July 23, 2009
In the wee hours of the morning, I arrived in Lima. Bleary-eyed, I got off the plane, went through customs, and weaved my way through the numerous taxi drivers trying to take weary travelers on potentially expensive rides. When I exited the airport, I was relieved to find a driver from my hostel waiting for me with a sign with my name on it.
After some rest, I had breakfast at a cafe around the corner. I sat at an outdoor table and watched Lima go by… or Miraflores to be exact. Miraflores definitely appears to be the mecca for well-to-do Lima residents, expats, and tourists. In that neighborhood, you feel like you could be in any big city in the world.
Parque del Amor
In the afternoon, I met up with a friend who is living in Lima. We walked to Parque del Amor where we saw the famous sculpture of a couple making out against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and the colorful rolling mosaic walls. We went back to the central Miraflores area to look for ceviche which was surprisingly hard to find.
I was determined to eat ceviche though so we continued on and asked around until we found a little hole in the wall place that served ceviche. We contemplated what raw fish in Peru might do to our stomachs. But I figured that Lima would be the best place for it, given its coastal location. With our ceviche we also had a choice of a meal and were brought chicha morada, a drink made out of blue corn and flavored with fruits and spices. The ceviche was pretty good, but the meal was so-so. There are specific dishes that are good in Peru, but it´s mostly salty meat, potatoes (which they consider to be a vegetable here) and rice. You might get a few sad slices of tomatoes, but they appear to be mostly for decoration.
“Chinito” ice cream
We saved some room for dessert so we could get ice cream at a place called D’Onofrio. This place is known for making ice cream scoops into designs that some might consider offensive. For example, what I ordered was called ¨Chinito¨… very un-PC. The guy behind the counter seemed to be amused with my choice. I’m sure he’s used to giggling foreigners ordering it simply because it’s ridiculous.
Ready to enjoy our tapas at Mangos
In the evening I met up with a Lima resident for dinner. She took me to a mall that was very American, which enhanced the feeling that I wasn’t anywhere new. She told me of a something she wanted me to try but didn´t tell me what it was. We ordered a plate of appetizers. I think Peruvians tend to make lunch their biggest meal and then nibble on small plates at dinner. I also had my first pisco sour, or maracuya (passion fruit) sour to be exact. It was much stronger and much more flavorful than anything I’ve had in the US.
When our food came out there were lots of beige dumpling-looking things and some skewers that looked like beef. I asked if it was beef and she said, ¨kind of,¨and that she would tell me exactly what it was after I tried it. After my first bite, she asked if I liked it. I told her I thought it was tasty and she revealed that it was beef heart… it could have been something worse and the seasoning made it good. The beige items were potatoes with an empanada-like filling, yucca with a cheese filling, and tamales. I liked everything except the tamales, but I never like sour corn meal products anyway.
A plate of small wonders
The next morning I slept in a little and then went off to the airport for my flight to Cusco. My taxi was the loveliest, most insane driver. The whole way he was driving between lanes, wedging his car between minibuses, and flying over huge dips in the road. At one point, I bounced about a foot out of my seat. He looked at me in the rear view mirror, smiled, and shrugged as if to say, “that’s life!” He was such a crazy driver that he had other crazy taxi drivers yelling obscenities at him. When we arrived at the airport, he saw his friend. Even with the language barrier, I could tell his friend was telling me he was crazy. So after surviving my first crazy taxi ride, I went through the airport formalities and was off to Cusco!