Barranco and the City Center
I really like what I've seen so far of the city. I'm so glad I'm not staying here for just two days, as it seems most tourists do. There's really a lot to discover. Yesterday and today I went to Barranco and the City Center but I wasn't at all able to see everything, so it's good that I have time to go back this week, after class. I exhausted myself both days.
Barranco is an old neighborhood, full of colonial, colorful, two-story houses, many of them transformed into art galleries, restaurants, cafés and hotels. But it's not only touristic. There was a huge coffee festival on the main square when I got there and from what I saw, there were only a few tourists waiting in the endless line to get some coffee (I have no patience; I went to a nice garden and ordered my coffee sitting down, like the bonne bourgeoise that I am). I started off from the Museum of Contemporary Art, a tiny but beautiful, modern building with no permanent exhibitions. What was there this time was enchanting, or, rather, one of the artists was; he'd made ceramics made to remind us of marine creatures and I left feeling enriched, which is good, because I was also dying of hunger and food was a long way off... I walked and walked, passing through calm, green squares, lined with beautiful exotic houses and trees but I couldn't really take pleasure from anything because I WAS HUNNNGGGRYYY. You know me. Finally, I saw exactly what I needed: "Canta Rana", an authentic :)) restaurant, bustling but not noisy, agreeable to be in, with a nice atmosphere... There was a line of people waiting for a table but when I told the waiter I was alone, he took me to the bar, where as ever, I got preferential treatment. People are always so nice when you're alone (and a woman, maybe). I ate my first ceviche! There was another woman sitting at the bar and she told me to get the ceviche with avocados (and corn and sweet potato) and it was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my whole life, I kid you not. Here it is:
So now I was ready to fully take in Barranco's charm. But yesterday I wasn't as positive as I had been the day before, and there were crowded groups of teenagers who were as teenagers everywhere in the world: they laugh stupidly and loudly and stick to your heels while walking, screaming into your ears... Also, I had again woken up too early, I'd spent the whole morning preparing invoices and subtitling, getting lectured by a well-meaning friend about how dangerous it may be to travel alone, that I have to be careful (argh) and other conversations... I wasn't in as good a mood. Lunch was the high point of my day. I fell in love with the neighborhood, but my heart just wasn't on fire as it could have been. Still, I walked in all the little streets, couldn't get enough of them, ohhh look a little street here, oh let's go there too, gosh look at those... are they vultures??? Yes, there are vultures flying all over Barranco and also the City Center. It's impressive to see them take flight and dominate church steeples. Today I saw a couple on an apartment's balcony!! Can you imagine having vultures looking in at you through your window??
Barranco has a few run-down parts, of course, but it's mainly renovated and clean. Central Lima, on the other hand, is something else... It is even more exotic but so decrepit, so tragically abandoned. There are many houses that have been renovated and are used as ministries or restaurants, museums, or (gulp) shops, and nicely, a music conservatory, but others are just crumbling down, hopelessly, irrecoverably... They need EU subventions, haha. Central Lima is much bigger than it seems. I was so beguiled by the sight of far-off churches in bright pinks and blues, and colonial houses that I kept taking yet another street and another until I found myself in a urine-reeking (is that a word?) place, full of uncollected trash and crumbling old houses which were once beautiful. [photo] I have the feeling many of these houses lacked water or bathrooms because there are shower facilities everywhere. There was a festival of some sort going on nearby and everyone was going there, you could hear the music. And all along this unsavory part of town, there was a book market! Which further on turned into a bag market. Yes, hundreds of stalls selling all sorts of bags and purses and backpacks...
I bought a slice of pineapple from one of the stalls selling orange juice and humongous pineapples throughout the city. Then I was back in that part of town where it no longer stank. I came across a restaurant full of Limeño families and risked going in and chose a plate of fried fish, which comes accompanied by a plate of ceviche! Fried and raw fish together! Bliss. [photo] Accompanied by Chicha morada (purple maize boiled with pineapple and spices). Limeños don't seem to like alcohol much. I have only rarely seen any having beer, but I must be wrong. In any case, it's not like in Europe where you have the feeling that we're all utter alcoholics. Whereas I have drowned in the smell of weed several times!
So I got to see the two main Plazas of Lima today. I keep on reading how terribly dirty and dilipidated they used to be. But now they are lovely and incredibly impressive. I stepped onto the Plaza de Armas and was astonished by its grandeur and brightness (and we actually had some sun today!!!). You just gape at it.
Plaza San Martin is gawkingly beautiful as well. Here there's a hilarious story: the sculptor was asked to make a statue of the symbolic mother of Peru. "Commissioned in Spain under instruction to give the good lady a crown of flames, nobody thought to iron out the double meaning of the word flame in Spanish (llama), so the hapless craftsmen duly placed a delightful little llama on her head." [photo]
By the time I made it to San Martin, I had been walking non-stop, except for lunch, for 6 hours. My brain was dying a slow death. I decided to recuperate in Lima's first Grand Hotel, which was right there. I asked the doormen if there was a café inside and they said oh yes of course and took me through the Bel Epoque entrance, wow,[photo] through a dark hall, into an old, stuffy café where everyone was watching a football match on a noisy TV! Oh, the disappointment. I was expecting a Grand Café, of course. Fortunately I realized there was a terrace, which had conserved some of its old glory, and had yet another horrible coffee (why don't people like good coffee in Peru??) and a delicious desert called "Suspira de Limeño" [photo](which did what neither the Chicha, nor all the lemonades, nor anything else could do and I had to discover a few public toilets). But it's so difficult to stop looking and being curious about the next street! I found Lima's Rue Neuve -- a pedestrian shopping street (nearly all zapateros /shoe shops) with many mime artists doing crazy stuff in crazy make-up. I was too tired to take photos, though it would have definitely been worth it. This city actually puts me off taking photos. I have never seen so many people so obsessed by their phones. They walk as they scroll and often don't see you in front of them and they walk right into you. They are taking photos every second. All the girls take sexy poses for men who direct them to move this way or lower their shoulder strap a bit more. They lie down on walls, lean against fences, take on sultry looks... You can't walk without ruining or getting into somebody's photo. So sometimes I just stop taking photos because this bulimia makes me nauseous and I don't want to be like them!
I was dying for a pisco sour but my intestines already objected to the Suspira, so I got back on the brand-new, wonderfully practical and fast metropolitan (an electric tram), which allows you to see a very ugly Lima, got off at my stop and walked home through a different route, with beautiful small houses and unknown trees with flamboyant red flowers. [photo] I still couldn't bring myself to leave the city, and I needed some clean air after a whole day of exhaust gas, so I sat on the cliffs, over the ocean until... I had to go home :))
This German guy who's been travelling the world for the past year arrived at MY apartment yesterday, but only till tomorrow (whew!). He's nice and has given me good tips, but he has a Peruvian girlfriend and they cooked fried food. The kitchen is right next to my bedroom. I hated being here so I threw myself out of the apartment and took one last walk of the day, again on the cliffs. I can't get enough of the view and the air! The weather's just balmy. Fortunately, by the time I got home, they'd cleaned up and gone to his room.
Tomorrow's my first day of school!!!
Some photos from Barranco:
Lima's classy policewomen. They always go around in twos.
Photo from Lima center:
The House of Peruvian literature, gorgeous. This is the Llorca reading room.
One of the churches that lured me out of the touristic circuit and into the dirtier neighborhoods.
A scene from the streets towards the river, where Central Lima is no longer very touristic.
This is behind the Parliament!
There are policemen everywhere, but they don't feel aggressive as they do in Turkey.
A street in Central Lima. There are many like this one.
This old lady was posing so earnestly, I wanted to take a photo of her, but I was too late...