCO heritage site. Again surrounded by beautiful buildings the most interesting part of the plaza is the main statue, dedicated to Jose de San Martin the liberator of Peru. Sitting at the feet of Señor Martin is the mother of Peru, Madre Patria. The statue was commissioned in the 1920’s for the 100th anniversary of the liberation of Peru and built in Spain, with one little error. The intention was to place around Madre Patria’s head a crown of flames, however the word for flame in Spanish is llama and clearly not giving this full thought, the artist in question plonked a member of the camel family on the mother of Peru’s head to sit for all of eternity.
A city in Peru would not be complete without some historic ruins and sure enough, our own barrio of Miraflores was home to Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Incan temple built by the Lima culture between 200-700 AD. Before anyone realised the importance of the site it had been used for BMX and motocross events and many of the stones had been badly damaged. However, one the site was treated as a historic point of interest they continued to dig and found human sacrifices and mummies amongst other things…
Lima is somewhere I would definitely like to come back to, it’s excellent city break material, it’s just a shame it’s 10 hours from London! It is known in Peru and beyond for being a food heaven with a choice of international cuisine and top chefs from all over the world. It also has a chocolate museum that shouldn’t be missed if not for the chocolate deserts that are to die for (or die after depending on how much you eat – I was on the brink) then for the chocolate bars, chocolate tea, chocolate jam or even chocolate shampoo that they all sell. All made from the finest Peruvian cocoa bean that I’m pretty sure counts as one of your five a day.