Published: September 28th 2008August 29th 2008
Parque del Amor
Having read nothing positive about Lima, we'd been hoping to not have to set foot in it until LA Woman's flight home, but bus timetables and our next destination Huaraz forced us to drop by. And it really wasn't as dismal as the grapevine had suggested.
Arriving on a cloudy, cool day, we opted to stay in the Miraflores district, a haven of shops and restaurants but little to see. We visited the Parque del Amor on the sea-front, containing many colourful mosaics with quotes and declarations of love, together with a sculpture of what appeared to be a pair of pensioners engaged in some slap and tickle. The dull sea and chilling breeze brought back fond memories of Saltburn. Nearby was Larco Mar, a large shopping mall with an array of fast food restaurants befitting a South American capital city.
Though Miraflores is one of the most popular areas of Lima for tourists to stay in, we would hardly have known that if we hadn't stumbled into "Pizza Street" one evening, where the aggressive level of restaurant touting soon had us beating a hasty retreat. We did wander by Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Incan mound of tens of thousands
Sanctuario de Santa Rosa de Lima
of mud bricks, but the crocodile of schoolkids impatiently waiting to enter acted as an effective deterrent.
There were scores of itinerant moneychangers wandering around Miraflores in their official vests, calculator in one hand and wad of cash in the other. There seemed to be at least as much local custom for them as tourist custom, and in fact prices in some non-tourist places (e.g. pharmacies) were in not just soles but US dollars and often euros too. I'm not sure if Limeños are more suspicious of the stability of their currency than Peruvians from elsewhere in the country, but this was the first time I'd seen US dollars so interchangeable with soles.
I'd been looking forward to seeing the Museum of Gold but my guidebook had clearly been written before the discovery - as I read in some last-minute research - that most of its exhibits were fakes. So instead we headed up to the Old City for our sightseeing. The Plaza Mayor was not unattractive, though most of its buildings post-date even the colonial era, and featured a heavy police/SWAT/army presence including several armoured cars. Heading west, we passed the startling redness of Santo Domingo and
other buildings in pastel blue and yellow, stopping at the Sanctuary of St Rose of Lima, the Americas' first Catholic saint and who my mother was named after. A tour of the catacombs of San Francisco revealed some interesting woodcarvings and artwork, plus an enormous number of bones, and we turned up at the Museum of the Inquisition too late for the last English tour of the day, but the mock-ups of the rack, strappado, and other instruments of torture needed little explanation.
With a later return to Lima inevitable, we only stayed a couple of days and then headed into the mountains.
There are more photos below