First stop? Lima.
Unless you’re coming to Peru overland, or from a closer destination like La Paz, you’ll probably be flying into Lima. We flew about 6 hours from Boston to Panama City, and then 4 more hours to Lima, on Copa Airlines. I have to tell you, Copa was awesome. They had excellent customer service and the in-flight food was decent. Plus, your first two checked bags fly free, even though we didn’t check any bags on the way there.
When we arrived in Lima, we exchanged some USD for Peruvian Nueve Soles (terrible exchange rate at the airport, only change what you have to), caught a taxi, and headed for Frank’s apartment. If you go to Lima, and want an amazing host closer to the central city, book Frank’s spot through AirBnB. He was wicked helpful, and genuinely a good guy, his mom made a simple breakfast every day we were there, and Frank gave us a card to use on the metro system in Lima, and maps to get around.
The first night we arrived, we just wandered around Frank’s neighborhood. I was starving, so we went down a few streets and I got a burger. I know, I know. The American guy comes to Peru just to eat cheeseburgers. Don’t worry, I’ll try anything, and I’ll be sure to share some of my more adventurous experiences here with you. I just love street food in any form. Heads up though, if you’re used to American burgers, don’t get your hopes up for Peruvian burgers, just try some real Peruvian food, you’ll be happier!
The next day, we got up early and went straight up to the historic district. We got to the Plaza de Armas pretty early, before it was crowded. My girlfriend and I were the only gringos there, and we had a small group of schoolgirls following us around. I think they were on a field trip, maybe from somewhere more rural, and they wanted to get pictures of us. “Por que?” we asked. They laughed and only answered “Gringa! Gringo!” Obviously, we had to snap some pictures with them!
After the Plaza, we went to the Convento de San Fransisco, and took the tour of the convent and catacombs. The church is great to wander around in, and the catacombs are very interesting. It’s a bit surreal, if you’ve never seen catacombs before, as all the human bones are in different sections of the tunnels. We then went on to the Convento de Santo Domingo, and climbed up to the belltower. The views of the city from up top are great, and the gardens there (pictured in the image at the top) add some beauty to the walking tour. We stopped for some sandwiches at Cordano, to take in the local scene. Cordano is right in the heart of the central district, and is famous for being the sandwich shop that Lima’s presidents visit for lunch occasionally.
At noon, you can watch the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace. Unfortunately, we missed it, due to some kind of event going on at the palace. Definitely worth checking out, maybe next time I’m in Lima..
After lunch, we took the Metropolitano down to Barranco. The Metropolitano is the public transit system in Lima, an express bus that runs primarily North-South on a dedicated roadway. If you can navigate the NYC system, trust me, you’ll be fine in Lima, even if you don’t speak Spanish very well. Don’t be afraid to try it! The buses are filled almost entirely with locals, so it’s a great way to experience a bit of local life in Lima.
Barranco is a great neighborhood, most people describe Barranco as the Bohemian neighborhood of Lima. Walking through the area, we saw everyone. Locals, tourists, drug dealers, kids, musicians, businessmen, all sorts of people were there. In Barranco, we kind of just wandered around. We crossed el Puente de los Suspiros, and went down to the lookout over the Pacific Ocean near Mirador. The road underneath el Puente leads to the beach itself, after you cross a walking bridge over the highway by the ocean. Not much of a beach really, but it was the first time I touched the Pacific Ocean!
We had some time to stop by the Barranco Beer Company, before dinner. Barranco Beer Company is a great spot! Menus are in both Spanish and English, they have free WiFi (just ask for the password), and it’s got a great atmosphere and selection of food, beer, and other beverages. Definitely stop by if you want to grab a great beer or snack while you use the WiFi to update the world on your travels! We went to Chifa Chun Yion for dinner, on some recommendations we found online. From Barranco Beer Co, walk north and take the first right you find. Chifa Chun Yion is on your right, after a neat little open air market that you should definitely check out too! The chifa here, or Peruvian-Chinese food, is awesome. Portions are huge, so be sure not to over-order, but the food is delicious. The restaurant opens at 7PM, but get there a little early, as a line starts forming before then. The doors open, and everyone floods in, grabs a table, and a server will come by and take your order. Actually, the doors don’t open. A little half-door opens, you duck through and grab your table. When they get the line through, then the real doors open. If you’re one of the first people coming through the line, it’s pretty cool. You get caught up in the atmosphere, going through this tiny door with everyone else, and then find yourself in a cavernous restaurant. Service is fast, food is good, and there’s large portions. If you’re in the mood, I recommend the wonton soup, it’s delicious.
After dinner, we made our way back to Frank’s place, dropped our stuff off, and then walked a bit north to check out the Magic Water Circuit. It’s a giant park, with all sorts of water fixtures and fountains. The main attraction is the light show, displayed on the large fountain in the middle of the park. You do have to pay to get into the park, but it’s less than a few US dollars, and definitely worth it. Although I wasn’t a fan of the major show in particular, the park itself was great. There’s themed fountains, kind of a maze of water walls to try and get through, and a tunnel of water fountains you can walk under.
The next morning, Frank arranged a taxi to the airport for us, and we were off to Cusco via Peruvian Airlines! Stay tuned for the next post!