Lima by the sea
Trip Start May 08, 2011
8Trip End May 16, 2011
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Where I stayed
We arrived in Lima late Sunday night and Pat and Denise Lemmon met us at the airport. This is the fourth trip I have taken with Pat and Denise and they are great fun. We rounded up more of our fellow passengers and drove to the Hotel Antigua Miraflores. After finding our rooms in the maze of stairways and corridors, we enjoyed looking at little touches like the bedside lamps. Each one was modeled after some piece of antique machinery like a sewing machine or folding box camera. We spent Monday morning touring Miraflores, an upscale seaside neighborhood of hotels, cafes, and parks. Our guide, Sheyla, took us for a stroll on the Malecon, a pedestrian path along the sea cliffs and through a few of the beautiful parks for which Miraflores is famous.
One of the parks contains floral models of the famous Nazca Lines, scratched into the high desert country of Peru's southern coast region. The one shown here is called The Monkey. The figures were probably created around 2000 years ago. Suggestions of their original purpose ranged from ancient irrigation systems to alien landing strips. The park is named after Maria Reiche, a German mathematician who devoted over 50 years to studying and preserving the Nazca Lines. Her widely accepted theory proposes that the figures served as an astronomical calendar.
We noticed that it's common for Lima parks to be named after prominent foreigners...there's a John F. Kennedy park near our hotel, and this one dedicated to Itzhak Rabin. This is a reflection of Peru's diverse population, which includes large numbers of Chinese, Japanese, Africans, Jews, and many other ethnicities in addition to the mixture of Spanish and indigenous populations. The parks are beautifully kept and the city is amazingly clean. Sheyla told us that there are 43 different neighborhoods that make up the city of Lima, each with its own mayor. They compete with each other for bragging rights. Everywhere we walked we saw people in uniform mowing, weeding and sweeping.
The Park of Love was the idea of Antonio Cilloniz, a local poet who complained that cities build monuments to soldiers but not to lovers. There are quotations from love poems along the ceramic tiled walls (reminiscent of Guadi's Parc Guell in Barcelona), and the centerpiece of the park is El Beso, the sculpture of the lovers kissing. There are always plenty of actual lovers kissing and snuggling here as well.
Along the walk we saw lots of political signs and billboards for the upcoming presidential election. There will be a runoff in June between the two candidates who got the most votes in the recent primary. Everyone we talked to seemed to have a different interpretation of the issues and the likely winner. The consensus seems to be that Ollanta Humala is a socialist and wants Peru to affiliate with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela; the other candidate, Keiko Fujimori, is the daughter of the former president, Alberto Fujimori, who is currently in jail for corruption. The polls right now are showing them neck-and-neck. Each candidate or party has a symbol--so the big "K" with the blue "x" shows people who can't read how to mark their ballot for Keiko. The slogan says "In your hands is the change."
We were a little surprised when Pat and Denise said we would be eating lunch at the mall! But Larcomar is not your ordinary mall. It's built on a cliff above the ocean with a spectacular view. There are all kinds of restaurants, local specialties as well as American and South American fast food chains. It also has a movie theatre and a bowling alley, and lots of shops including a few selling Peruvian handicrafts.
After lunch we drove to the next neighborhood north, San Isidro, to see the Museo Larco and it's huge collection of pre-Columbian art. There are thousands of artifacts from the private collection of a wealthy family, who once lived in the mansion that now houses the museum. Unlike most other museums, where only a part of the collection is on display, this one has a storeroom you can walk through. Most of the items you can see in these glass storage shelves are huacos, jugs to hold chicha beer, made from corn. Besides being a staple food item (only 1% alcohol), chicha was used for ceremonial purposes. As far as I could tell there were no two huacos exactly alike.
When we think of Peru we usually think of the Incas, but they dominated the landscape for only about 100 years in the 15th and 16th centuries. There were many other cultures that thrived at different times in Peru's history, leaving behind amazing works of art. I was fascinated by the quipus, knotted strings which were used for mathematical and record keeping tasks.
There is also a huge collection of erotic art. Despite being hidden away in a separate building at the bottom of the hill, it is one of Peru's most popular tourist attractions. A unique feature of Lima museums is the presence of a mascot--a "perro sin pelo" (Peruvian hairless dog). This one was very friendly and spent a lot of time posing for our photos. The grounds were beautifully landscaped with tropical plants.