Learning to Love Lima

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“Get out of Lima as soon as you can”. That was the advice given to us by all the travellers we met who had been to Peru. But our experience was different.

Much of the reason for this was our new friends Yann and Mabel, who we had been put in touch with by a mutual mate in Paris. A year and a half ago, Yann left his job as an electrical engineer at a Paris airport and along with his Peruvian girlfriend Mabel embarked on a plan to become a tour guide and hostel owner in Lima.

When we met them, they had just opened up their second hostel and they both seemed rather pleased with their move. We were rather pleased too as not only did we have a great place to stay but also two extremely knowledgeable and fun hosts to show us around.

Mabel (centre) and friends hosted a bbq at the new hostel

Lima can be hot, hectic, and horrible at times but if you know where to go and how to get there it can also be a cool, cosmopolitan and even chic city. We stayed in Miraflores, which is full of shops, bars, and restaurants and awash with young Limeños snogging on sidewalks and dancing in parks.

Yann showed us around some of the more important sites in Lima centre, including the baroque Church of San Francisco, replete with its eerie catacombs filled with the skulls and bones of dead priests. More importantly, he taught us how to cross the street, a task that seems almost impossible when you witness every driver ignoring traffic lights, signs and all the rules of the road.

Yann helped with the booze

Yann also introduced us to Peruvian cuisine. Before we arrived in Peru we were particularly worried about the food, thinking that we would be eating potatoes for the next month. Indeed, Peru is the birthplace of the potato, Lima houses the International Potato Institute and there are said to be over 1,000 types of potato in the region, so perhaps we could be forgiven in our thinking.

But we soon found out that Peru also introduced the world to maize, tomatoes, squash, yuca, peanuts, quinoa and countless fruits. In short Peruvian food can be diverse and delicious. Apparently Peruvian cuisine is now set to be the next big thing across the world (according to Peruvians) and their celebrity chef Gastón Acurio is leading the way (look out for one of his restaurants near you).

The Ceviche Queen

Being half-Japanese, Manna was particularly fond of the Ceviche, which is raw fish marinated in lime or lemon juice, sliced onion and chilli. Being the new intrepid explorer that I am, I even tried it and liked it (although I could never eat a whole plate).

Personally, I loved the many fried chicken cafes, restaurants and fast-food joints that proliferate Peru. Clearly, Peruvians love their fried chicken, which is why chain restaurants such as Norkys can be as big as your average supermarket, most of them being three-stories high and incorporating kids play centres. I fail to understand why Kentucky got the monopoly on fried chicken when the Peruvian version kicks butt, breast and wing.

More importantly, for us, the food in general is cheap – you can get a three course meal for around 10 soles (€2.50) and that’s in the expensive capital.

Lima was also an important place for us to decide on our route through Peru. Following the closure of Machu Picchu, we had little clue as to where we should go in this vast country. But two hours drinking beer on the roof terrace of Yann and Mabel’s new hostel sorted out all that. They basically put together our itinerary which would take us down the coast of Peru stopping at Paracas and Huacachina before heading inland to Arequipa, Colca Canyon and Cusco. From there we would head to Puerto Maldonado (the Amazonian rainforest) before heading back to Cusco, then Puno and onto Bolivia.

In the end we would have liked to have stayed longer in Lima but there are so many other things to see and do and our one month in Peru and Bolivia suddenly seems like it will be too short to do it all.

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One Response to “Learning to Love Lima”

  1. cynthia cutler Says:

    Love your descriptions Marc. I am saving all your blogs. Think you will be able to write a book when you get back. xxxxx

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