The reason why I haven’t done much blogging for the past few weeks was because Mrs Chrisparkle and I took our long awaited trip to South America last month. We visited Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil, and it was a great personal ambition for me to go to those places, especially Machu Picchu and Buenos Aires, which were two locations, the prospect of which had enthralled me since I were a wee lad. So I’m going to let you in on some of our experiences, and if you find it useful in case you’re planning a trip to South America, well I’m very pleased to be of some assistance!
Our hotel was the Casa Andina Private Collection in the Miraflores district of the city. It’s well positioned for local parks and eateries and is in a relatively safe touristy area. It’s clean and comfortable if a little soulless. The hotels and the tourist agencies aren’t keen on your wandering off on your own after dark or in certain parts of the city, but it didn’t stifle our natural wanderlust so on the first morning we discovered the Central Park and Kennedy Park which is amusingly stuffed full of dinosaur replicas, which can make for jolly photo opportunities. The area round the park has many useful shops too if you forget your toiletries or need some souvenirs.
We had an organised city tour that morning. We started off in the local market. A real market – fruit and veg, fish and meat, spices and all things edible; colourful and fascinating, it’s a place to see local people doing normal things. You can also become acquainted with some of the more unusual ingredients you’ll be eating later on.
Then we arrived at the Plaza Mayor. It’s Lima’s grandest place – a large open, airy, bright square, surrounded by attractive buildings – including those great ornate balconies that yearn to be photographed. The four sides of the square contain the Cathedral, the Town Hall, the Government Palace and the Archbishop’s Palace. You can protest anywhere you want in Lima apart from the Plaza Mayor, and to enforce this there are riot police just hanging about on every corner. Looks a little bizarre, but they are happy to pose for photographs. We also met a crocodile of schoolchildren being marched through the centre of the Plaza, always an enjoyable excuse for waves, hellos, holas and “where you froms”!
Just off the Plaza Mayor is the Casa de Aliaga. It’s a beautiful old house, the oldest inhabited building in the city. You can go around it and admire the furnishings. It’s still in the same family for 17 generations apparently. An oasis of peace in an otherwise pretty lively area.
By then it was lunchtime so we were taken to the Bar Cordano for a couple of Pisco Sours and an introduction to Peruvian food. Pisco Sours are great! Really tasty, and, regrettably, the stronger they are the better they taste! It’s a cocktail made from a local liqueur wine and it’s well worth the indulgence. We also tried the staple local starter, a causa. It looks a bit like a trifle without the cream, but what you first think is custard is in fact mashed potato and it usually comes with meat or fish fillings. It’s gorgeous – and coeliac heaven, as Mrs C was delighted to discover.
That was the end of our organised tour. But we weren’t going to end the day there. Along with a couple of our intrepid co-travellers, Dhru and Kannen, we made our way to Huaca Pucllana. It’s described as a Pre-Incan administrative and colonial centre and is still only partly unearthed. It’s quite an awe-inspiring sight, as it covers a pretty sizeable area, and the grey drabness of the original bricks, although not attractive in itself, makes a stunning overall impression. As a tourist attraction, it suffers a little from having a small menagerie of local animals and garden of Inca type crops, which seem a bit artificial in comparison. But it’s definitely worth a visit, and you can pose for daft photos with models of the original pre-Incans working on the construction.
After that we took a leisurely walk along the Clifftops and saw modern Lima at its best. The place is popular with paragliders, which makes for an exhilarating and colourful scene. You see the well-heeled locals taking their children out for games and walks, the courting couples in the Love Park, very exclusive looking apartments, and a big seafront entertainment and shopping centre called Larcomar. It all makes a very striking contrast with some of the poorer districts on the outskirts of the city. I’d definitely recommend a trip to the Clifftops to get a different perspective on Lima.
In the evening we braved the Central Park and discovered El Tigre restaurant. Sitting outside as though it were the Champs Elysées, I had a Cerveza and Mrs C another Pisco Sour. We then had a bottle of local red wine, which was very nice and reasonably priced. We must have had something to eat as well…. It’s gone from my memory now but I know it was good. We strolled back to the hotel through the park and all the night-time art sellers and food stalls. It was an excellent end to a very enjoyable day in Lima. If you’re going to Peru, you’ll probably start your trip here. Enjoy the comfort of being at sea-level while it lasts, as the rest of Peru is definitely uphill!