Saturday, September 24, 2016

15 in the Peruvian Andes – wait, what? Lima?

It's taken me forever to get writing about our 15th anniversary trip to Peru, but I have finally managed to! Yay! Let me warn you - this was an extraordinary trip, you can expect a lot of posts (sort of like our last two anniversary trips, Scotland and Brazil). Why Peru? Like in the past, it was pure chance. I obsessively checked numerous websites, scanning flights to all sorts of destinations, until I finally spotted it, the perfect combination of affordability and magic – Cusco. And yes, the flight was from Mexico City to Cusco, via Lima, so the night we spent in the country's capital was more a question of a very long layover, because our main destination was the Andean region of Cusco. 

And, like I say about so many of my more recent trips, I just love how a destination that didn't rank high in my bucket list – yeah, sorry, that's the truth – ends up being one of my most memorable experiences. And this even applies to Lima. We spent just a night and a morning there, and left feeling like we would have definitely enjoyed spending 2-3 days there. But enough preamble, let me tell you about the beginning of the trip to celebrate 15th years together with the habib - Lima la horrible ("Lima, the horrible"), a nickname which, frankly, does and does not apply...

Déjame que te cuente limeño...

We spent our one and only night in an area known as Barranco. At some point in my life I was very close to a Peruvian, and I knew plenty of Peruvian songs by Chabuca Granda. And one of those songs was about a bridge right in Barranco! The bridge of sighs (Puente de los Suspiros). So, as soon as we checked in our hotel (a fantastic old house with views of the Pacific), we left for an exploration of traditional Barranco...

It reminded us a bit of Coyoacán, a colonial district of Mexico City. But of course, it was also different. And we couldn't quite place our finger on what exactly made it different... It was subtle... We even got to taste tamales on the street, but again, they were similar to ours, but somewhat unlike them, and delicious! 

Barranco is a lovely neighbourhood and, though parts kept quite a charming atmosphere, quite a few old buildings had turned into nightclubs with posters of pretty half-naked women and offers of bucket-loads of cheap beer. Oh well. Anyhow, at some point we spotted this bar-cafeteria. It seemed to have good ambiance, there was beer on tap, and a number of snacks, plus someone playing the guitar and entertaining the patrons, and many posters of theatre plays on the walls. It looked like a perfect place for a drink and a bite! 

This one down below was our introduction to what would become two weeks of non-stop food sampling. The flavours were never too strong, nothing was ever too spicy, and yet there was this balance and attention to preparation that made things taste so great!

Plus, I had my first Pisco Sour (a drink made from Pisco, a kind of grape liquor, plus egg and lime). It was too sour for me, actually. But now I had tasted Pisco on Peruvian soil!

Our walk back to the hotel was interesting, Barranco being a very lively neighbourhood with even some curious graffiti, including this one here that included a mirror and instructed you to gaze and introspect for 10 minutes...

Once at the hotel, we had some more looking at the ocean from both our balcony and the hotel's yard:

Next day we had just the morning to explore the city before our flight to Cusco, so we got up early and hurried out to cross Barranco, with its bridge, its colourful houses, its church, and lots of school kids performing marches and ceremonies due to the upcoming national day.

As is often the case with us, we made the most of the time we had, and even caught a bus to the historic centre of town. By the way, this morning is when we experienced what probably gave origin to that nickname "Lima la horrible" – the thick fog-like cover that never lets the sun through and keeps everything moist in drizzle, "la garúa". It really gave the city a very grey, ominous feeling. 

Anyhow, we had about an hour or two, so we planned a quick tour of  the centre. It was strange to see almost no really old buildings. Unlike Mexico City, quakes here have destroyed lots of older architecture. At the same time, we noticed a use of pastel and bright colours you don't normally see in Mexico City. And elaborate wooden balconies, many of them! Also a practically non-existent sight in Mexico City.

The main square, with the cathedral and the government palace, also offered a different sight from what we were used to back home. More balconies, ochre painting, a very curious symmetry, very theatrical interiors...

Alas, that was all we could see. But it was fun! Like I told my habib, it was almost like we had entered a parallel universe, as in a sci-fi series we used to watch – Fringe. The alternate universe was a copy of the original one, but certain historical events had happened differently, so you were left with a very familiar place, but not quite the same. That's how Lima (and the rest of Peru) felt – it was like home, but as if some things had taken a different path, leaving you with a strange sense of both familiarity and difference. I myself really liked that!

We hurried back to the hotel, just in time for some last photos of the house and its art and its ocean views...

And then we left for the airport, to truly begin the adventure of discovering the culture of Andean Peru up in the Andes!

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