Honestly, we’d heard mixed things about Lima: it was a foodie’s paradise; it was big, loud, and dirty; it had great neighborhoods; it was boring. So when we were planning our Peru leg, we allocated only two nights in Lima.
We flew in from Talara airport in northern Peru (only three departures per day, all heading to Lima). After a short flight we arrived in the mid-afternoon, and after we had collected our bags, ridden the taxi from the airport in the northwest of the city to Barranco, a cool neighborhood in the southeast, and checked in to our hostel, it was about time for an early dinner. So we headed over to La 73, a charming and slightly spendy spot nearby, for a round of pisco drinks and a Peruvian paella. So far, so good.
(Our hostel was a real mixed bag. The location was great and it was run by a lovely family, but it was dingy and unkempt, and our room smelled musty. Sara and I like to think we’re willing to overlook a good deal of polish in return for good price, location, and companionship, but there are limits to these trade-offs.)
After our snack/dinner it was time to take in the sunset off the Pacific coast – Lima marked the last time, for a while, we’d have the chance to see an oceanic sunset. We stopped at the Malecón de los Ingleses (“malecón” is a little difficult to translate – it kind of means “boardwalk” or “pier” but this and other spots in Lima were all up on plateaus above the actual waterfront) and took some sweet photos of such a gorgeous evening sky.
Then we headed into the neighborhood of Barranco for drinks and adventure. We got a real Brooklyn vibe from some of Barranco, including the open-air crafts and foods market and the old mansion converted to a cocktail bar and art space. We also ate dinner at a chifa, a Chinese-Peruvian restaurant in central Barranco.
Unfortunately, something disagreed with Sara (possibly the chifa stir-fry) and this was all she was really able to see of Lima. I spent much of Sunday taking care of Sara and trying to keep her spirits up, then went out for a few hours in the afternoon to see just a little bit more of the city and to bring back some chicken soup. (The soup, not pictured, was a big hit. Peru is known for two great chicken soups, dieta de pollo and caldo de gallina.)
I walked up from Barranco to Miraflores, kind of the Upper East Side of Lima, where I grabbed some ceviche to go; sat in a lovely park; visited a big and bewildering grocery store; walked along the promenade; observed the urban and cultural fabric; and finally returned to our hostel.
A few urbanist observations. I was struck, both in Barranco and Miraflores (which are both high-rent districts), by the obvious obsession with quality-of-life infractions. Prominent signage prohibited things like blaring car alarms, dog poop, and unauthorized tourist bus stops. And everywhere there was evidence of extreme security measures on affluent homes – a sign that either crime, or paranoia, or both, are pronounced in Lima. Elsewhere in town, we saw some pretty good bike infrastructure and bus rapid transit; these systems are ubiquitous in South American cities to an extent that makes you really wonder why we can’t seem to get them going in North American cities…
And – that’s really it. The next morning we taxied back to the airport and were off to Cusco. On the way to the airport we passed broad boulevards and grandiose buildings in central Lima – I was vaguely reminded of Washington, D.C. – but we really came and went through this city of eight million people in just a handful of hours. Perhaps we’ll return someday to check out world-tier restaurants like Central or Maido; or take surfing lessons by the Miraflores pier; or visit all the museums – but for now we have to be content with the briefest handshake with the place.