Friday, July 4, 2014

Inca Trail Marathon Adventure Day 14 - Lima

We got up and declared our independence from dirt -- given a hot shower, amazing water pressure, and a lot of soap, we clean up really nicely:


Grey skies again. Still, it's winter, so what did we expect? We had read about the whole Lima gloom -- the white fog called the garua that cloaks the city from April to September. Herman Melville, who visited Lima in the 1800s, writes about it in Moby Dick, saying it's:
the strangest saddest city thou can'st see. For Lima has taken the white veil, and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe.
We're also no stranger to gloomy winter skies… but somehow it was still a little surprising.

Really nice breakfast on the top floor of the hotel. We got a table out on the balcony and enjoyed the bread, cheese, fruit, and potatoes. I tried something called "purple bread" -- regrettably, it was sweet and had raisins in it.

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purple bread sounds cooler than it is...

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sad defunct restaurant across the street from the hotel
We had decided we would spend the morning walking the 6-ish miles to downtown. We walked all over, getting a little lost. At one point we made a wrong turn and just kept walking, ending up in the area where cars get turned into taxis. Everywhere we went, people were watching the world cup -- in restaurants, through windows, in cafes, even listening on the radio. It was cool to feel "involved". Also saw lots of vendors selling mini Esto es Guerra toys -- clearly this show is HUGE.

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odd modern art scattered around this neighborhood

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much preferred this...

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stumbled into a shopping mall food court, where folks were watching the futbol

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yeah, I'd say that was a church

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heading to the Plaza San Martin
Finally back on track, we walked through pretty parks, lovely plazas, and increasingly handsome buildings. We came across some sort of advert being filmed on a square -- there were literally filming a big block of ice melting. And people were watching.

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watching ice melt
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in the Plaza San Martin

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Madre Patria, the symbolic mother of Peru.. what's that on her head?
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Oh. It's a llama. 
According to Lonely Planet, the statue was "commissioned in Spain under instructions to give the good lady a crown of flames, but nobody thought to iron out the double meaning of the word flame in Spanish (llama), so the hapless craftsmen duly placed a delightful little llama on her head."

We headed to the northwest corner of the square to the Gran Hotel Bolivar, where we poked around a bit in the historical hallways. (What a pity that the turkish bath and steam rooms appear to be no longer in operation…)

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But the reason we were there, of course, was to visit the cathedral of the Pisco Sour -- the El Bolivar restaurant and bar. The restaurant was very 1960s-70s in decor -- smoked glass mirrors and such -- and we perched on a velvet love seat against a wall. A bow-tied waiter took our order -- a pair of Catedral Pisco Sours, of course -- and we settled in.

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La especialidad de la casa!
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Let there be no debate here: these were the FINEST Pisco Sours of our trip. In fact, I suspect they were the finest Pisco Sours in the world. They weren't too tart, they weren't too sweet, not too much foam on top, and they were blended perfectly.

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the best Pisco Sour in the world

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#piscosourusie

It was funny to sit there in our travel-tired clothes amongst the Lima elite -- business folk, retired moguls, ladies who lunch… it was fantastic. It may be the don't-miss activity in Lima.

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plus, it's a swanky restaurant with these statues around the walls
We then made our way from the cathedral of the Pisco Sour to the Cathedral of Lima. Something -- we weren't sure what -- had closed off some of the streets near to the cathedral. (Now that I think about it, those gates seemed semi-permanent?) But we weren't challenged trying to go through, and most people were just walking through the gates.

Here's something we didn't realize about Peru -- it has a very strong baking / pastry tradition. Lots of pastry shops, high end and low end, all selling amazing-looking pastries. Also, crazy stuff like this:

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I think they baked Vanellope von Schweetz in here.

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I'm pretty sure this is Jell-O cake.

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c'mon kids, put your hands in here
Lima has some gorgeous buildings in it -- most of which stem from the colonial period. We spotted these along the pedestrianized Jiron de la Union:

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the Iglesia de la Merced, originally built in 1541

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fat cherub helping hold the whole thing up

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this amazing art nouveau building -- a former photography studio

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nicely restored plasterwork
At some point we stopped at a McDonald's -- always interesting to see what's different and unique. Yucca fries? Okay! (Wil later realized that he's eaten at McDonald's on 5 continents…)

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yuquitas -- steamed and mashed yucca, shaped around a chunk of cheese, then fried. What's not to love?

Got to the Plaza de Armas to find it filled with police vans and armed guards. Perhaps a visiting dignitary meeting with the president? Who knows. Wil made me pose for some photos… yeah, that's subtle.

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with my guidebook, I think I look like a nun

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yeah, this one was super subtle

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oh, just taking a picture of the cathedral, officer

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pretty buildings on the other side of the square (and rescue vehicles…)

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a pleasant shot of the blocked off central square

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oh, and riot police

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and the handsome Palacio del Gobierno

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and more riot police...

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and actually lovely Palacio del Gobierno

We made it to the Catedral de Lima, which clearly understood its mixed mission as "spiritual home" and "tourist attraction". We were given a surprisingly useful guide map, where each chapel was described. Each chapel, in turn, had a diagram pointing out who was who in the religious art. Helpful, educational, entertaining!

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Lima cathedral

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Palacio Arzobispal on the left, Catedral de Lima on the right

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lovely interior

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Pizarro's skeleton

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John the Baptist chapel

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chapel close-up

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this is my favorite moment in Biblical art -- "I've got a secret." "Me too!"

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The cathedral also had some very cool crypts, as well as an excellent museum of religious art.

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not sure who he is, or who he's stepping on, but he's quite pleased

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less pleased

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now THAT'S a nativity scene!

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exhibit about the Swiss Guards

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Oh, and they had a gift shop and cafe with some very strange baby-topped cupcakes.

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I didn't actually see these -- Wil did -- I would have insisted on eating one
We left the cathedral and discovered that a mounted guard was massing inside the front gates of the Palacio del Gobierno (Presidential palace)… accompanied by a marching band… on horseback. Weirdly awesome.

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that horse with the kettledrums must be the mellowest horse in Peru

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unless it's the horses with the tubas -- they're definitely close runners up for mellowest horses in Peru

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this dog couldn't care less

Also had a quick wander around the "Casa de la Literature Peruana" -- formerly the city's main train station, now a cultural center devoted to Peruvian literature. But I think we were both just feeling a little tired and a little "done", so we decided to figure out how to get home.

El Metropolitano is an electric bus system that we'd spotted en route to the cathedral, so we decided to try and figure it out. We bought a reloadable card for 5 soles (think an ORCA card) and loaded 5 soles onto it in credit -- enough for both me and Wil to take one ride. We first stood in the "buy your ticket" line, and then went back and stood in the "get through the turnstile" line. All was very organized and calm. Well, other than us not knowing what to do!

We were trying to figure out which bus would take us to Miraflores, when a helpful lady asked us where we wanted to go, and told us we could follow her and she'd point us to the right bus when we needed to change.

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onnabus

The bus had a dedicated lane through the city -- like a light rail, sorta, but on wheels. So we moved quickly, and soon arrived at a big underground station. The lady motioned for us to follow her, told us which bus to get on next, and even which stop to take. Sweet!

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the underground bus station

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#busstationusie

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Ricardo Palma!!! Ricardo Palma!!!

Once you leave downtown, the bus has special express lanes that run in the middle of the otherwise crowded highway. I think the other passengers -- mostly business folk heading home from work -- were slightly amused by us… until we both pulled out iPhone 5s, which stopped the whispers. (Very odd.)

We managed to get off at the right stop, find our way back to Parque Kennedy, and thence to the hotel. The maid had carefully tidied the bedside table and desk. I think the earplugs are my favorite part.

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tidied bedside table

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tidied desk

Went out for dinner at Bircher Benner, the odd vegetarian shop / restaurant we'd spotted the first night. The place was nearly empty, so we had Very Attentive Service -- and ordered incredibly delicious, totally vegetarian food. I had the cheesy corn dish I had been wanting since before we arrived in Peru: the giant, starchy Inca corn smothered in local cheese. So good!

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giant corn and lovely cheese = heaven

I also had vegetarian lomo saltado, which was super tasty.

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vegetarian lomo saltado

Wil had a vegetarian cordon bleu … nice, but maybe not as awesome as my choice. :)

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vegetarian cordon bleu

After dinner we had a random international pop star sighting. There was a huge queue of giggling girls outside of the record shop. We asked a couple of girls just excitedly coming out, and they showed us the signed CD by 5 Seconds of Summer. ("We're not a boy band." Okay.) Additional rock star pre-sighting: we saw a flyer and posters for The Mission, who would be playing in Lima in August.

from Phantom's Facebook album -- look how cute these girls are!

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We wandered over to the park, saying hi to the kitties, seeing someone adopting a kitty (yay!) and stumbling across a dance party with singers, musicians, and dancers… including Miss Very Enthusiastic Dancer Who Lacks Rhythm. (Darling, there's no need to wiggle that much during a waltz. I promise you.)

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feeding the cats

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Lima dance party

After the dancing, we stopped in at the adorable Cafe Haiti, which felt like a 1950s Parisian street cafe. We scored a table on the sidewalk and ordered a slice of lemon meringue pie and a pair of Pisco Sours from the bow-tied waiter. The only spoiler was a car, parked badly, whose alarm kept going off. Really, who still uses a car alarm?

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Cafe Haiti

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Pisco Sours and lemon pie
Then back to the hotel, where we booked a car service to the airport for the next night before going to bed.

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