Date of Trip: August 2010
Lima, Peru…my first venture into South America, this trip became a reality when we received notification our submission to AMCIS was accepted. Yes we are Lima bound!
We flew Delta out of Atlanta, a direct flight into Lima arriving late evening. Once we cleared customs and immigrations it was almost midnight, there were many cabs waiting to take us to our destination. Our hotel advertised a shuttle service, but after several calls from the information booth, we were informed they did not and we would need to obtain our own transportation. Be selective and establish your fare before entering the vehicle. Another tip when traveling abroad, know the exchange rate for the local currency against our US dollar so you are aware of how much you are paying. Most businesses and taxis will take US dollars, but know the exchange rate or you can pay three times the rate requested.
Driving from the airport to our hotel you can see the size of Lima, it is near midnight but there are people everywhere. Lima is the capital of Peru and fifth largest city in South America with just over 9 million inhabitants. We pass by many casinos and the streets are full of people despite the time of day. We are staying at the Swissotel located in the business district of San Isidro. The drive took approximately 30 minutes and cost 45 Soles, or about $17.
Driving to our hotel we pass by the Huaca Huallamarca, one of the two pre-Inca ruins that are found in the city. As we pull into our hotel, we notice the metal fencing and large metal gates that surround the hotel compound; we had seen many barriers around business on our way into the city. We are greeted warmly by the door staff and at the check-in desk. A glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and warm wet hand cloth to wash our hands were presented to us by the desk staff, a nice touch of hospitality.
Your room key was required to access the floors where rooms were located; again security is a continuing theme we are noticing. The room was nice size, bathroom large and our view out the large window was of the city. We settled in for the night.
Included in our room rate was breakfast in the hotel, along with access to the gym and spa facilities. Breakfast daily was a buffet of fruits, breads, juices, hot and cold cereals, and egg and meat entrees. Additionally there were multiple flavors of tamales, beans and rice, and a wonderfully spicy onion relish (Sarsa Criolla) and a pepper sauce called Aji Amarillo that had a nice bite, looked like mustard, but had a much different taste. There were many exotic fruit varieties daily and at least a dozen different juices he usual orange, pineapple, apple and many more mango to different melons.
Our conference started on Thursday, so we had two days to explore the city. Today we headed to the Huaca Huallamarca, about 3 blocks southwest. The site admission was 5 soles or about $1.75. Included in the price were the museums, access to the ruins and an English guide if you wanted. The site was pre-Inca dated around 200 BC with interesting details of daily life and burial rituals. The inhabitants were buried in a sitting stance, wrapped in a grass mat, and their face covered with a burial mask made of wood. Bricks used to build the pyramid like structure were uniform in size and the color of the earth seen on the cliffs and empty lots of the city. Amazing to know they were made so many years ago, yet maintain their color and shape.
After exploring the ruins we headed south toward the second ruins, Huaca Pucallana. Along the way we found the Peruvian version of a supermarket. I love exploring a city through their daily routines, and a food store provides that insight. The “Metro” market also housed a Pharmacia and spirits shop.
The second ruins area was closed as they were filming a documentary that day, but we were able to go to the restaurant on site that overlooked the ruins. So we settled in for a late lunch with a wonderful view. I had a Pisca Sour (the national drink that tastes very similar to a margarita), Green chili Tamale and Corn Cake, stuffed with meat and baked in a clay pot. Jim had a local beer, Papitas rellenas and three quinoa salad. The food was good, accompanied with fresh bread (which they charge extra to provide) and enjoyed a great location. We dined on the covered patio overlooking the ruins; temperature was a cool upper 60’s and made for a great overall dining experience.
Wednesday we headed north to explore the Plaza Mayor, or main street Lima. Walking along the main thoroughfare Arequipa you are startled by the noisy traffic, constant horn blowing and loud vehicular noise. Along the way we passed colleges, medical clinics and hospitals. None or what we are accustomed to seeing, colleges are more like a small business that provided a targeted education like culinary school or medical technician. For five soles you receive a consultation in the medical clinic… At the edge of the park where the dancing fountains are located is a local flower market that prepares funeral flowers. You walk through and see the different styles that are similar to what you would see at an American service, yet you just choose from the many waiting to be carried away rather than order and delivered, very unusual sight.
We pass many museums and large baroque buildings; on most corners is some type of street vending. Most have a variety of sweets, candy, sodas and pastries; it is very evident Peruvians love their sweets. Individuals are working the cars at traffic lights selling sodas and candy from hand held baskets. Along our way small restaurants are tucked in between the large buildings, seating maybe a dozen patrons. We stopped for a drink a few blocks from Plaza Mayor, I chose the Inca Cola, which I could not drink because it was so sweet. Tasted like liquid cotton candy.
Plaza Mayor opens up from narrow streets to reveal an open space with sunny yellow buildings and the Lima Cathedral. The Cathedral is the resting place of Francesco Pizarro, who claimed Lima for the Spanish. The cathedral has beautiful baroque architecture with many altars and a wing with paintings and artifacts. The Plaza is large and open gathering place with a large cast iron fountain in the center. The riot police are stationed on the corner near the bridge crossing the only river in Lima; the opposite shore has a distinct poorer look. Many policia are positioned on the bridge watching carefully everyone passing back and forth.
Thursday we explored the Miraflores district which begins at the ruins Huaca Pucallana extends to the sea. The artesian market is located in this district and the restaurant La Rosa Nautica. Buildings and shops are bustling with people, money changer are standing on the streets offering walkers a quick means to exchange foreign money into soles. Within a few blocks of the ocean you find the Atlantic City casino that has become famous thanks to Juran Vandersloot. The beach front views are found perched on cliffs overlooking a rocky shoreline. We caught a taxi down to the La Rosa Nautica for lunch. This restaurant is considered one of the best in Lima, the placards on the table informs you will be charge a fee to eat, 10% added to your bill for the table service. They have an extensive menu of seafood as well as beef, chicken and pork dishes. The food was good, service great and presentation of the food was beautiful. From our view in the sun room we could see surfers and rocky out cropping is the distant mist. The bar area offers large open air views of the southern shore, a nice place to enjoy a cocktail and good company.
Our visit to the market brought a look into Peruvian talents, the luscious alpaca scarves, throws and sweaters. Blankets with bright colors and images of the farmer’s silhouette are seen hanging, lovely paintings of Machu Pichu and fields of flowers with women in the fields with their baby bundled and carried on their back. Peruvian knitted caps called chullo and embroidered purses in all sizes.
Saturday was spent at the conference, enjoying networking with the attendees and listening to others research and projects. The gala event was held that evening, we were treated to Pisca Sours, Peruvian dishes and a dance group that entertained with folk dances that covered many historical periods and ended the evening with 70’s disco music and fun on the dance floor. Each evening we gathered in the lobby bar for networking, drinks and listened to the piano player who was very good with American pop songs. The lobby bar made a good Pisco Sour, service was also good.
Sunday was travel home day, flight left at midnight; ugh…we had a late breakfast at the hotel and found the locals celebrating Children’s Day. Characters were in the restaurant, Dora the Explorer, Woody from Toy story, Buzz Light Year and a magician. Was fun watching the children delight in the attention and parents beaming watching their children’s joy. The buffet was filled with brunch foods and a special table full of candy, cupcakes and cookies. After eating we walked the neighborhoods around the hotel, one we had walked before had a park full of gnarled olive trees, planted on a grid the trees had been growing many years as their trunks were quite large in size. The houses that surround the park were enclosed by a wall with a variety of security measure to prevent someone from scaling the wall. Electric wire, concertina wire or shards of glass embedded in the mortar on the top of the wall; evidence that this is a harsh place at times.
Lessons learned on our first trip below the equator, people are the same where ever you travel; respectful communication and smiles go far. Greeting in Spanish are formal…Buenos Dias (before noon), Buenos Tardes (noon till 7 PM), Buenos Noches (after 7 PM); did not hear one “Hola” spoken by locals. There is a distinct presence of security and police everywhere you go in Lima, airport policia, hotel security, store security, transportation security, local policia, riot policia; I appreciate their attention but the heighten sense made us very aware we were in a land with potential for violence. A beautiful tropical climate, temperate with minimal rainfall, lush vegetation and a rich history; Lima Peru offered a diverse experience I will not forget.