Friday, November 22, 2013

Travel Diary ~ Lingering in Lima Peru

I met Mr. C. in Lima as it is midway between us.
About a five hour flight for each of us. One of my friends
had recently been in Lima and liked it very much. On the
Pacific as it is, he felt it compared in many ways to Los
Angeles in weather-wise and its upscale section, Miraflores,
was for him very much better parts of L.A. also. He gave
me a list of restaurants and nightspots he had visited and
information on hotels and shopping high points. I had
Left my Peru guidebook and the hotel Antigua Mira Flores sounded
like a very good choice. A former palatial home, now extended
to include additional rooms and at a very encouraging nightly
prices. Overall, prices in Lima are a good bit lower than in
Miami and much lower than Brazilian cities like Rio de Janeiro
and Sao Paulo.

I set out on a Sunday afternoon so as to be in Lima in the
morning the next day when Mr. C. arrived. Lima and Miami are
in the same time zone and a car had been sent for me so my
passage through the very crowded airport was uneventful.
Although it was ten o’clock at night the airport was jammed and
many planes were arriving. And as in all South American cities
the entire family is always there to greet each arrival. A mad
house but we escaped, got to the small and pleasant hotel and
although my room wasn’t the one requested I fell into bed, deciding 
to straighten things out with the front desk in the morning.

In the morning I called Mr. C. at a time when I thought
he should have cleared customs to reassure him that a car had
been sent for him. The same driver as I had had the night be-
fore. About an hour later I went down to the desk and heard one
of the receptionists mentioning my name. She was on the phone

with the driver who could not find Mr. C. I told her to reassure
him his passenger was there as I had spoken to him at the airport
earlier. I think called Mr. C. again and as I spoke to him he
encountered the driver. This kind of contretemps was to become
familiar in our days in Lima.

Peru is a country...and Lima is a city.. .that has too many
things unexplained. It’s history, it’s population, certainly
it’s traffic.

I waited at the lobby entrance until Mr. C. arrived. Neither
he or the driver could explain how they had missed each other at
the airport for more than an hour. Mr. C. suspected the driver
wasn’t actually there.

We ate lunch across the street in a quite smart restaurant
and then walked down to the edge of the city. No one told me
about Lima. It is quite dramatic. it is~ perched on a perhaps
ten story tall]~ cliff, very raw and red with few ways to reach
the beach below. The night before I had come in from the
airport along this beach and then drove up a kind of gully
that ran up into the heart of Mlraflores. We now walked back
to the cliff edge, across a bridge that spanned this gully and
on to where a great hotel rose high above the cliff and a
very ultra-smart shopping mall descended downward. All the
smart international stores were represented here but not the
luxury tops like Prada and Bulgari. These may have been across
the street at the lavish hotel.

What one is struck by immediately in Lima is the traffic.
The streets are packed with taxis and buses. If there is an
official public transportation system it is not readily discern-
ible. There are large buses, small buses, and miniscule buses. 
They line up and a kind of town crier stands by the door calling out
their destinations. People cram in. In the very small buses one
can see people so tightly packed in they cannot sit up straight.
There are also few traffic lights by most big city standards. The 
many taxes also range from small to smaller and they have no meters. 
You must lean in and bargain with the driver as to how many soles 
you are willing to pay to reach your address. There are about two 
and a half soles to the dollar. We found drivers were very consistent 
and rides were five or ten or fifteen soles for the most part. There 
wasn’t a lot of argie-bargie with the driver about what you were going to pay.

That night at the hotel in the room we had been given as
originally reserved we discovered that the guests were for the
most part young back-packers on their way to Cuzco and Machu
Picchu. They were laughing, talking and marching about until
late in the evening. In the old mansion walls were not thick and
floorboards creaked. Then in the night whoever was overhead began
a series of hurried and panicky steps across their room. A
pause. Then hurried and panicky steps back. A pause. A return.
A pause. They darted back and forth most of the night. Pacing?
Repacking? What. I was tempted to go upstairs, rap on the door
and ask what the hell they were doing. I really wanted to know
what was prompting that scuttling to one side of the room, the
pause and then the scuttling back. I didn’t. But at breakfast
Mr. C. announced, “We must go to another hotel. This hotel does
not have enough privacy.” He was right. It was as though the
other guests were omnipresent, whether in our room or not.

We struck out and went to the Doubletree El Pardo Hotel,
not too far. We called first, they had a room, we walked over
and booked it, then went back and checked out. The very nice
girls at the desk were sorry to see us go but didn’t question
our departure.

Mr. C. was much happier at the El Pardo. It had a gym, a
pool on the roof and certainly privacy. You could not hear the
people in the next room. We explored about, made a reservation
at the Huaca Pucliana restaurant and examined the historical
site. Here there were the remains of a giant pyramid built of
brick sometime between the third and fourth century A.D. Long
before the Incas.

What you also learn in Peru is that there was a high level
of civilization before the Spaniards arrived in the 15th century
and knocked it all apart. The Incas were only the dominant
culture in the last century before the Spanish invasion.
Before then there any number of other cultures who developed
the use of terraces for the cultivation of foodstuffs which
allowed them to live high in the mountains and on the steep
hillsides that make up much of northern Peru. I am just beginning 
to understand the geography of South America, but on the Pacific 
side of the Andes Chile to the south and Peru to the north dominate 
the coast. Bolivia is inland from Peru with only a small coastal outlet. 
Then there is Colombia on the bulge to
the north and Ecuador on the very, top. The result is that Peru
ranges from mountains and valleys down to deserts and under
t~-ie Incas the culture also extended across the Andes into
the tropical forests of the upper Amazon. They had no written
language or use of money but kept track of the work people did
and they shared food and building materials and other materials
according to how much work they had contributed. The family was
paramount in the providing of workers. They had no horses but
shipped some materials long distances by rafts with sails up and
down the coast. The Spaniards pretty much demolished this culture 
and diseases desimated the native population.

I should point out that in the streets of Lima I was. among
the tallest people. There are an enormous number of tourists in
Peru, passing through Lima on their way to Macchu Picchu and
other historic spots. They and the many men in suits and ties
about were taller. Another some 50 per cent were obviously the
Inca descendants; much shorter, large features, prominent noses.

It almost had the feeling of an occupied country. You felt the
native peoples were definitely here and very much in evidence.
In other South American countries I have been in the indigenous
population seems much more assimilated. Even in San Salvador
Bahia in Brazil with its large black population the people
seemed to know each other, eat lunch together, be very much
more mixed together. Here, no.

At dinner that night at Huaca Pucilana we saw the monied
Lima-ites and well-dressed tourists. It really wasn’t like
Buenos Aires or Rio, which seem much more European. This was
more provincial. Lima is a city of the upper class and then the

Wednesday we took a taxi down to the old city to the great
central square where Pizzaro founded the original city. I should
also add I found the weather brisk and overcast, very much like
San Francisco. Lima is kind of a mix of San Francisco and Rome
50 years ago. The chill of the Pacific and the hazardous madness
of the traffic. In Rome years ago I always crossed the streets
implanting myself in the center of seven or eight people. That
way someone else would be hit first. And there were enough of us
to intimidate the driver. Here one had to do the same thing and
even so there were still looneys veering madly around the corner
you least expected them.

At the vast cathedral they wanted ten soles to enter. I said
to the ticket taker, “What do you think Jesus would have thought 
of having to pay to enter a church?” He looked at me and said,
“You’re still beautiful and in good health. What do you have to
complain about?” I said, ”Here’s your ten soles.” The church
has enormous side chapels filled with elaborate carvings and gilt
and paintings. Amazing what the Catholic church created here in
this distant wilderness so long ago.

            From the cathedral we proceeded to the post office near
the corner of the square. An amazing place I thought was some
kind of Victorian shopping center. Very ornate facades on each
side of a passage lined with tourist shops. Above are the
postal offices. All this in a kind of orangey pink like some
big frou-frou cake. At the far end the real business of the post
office was compress into a quite small space where you could
mail packages, pick up mail and buy stamps. Ahead of me at the
stamp lady were four German tourists arguing violently with the
stamp vendor. She finally reluctantly returned a miniscule coin
to them. I spoke Spanish to her and she looked at Mr. C. all
the time. “She doesn’t understand a work I’m saying, does she?”
I demanded of him. He answered, “No, but she says you’re cute.”
I guess being tall and blond is the way to get ahead in Lima.

We then visited the former train station, at which one
descends a very steep flight of stairs to a waiting room with
a wonderful stained glass ceiling and out onto the quay. There
are no trains anymore but there is a narrow river valley behind
Lima right here and the original tracks ran along the edge of
the river. All this is preserved but unused now.

After this visits to two other churches which were closed
for lunch (yes!) and then a terrible lunch in another historic
square. After this a long and futile search for the national
art museum which when finally found only had one room open with
contemporary artists. This was as much as Mr. C. was willing

to contribute to my pursuit of historic and artistic Lima. We
went back to the hotel and I wrote postcards and Mr. C. went
to the gym and the pool. Gym:good. Pool:freezing. On to dinner
at a quite nice restaurant directly across from the hjotel. The
food in Lima is its big attraction. It really has very good
seafood and great variety on the menus, unlike the other
side of the Andes which is very meat oriented.

One thing I forgot to mention about the Cathedral. There was
a chapel dedicated to Pizzaro where his tomb is found. On the
walls were photographs of his skeleton and the its condition
separated to pre-his murder and post his murder. He was killed in
the streets by his own people but my historical readings haven’t
discovered why yet. Pre showed that he had spinal deviation,
stuff like that. Post chowed all the cuts on the bones from the
murder. Pius very lengthy medical reports on both evaluations.
I found this curious and somewhat out of place in an atmosphere
of worship. Overall there wasn’t much feeling of piety~ in this
very large cathedral, although I believe Perui s a very Catholic

Thursday we walked down through the town and down the
narrow valley that led down to the seashore. Heading to the res—
La Rosa Nautica for lunch. Down and down we went. Really a long
and steep descent to reach the shore. Steps down through grass
covered hills on each side of the highway that, rushes up the
valley to the upper level. At the bottom I told Mr. C. that I
was definitely to climbing back up, although there were quite
a few people doing so. We walked past the surfers, hurling themselves 
into the sea. My feeling that the weather was brisk was confirmed by all
of them in their wet suits. There were a number of people in
shorts walking about Lima and I counted them. “Four” I would
shout. “Five”. I don’t think I ever got above five and I think~
they were all tourists. My. C. was striding about in a T-shirt
while I was enveloped in a jacket and sweater but he is very

 Some of the surfers had their wet suits peeled down and they
Definitely did not have the kind of bodies one expects to see on 
our own East Coast. The surge was not too formidable either. 
A number were going in with instructors. A young woman 
seemed to be the most able.

Our restaurant, La Rosa Nautica, was a kind of ornamental
Victorian gazebo at the end of a long stone pier out into the
water. Very charming, very expensive and the food wasn’t great.

This may be a tourist attraction here in Lima rather than where
Lima-zines go. I kind of confirmed this as the taxi driver wanted
15 soles to get back on top of the cliffs. Expensive here. When
we demurred he said, ”You just ate here. You can afford it.”
Getting back up was major as the coast road has few turnarounds
and had to go about two miles south to turn around and come five
miles back before finding one of the few streets that mount to
the top. The coast road is very cut off from the cliff top.

We then went to the shopping mall and went wild and returned
to our hotel with the booty. That evening we ate a restaurant we
had noticed during the day. La Tiendacita Blanca. Not fancy but
very good food. I love a restaurant that is not crowded, quiet,
and brightly lit enough so I can really see my food.

I should mention that our hotel was near the John F. Kennedy
park and we were surprised to see many stray cats in the park.
This is a smallish park, very manicured with many benches and
children’s play areas. The cats all look clean, well fed, calm
and very used to all the people around. They sit under the benches
where people are perching ignoring them. There must be people
coming to feed them every day. At another park there was a :1:11
yellow cat sprawled out on the sidewalk sleeping near the entrance
as many people walked around. I’ve seen dogs do that in
South America but never cats. A first.

Friday we were allowed to stay in the hotel until we went
to the airport about six o’clock in the evening. We sort of
hung around. Mr. C. studied for a test he has coming up. I
rad and snoozed getting ready for my overnight flight.

 The airport was an astounding mess and our plan to have
dinner there went awry. Mr. C. checked in as his flight was
just before ten o’clock. I was not able to check in for my
11:30 flight as no American Airlines employees were there. We
sat together and waited until they finally showed up but then he
had to go through passport and go to his flight. I was able to
check in and dashed through passport to get to his departure gate
but just missed him. My flight wad delayed an hour. These over-
nights back to Miami are always the flight from hell. But I
departed. Called him once back in Miami.

And that my darlings, is Lima, Peru!

1 comment:

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