Written on 23rd Nov 2010, taken from my blog: http://www.getjealous.com/getjealous.php?action=showdiaryentry&diary_id=1857091&go=bridgetkramer
It must be low season in Lima, as the majority of the people in my hostel seemed to be staff.... Not sure why it was necessary to have 4 bartenders in an empty bar, but travelling Canadians need something to do, right? So on my first night I took myself for some 'ceviche' (raw fish marinated in lemon/lime juice & spiced) at a restaurant adjacent to my hostel, where the waiters were surprised to have a whitey willing to use Spanish (oh yeah, my head grew that much bigger). After re-affirming that 6 weeks of Spanish class has paid off, I took myself to see the latest Harry Potter film, enjoying the staggered laughter of the English speakers laughing at the spoken jokes, and the Spanish speakers laughing as they were written.
On the Saturday I decided to take myself on an adventure in the centre of town. I flagged down a taxi, established a price before I got in like the guidebooks tell me to, and set off for Plaza Mayor. At least that's where I was told I was taken. The taxi driver pointed to a park, said "Plaza Mayor" (the place I had requested to be taken), I said "bueno", handed over the 20 soles, got out and tried to figure out how to get some of the main sights. First problem - none of the streets had signs. So my Lonely Planet map was useless until I had at least that. But I couldn't help but noticing where Lonely Planet had marked the Cathedral of Lima, there didn't appear to be anything resembling a Cathedral. But I must have been in the right place, perhaps it was a concealed cathedral. So I wandered around some streets until I found a sign. There were no streets with that name anywhere near Plaza Mayor on my map. So I thought, the map must've been wrong. Maybe they changed the street names in the last 2 years. It's plausible. So I decided to go on gut feeling. I felt like I had to turn left to get to a church I was trying to get to. I found a church, but not the one I intended to find. It gradually dawned on me that I'd been dropped off in the wrong spot. Cheers taxista bastard. Luckily, I stumbled upon a tourist office with a map labelling "you are here", and worked out I wasn't actually that far from where I intended, and had almost accidentally walked there while I was trying to get my bearings.
After finding Plaza Mayor, I worked my way to Iglesia de San Francisco and took a tour (in Spanish) of the catacombs and fulfilled my morbid fascination. Despite not understanding absolutely everything, I feel like I did learn a little about the Franciscan monks. Mostly that they seemed to keep all the femur bones and none else. Why didn't I see any spines? I don't know the word for spines in Spanish so I couldn't ask the guide. That's going to bug me. I then took myself to the Museo de la Inquisicion, walked right in not sure if I needed to pay or ask for a guide, but was directly behind a group of older tourists so I guess they thought I was with them. So then I took myself around the Museum until I found a room of wax figures in positions of torture and it freaked the hell out of me (especially as it was in one of the rooms that was used for torturing during the Inquisition). So I waited for a school group to go in and joined in with them, especially for the underground bit. I wasn't going down there alone.
Not quite knowing where to go next, I walked around a bit more and accidentally walked into the middle of a line of armed policeman on their way somewhere. They didn't seem to mind though, and started chatting to me, again impressed with a whitey willing to speak Spanish (can you see how big my head's getting? I'll take a novelty sized cowboy hat, please). In the distance I saw a bunch of easels, so assuming it was an artist's markets I went to have a look-see. It was a painting competition, where the entrants all paint the view of San Cristobal (a hill with a bunch of colourful shanty houses on it and a cross on the top) for a prize of what looked like a basket of basic groceries. Getting lost looking at all the different interpretations of the same hill, I hear a voice saying "Australiana!", turns out it was Miguel, one of the policeman I had been talking to earlier. Miguel, although on duty, asked if I wanted him to show me around Lima. A personal tour guide/body guard? Why not? So Miguel walked me around, mostly places I had already seen, but I was taking the opportunity to utilise my Spanish more than to re-see things. I kept asking him if he should be working, but I guess when you're policing at a painting competition, you have the freedom to show blonde tourists around. Getting a bit tired of speaking Spanish, and after answering Miguel's question of "are you interested in me?" with a "si", thinking that he'd asked me if I found Lima interesting, I told Miguel I needed to return to my hostel. With a Peruvian policeman's phone number in my bag (he had specified "policia" next to his name, as I guess he assumed I'd be meeting lots of Miguels who would give me their phone numbers) and no intention of using it, I got in a taxi playing Elton John back to Miraflores.
On the Sunday I took myself exploring in Miraflores. I walked down towards the cliffs and found a huge American shopping mall right on the cliffs there, walked in, and forgot I was in South America for about an hour. I then walked back inland to some ruins - Huaca Pucllana, this time opting for the English tour. Some more creepy figurines, this time of Incans at work constructing the pyramid. We climbed the top of the pyramid, examined the intricate brick work and marvelled at llamas and a leather-skinned dog with a ginger mohawk. I shared the tour with 4 other Australians my age, who invited me to join them for lunch. Enjoying some more ceviche and Aussie sarcasm, we then went exploring for trinkets at some markets and back to the American shopping mall ('Larcomar', if you find yourself in Lima wanting to escape Latinoness) where we found ourself in a T.G.I. Friday's, enjoying over sized goblets of drink, and scribbling nonsense on the placemats.
For my last day in Lima, I decided to go on a bicycle tour. Me and a couple from New Mexico followed Franco, our guide, through some streets in Miraflores (was somewhat afraid of death by car/minibus/other bike/large pedestrian), along the cliffs through the Bohemian area of Barranco and to Chorrillos as well, before turning back to Miraflores, stopping at the Parque del Amor, that has a giant statue of a couple making out. Here they hold an annual competition of who can sustain the longest pash, the last year's winners lasting for 45 minutes. Such history. The bike tour is such a fantastic way to see a place, even if you do feel like sometimes you will get taken out by a crazy driver. At least we were provided with helmets. And a sandwich at a small local bar from the 30s.
Lima is a great city, but sight-seeing wise, there's not much. It has a casino on every corner, a thousand karaoke bars and hundreds of types of restaurants and familiar chain stores, so it's good if you need a little bit of that comfort that comes from familiar things. But it didn't feel particularly Peruvian. I'm getting more into that magic now as we speak.