Lima Downtown: 20th September – 22nd September 2016

The trip has FINALLY begun!! Our last day in England was of course, very rainy, hehe. We had a lovely time wandering through some parks, drinking a LOT of tea/coffee and chatting with parents; mam was stressed/convinced we were going to die, and dad was very cheerful and excited for us. We got through security super quick in Heathrow, record time for me, PLUS I didn’t set the metal detector off – winning! We flew with LaTam a latin American airline, and it’s really nice: big comfy seats, lots of free snacks and drinks and we were fed TWICE!! Beef and potatoes for dinner and a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast (it’s a Peruvian thing apparently). The eye masks were easily one of the best investments of the trip – I was out like a light on the plane and didn’t get woken up by any lights or anything. HOWEVER the inflatable pillow in my sleeper scarf broke (boo!) so I’ll need to get a new one. Reading “After the End,” a book I got free on my kindle app, it’s an interesting idea, even though the writing’s a little…immature I guess is the word. Don’t think I’ll be continuing the series.

We landed in Lima at 11am local time, 5pm UK time – from rain to sun! Grabbing a taxi to the hotel was easily done with our lack of Spanish, and we were off through the, uh…. interesting streets of downtown Lima, to the Gran Hotel. The hotel itself is really big and old and nice, with a giant courtyard in the middle of it, and no roof over the reception are, but a giant tree growing in the middle so a little shelter I suppose, and there’s this one small room with paintings on the walls and an “Art Exhibition” sign, so random! There’s also the resident cat which loved to just lounge about anywhere it could, most often the stairs, which meant I was constantly nearly tripping over it!

Once we were settled in our room we consulted the map in the welcome book and made a plan of action to head to the main plaza, have a look around, and then find a place to eat. Unfortunately, what we didn’t realise was that the street names were the same either side of the main road we were on so we ended up walking in the OPPOSITE direction of the main plaza and ended up wandering aimlessly through the craziest market area I’ve ever been in, like Moore Street/Portobello Road on Steroids – just every and anything you could think of, EVERYWHERE…but also with its own weird organisation. There are numerous streets, each selling its own category of thing; it became a bit of a game to name each street: electronic city, pan lane, furniture square, cutlery corner. The noise, the amount of people, the yelling, traffic and staring on top of being lost were unbelievably unnerving, but thankfully we figured our way back to the main street, spotted a chicken shop (kind of like a Peruvian nandos) and went in, too tired and hungry to care about the price. After that, it was back to the hotel for a regroup and a nap…. except that nap turned into us sleeping until the next morning, more tired than we thought!

Day two found us up at 6am, still feeling the jetlag. I’d read about a restaurant that did good breakfast – Tanta, so we decided to check that out. I got the Huevos de Gaston – scrambled egg, potatoes and chorizo – SO. DAMN. TASTY. After that it was time to signtsee! We wandered around the Plaza de ARmas (main square), saw the cathedral, the Palacio Arzobispal de Lima, and wandered into the Inglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo – absolutely BEAUTIFUL church, lots of statues of saints, Mary and Jesus, lots of glass cases with saints in them for worship and praying to, highly decorated and lots of offerings of fake flowers (no real flowers allowed).

Got ourselves a map of the city from the tourist information office, and had a wander around Jr. de le Union, one of the main touristy streets – the architecture of the buildings is really beautiful and very colonial, although the paintwork is quite shabby…could do with sprucing up. The roads themselves, however, are IMMACULATE, and we saw at least one or two street cleaners on every street. Lima downtown city is MENTAL, there is no other way of putting it. There are people everywhere, most of them trying to sell you something or trying to shine your shoes. It’s crowded and noisy and reminds me a lot of central London. I like looking at the buildings and parks, but I’m not such a fan of walking down the streets. Plus we are so STRANGE here – we’re clearly foreign, PLUS I have yet to see a single woman with short hair here, or any tourists really. So clearly we’re getting stared at. A lot.

Wandered down to the Parque de la Exposicion – came at it the wrong way and ended up having to walk around the perimeter for about 10 minutes before finding the gate it – not like the parks in London! Inside it’s really nice, a really pretty fountain, there was a tai chi class for the elderly going on, lots of people lounging around on the grass. We ended up going into the Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), and didn’t realise until we were paying that it was 30 soles each to get in! Most expensive museum I’ve ever been in. There are very few state-owned museums in Lima so you have to pay into nearly every museum, although most of them are only between like 5 – 15 soles pp. MALI is a beautiful museum though, really interesting pottery and artefacts from pre-Inca and Incan civilisations, religious iconography and pictures, statues, furniture and stunning artwork. The security in the museum is MENTAL though, we were practically followed by every security guard we came across; there was one guy who would literally step every time we did! I don’t know what the hell people in Lima tend to do in museums, you’d swear at any moment we were going to attack the artwork or try to destroy the exhibits.

After that we stopped off at a supermarket for breakfast stuff for tomorrow and bought tickets for the ballet I saw advertised on an event board outside the town hall – Swan Lake, should be good!

Used my time in the evening to come up with an itinerary of activities for the next day, focusing on free/cheap activities, of which there are plenty luckily!

Day three was full of urban exploration and discovery. First stop was the Galeria Municipal Pancho Fierro where we saw a lot of drawings of everyday life in Peru in the 1800s, really interesting stuff – shame I couldn’t read any of the notes he wrote beside each picture! There was just us and one man in the gallery looking at the pictures and at one point I ended up looking at a picture beside the man, who then turned to me and said a bunch of stuff in Spanish. I completely froze and basically gave an awkward laugh, smiled and nodded, so here’s hoping he said something good! As we were finishing up we heard a loud blast of music coming from outside and went out to see a concert band playing in the grounds of the palace. Turns out this is the changing of the guard – this lasted about half an hour! To be fair, it was amazing and pretty intense! First the band played all these jolly songs, then when that ended at midday, they marched off to the side and started playing really serious songs and the guards started marching out….REALLY slowly…It was all very sombre, until I suddenly realised that the band were playing songs from film soundtracks and operas, including O Fortuna. Really wish they would have played some Star Wars…

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After that impressive display it was on to impressive buildings! First we had a wander around the Casa de la Literatura Peruana. It used to be a railway station that was converted, but the tracks still run behind the building. The roof of the main hall is GORGEOUS, and the exhibits in the room were really interesting to look at…again just a shame I couldn’t understand what was written beside them. Then it was a wander through the streets to look at the beautiful wooden balconies and doors on our way to the Mercado Central (central market), which is basically a collection of stalls that sell anything and everything all under one roof.

There are many ways into the Mercado central…unfortunately we ended up entering it at the meat end and were promptly greeted with the overpower stench of tripe, fish and meat that’s been left out of the fridge. I genuinely nearly threw up it was so bad. And the cheese section was right beside it! I barely glanced at it all as we rushed through the section and up the stairs to the next part. The Mercado central is fascinating; the labyrinthian layout only adds to the wonder at how so many different things can exist in one place…and how there hasn’t been some sort of fire or other health and safety issue here!

Feeling hungry, it was on to Chinatown to get some grub. The main street is really pretty – the ground is paved with lots of individual pentagonal stones and on each are carved birthdays, deaths and marriages that people have paid for. Ended up in a little restaurant – massive bowl of wonton soup and a massive plate of chicken, veg and rice, so nice!

We wandered back to the hotel as the inquisition museum and the Parque de la Muralla were both closed for renovations L Had a few hours rest – watched the Bake Off (also found out about Paul Hollywood selling out to Channel 4 – boooo!!!), and then it was off to the theatre! The theatre in Lima is absolutely STUNNING – it’s a massive building with a huge courtyard and the inside is all marble columns, gilded staircases and chandeliers. The performance was very good, I really enjoyed it as I haven’t seen Swan Lake before! Then it was back to the hotel to pack our bags and get a good night’s sleep before our flight the next day.

Slán!

G xx

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