Tuesday, March 22, 2016

3 Days (Too Many?) in Lima

When travelling to Peru it is likely that your international flight will first stop in Lima. When we were booking flights it was seemingly impossible to find a flight that didn't have a stop here. Rather than fight it, we decided to embrace it and book-ended our trip with nights in Lima.  

3 days total. Too many? For us, yes. Read on to see how we used our 3 days in Lima and why we wouldn't recommend budgeting so much of your time in Peru to the capital city.

While researching our trip I noticed that many blogs and guidebooks didn't recommend spending much time in Lima. In fact, some blogs flat out recommended against it.

I thought that was funny. It's a capital city with many important historical sights, vibrant neighborhoods, a large stretch of coastline, and it is famous for its ceviche. How could this city not be a great place to spend a few days?

Not wanting to believe, combined with flights with layovers here anyway, led to 3 days and 3 nights of our Peruvian adventure being spent in Lima.

Our first stop after our late-arrival international flight? Plaza San Martin in central Lima and the Gran Hotel Bolivar.

I wanted to like it. The aging grand hotel that once hosted dignitaries and celebrities? I really wanted to like it.

I'll save the details for our TripAdvisor review, but the Gran Hotel Bolivar was not so grand and definitely not at all what we were expecting.

We were supposed to stay two nights, but we checked out after one, which in hindsight was a better plan because we got to see more of the city.

The hallways were super creepy at night, too.

The lobby though, beautiful!

The ceiling in the lobby rotunda was gorgeous.

So pretty.

While the luster has faded at the Gran Hotel Bolivar, it is still quite a pretty building.

It is hard to see here, but there is electric fencing around the hotel's patios. Central Lima does not have the best reputation. Something that was made very clear when our cab driver from the airport dropped us off and with a concerned look on his face told us to be safe and not to walk around at night.

We booked our taxi from the airport in advance at taxidatum.com. It was simple and easy and someone was waiting for us when we landed. Taxis can be complicated to hail in Peru, especially Lima. 

Non-licensed taxis are common and can be dangerous, with taxi muggings not common, but not unheard of. It is recommended that foreign travelers do not hail a taxi on the street, but instead book ahead of time or use a licensed service often provided at hotels, restaurants, and major sights.

We had decided to stay in central Lima despite the advice of blogs, guidebooks, and the concerned look on the face of our cab driver. We wanted to make the best of it and judge Lima for ourselves. We headed out the next morning on a slef-guided (from our guidebook) walking tour of this part of the city.

The Gran Hotel Bolivar is located on Plaza San Martin and so that was our first stop.

This Plaza is named after Jose de San Martin, the liberator of Peru. The statue in the center of the square honors him.

At the base of the statue is Madre Patria, the symbolic mother of Peru. The statue was commissioned in Spain and the instructions were to give the lady a crown of flames. 

Well, flame and llama are the same word in Spanish and so the local craftsmen put a llama on her head. It is a funny and adorable mistake.

There is a pedestrian-only walkway between Plaza San Martin and Lima's Plaza de Armas, the Jiron de la Union. It is lined with shops and the next stop on our walking tour, the Iglesia de la Merced.

This church stands on the site where the first Latin mass was held in Lima in 1534. First constructed in 1541, most of the church dates to the 18th century.

The style is highly ornate and the main altar is quite impressive.

We continued down the Jiron de la Union to the Plaza de Armas.

La Catedral de Lima is beautiful and has a commanding presence on the square.

The bright yellow buildings are distinctive and bring a great atmosphere to the square. 

The Palacio del Gobierno looks onto the Plaza de Armas. We watched the changing of the guard at noon, which was a fun experience.

Also called the Plaza Mayor, this plaza marks the center of the settlement established by Francisco Pizarro in the 16th century.

The cathedral wasn't open on the day we visited, so we meandered next door to the Palacio Arzobispal, the Archbishop's Palace. 

The carved wood balconies are gorgeous. Its easy to imagine centuries of veiled people-watching happening from their intricate windows.

We enjoyed a moment sitting on the stairs of the cathedral just taking in the atmosphere of the plaza.

The Monasterio de San Francisco is just a block or two beyond the Plaza de Armas and has a simple, but impressive facade.

The interior of this church is simple compared to its baroque neighbors, but it is still beautiful.

Yes, this qualifies as simple when it comes to Peruvian churches. Admission is 7 soles and includes a guided library/catacomb tour in English or Spanish.

The Monastario de San Francisco also has an amazing library with over 25,000 texts, some dating from before the Spanish conquest as well as a catacombs. 

The library and catacombs can only be seen on the guided tour. We did the tour and enjoyed it. The catacombs may not be for everyone; along with the macabre visuals, many of the spaces are small and cramped. 

After our walking tour and lunch back on Plaza San Martin, we collected our bags and headed for our second hotel in Lima, the hotel Ibis Larco Miraflores.

We were still tired from our flight the night before and our 12 hour adventure in Panama City so we took a nap. I know, we wasted valuable vacation time napping, but it felt so good after a not-great night of sleep the night before.

Refreshed from our nap, we got a cab from the desk in the lobby (no worrying about illegal cabs here) and headed for the Museo Larco.

The gardens here are beautiful! I wish we had come earlier so we had more time to just sit and enjoy it. There is a restaurant with garden views that looked perfect for leisurely loitering. 

I also wish I had taken more photos. I was trying the 'being present' thing where I don't spend so much time behind my camera. While I had a great time at the museum, I wish I had a few more photos.

The Museo Larco is unique where their storage rooms are open to visitors. After going through the museum it was fun to wander through the isles and be able to notice and point out features that we had learned in the museum

This is the entrance to the museum as we were preparing to leave. It had gotten dark while we were inside.

We really enjoyed the Museo Larco. Founded in 1926 by Rafael Larco Hoyle, the collection highlights all eras of Peruvian people and development. It is extensive and comprehensive. A great way to get your bearings before visiting any ruins or other sights.

The museum also has an erotic gallery that tastefully displays various pieces of erotic art.

We left for Cusco and the Sacred Valley the next morning, but gave ourselves another night and day in Lima at the end of our trip before our late-night flight home.

We chose to stay at Second Home Peru because it offered the feeling of staying at a distant family member's home. It has a funky, homey atmosphere with the main house belonging to an accomplished artist. (You can see many of his pieces scattered throughout the property.)

The guest rooms are across the expansive backyard and cling to the side of the cliffs with beautiful views of the ocean. Located in Barranco, a fun and nightlife-friendly area, this seemed like the perfect place to spend the last night of our trip.

We had visions of a delicious meal followed by wine on our balcony over looking the ocean.

Instead, I got food poisoning. 

After eating nearly the entire stash of Pepto that we had brought with us, getting sick multiple times, and trying to nap it off, I wasn't feeling better. 

We ventured out for dinner, but ended up at a pharmacy trying to explain in our broken Spanish what was wrong with me. Thankfully, a local took pity and helped translate.

So instead of romantic and scenic, we spent the night in our room with the sound of the ocean coming through the open window, magical pills from the pharmacy that made me feel better, anise flavored liquid to keep me hydrated, and dubbed re-runs of animal videos on TV.

Not quite what we had planned, but definitely memorable. =)

I was feeling much better the next morning and we decided to make the best of our last day in Peru.

We set off on a walk around the Barranco neighborhood of Lima.

We crossed the Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs) headed for the Parque Municipal.

We passed the Iglesia la Santisima Cruz along the way.

The Parque Municipal was a lovely little park with an old library and reflecting pool with fountains.

I thought this little spot was really pretty.

We continued past the park to the Museo Pedro de Osma.

Housed in a gorgeous mansion, this museum's collection features art, furniture, and silver.

I thought the bike rack at the entry was fun and funky.

Admission is 10 soles each, and I feel well worth it for the chance to wander nearly alone through the beautiful galleries.

Some of the collection dates back to the 16th century.

It really did feel like we had the place to ourselves. There were one or two other visitors, but we spent most of our visit on our own. 

The silver collection capped a relaxed visit to this museum.

We killed some time relaxing in the backyard back at Second Home Peru before heading off to our scheduled chocolate making class.

Our reservation had gotten lost at the ChocoMuseo location in Barranco, but the kind staff there whisked us into a pre-paid cab over to their Miraflores location for a later class.

We arrived early, which meant we had time for some ice cream before the class started.

The class starts here with a discussion of how and where cocoa grows.

You move into the next room to hear more about the history of cocoa cultivation, chocolate making, and which countries have the greatest appetite for the sweet treat.

Last, you head to the kitchen to try your hand at making chocolate.

You start by toasting the cocoa in a clay pot.

Once toasted, you peel the beans. We saved the skins to make chocolate tea.

The tea was light, with just a hint of chocolate flavor.

Then we ground the beans.

I was not great at this part. I needed a little help from S to finish and not hold the rest of the class up.

We used some of the ground chocolate to make hot chocolate, mixing back and forth between two pitchers until the drink was ready. 

This chocolate used spices and had a little heat. Very yummy, not like what we have at home. Similar to what we would call Mexican Hot Chocolate in the States.

Next we made 'conquistadors chocolate' which had a much more familiar flavor. 

This version was made with milk and less spice. It had a creamier, cinnamon flavor.

Lastly, we got to try our hand at making chocolate bars. They had all kinds of things we could put into the bars like nuts, coconut, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and more. This was a really fun souvenir to bring home and share with our families.

Did we enjoy our time in Lima? Sure.

Would we have preferred more time in other places in Peru? Yes.

Is 3 days and 3 nights too much time in Lima? For us, yes.

Lima is a difficult city. It is very spread out and many of the sites are hard to see because of this. The distance is only compounded by the taxi situation and not feeling comfortable hailing one on the street. 

It's not just that though. It isn't what I would describe as a beautiful or charming city. It isn't ugly, it isn't unlikable, but I didn't find myself falling in love and wishing I had more time to spend like I did in other places.

I felt like I was obligated to see Lima. It is a capital city with lots of history and millions of residents. It must be important, right? You can't come to Peru and not see Lima, can you? With flights passing through here on both ends of our trip, doesn't it make sense to see a little of the city?

Sure, see some of Lima. However, give yourself permission not to spend so much time here. I don't regret our time in Lima, but I really do wish I had had more time in other places on our trip to Peru. Perhaps fewer days in Lima would have allowed that.

So, Lima: it has much to offer, but if you're in a rush, don't feel bad skipping it and spending your precious time resources in other locations you're more excited about.

Feel the same? Feel like I totally missed the allure of Lima? Let me know in the comments below.


Post a Comment


© Life With S and K, AllRightsReserved.

Designed by ScreenWritersArena