By Jason Rupp and Carla Marie Rupp
With some of our frequent-flyer miles expiring, we decided to take a trip as far as we could and chose exciting Lima, Peru. It turned out to be a great choice, to fly that far south and challenge our senses and tastes with a cosmopolitan South American experience.
We heartily recommend “The City of Kings” for a Peruvian getaway in the shadow of the Andes; there’s so much to do and experience. One lucky day, for example, right off our hotel balcony we got a taste of the culture of Peru when we were surprised with the most colorful parade of dancers, musicians and happy South Americans! Costumes of every color made it an amazing, festive sight.
Lima is also an affordable destination where you can find a nice budget room if you try. We were happy with our own two-bed, inexpensive room at Hotel España, in a 17th century Spanish Baroque-style building near the impressive Convento de San Francisco. Luckily, our room came with a front balcony and we could watch all the people and interesting activity outside of the old historic, beautiful church and monastery nearby. Lima’s various churches, historic homes and palaces are great for admiring in Lima, especially the Archbishops Palace, a popular attraction, as are the 1,600 historic balconies easily viewed in strolls.
It was Francisco Pizarro who is credited as founding Lima in 1535, so the city is proud of its long history and colonial architecture. That same year construction on the Cathedral of Lima started and the ashes of Pizarro are said to be interred in it. At night, the church is a spectacular sight, with all of the extraordinary illumination on it.
Visiting the heart of old Lima is a thrilling experience. Added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list, the Plaza Mayor (the same as Plaza de Armas) is an important area and is where Jose de San Martin proclaimed independence in 1821. Here in Cercado de Lima, the popular historic city center, there are many great old buildings built in the Viceroyalty of Peru and Republic eras, where visitors experience no end to the bustling, thrilling, interesting scenes of activity in Lima. We loved it.
For an interesting few days just walk all over the city, seeing the people and finding surprises, particularly priceless monuments and statues. For days we walked endlessly, visiting museums including the Larco Museum, the National Museum of Archeology, the Gold Museum of Peru, the Lima Wall Museum and Park, and the Museum of Italian Art, as well as visiting many shops and tasting foods along the way. Even the busy streets we found exciting and interesting.
We alternated our sightseeing with food tastings. Lima’s a good city for that. One downtown food court we visited had many different food stalls all making the most fantastical concoctions using yogurt, fruits and nuts and colorful syrups. We tried so many of them and found they were all different in their creations. Another treat we found when returning to our hotel one day was a wonderful street market with a lot of local food.
One afternoon we toured the catacombs of the San Francisco Monastery, which turned out to be quite an eerie and interesting (macabre even) experience with all of its skeletons and skulls in the lower basement. Re-discovered in 1943, it was Lima’s first cemetery (70,000 burials here, with secret passageways!). It was consecrated in 1673, finished in 1774 and used until 1808.
To relieve our anxiety, we returned to one of our favorite little places, what we called our “hole in the wall” busy place, with the most amazing mouth-watering, tasty, home-cooked-style, inexpensive seafood meals. We kept going back to for its lunch specials and ceviche with fresh lime.
Our favorite evening spot was a real outing by public transportation to a nice bohemian area called Barranco, where we found friendly people of all ages dancing and eating the most delicious deserts ever and attending cultural shows in the popular nightlife spot. Of course, we lived it up, too. The beautiful upscale district of Miraflores also gave us joy in its flower-filled parks, gardens, its food and people.
Another day’s eye-opening outing by city bus took us to ancient ruins of Pachacamac outside Lima. The small admission was well worth it, and we walked all over the grounds imagining both the Inca and pre-Inca civilizations that had lived there many years before. We watched filming of some excavations and visited with documentary crewmembers from several countries, including one from Japan.
The next day’s trip to the seaside of Lima felt exhilarating, with both of us remarking how we enjoyed Lima’s location on the water with its fresh air. You feel so alive sitting on the deck of a restaurant facing the water. Interestingly, we met an American who had his own boat and who loved Lima so much he moved there to teach scuba diving.
Each day we wondered if we should leave to go to Machu Picchu, the world-famous heritage site high in the Andes, but we kept finding more to do in Lima in the way of food and sightseeing. In the end the city captured us for the entire week, thanks to all those frequent-flyer airline miles we were so glad to have.
We want to go back again some day, perhaps then also visiting Machu Picchu. And we’ll be certain to walk around to find our favorite little “hole in the wall” ceviche place.
We sure hope it will still be there.