We arrived into Lima very late Sunday night, tired, hungry and not quite sure we had made the right decision to come to Lima. The view out the car window, as we drove through the city from the airport, was not promising: wide boulevards with flanks of HUGE billboards, dozens of sleazy casinos and sketchy street scenes. Our hotel was on a dark street with a metal security gate. Uh oh. The next morning, though, things looked a lot better.
We had researched three neighborhoods for hotels, all south of the city center. We had chosen Barranco, the furthest south along the water, a tiny resort town at the turn of the 20th century and a bohemian neighborhood in the 1960s. Other neighborhoods recommended to us were Miraflores and San Isidro – both more developed, high rise and high end. Barranco was perfect for us. It had an authentic feel with working class families and schools mixed with an eclectic artsy surfer vibe and some great classic cars. The architecture has some very contemporary housing mixed with a stock of old historic “casonas”, beautiful homes of Colonial, Beaux Arts and Art Deco architecture styles.
The topography of Lima’s coast is very unique. There are miles and miles of surf with beach parks and a few restaurants separated from the city by a formidable road and huge crumbling brown cliffs about 200-250 feet tall. Every couple of miles a green ravine carves into the cliff providing road access to and from the water. Paragliders jumping off the cliffs and surfers below, we wondered why Lima gets such a bad rap.
Lima stays green, not because of rain – they get next to none, but because of fog. The sunny months are December through April. The rest of the year, fog. The fog and limited water supply contribute to Lima’s bad press. While we were there it was foggy in the morning with sun breaking through around noon and 70ish. Cool nights, Pacific sea breezes and warm days….. we found the weather perfect!
There is a lot more to see and do than we had time for. Lima is 8.5M people, about the same size as Mexico City and Bogota. Trying to take it in with 2 full days wasn’t enough. What we saw, the food we ate and the people we interacted with convinced us to circle back through Lima for a couple more days after we spend time in Cusco, the Andes and Arequipa.
We are headed to Cusco, now, back into the mountains. The box of warm clothes and hiking boots we sent from Seattle made it. It was, however, a bureaucratic nightmare to retrieve. It required a long taxi ride to the underbelly of Lima, waiting in interminable lines and lots of documents proving they were, in fact, our clothes. It has been nice not to have to check any luggage up until now, but if I had known what mailing a package to Peru truly entailed I might have opted for checking a bag.
We are still pinching ourselves every day. We are blessed to be able to do this. Thanks, in part, to Gary and Carol taking care of Bella and Louisa looking after our house.