Thursday, December 23, 2010
Lima's Culinary Delights
My trip started with my earliest flight ever -- 5:28 AM Monday morning from Washington Dulles, catching a Copa Airlines flight to Panama City. I had some fears of traveling through a decrepit Central American airport but everything turned out easy-peasy. Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen in Ciudad de Panama isn't a bad facility at all and has some exquisite duty-free shopping at Lacoste and the like if you have time to burn on a layover. Copa Airlines is the Latin American little brother to Continental and was a smooth ride, though if you don't like being awakened by a call for desayuno you may not be perfectly thrilled.
great hostel in the Miraflores part of town, safer than most of Lima and probably the best place to park yourself if you're a tourist here. My buddy Michael had already arrived ahead of me and met me at the hostel.
We did some walking around the area, through the artisan market at Parque Kennedy and the tourist trap restaurants on the Calle de las Pizzas down to the Oceano Pacífico. Strangely, I had flown more-or-less due south and gone from one ocean coast to another. We walked to the Larco Mar, an American-looking outdoor mall complete with a Starbucks and a TGI Fridays. Definitely gringo territory.
Miraflores Park Hotel, quite possibly the fanciest hotel in Lima, where we met up with a few Darden second-years at the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde bar. They had just finished the Inca Trail and had the best things to say about their trip -- cannot wait to start our hike in a few days! At the bar I did some more Peruvian beer sampling, trying Cristal and Cusqueña, with Pilsen being the consensus favorite amongst us Darden folk. We moved from here to Rafael, quite possibly the most expensive restaurant in Peru! I had a delicious meal of fried squid, grilled sea bass served in a mushroom sauce, and churros served with Nutella. I also sampled my first pisco sour, the Peruvian national cocktail, containing a grape liquor (pisco), lime juice, egg whites, and bitters. Service not good, though, so at $53/head I will call this place overpriced!
I returned to the hostel for a nice siesta before being picked up by Michael and our Darden Peruvian friend Antonio, who drove us in his nicely-appointed Audi A4 to the posh suburbs of Lima, where we met our friends Javier and Ariana. Drivers in Lima are crazy and the traffic here is the worst! I would be in about 12 accidents per day if I were driving here. Also, pedestrian safety is almost non-existent here -- like China you need to keep your head on a swivel here.
On Wednesday, Michael and I went to the Barranco neighborhood, the bohemian part of town also along the coast. The neighborhood was quiet with little to see during the day, so we sat down for lunch at a cevicheria named Canta Rana. Ceviche is a dish of fresh raw fish marinated in lime juice and peppers. I ordered a mixto plate with octopus and fish -- delicious! I also ate some of Michael's plate of calamari (chicharrones de calamar) and drank a couple more Pilsen beers, then pretty much needed to be rolled out of the place with a food coma.
This morning we set our alarm and met Jaime and Melissa for a trip to the city center on Lima's new city bus, the Metropolitano. From Miraflores to the Centro in 15 minutes would have been unheard of with Lima's traffic, but this bus gets its own lanes and is a super easy ride. The four of us visited the Plaza de Armas, home of the presidential palace, then toured the catacombs underneath the Iglesia de San Francisco. Unfortunately no cameras allowed, but super cool, especially if you like bones!
Melissa's family is from China, so she knows all the great Chinese restaurants in Lima (called chifas). We ate brunch at a great dim sum place near the city center, eating Cantonese-style dumplings, pork, and stuffed rice noodles. From here we walked around the busy markets of the city center watching desperate Limeños struggling to find last-minute Christmas gifts.
So, as you can see, Lima doesn't have a whole lot of traditional touristy things to do, but it has a ton of great food to eat! You don't need a big budget at all (unless you're dining at Rafael) to eat really, really well. From here we are onward to Cusco. Our friend Anoop arrives late tonight and we fly up to 11,000 feet in the morning!
My Spanish is improving slowly and I hope to be communicating at the level of a 2-year-old by the time I leave Peru. Feliz Navidad to all my American friends!