At 4:35 pm I fell in love with Lima.
Up til then, I thought Lima was nice enough, but not special or charming or delightful. But at 4:35 pm, my perspective changed.
The day started at 5:45, when we landed at Jorge Chávez International Airport. There was a good sized crowed at migración, but they directed me to a very short line, and I sailed through quickly. In fact, I would have been through even quicker, but the ladies in front of me were struggling to dig out their proof of vaccination. (Peru requires proof for entry to the country.)
I splurged on a first-class ticket, so AeroMexico marked my luggage as ¨priority.¨ It was already on the conveyor belt when I got to baggage claim. I grabbed it and head to customs. They were putting some of the luggage through xray, but they waved me through and I walked out into the chilly, damp, grey morning to find my ride to the hotel.
This was the most inefficient part of my Lima airport experience. All the drivers waiting to pick up passengers were crammed onto a narrow sidewalk across the street from the terminal. Because it was so humid, and I was wearing a mask, my glasses kept fogging up. (That was a problem most of the day.) This crowd of people, some of whom were holding up signs, others with flowers and balloons, and many taxi drivers were jammed into this area. The only way to look for my driver was to stay on the other side of the street to scan the crowd. But he was nowhere to be found.
It was 6 am, but I called Henry, our tour leader, and probably woke him up. He said he would make a call to find out where the driver was. Five minutes later he called me back and said the driver was there, and the next moment, there he was. I have no idea where he was before that…
From the airport to the hotel
The ride to the hotel did not give me a good impression of the city. It was foggy and gloomy, and the neighborhoods we drove through were drab and unappealing. There were a lot of cars considering it was before 7 am on a Sunday morning, and I quickly learned that drivers here are craaaaaazy. This is a city I would never ever want to drive in.
Henry called me during the ride to give me some tips on how to spend my day. He also made some suggestions on where to have lunch. And he said he would look into getting an earlier flight (he lives in Cusco) and maybe meet me for dinner.
When I got to the hotel, the desk clerk couldn’t find my reservation, but eventually she did find it. Of course my room wasn’t ready yet, and wouldn’t be until after 11:00. So I left my luggage and headed out for a walk.
My first Miraflores walk
Our hotel, the Jose Antonio Lima, is located in Miraflores. Wikipedia describes Miraflores as “an exclusive residential and upscale shopping district south of downtown Lima. It is also one of the most affluent districts that make up the city of Lima. It has various hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and department stores.”
I anticipated it being more charming than it actually seems. There are some “upscale” apartment buildings and some “exclusive” shopping, and I suppose the overall effect is somewhat “affluent.” But I found that most of the architecture lacks character.
I headed to the ocean, and I enjoyed walking along the málecon, which actually goes along a cliff high above the ocean. Unfortunately, the view was impeded by fog, but it was still nice. A lot of surfers were riding the waves, and there were plenty of dog walkers, joggers, and bicyclists. After a while a huge parade of bicyclists, literally thousands, made their way along the avenue. It turned out to be an event called “Bicicleteada 2022: Todo se puede en bici” (everything can be done by bike).
I stopped at a place called “Beso Francés Creperie” for breakfast overlooking the ocean.
It was still chilly and clammy, and I continued to suffer from foggy glasses whenever I wore a mask. Interestingly, the vast majority of people are wearing masks all the time, even outdoors.
Eventually I made my way back to the hotel, and by 11:30 my room was ready. I took a shower and promptly settled in for a nap.
My second Miraflores walk
Refreshed and ready for lunch, I set out again a little after 1pm. I went to a place near the hotel that Henry recommended, but with a line out the door waiting for tables, I decided to move on. I headed back down to the oceanfront, to a partially open-air mall called Larcomar. There I hit another place Henry recommended. Here, too, people were waiting for tables, so I took a seat at the bar and had a very enjoyable lunch.
I decided to walk next to the Indian Market. This walk took me away from the ocean and past Parque 7 de Junio, which I figured I would hit up on the way back to the hotel. I discovered that the Indian Market is one of several large markets devoted to souvenirs, handcrafts, jewelry, and gift items made by or inspired by native cultures. I wandered through several of them, bought a vase to add to my ever-growing collection, and started back to the hotel because I needed to pee.
By now it was getting to be close to 4:30, even though the need to pee was becoming more urgent, I decided to detour through the park. An art exhibit and sale was going on, and I wanted to stop and look, but I pressed on. Next I came upon a crowd gathered in a small circular amphitheater. I went to see what was going on.
The moment I fell in love with Lima
Here’s what was going on:
And at that moment, watching not just the dancers but the large crowd watching and enjoying, I fell in love with Lima.
It may not be the prettiest city i’ve ever been to, and it most likely won’t make my list of favorite cities in the world. But Lima has people who love life, and that’s always contagious.
Finally, the need to pee pulled me away from watching the dancers.
Henry arrived early and we met in the hotel lobby to go for dinner, along with one of the other tour participants, Glen, a CPA from Los Angeles. We had a nice meal at an outdoor restaurant adjacent to Parque John F Kennedy. Henry is everything you’d expect from a tour leader: a great conversationalist with a broad range of experiences and an ability to make a personal connection with everyone. He took interest in both Glen’s and my work backgrounds and life stories. When I told him I lived with my “partner,” he said, “Like a girlfriend?” I said, “Boyfriend.” He immediately showed me a picture of his gay best friend in New York and talked about how much he likes gay people and all kinds of diverse types of people. We talked about how travel generally attracts open-minded, progressive-thinking types, although Henry, who has been doing this for seventeen years, said he’s met many different kinds of travelers.
After dinner, of course, ice cream. There was an ice cream shop right next to the restaurant. I ordered something called a “Zambito,” which was an ice cream cone dipped in warm chocolate sauce and then returned to the freezer for a minute until the sauce becomes a hard shell. It was wonderful, but when I broke through the shell, the melty ice cream dripped everywhere and it was a mess.
All in all, a wonderful first day in Lima.