The reviews of Lima were not exactly positive. I recall reviews of pollution, noise and generally feeling unsafe. My expectations were therefore suitably low on arrival to Lima.
We stayed in Miraflores, aka. the posh bit. On the first night we ate in a restaurant with tables on the pavement and were a little surprised when a street child came and removed all the cutlery from our table! That evening we went to a shopping mall, which had security on the entrances so that the street children weren’t allowed in. So after that we decided we had seen enough of the posh end of town – while it was very pleasant, I felt we could have been in any developed nation, with casinos, restaurants, and shops. I wanted to see some of the “real” Lima, as I was sure that the whole city wasn’t like that! The next day we went into the city centre and looked around. We saw the presidential palace, complete with marching soldiers, guarded by tanks and riot police, who looked terrifying until you looked closer and noticed they were texting 😉
We tried local foods such as Empanadas (like a pasty with onions, tomatoes and chicken inside pastry) and Cerviche (semi-raw trout in a lemony/oniony sauce with sweet potato – delicious but hot!). On the subject of food, I thought the tourist restaurants in Miraflores, or even on the main street in Lima centre, were overpriced. My boyfriend used to tease me because I didn’t want to pay around £5 for a meal at a white-table cloth restaurant. But I thought that while that is excellent value for England and is absolutely fine for those who want a nice meal, for Peru that’s a lot and we were on a budget. So we ate in restaurants that the locals go to. One night we paid £1 for a two course meal of soup and our favourite dish, Lomo Saltado (meat, onions, peppers, bean sprouts, and possibly cabbage, stir fried and served with spaghetti. This sounds very odd to a Brit as we would eat spaghetti with Italian food, and noodles with a stir-fry. But if you can put your elongated pasta-type prejudices to one side, it was delicious ). Oh, and that included a drink!
One night we walked out of the centre and to the area of town where all the embassies are. I think we were aiming to go to a park with dancing fountains, but it had just closed. We got talking to a guard in a small guard-box outside an embassy. We chatted to him (in English!) for a while. After about 5 minutes, another man popped his head up from the bottom of the box. It was quite comical! All I can think is either there was a secret passage from the embassy to the guard box, or he was bending down tying his shoe-lace up the whole time? Anyway, it made me laugh! Not at the time, obviously. I didn’t want to get shot.
Overall, my impression of Lima was of beautiful architecture – large “plazas” with fountains in the centre, and I really liked the city. However it is always heartbreaking when you see the very rich living right next to the very poor, and the street children in Miraflores were a harsh reminder of the poverty that exists there.
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