. Lima, in particular, is infamous for its shanty towns filled with disease and poverty on the outskirts of the city. South America is a very classist society, and the difference in wealth of the neighborhoods is very pronounced. However, most cities in the US also have their nice neighborhoods and their very poor ones- so basically South American cities are pretty much like every city in the United States as well.
I digress… in terms of things to see in Lima we both really wanted to go to the Centro Viejo to visit the famous plaza. We decided to take a night tour so Jon could bring along his tripod without having to lug it around on his own. We were staying in a touristy part of the city known as Miraflores, which is about 20 minutes outside of the center of the city, so it is a bit of a haul to go downtown, but the sight of the Plaza Mayor all lit up at night with the Christmas lights was breathtaking. Because it is currently summer down here, singing Christmas Carols and hanging stockings while sweating in shorts and flip flops doesn’t quite have the same appeal. So Jon and I haven’t really been in the Christmas spirit. But the plaza had a giant Peruvian Christmas tree lit up in multi-colored lights (complete with lollipops made of straw hats and ribbons, and giant cornucopias masquerading as baskets of ornaments). As Jon would say… "Que liiiiiindo!!!" We also were lucky enough to happen upon a band in front of the church playing a mixture of salsa and Christmas songs with a Latin beat
. Excellent! After the plaza we hopped back in our tour bus to view the Magic Circuit of Water which is a series of fountains built in a random park in Lima about 5 years ago. Now a major tourist attraction, the fountains change colors and shapes to different songs, reminiscent of the water show in front of the Bellagio. In addition, the Lima fountains also depict images of Peruvian women dancing and various colored lasers moving through the water. My favorite part of the park were the fountains at the very end of the circuit that spontaneously moved up and down so that people could jump through them and look like they were standing in water. The tricky part, however, is to jump over the water at the right time… which I wasn’t quite able to do correctly without getting completely soaked. I also learned that pictures where light is shining on your face from below are not entirely flattering….
Our second day in Lima we wanted to go back to the old city center to get a view of the plaza mayor in the day and also to visit some of the churches in the vicinity. We were very impressed first of all by the Metro bus system that zips you right into the city. Other city transportation systems take note: having one lane that only busses can ride in definitely makes a metro more efficient and speedy. The visits inside the city were equally as pleasing
. First we enjoyed our visit to the Cathedral of Lima. Originally built by Francisco Pizarro in the 1500’s it has since been rebuilt various times due to earthquakes and periods of growth. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and, like all of the Peruvians we’ve met, exceedingly friendly, helpful, and SHORT. Seriously, walking down the street in Lima it was amazing how many women I towered over…. men also! During the tour I learned a lot about the role the church played in the days of the conquistadores which was interesting since I have taught that period of history many times. My one thought, however, was that I wouldn’t want to be visiting the catacombs during an earthquake… all those pounds of stones on top of you. No way! Plus, we had already had a tremor the night before. I was awoken in the middle of the night when my bed began slamming against the wall and the windows rattling a mile a minute. Jon didn’t feel anything and was actually angry at me for waking him up. Hmph- See if I try to save him if the hotel is falling down around us….! Anyway, after our tour around the cathedral, we were lucky enough to happen upon the changing of the guards in front of the governor’s palace. An even bigger ceremony than the one at Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guards in Lima was filled with much pomp and circumstance. For one, a uniformed brass band played several songs and marched a good ways around the plaza before finally saluting the guards with their swords
. This show was followed up by a tour of the nearby convent where three of the Peruvian saints are housed. We began the tour by climbing the tower for a view of the city from up high. It was a great climb but not such a good idea in a skirt as it kept blowing up from the wind and giving everyone a great fright!
Aside from eating, however, there is not much to do in Lima besides visit the centro Viejo. There are a few museums, but we were not really in museum mode, and also most museums are closed on Mondays. So after our time in the convent we headed back to Miraflores where we spent the night and the next morning walking around the lovely neighborhood and doing some souvenir shopping. If ever in Miraflores it is quite worth visit the Larco Mall which is amazingly built into the cliffs along the sea. Even Jon, who HATES malls, was pretty impressed. Alrighty, bye bye Lima and now, off to Mancora- surfer’s paradiseJ
We had heard that Lima is not really a city that you need to spend much time in. In fact, I had heard horror stories of an ugly brown metropolis, crowded with people, and covered in fog 10 months out of the year. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was THAT bad, but we spent two days/ two nights visiting the sites, and it was plenty. Lima is indeed mostly desert, but it also has a nice coastline and some of the neighborhoods are really live-able. In fact Lima seems very much like any other big city in Latin America (but don’t quote me on that since I’m not exactly an expert yet. But all three cities I’ve been to- Lima, Buenos Aires, and Santiago, are extremely modern and well-planned out, with great eateries and plenty of green parks scattered throughout the city. The streets are clean, people follow traffic rules relatively well, and there aren’t too many beggars. Compared to cities in China, cities in Latin America are amazingly beautiful. However, I also must admit that I have only been to the wealthy parts of all three cities