We arrived in Lima on time after what, compared to US airlines, would be considered a posh flight- spacious with free DVD-music-game consoles for every seat, blankets and pillows...
By the time we got through cutoms, our bags were readyon the baggage claim carousel. Stepping out of the terminal we found Santos from the Hostel de las Artes, who took us to a cab and off we went through Lima. It was about 1 AM and the streets seemed desolate and empty. The buildings were dark and block shaped. As we reached the center there were more European looking buildings but still not that many people on the streets. The weather was humid but not hot --more like autumn weather in the US. We checked into the hostal. It is a Spanish colonial building with high ceilings and tall wood doors. The humidity permeates everything. It has been a while since I've been in cold humidity. Today we moved to an upstairs room which is a bit more airy.
We started the morning with a walk to a main street. The streets were bustling which was a relief after our late night arrival. Taxis and busses raced, honking as they were forced to stop at stoplights. We got papas rellenas (fried mashed potatoes stuffed with a little bit of meat- served with lettuce and very hot Peruvian sauce).
We ate them in the Parque de la Cultura. Many of the benches held young couples making out. It was around 10 AM. We discovered making out is a popular pastime among young Peruvians who kiss on street corners, in the middle of the sidewalks, next to any fence or wall and numerous other places.
After breakfast we figured out where exactly we were and went to the art musuem. It has a varied collection of Pre-columbian ceramics, colonial through modern paintings (Does anyone else find images of religious figures with little piles of winged baby heads under their feet disturbing?)
After the musueum, we headed up the street toward the Plaza de Armas. Lima streets are crowded and there are lots of peple but it doesn´t feel oppressive walking here, just a bit lively. There are few touts but they seem to direct their energies more toward Peruvians.
On our way to the Plaza we walked down Jiron de la Union, a pedestrian street reminiscent of Istiklal in Istanbul--packed with boutiques, restaurants and people.
Plaza de Armas is a grand plaza surrounded by big colonial buildings and churches. There is a large fountain in the center and lots of pigeons. I like the heavy looking carved wood balconies/windows which seemed to defy gravity as the stood out from the pastel colored plaster of the buildings. Another interesting feature of Lima is the vultures which circle in the sky and perch on the buildings and statues, looking down with their curved necks.
The next stop was the monastary of San Francisco. It is a museum though I guess monks still live in one part. It is a dark and sombre building inside with serious colored paintings... quite a contrast to the light airy nature of the frescoes and buildings in Asisi, where I felt the town and monks melded with nature. Here I got the feeling that nature was seen more as an enemy to be eliminated... but perhaps that is just me being influenced by what I know of the conquistadores.
Perhaps the most famous part of the museum is the catacombs beneath the church. The tour guide assured us as we looked dubiously at the bricks cemented together with bird guano, that the catacombs were completly safe and had survived for over 400 years. The bones were still there and had been neatly sorted by type and then placed in the graves and wells.
Later we headed to Miraflores, which is a bit swankier than the center. There are lots of expensive boutiques, cafes and trendy restaurants. We stopped at a cafe and I had an amazing cup of hot cholocate--almost like drinking hot rich chocolate pudding (but not as thick). We ended up on some cliffs overlooking the ocean. Walking along the cliffs we admired the view of waves slowly moving to the shore.