“Lima is a city of contrasts,” was a phrase that kept popping up in my thoughts. The old and new stood side by side. Pyramids thought to be thousands of years old rose in the midst of modern skyscrapers. Ornate baroque buildings contrasted against plain adobe apartments. Traffic flowed efficiently along long, organized byways yet caused incredulous alarm when we watched an intersection without signals jam up with cars inching forward to get through. I marveled at it all.
When we disembarked from our 757 at the Jorge Chavez International Airport, we were surprised to see crowds of people waiting for loved ones in the central lobby. It was midnight! We were expecting a quiet, sleepy airport at that hour but instead, it buzzed with the air of excitement and celebration. With a city of over 9 million and a culture of strong family unity, it made sense.
As we weaved through the throngs of people, I assessed the many choices of transportation waiting to take folks into the city. Jim was already on his smartphone, pulling up Uber. The app showed a driver available in 5 minutes. Ken was pleasantly surprised that its operations were alive and well in Lima. We didn’t have to struggle with the language. We didn’t have to haggle down a price. Uber did it all.
Driving through town was an adventure in itself. We were glad that our driver was proficient. Cars were bumper to bumper, and they had a tendency to create a lane where there wasn’t one. Our driver easily maneuvered by these rogue individuals. He took us along the famous coastal highway where traffic congestion eased. We couldn’t see much in the middle of the night, but we got the gist as towering cliffs rose on our left, and the dark, inky expanse of the Pacific cloaked in a light fog sat on our right.
We headed straight for our hotel in San Isidro, one of 43 districts in Lima. Miraflores, San Isidro, and Barranco were listed as the top areas to stay for obvious reasons…. safety, an abundance of top-notch restaurants and bars, and plenty of sights. Our hotel was by the beautiful Parque de Olivas, a long rectangular green space lined with Olive trees and intersected with walking paths. Less busy than Miraflores and more residential, we enjoyed a leisurely pace during our stay. Strolls in the park and short driving times to most of the attractions listed on our itinerary made it ideal.
The Malecon was the first attraction on our itinerary. Made up of parks, sculptures, and walking paths, it was a welcomed activity after being cooped up for fourteen hours traveling from the States. We enjoyed the fresh sea air along the cliff’s edge and expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. It was the perfect start for our first full day in Lima.
We started in an area known as the Malecon Cisneros, walking beside tennis courts that used red clay as the court floor.
We headed south, passing by a lighthouse, a sculpture of two lovers in the Parque de Amor(Park of Love) and pristine lawns and gardens. Gleaming glass and metal skyscrapers lined the east side of the parks along with bicycle paths. We eventually arrived at Larcomar, a mall built into the cliffs. Walking onto concrete pads that extended over the cliffs, we found multiple levels of shops and restaurants. We took a lunch break here and enjoyed the views of the Pacific.
With plenty of time left in the day, we rented bikes. It was a great opportunity to cover more ground. A dedicated biking path was by the mall. We skirted the top of the cliffs, enjoying the overcast day and temperate weather that was typical for October. We were in the “winter months” for Peru. That meant moist, overcast skies and temps that ran in the ’60s and low ’70s. Heading south towards Barranco, the bike path ended at a busy byway, El Quebrada de Armendariz, that merged with the coastal highway below.
We decided to turn into a residential side street and loop back along the coast, going as far as Parque Itzhak Rabin.
Because it was Saturday, folks were strolling along the sidewalks, children were playing in the parks and families were enjoying picnics on the grass. It was a scene that instigated a sense of “home”. I couldn’t help but announce to our group, “I could live here!” They laughed, knowing my over-enthusiastic nature. “What don’t you love?” asked Sheila.
We had one more attraction we could fit in before the day ended. We headed to the Larco Museum. It was north of our hotel. I had read that it was one of the museums a visitor had to see. The exhibits were the usual suspects, ancient ceramics, stone busts, art, textiles, gold, and silver jewelry and figurines, but it also had something very unusual, an erotic collection housed in a separate building. “What could that be?” We wondered.
The museum was housed in an 18th-century mansion with picturesque gardens. A restaurant on the grounds looked just as lovely. Arriving in the late afternoon was ideal. The museum wasn’t crowded.
We lingered at glass-encased displays, read the English explanations provided, stood as close or as far from an article without being interrupted by another person. I enjoyed the gold crowns, earrings, and collars that the indigenous women once wore, but if you asked all of us what left us with a lasting impression, it was the Erotic room.
We were flabbergasted as we walked passed display after display of ceramic and stone figures doing things that I couldn’t in good conscience explain here. Sorry, folks, you are going to have to fly down to Lima to see this one. Ken, let out a short chuckle in disbelief. Sheila just walked quickly through. Jim was mute. I observed other visitors talking in whispers, taking photos (which you were allowed to do), and moving quickly through.
I wondered, were we all a bit uptight about this? The indigenous people certainly weren’t. I asked, “where would you see these statues so long ago? On top of a mantle in a home? In what could have been the equivalent of a whore house? In a doctor’s office? In a shaman’s room?”
To say the least, we ended our day with a lot of questions about a world we could only guess about.