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Published: October 14th 2018
My poor body felt broken after sleeping on a bed that was like a rock and listening to noisy traffic while in our 3rd floor hotel room that faced a high traffic road. After some much needed early morning coffee and an Asian influenced breakfast at the Tanuki Japanese Restaurant
, included at Hotel Allpa
, by 8 AM we asked to change rooms and to have more comforters to sleep on doubled up on the bed to make it more possible to sleep on. I felt like I was acting out the story of the Princess and the Pea. The very nice staff were understanding. Our new room, 502 on the fifth floor, was much larger than room 303 and because it was farther from the road traffic, seemed quieter.
By 10:30 AM we had changed rooms, changed money around the corner from the hotel and grabbed a taxi to go to Museo Larco. 20 Soles. The taxi driver stopped so I could take a picture of the Cupola des Magdelena
, majestic in a poor part of Lima. While being driven (thankfully because who would want to deal with the crazy traffic in Lima?) around this big city it was obvious
to us that there were more areas of poverty than middle or upper class. Crime, as is found in many cities, was notable in Lima and tourists were prime targets. Another reason for staying within the boundaries of Miraflores and specific museum areas. Museo Larco
, perched on a hill, is a private museum filled with pre-Columbian art. These ancient works are housed in an 18th century building that was built on top of a 7th century pre-Columbian pyramid. Bright bougainvillea tumbled over the white walls surrounding lush tropical gardens that graced the courtyard below. We paid a senior rate for the entrance (proven with our passports) and signed up for a 12 PM English speaking tour. Luis, our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, did an amazing job explaining the cultural history of Peru
through the many examples of artifacts in the museum. There are more than 42,000 sculptures and historical artworks that were purchased by the wealthy Rafael Larco Herrera. These had all been beautifully presented in the museum. The collection in the storage room is also open for viewing where thousands of small artifacts and sculptures are behind glass due to lack of space in the main
museum. Luis moved us through the main museum covering pre-Columbian art and pottery, finely crafted gold and silver jewelry from the Moche in the North Coast to the Nazca in the South Coast. Luis spent more than an hour of his allotted one hour tour eagerly answering our many questions especially about the puzzling ancient system of communication with knots tied in strings known as quipus.
Of all the quotes from Museo Larco, this one stuck with me the most: “Of all the historic achievements recorded in Peru, almost without a doubt the most important is the fact that it is one of the few places on Earth where civilization emerged independently approximately 5,000 years ago.”
But I wasn’t quite prepared for the last stop in our tour. Outside the main museum, below, near the gardens, Luis brought us into the Erotic Gallery
with its collection of explicit ceramics depicting every kind of Kama Sutra contortion imaginable. It is the largest collection of this genre in the world. The Secret Cabinet of Pompeii’s erotic art in Naples had nothing on this collection! Luis very seriously spoke about the importance of sex to these people as represented
through the various pottery sculptures depicting the act of sex. For these early people sex was seen as a means of fertilizing and procreating, so important, we are reminded, in a growing agrarian society. Looking at the pottery I very much understood. With no TV or radio, these people got very creative indeed.
The Erotic Gallery is located near the beautiful gardens and the Cafe Museo Larco the
Museum’s Cafe-Restaurant, with its hanging lanterns in the lovely canopied garden. Adjacent to the canopied garden restaurant is a delightful indoor seating option, more formal but decidedly warmer rooms. It all felt very European and elegant. We chose to be inside because it was damp and chilly, around 60 degrees, unfriendly to our Florida bones. The weather, we are learning, is overcast, damp and dreary in Lima during the long winter season. Thick fog cloaks the cliffs with a melancholy mist known as garua, sure to inspire some depressing poetry. Herman Melville wrote in Moby Dick: “For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a horror in this whiteness of her woe.”
Our lunch, removed from things melancholy, was unbelievably good and very well
presented. We shared a Peruvian fusion sampler of green tamales, yellow potato stack with chicken, yucca, and a Peruvian corn pudding. We then shared a hot shredded chicken dish with the best tasting, slightly sweet, rice and corn dish. I was full but still tempted to taste their desserts. In the spirit of the Erotic Gallery I decided to dig into the Lucuma mousse
. Lucuma is a nutritious Peruvian fruit called the Gold of the Incas and was viewed as a symbol of fertility and creation
. At my age I was looking for its cardiovascular advantages and the promotion of healthy skin! We had tried lucuma ice cream before and I think I preferred that to the mousse but I had to try.
After lunch I checked out the museum gift shop. It was typical of the museum gift shops in the better museums but tempted as I was, it was only my first shopping stop, so I just took inventory and made mental notes.
Dave and I got directions and a walking map to the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Peru
on Bolivar Square, a good 20 minute walk away. The route
follows a blue line on the road that winds through small (safe) neighborhoods and parks until it disappears in a congested traffic area where we had to ask directions. After a few missteps we arrived with only an hour to spend in this museum. Unfortunately there were no English speaking guides and the majority of signage is in Spanish but having had such a good overview with Luis at Museo Larco, we were able to get more out of this museum than if we had not had the prior in-depth tour.
One of the standout displays was a large scale model of Machu Picchu that really brought home the size and scope of the ancient structures. After listening to Luis describe the ancient burial processes, I was also pleased to see a visual representation of a group, or family burial under ground. In this museum’s example were clay representations of bodies that were placed in a fetal position and ceremoniously wrapped with specially woven cloths, often depicting deities, for rebirth into another place and time.
At 5 PM the museum closed and we needed to take a taxi to our next destination. Instead of
going back to the hotel in the opposite direction to get warmer clothes, we opted to go straight to the Magic Circuit of the Water, at the Park of the Reserve
. It was my plan to find a nice little cafe where we could have a hot tea, warm up, and wait for the 7:15 PM water show. Sadly, when we got there we found there was no cafe in sight except for the open air fairground style booths selling cotton candy, fair food and souvenirs. The water park, built in 1923 to honor the wars of 1879, and 1883, is located opposite a soccer stadium and was once the site of a major exposition. The entrance is impressive and we were fully prepared to pay the 4 Sol (about $1.20) to get in but when we were asked for our passports we were told we could go in for free due to our senior citizen status! A guide at the tourist booth gave us a map and told us exactly where to stand for the best view of the show. She was spot on! We walked to the first of the carnival food stands to get a hot chocolate
and a chicken mushroom empanada in a futile attempt to warm up. It was not the best example of Peruvian food but quite typical of carnival food.
We spent the next hour and a half walking the Circuito Magico del Agua
or Magic Water Fountain Park
(so many names for this park!). This expansive area houses the largest fountain complex in the world. There are 13 fountains spread out throughout the park and each of these are lit up at night. The largest fountain is called Magic Fountain forcing water over 80 meters high. We were too tired and cold to walk into the Tunnel Fountain, where we were assured you would not get wet, but instead we did the best we could to navigate as much of the park as we could as we tried to stay warm until the big show which started at exactly 7:15 PM.
We found the recommended spot from which to watch the show and were rewarded with the best opportunity to see it all. The entire show, synchronized to music, was only 15 minutes long but it was very professionally done, reminding me of shows we had seen in Calgary, Alberta and Xian, China. The line of fountains changed colors and shapes to respond to music. A superimposed spectacular laser light show depicted the many cultures and iconic figures indicative of Peru. It was a powerful but short display. Cold and tired, as we left with the masses of people, I was slammed into a fence pulling a hamstring that left me sore and bruised for the rest of the trip.
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