Trip Start Oct 25, 2007
36Trip End Apr 17, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Take downtown, for example. The streets are lined with old, decrepit buildings, many of which have the romantic carved wooden balconies that Lima is so famous for. Houses are painted in all sorts of colours - dark blue, dirty orange, bright pink. The streets are busy, always full of people. Plaza de Armas in the heart of downtown has a magical air to it. I liked to sit on the steps of the Cathedral (more about those in a bit), close my eyes and imagine being transported back in time to the colonial ages when Lima was the biggest and richest city in the entire continent.
The steps of the Cathedral are known as "the kissing steps", I was told, because young Peruvian girls hang out there in expectation of striking up conversation with a foreigner, and most often they receive their first kiss on those very steps. How un-romantic.
There are many bookstores just south of Plaza de Armas. Never in my life have I seen bookstores so packed with books and magazines. They are usually dingy little places, sometimes with bad lighting, and the walls are covered from floor to ceiling with materials. Often there are stacks of books on the floor too, forming a labyrynth of corridors that one has to navigate through. In general, it seems to me that Peruvians read a fair amount - certainly a lot more than Ecuadoreans. Even the tiniest of villages has a bookstore, and the libraries everywhere are well maintained.
The streets are fairly busy, but at night they get absurdly crowded. People go shopping, strolling around the plaza with their children. Its like being in Times Square at lunch time. Throughout downtown and in other parts of Lima there are tidy little parks spaces everywhere. One park has water shows (think Bellagio in Las Vegas), another has a Japanese garden, a third is a rose park in its entirety (pitty this one was closed when I walked by it). Dowtown Lima also has some marvellous plazas with a very ancient feel to them - wide open spaces with colonial stype lamposts lining the square, benches and steps for people to sit on, a fountain or a monument is sometimes placed in the middle.
Trendy Miraflores is full of spectacular houses with even more spectacular gardens that even San Francisco's Presidio Hill district could be proud of. Many of them are not large at at - they are just designed to please the eye. The beachfront is lined with tall apartment buildings, not a single one of which did I find attractive. But such are the economics of life, I guess. Further inland Miraflores boasts many shopping areas, parks and a business district.
The cliff is lined with a ribbon of a park, the length of which I could not walk as it might have taken all day. Its a pretty garden with walkways, monuments, look out posts, a lighthouse, a parasailing area, and a vast shopping mall that Limenos claim is the largest in the world (I doubt it). Parque del Amor, one of Lima's most famous parks, is located here. Any time of day or night you can observe numerous couples walking around or cuddling on the benches or grass. Cuddling is, in fact, too soft a word. Usually they are kissing passionately, groping each other in public shamelessly. Its not as romantic as it sounds.
Connecting the walkway in one part of Miraflores, where the cliff cuts inland quite a bit, is a bridge. This bridge was recently fitted with tall transparent plastic walls on each side. Logically I thought it was wind protection - wrong. Apparently many people committed suicide from this bridge, plunging into the abyss and hitting the street far below... survival is not possible. So the authorities finally took action and put these walls up. I stood over the infamous suicide spot and looked down, and shivered from the height.
Barranco was the most romantic place of all. Its the neighbourhood where artists, writers, singers and other people of the arts live. Its houses are old and as colourful as the ones in Miraflores and downtown Lima, except it has an avantgard edge to it. The place is quiet during the day but really livens up at night, as this is where some of the best bars and clubs are located.
My hostel was in Miraflores, close to the beach and to the large shopping mall I mentioned. For some reason it was full of French speaking people. After my French Leutenant experience I met some decent people there, as well as some locals.
Lima also has some marvellous museums. Specifically, the Museo de la Nacion has amazing pre-Colombian pottery on display. I probably spent two entire days just walking through the different museums and art centers - colonial art, modern art, Italian art, pre-Colombian art, Spanish Inquisition museum... and I also left a lot for my next visit!
Each driver owns his own vehicle, employs a conductor and just pays a commission to the private company to monitor the timeliness of the buses. This monitoring takes the form of a person standing at sertain key junctions along the route, clipboard in hand, who marks off the arrival time of each combi or bus of that company, and communicates it back to the driver. However, twice I saw a conductor pay money to the monitoring person, so I'm not sure how objective this all is... Limenos are apparently fed up with this and are waiting for the municipality to put in place a real public transportation system.
The conductor is the most interesting person on the comb/bus. He/she is often leaning half way out of the side window, sometimes holding a sign with the general direction of the vehicle, and yelling out loud "todo Arequipa, todo Arequipa". He beckons to individuals standing on the sidewalk, asking them where they are going and hastening them to catch a ride. He bangs on the door as a sign for the driver to stop or go. Inbetween all this, he collects fare from the passengers and maintains order in the vehicle. Not an easy job, I saw some guys that were really good at it and others that wern't as outspoken and whose buses were less full. So it probably takes some 'talent' to do this...