Friday, 1 May 2015

Lima

Capital cities usually confuse my emotions before we arrive as most in South America have a dangerous reputation but promise the chance to spend a few days lapping up all the prospects a city has to offer. Lima is no different to this; most of the backpackers we have met couldn't give us a good review of the second driest capital city in the world. 

During the stop-start bus journey from the outskirts to the Miraflores district we were staying in, I could sense a feeling of unease as we passed through crammed, dirty, dusty and frankly quite scary neighbourhoods located around central Lima. However simply by crossing a bridge, you are transformed into another world. Colonial buildings tower around the bustling crowd of the city-dwellers capable of paying the price tag which comes with living in the desirable, upscale part of town. For the first time in three months, I saw a Starbucks Coffee and every other car seemed to be a Mercedes, Audi or Porsche; Miraflores benefits from a local government intent on improving the area to live up to the city's nickname 'Garden City.'

Besides the fact it is free, our favourite way to see a city is to take part in a walking tour. Starting from Parque Kennedy, Miraflores' central plaza, we caught the public bus across town to Lima Downtown in time to catch the changing of the guards at Government Palace, the official residency of the Peruvian president; it truly was a royal affair (excuse the pun). In the same square - Plaza de Armas, is the Cathedral and Archbishops Palace. It was interesting to see the change in architectural design following many earthquakes over the years - Lima sits within the 'Ring of Fire,' a quake-prone area on the Pacific Rim. 

Our tour guide showed us the former train station-turned-post office, the House of Literature and the Church of San Francisco, one of the better preserved churches within the city. The final stop on the journey was to a small bohemian taverna where we sampled the national drink of Pisco. The grape brandy is mixed with egg whites, sugar and syrup to create the green-tinged frothy cocktail, Pisco Sour. Peruvians take great pride in Pisco and have developed it into a culture of its own; we tried many different brands and types which have popped up over the years. I can confirm that it is just as good as the reviews make out!

(Photos to follow)