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Published: October 13th 2007
As anticipated, our move across the border from Ecuador to Peru did not result in any major observable change in surroundings or the environment. We had not heard hugely flattering reports of Lima (certainly vis a vis Arequipa and Cusco), mainly in terms of its standard of living and crime rate. Now just as we may have been unfair on Ecuador at times, due the relatively small sample we saw, maybe we are being overly fair with Lima, for the same reason, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Mind you, we did stay in a great part of town, Miraflores, and in a nice hotel, and our main exposure to the actual city was just the touristy downtown area, so we didn’t get to see any of the “shantytowns” warned about in the brochures.
Miraflores is a modern suburb, situated on cliffs overlooking the ocean, and several surfing beaches, as well as a great looking promenade. It is full of hotels, restaurants and nightclubs, so it is where the majority of visitors to Lima stay. Many of these have outdoor settings, so you can while away the hours with a pisco sour (the national drink of Peru - a grape
brandy mixed with lime juice, which tastes a bit like a margarita) while watching the world go by - a bit like Boat Quay in Singapore, without the river! And the world that passes by in fact doesn’t look unlike Sydney or Singapore in terms of fashion, but distinctly more latino in looks. We didn’t realise Miraflores was built on a clifftop, so when we first walked down to what we thought was the beach, we actually were up some 1,000m above the sea, with a fantastic view both up and down the coast.
Downtown Lima was great too. We focussed our sightseeing on the two main squares, Plaza Mayor and Plaza San Martin, around which a lot of the highlight buildings are located. We checked out the Government Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Cathedral Basilica, and the Municipal Palace, all very impressive old buildings, a sample of which are shown in the photos below. We took in the Museum of the Banco Central de Reserva (see if you can translate that one!), where we saw a collection of Peru’s historical treasures, made primarily of gold, ceramics and textiles. Finally, we toured around the Convento of San Francisco, checking
out its collection of religious art and frescos, the Monk’s library (incredibly old books), the Sacristy, and its subterranean crypts, known as the Catacombs, whose collection of human bones and skulls were a bit too explicit at times for our taste! As we came out of the convent, there were around 50-60 people in the main chapel, predominantly women, chanting prayers out loud - naturally I had to prise Joan away from joining them!
Not much else to report on Lima. We were advised that a recent mayor had been responsible for considerably cleaning up the city area, both physically in terms of litter etc, and also in terms of crime. From our observations, he has done a pretty good job. Public transport there was good too - predominantly minibuses, which while often crowded, are very cheap and seem to replace private vehicles in the busy areas - maybe something other countries could learn from. By the way, I’ve resolved the mystery of the partially built houses I mentioned in a couple of our Ecuador blogs (I know this has been keeping some of you awake at nights!) - apparently there is a hefty tax levied on houses once
they are completed, so everyone builds their house leaving steel reinforcing and formwork on top of the roof as though planning to build another story, but just in fact to avoid paying the tax. If I can find that out, its surprising the tax officials in Ecuador (and, apparently, Peru) haven’t figured out this ruse yet!
So it’s on now to Arequipa, about an hour’s flight south of Lima. This is Peru’s second largest city, and is known as the White City, and is apparently “surrounded by some of the wildest terrain in Peru”. Stay glued to you computer monitors, folks, and I’ll tell you if that is true!
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