This article is from the September 2019 Issue of Forever Young

By Steven Tuck
Photos: Roy Gillespie and Steven Tuck

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Editor’s note:  This is the second instalment of Roy Gillespie’s and Steven Tuck’s custom tour of PERU in July. Both are residents of Kelowna.

Our arrival in Lima mid-afternoon was on a very eventful day! Peru was about to play Brazil in THE soccer match everyone was waiting for. Peru never imagined getting to play the TOP team, and expected to lose, but to even get to play them --- WOW this was BIG. In fact, our driver, Jose, told us he could whisk us to the hotel Casa Andina Premium in jig time, as the streets were virtually empty. (The drive normally may take 1.5 hours! And he wanted to see the game himself at our hotel bar!)

The hotel is a terrific hotel located in Miraflores, a very safe, upscale, touristy neighbourhood. Lima is a city of 9 million people, making up 33% of Peru’s total population. The traffic is usually chock-a-block and crazy! We concluded the “stop” signs which read “PARE” are notices to hit the gas and go straight through as fast as you can! It really seems to be a game of “chicken” and how they manage to avoid crashing more often maybe is attributable to all the crosses hanging from the mirrors in the front windows of the vehicles! Furthermore, pedestrians beware! Cars seem to have taken the right of way. I told my buddy, Roy, make sure there are others crossing the streets between us and the motorists!

Lima is one the food capitals of the world. One review not only calls it “the gastronomic capital of Latin America” but also notes that 2 of the top 10 restaurants out of 50 in the world are in Lima! The reason is associated with the “fusion” of food --- a culmination of many cultures and countries coming together. We have native Peruvian mixing with waves of immigrants from Europe (mainly Spanish) but also West Africans, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, and many more. Finally, the climates in Peru are so varied that many found they could grow their choice ingredients in this new foreign land. Did you know, for instance, that there are more than 3,000 kinds of potatoes and that the potato originated in Peru?

 

We discovered restaurants were a good main reason not only to visit Lima, but also stay there! On our first evening our Canadian travel agent had asked his local manager, Jean-Paul, to meet us in the lobby and take us to Restaurante Alfresco, where fish is the specialty. “Cerviche” is one of THE main dishes in Lima. No surprise, Lima is on the ocean and has an abundant daily supply of fresh fish. This dish is raw fish “cooked” in citrus. It was fabulous and we actually returned for another feed of fish cooked the way we were used to, in the oven. Obviously, we liked this resto! We also went to the restaurant Huaca Pucilana, which is on a 15 hectare archeological zone. It turned out to be very touristy, with busloads of tourists, and very noisy. Not our fav place, but still reasonable food. Another of our favorites was Madam Tusan, a Chinese resto recommended by one of our guides. It was so different and delicious we were back twice! (My wife asked me on the phone, why are you going to a Chinese resto in Peru? I had to explain the “fusion” aspect!) But maybe the one we enjoyed the most was overlooking the ocean, from high on the cliff, at the Larcomar shopping center. Not only the view, but La Bonbonniere --- yes a French resto --- had terrific fusion food, the best view, the sounds of waves crashing in below us, and the prices were so inexpensive we couldn’t believe the bill each time we were there!

Our travel agent back in Canada had organized a custom tour for us, which included guides on the days we wished. Our first day was a “walking tour” of the center of Lima. We saw the Plaza Major, with the President’s Palace and Lima Cathedral, which are among the main sites around the square. If you happen to be there at noon there is a changing of the guard, dressed in kind of French foreign legion uniforms, and the band plays “El Condor Pasa”. Behind the Palace we visited the old train station which now houses the Peruvian House of Literature. This is the oldest train station in Peru (not a lot of trains still operate in the country and none from this station). Restored in 2009, it is worth a visit. We had hoped to visit the Museum of the Inquisition, but it was closed each time we were there. It is a reminder of the grisly underground dungeons and torture chambers that were used to “… punish those deemed to have committed heresy, blasphemy and associated ‘crimes’”. There are life-size reconstructions of the methods and some might find the images and exhibits upsetting. I might add that this “walking tour” actually had us with our driver, Jose, and Jean-Paul as our guide, and we were taken from place to place and then picked up down the street, so it wasn’t all walking!

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Another day, Eder Pena, was our guide and this was different. He met us in the lobby and then we went by taxi to the various places either we picked or he had planned. Taxis, it turns out, have no meter and you just negotiate the fare before you get in! Since this takes place even on major thoroughfares, it can cause a lot of congestion. It was with Eder that we first visited the Larco Museum, way out near the airport.

Then we went to the Love Park back in Miraflores. After a break in the afternoon for a snack, we went to visit the Gold Museum --- Museo Oro del Peru. It is actually two museums in one --- gold and Arms of the World. The main floor has arms, uniforms and other weaponry and military artefacts. The basement has the Peruvian gold collection and includes everything from the most minute pieces to the full sheet of gold that once decorated an entire wall of Chan Chan. Our guide, was like all our guides on this custom tour, well-informed and making sure we got to see a lot before returning us to our hotel lobby that evening.