Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lucious Mountains to Dusty Seaside?

I've been trying to write about my visit to Lima for over a week and it's been killing me. The short and sweet is that I had wonderful hosts while in Lima (Vanessa & Carlos) who showed me amazing hospitality, whisking me off to the beach for the night, counseling me on where to go and how to get there, and driving me around town so as to avoid the corrupt taxi situation. They made the trip worthwhile and were obviously very proud of their hometown, a sentiment I've wanted to duplicate. However, when asked by others how my trip was, I avoided the topic saying, "I loved Cusco and Machu Picchu!" When a friend called me out and asked "What about Lima - worth it or kind of a sh*% hole?", I couldn't lie, I was under-impressed.


I arrived to a very foggy Miraflores, a beach side community, which according to the NY Times Travel section, is comparable to the Upper East Side and the adjacent area of Barranco is similar to Greenwich Village. Having visited Buenos Aires where that comparison legitimately could be be made of Recoleta and Palermo Soho respectively, I think the former parallel is a small stretch. Graffiti everywhere, garbage in the streets, buildings in disrepair, people leering, taxis honking after you even when you're walking in the opposite direction. Despite speaking the language fluently, this blond 5'8" woman is obviously no Peruvian. Detractors aside, the stroll around Miraflores and Barranco was pleasant and the highlight a stop at Dedalo, a former mansion that now houses a cafe and the wares of a variety of local artisans. While the website isn't that navigable nor does it do the space justice, I would highly recommend a visit. I left with a fabulous Peruvian Retablo of Cusquenan masks that I'm very excited about!

We escaped Lima for an overnight beach stay in Playa de Asia (80 miles south of Lima). Driving back the next day, the fog had finally lifted and I was confronted by a coastline engulfed in swirling dust, the purported "Costa Verde (Green)" that wasn't very verde. I forget that the coast of Southern California is also an arid desert abutting the ocean and if it weren't for an elaborate reservoir and river system forcefully bringing water from the Colorado River and the Inland Valley, the 80+ golf courses of San Diego County just wouldn't be the same. Lima apparently isn't as fortunate with it's infrastructure.

Driving is a sport in Lima - pedestrians are obstacles, forced to run for their lives, six lanes miraculously become ten due to sheer driver willpower, and public buses, "combis", reminded me of the Ghanaian tro-tros, filled to the brim with passengers, some hanging perilously from the windows and doors. The taxis, which appear to outnumber all other vehicles, are mostly gypsy cabs. Drivers simply stick a plastic "Taxi" sign on the roof of their car and go. No meters, few licenses, and a lot of danger. The best approach is to call official taxis, pricier but safer, instead of hailing them from the street, or walk as I did most of the time.

No good day, as no good trip, ends without some good food. After visiting the somewhat disappointing Gold Museum, I stumbled upon an amazing Peruvian Japanese restaurant, Hanzo, located in the upscale neighborhood of Surco. Having already dedicated a post to Gaston Acurio, the delights of Hanzo cannot be overlooked. The sushi was fresh and innovative, mixing the Peruvian love for fresh fish with traditional Japanese style. Heaven in my mouth - and a spectacular send off to my night flight back to NYC. While I may not return to Lima, the Amazon, Sacred Valley, Pisco and many other Peruvian adventures await.

1 comment:

  1. Its good to know that you enjoyed your visit to Lima and Cuzco.
    Regards, it was good to know you