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Published: June 19th 2006
Hello from Lima, Peru! I’m traveling in South America for the next two months so this blog will temporarily be a “South America” blog instead of a Costa Rica blog. I’ve never had two months off to travel, so this should be an adventure!
I picked Lima as my home base, and from here, I hope to visit more of Peru, then Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia (not necessarily in that order). When? Where exactly? For how long will I travel in each country? These are questions I cannot answer at the moment as I’m making no specific plans. I’ll get up and go when I’m ready, stay as long or as little in one place, and then move on. It’s all about exploring and deciding for once in my life, where and when I want to go!
Landing in Lima….
I arrived in Lima on Thursday night. The first thing I noticed besides the very easy customs and immigration process was how clean the airport is. It is one of the most modern airports I’ve seen. Someone at the airport, someone “official looking,” told me it was very clean and well maintained “because the Germans built it and
now run it, not Peruvians!” Funny, Lima’s airport does remind me of the airport in Munich.
My pre-arranged driver was right there waiting for me outside of customs. He was very friendly, spoke some English, but surprisingly, I understood much of his Spanish. He said many times in Spanish as he put my bags in his taxi, “Seguridad, seguridad…security, security….” Basically, he put my luggage in the back seat, covered them with a blanket, and told me to lock my doors because many parts of Lima are unsafe. That was a bit off-putting, particularly being late at night and I’m in a taxi with a stranger heading to a hotel in a city I did not know. Well, I’ve traveled through Bosnia on dirt roads in the middle of the night, driven down the side of a mountain near a military base in Athens, and more—so this couldn’t be too bad!
I made it to the hotel just fine. I worked out an arrangement to stay here for two months and use this particular hotel as my base. So far, it has been everything I expected and the room has two important features: an “in-suite” bathroom” and high
speed wireless Internet in the room! Oh, and cable TV, for keeping up on world news. Between the Internet, TV and a bathroom, I’ve got just about everything I need!
I’ve packed a heck of a lot into my first three days here! We’ll get to that in a minute. The first thing one finds out about Lima is that coming in winter, while it isn’t cold like the northern U.S., compared to Costa Rica, it is cold! I’ve had to buy a few sweaters since arriving here. It isn’t really cold but it is damp as Lima sits low between the Andes and then butts up to the Pacific Ocean. The views are dramatic driving along the western part of the city!
The other thing about the weather during “el invierno” (the winter) is that the sun does not shine at all. It is always cloudy or foggy, or a combination of both. This phenomenon apparently only happens in the Lima area and other parts of the country are sunny. So, while Lima will be my base, I think I won’t be here for too much of my trip. While I do not like
One of the many small buses that the "Limenos" use. They're cheap and get you where you need to go. I've been on them already!
the six months of rain in Costa Rica, at least it is sunny in the morning. For six months in Lima, there is no rain—it hardly ever rains actually—but there is no sun either.
As I’ve said, I have done a lot in three days from taking an organized city tour, to exploring my new neighborhood, to taking in the local nightlife to even getting rowdy with a bunch of Brazilians while watching the World Cup!
My neighborhood is Mirarflores, a few kilometers from the center of Lima, and definitely one of the nicest parts of the city. Old mansions are found in between towering apartment buildings, offices and hotels. Narrow streets connect larger avenues and lead to the ocean, which offer incredible vistas high above the rough surf. The problem is that it is always cloudy so one can only see a short distance out into the ocean. It’s still pretty intense though!
There are plenty of shops in Miraflores. The area reminds me of Georgetown in Washington, DC. I found a terrific supermarket called “Vivanda,” which is just like Whole Foods. Except Vivanda gives out even more free samples than Whole Foods—in fact, when I
was there Friday night, they had several wine tasting stations (Peruvian wine is actually not bad—but it’s no Chile or Argentina) so after about an hour of sampling various cheeses and wine, I walked home a bit tipsy—and full. Not a bad way to spend happy hour!
I ended up doing one of those lame city tours, a half day organized by some large tour company. I figured it was a good introduction to the city. It wasn’t bad as I got to see the major sites and the tour guide was actually pretty good. I just hate tour groups and buses. Fortunately, there was only one other gringo on the tour so I didn’t have to deal with all of those “ugly Americans.”
I have enjoyed walking the streets of the Miraflores area as there is much to see and do. From the parks high about the Pacific to the many, many stores crammed into various neighborhoods, there is always plenty to do. It’s a very good area conducive to walking, and big enough to keep me occupied, but small enough to find my way back home.
The Peruvian people are very friendly. Many of them
often say “buenas dias” as they walk past and they are anxious to help you when shopping or asking for directions. But they’re not pushy, either. In Costa Rica, as soon as you enter a store, a clerk is all over you; in Peru they tend to hang back and not assault you from the moment you arrive. I’m a big browser, so I appreciate that.
World Cup Fever….
Of course, the World Cup is huge in Latin America and I am definitely getting into it. On Sunday morning, I’m strolling along a pedestrian street, lined with nice restaurants and cafes, and I hear a roar coming from one of these restaurants. I look inside and see the place awash in yellow and green—it’s a hangout for ex-pat Brazilians who have come to watch Brazil play Australia in the World Cup. I decide to go in, and like the others, at 10am, grab a large beer and watch the game.
It was amazing being in there. Here I am an American living in Costa Rica, visiting Peru and hanging out with a bunch of Brazilians in a bar on Sunday morning. They were very, very friendly though
(as long as I rooted for Brazil). In fact, someone bought shrimp for everyone in the bar so the hour or so that I spent there I got all the free shrimp I could eat. Some guy even bought me a beer when the Brazilian team scored their second goal.
When they learned I was American, they continued to be friendly but told me Americans just don’t have the passion for the game that Brazilians or Europeans have (which I tend to agree with). They did tell me, though, that Americans make the best movies in the world and for that I was okay! They also wanted to know if I ever saw Paris Hilton in person (no) and if I was in Iraq (no, too old!). One guy even asked if Americans get in fights at bars over football (soccer) games (don’t know!).
That’s all from Lima for now. More soon!
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