Lima - What a great place!!

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July 25th 2015
Published: July 26th 2015
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Well, I am slowly catching up with my travel updates and it is about time too. I am not one that leaves things to the last minute, but travelling all the time leaves little time to write. There is so much to see and do here in South America that time is pressures. Sorry it took so long to publish this report, but such is life. Again, this report includes first my impressions and then Carla’s one. My one is pretty short as Carla is doing a better job in explaining the city. So I am just a side show here....... Enjoy...

After Carla and I had a fantastic time in Cusco it was time to move on. Carla only had to the 21st of May to travel as she had to go back to Brasilia, so she booked the last 4 nights in Lima. Because of the shortage of time we had booked a flight from Cusco to Lima. A bus would have taken 14 hours and a big junk out of her time here.

So after a 1 ½ hour flight we arrived in Lima and took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. Big mistake was that we didn’t ask how much the fare was before we arrived and we got a bit ripped off. I should know these things by now but… Taxis in Peru do not have maters so they can charge whatever they want. The locals know the pricing, but as a gringo you are fair game.

Our hotel again was a very good one, the only problem was that it was a bit far from the town center so we had to catch a taxi every time we wanted to go there or come back. The door person told us what a fair price was so that helped a lot. As soon as we dumped our stuff in the room we were off to town, right into the centre to the Plaza de Armas.

The Plaza de Armas in Lima is, in my opinion, one of the nicest in plazas in South America. It is totally surrounded by old buildings, churches and the Palacio de Gobierno which stand on the original site of the palace build by no other than Pizzaro himself. The place was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and I can totally understand why. The bronze fountain in the middle of the plaza was built in 1650 and is just wonderful. It is just an experience to sit on one of the many benches and do what I call people watch.

The last time I was in Lima was again in 1982 and this time I found two places that I remembered; one was my old hostel that is just around the corner of the plaza and the other was a steak restaurant at the plaza that I have visited. So Carla and I couldn’t help ourselves to have a delicious dinner on our night of arrival.

We had all up four days in Lima and two of them were already organised for tours outside of Lima. So we didn’t have much time to explore the city and we used every minute to its fullest. There are so many museums, churches, plazas, etc to visit that we started our days at 7 in the morning and didn’t come back to the hotel to 9 at night. But it was totally worth it.

To be continued ……….

Now here is Carl’s travel report:

A country for all tastes, able to please all kinds of tourists. That’s how I define Peru after visiting the country. Around its amazing landscapes, archaeological sites, vibrating popular culture in the countryside and perfect attractions for those more adventurous like trekking, climbing mountains, biking and visiting the jungle into the Amazon region, Peru is much more than this: its capital, Lima, is an effervescent urban centre full of History – specially the one connecting Europe to the New World, great Art Museums, wonderful churches and some of the best restaurants in the world.

The first attraction we saw in Lima was the Ossuary of the San Francis Convent, dating back the 18th century. As a passionate for cemeteries, catacombs, funerary art and necropolis in general I got amazed with that place, where the mortal remains of a good amount of the population were deposited at the time. It became a huge cemetery in the past and, around the catacombs, you can see some old and beautiful funerary carriages. It is important to say that my interest regarding those places was never connected to a sense of pessimism, but because I consider them peaceful and fantastic places which shows uses of the past, disseminate, through Epitaphs, different languages and cultures, hold the memories of those who once built cities and gather a collection of marble industry Art's works (in case of cemeteries). I always visit a cemetery or equivalent at any Brazilian city or country I travel to.

Changing completely to another subject, as I mentioned above, the restaurants are a must see. Food is taken very seriously in Peru and I witnessed that at the great fairs, local markets in Cuzco, with excellent fresh ingredients that are disputed abroad, such as quinoa, chia, the different potatoes and corns etc. It is not an exaggeration to say that almost in all places in Peru, from the humblest to the most sophisticated, one will have superb food. In my first day, Welf showed me some places in the Historical Centre of Lima that brought remembrances to him and one of them was a restaurant at the centre called El 10 Carnes y Vinos, where he had been in 1982 and decided to revisit... A place for steak and fish, inside the glamorous Club La Union, founded in 1888, where an American backpacker, retired from the Nasa (?!) invited him to go around 30 years ago. Great place. In retribution, I took Welf to the Central, simply the 15th best restaurant in the world, according to the exigent guide World’s 50 Best Restaurants (full of excellent restaurants from Lima, considered today the gastronomic capital of South America). When I travel, my extravagance is not shopping, but going at least to one of the best restaurants in the destination and Central was long ago among my list of restaurants to visit one day. Now, if you are into this as me and don’t bother paying more for that kind of hobby, an advice is reserving a table at Central at least a month previously – what I did and there was no vacancies for dinner for 2 months at least, only for lunch (full of Brazilians, Americans and Europeans into high gastronomy crazy to order a meal at this famous restaurant). The renowned chef, Virgilio Martinez, is famous for serving dishes and ingredients which represent all regions of Peru, from the Andes to the Amazon: the result is a festival of cocktails with exotic fruits such as camu camu and averna, teas with coca leaves and other mysterious herbs, cereals as quinoa, kañiwa and kiwicha, airampo (a bright magenta member of the cactus-family grown in the Andes) and desserts with pitaya or physalis, around other delicious options. The restaurant celebrates Peru’s biodiversity and ancient Andean heritage, pushing culinary limits to delight guests with inventive creations. All you consume is produced in the restaurant’s urban garden, what is per se a must see. I define Central as a fantastic experience. Another interesting spot is the Museum of Peruvian Gastronomy, in the old Mail building: tells the history of Peruvian food, the importance of quinoa for local communities, around explaining the German, Chinese, Spanish, African and Moorish influences on Peruvian cuisine.

But the aspect which impressed me more in Lima, as former music and piano student, daughter of a music professor, were the references to the Peruvian Baroque Music – which was not entirely unknown to me. Baroque was the first artistic style to have a global impact and, as in Brazil, Baroque in Peru had a rightful place in the History of Music. The difference is there Baroque music was far more mixed between European and local traditions, since music was already an integral part of Amerindian religious rituals. So, it was not difficult for the Spanish (and Portuguese as well) to spread the messages of Catholicism via Sacred music in those superb Baroque churches, some of them with Moorish influences (in my opinion among the great architectural masterpieces of the world and even not considering myself as a Christian anymore I recognize this importance). In this sense, my first good surprise was the Cathedral of Lima, especially the second floor, with a whole room solely dedicated to the Cantu Planu (Gregorian Chants), Polyphony and the choral books used by the church. Yes, the Cathedral of Lima maintains 42 books of choir. Born in the Middle Ages, they have its equivalent in the Americas since the 16th century. Jewel of Hispanic-American Art dating back the beginning of the 17th century, the ashlar masonry of that Cathedral attracted the interest of Spaniard sculptors at the time, converging into Lima some of the main architects of that kingdom. The choir books – beautiful music manuscripts in large size used in churches and cathedrals – were situated in general at the pulpit, in the middle of the ashlar masonry, so that soprano voices of children could be located in front and men behind. The books contain all masses from liturgical times: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Passion etc – the whole missal set to music. At that cathedral there is a good store, where is possible to buy CDs of Profane and Sacred Baroque music from Peru – there I bought one CD with Sacred music which contains two masses in Quechua, the language of the Incas in Peru, as it started to be sung in the country in that language.

The Cathedral of Lima is where is situated the body of Francisco Pizarro, the Spaniard explorer who conquered the Incan Empire in the territory that nowadays correspond to Peru. Its architecture is obviously a masterpiece; I dare to say it is more beautiful that many counterparts spread around Europe or Brazil, also famous for its churches. The most amazing though is the Artwork, paintings and sculptures in the inside. When walking around the cathedral thoughts concerning the speech about Spaniard conquerors versus local populations were inevitable. Now, I’m not insensitive to the realities and claims of indigenous populations from Latin America, but it annoys me strongly the sometimes over the top victimhood used by some “clever” individuals from Latin America and abroad and local political leaders today, always tied to the past, focused in blaming others, looking for financial reparations, without concentrating in the present, in what is important to do today. What sound the most strange to me is that some indigenous leaders who accuse Spain or Portugal for taking their gold (even because that gold was not for a single moment sent those Iberian countries, but given to England, what caused harms to Portugal and Spain at the time) absorbed the same American paradigm to measure the indigenous issue in Latin America, i.e. “the white Europeans vs. the autochthonous populations”. As a start, it is fake the idea that precious metals consolidated capitalism in Europe. The History shows the opposite. The countries which first entered in Capitalism, as England and Holland, were those which didn’t have gold, except for that obtained by their corsairs from the spoil in Spanish galleons. Gold, on the contrary, was responsible for the persistence in mercantilism and the delay in the development of Capitalism in Spain and Portugal, countries which emerged as great beneficiaries of the conquest in the New World, but that ended having to pay to England an increasing amount of gold in exchange for the same quantity of manufactured goods produced by their industries. Absorbing the American paradigm, with this they simply ignore the intercultural issue, which is in fact more related to the realities of peoples in Latin America. For sure, originated from a specific site we are – all of us here in South America – indigenous, descendants of African slaves or descendants of European, Confederate Americans, Asian and Middle East immigrants and all of us have our personal family stories to tell, not one valuing more or less than the other… For the most some insist to be more “important”, due to the money some send to British or Dutch NGOs… At the end, sounds to me that if it is to insist so much on the speech regarding cultural relativism, the difference between Indians and Europeans, than nothing more prudent than accept that men from the past as Pizarro acted in accordance to the moral of their times and I don’t see any sense in trying to apply Modern moral concepts (cultural relativism, the Rousseau’s concept of “good savage” etc) and current social standards to the actions of historical figures who were nothing more or less than a product of their times. If it is to talk about colonialism, imperialism, than its correspondent in contemporary world is alive and well: one verifies this perfectly when unconsciously, in the level of general common sense, the substitution of a local population by a settler population, formed by colonizers and later immigrants, is accepted to some nations (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and not to others (Latin American countries). This reveals a lot to me. Another point which reveals a lot is the very own concept of Western world. If the West is in decline as so many testify, than we, here, are their main heirs: the West doesn’t lead only to Celts, Germans, Romans, Iberians and the like… In truth, it goes back to the Christian knighthood in the Middle Ages and has much more to do with the great navigations era and the conquest of Americas - in short, it goes back to everything that some activists, subsidized by chic third-worldism abominate, and have strived to discredit through a cultural “dirty war”.

In Lima, this connection is present in everywhere, not only regarding architecture and cultural framework. It is worth a visit the astonishing Museo de Arte Italiano. For my surprise, as I didn’t know, Peru, as USA, Brazil and Argentina, also received immigrants from Asia and Europe in the 19th century, especially Italians, in a real Diaspora. As a result, Lima has the fantastic Museum of Italian Art, in the "Paseo de la Republica, 250". What happened was that in 1921, when the National Independence Centennial was being commemorated, the Italian colony - moved by Don Gino Salocchi - decided to give the museum to Peru as a gift for once have received Italian immigrants so well. The design of the building was done by the Milanese architect Gaetani Moretti and the selection of works of art was recommended by the Italian art critic Mario Vannini Parenti. Italy's Renaissance Art was represented through the ornamentation of the building: Bramante's architectural style and relieves and ornamental details directly inspired by Donatello, Ghiberti, Michelangelo and Botticelli. The façade is completed by the emblems of the main Italian cities and by 2 huge Venetian mosaics with the most famous men in Italy's history. For the collections, were chosen artists that represent all the Italian regions. It is worth a visit as well the Casa de la Literatura Peruana (House of Peruvian Literature), the place of honour to national literature. There I saw many references to Mario Vargas Llosa, considered one of the main writers of Peru, Latin America and the world (he received the Nobel prize of Literature in 2010). The green building with impressive painted glass is just beautiful, with a creative space for children and words in the steps of its stairway. The architecture of the city, in each corner, is a must see, by the way, to any enthusiastic of Baroque, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau and Spanish Gothic architecture.

But I dare to say Catholicism is what Peru has of most beautiful. There are several churches to see, in equivalence with the importance the people give to religion, much more than in abroad, in Europe, for example, where churches are being transformed in cafes and tradition loses it space more and more. Around the Cathedral of Lima, it is almost obligatory a visit to the churches Nuestra Señora de la Merced (a wonderful façade, all in shades of rose), Basilica de la Vera Cruz (with its interesting effect of purple and blue lights in the interior), the Catholic Church Santa Rosa and São Francisco church, just to name few. A highlight is the Palacio Arzobispal, a place with sublime Artwork related to the Baroque of Lima, an artistic tradition as important as the Cuzco School of Baroque, also from Peru. One can see paintings by Juan Martínez Montañés and Francisco Pacheco, artists who established an image of orthodox regarding the Virgin. Those artists, from Spain and America in the 16th century, took as main source descriptions in the Apocalypse: “a woman dressed of Sun, with the Moon under her feet and a crown of sweet stars above her head”. What makes Catholicism so interesting in Peru is its syncretism with the old Incan beliefs, becoming part of their folklore (similar to the syncretism one is able to see until today in some areas of Brazil and Europe, especially in countries like Ireland, because of the appropriation the church did of several Pagan elements). This I saw at the Museo de Arte Y Tradiciones Populares an exhibition about the infamous Crosses of Lima, part of the popular culture of the country. It surrendered a promenade to the Cross Party, always celebrated in May. It is an Andean manifestation e shows the syncretic value this religious object has in Peru. The tradesmen elaborate this work, a symbol of national integration that dates back for a long time and still exists, as part of a family tradition. On the top of the cross are the higher values such as work, family, faith and on the bottom, the lower ones, symbolizing addictions in alcohol, game, sex, followed by death. Very interesting… Again, I am not a Catholic, but I do admire religious representations of all kinds and I am aware that Christianity (like it or not) is possibly the last bastion against the end complete so hankered for many. The day it is over, than say goodbye to the concept of family as we know (a very old and lasting Germanic influence in our lives, by the way). It is not by mere chance, by the way, that the actual Pope is an Argentinian: the church already understood its future is in Latin America (Brazil, for example, is the most Catholic country in the world) and not in Europe. The truth is that the combination of the beliefs and traditions of indigenous populations, mixed with the influence of Catholicism from Spain, Portugal and that brought by millions of Italian immigrants resulted in a more traditional people. It is true though that sectors of the local Progressive Left, seeking for models of society abroad, especially from Scandinavian countries, wish so much to dismantle that influence in South American countries – what they never obtained until today, as most of the people here is what can be qualified as “Conservative” or “Traditional”, terms that sound as an insult to some…

Mistakes are done by any religion, any institution in any place or historical context – if it was to fix injustices regarding by humanity, especially in terms of so called financial reparations, than it would be necessary to go back to Pre History. And the church was no exception in this fate. An interesting place in this sense is the Museum of Inquisition, where is situated the Peruvian Congress. Inquisition was heavily present in Peru, the centre of the Spanish Empire in South America. The same didn’t happen (at least never with the same intensity in Brazil, for example). Curiously, the biggest victims were not the Indians with their beliefs (those were judged by something called an Idolatry Court), but the few Jews who immigrated from Spain to Peru, settling in this South American country (seem at the time as a threat by the Church and Spanish Monarch because of usury and difficult of adaptations into Spanish society regarding religious issues – the guide there explained the cohabitation between Catholicism, Islamism and Judaism was very problematic in Spain at those times) around those individuals into (or accused) of bigamy and women accused of witchcraft, mostly white women, Spaniard (running away persecutions in Spain), who brought ancestral pagan knowledge to South America, sometimes mixing it with local polytheism (the same applied to those women with several lovers or considered more “advanced” by the church). A remarking moment during the visit was when a comrade from my birth State, Porto Alegre, accused a young Spaniard backpacking couple visiting the museum of “Nazis”. The couple just looked down, totally ashamed. And what are my impressions about the inopportune judgement of the Brazilian tourist regarding the Spanish couple? It was ridiculous and unnecessary, for all the reasons mentioned above. A clear provocation for them being the Spaniard visiting the place. The use of a politically correct kind of censorship for making themselves somehow feeling guilty (through a word which totally lost its meaning today and is emptied to serve as a quick form of insult) for something they, as a start, were not even remotely related, a past and a context not even related to them.

Regarding the History of Peru, I recommend as well the House O’Higgins, which shows the initial connection between Chile and Peru and tells the story of the first president of Chile, Bernardo O'Higgins, of Irish descent, son of an Irishman, Vice-King of Peru. Long ago the history of both countries were very close and there were no rivalries between both. The Irish came (and became governors in countries like Peru) basically because of the bad relations Spain had with England (same happened with Portugal and as a consequence the Empire of Brazil, largely damaged by the British Empire – and before one suppose anything, I am myself descendants of English who was into the British Navy and became mercenary in Brazil, what was relatively usual at the time). Some Irish used to study, look for graduation in Spain, becoming so faithful to Spaniards that they obtained the right to have a position of influence in Peru (central to the Spanish Empire at the time). The House O'Higgins is in the same space where Bernardo O'Higgins lived after leaving Chile for political reasons. He is much admired in Peru and Chile and had a strong feeling of Americanism. The place organizes Peruvian folkloric exhibitions as well. I saw an exhibition about the folkloric masks there, which iconography goes back to more than 10,000 years, testified by rupestrian evidences in Toquepala, at the South of Peru. Long ago, dancers used masks in rituals connected to hunting.

The last day in Lima, ended with a visit to Miraflores, the beautiful and sophisticated neighborhood by the coast: the landscape of the beach is nice, but it is very urban, full of shopping centres and the best (and most expensive) restaurants in town. We also went to the Museum of Art in Lima, a wonderful building with a charming café and an even more wonderful garden and Moorish style gazebo. At the time, it was going on an exhibition about Peruvian Modern Art, mostly from the 60's and 70's. All ended at night with a visit to the Water Magic Circuit, a spectacle of lights in several fountains spread around a park, which I forgot the name (a must see, for real…) and a visit to Barranco, a neighborhood admired around the 20's by Peruvian intellectuals and bohemians – a place full of colonial and art nouveau buildings.

So, I highly recommend a visit to Peru: a destination for all tastes, surprising, even to the most exigent ones. A country full of History, able to motivate several reflections, with a well-educated and receptive people, in nothing arrogant (that was the impression I had).

This is it for this update. The next one will come sooner than this one took to publish. We hope you enjoyed it and as usual please like the pictures.

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