From the archaeological ruins right in the center of the city to fabulous contemporary and historical architecture, creative sculptural salutes that decorate the city's parks and walkways and an encounter with a gentle soul immersed in Peruvian craft traditions, my Lima interlude led me to discover a panorama of busy neighborhoods and colorful city squares, to partake in incredible food and drinks and seal it all with the kiss.
As the capital and the largest city, Lima environs shelter to over seven million people, representing a rich ethnic and cultural mix of denizen, many of whom can trace their heritage back a thousand years. Limeños, those who live in the city, don't boast of their urban attributes or seek headlines about their beautiful scenery and bountiful attractions, instead, they generally great you with a smile and thank you for coming. That positive attitude transferred a welcome feeling, an instant invitation to check out the city first, before charging off to other hot spots in the country like Cuzco and Machu Picchu.
Perched on the edge of the crisp blue waters of the Pacific is a wonderful district of Lima called Miraflores. This was a great place to begin my discovery at the popular El Parque del Amor -- or the Love Park, as it is known. Its famous monumental sandstone sculpture saluted me -- El Beso, or the Kiss, by Peru's favorite Victor Delfin, which shows two reclining lovers sealing their relationship with a... well, you know what I mean.
I strolled leisurely through the park towards the Larcomar Shopping Center -- a contemporary mall complex carved out of the sandstone on top of an ocean-front reef. I stopped at a wall of colorful glass mosaic tiles that were very reminiscent of Gaudi installations in Barcelona. I looked up at the sky and caught a glimpse of paragliders floating serenely by under the clouds. The multi-dimensional cultural, social, adventurous arts and commerce tucked in this ocean side area were simply enchanting.
Potatoes, and them some!
Lima's cuisine is truly cosmopolitan. I tasted a pastiche of European, Asian and South American cuisines in a half dozen perfectly appointed restaurants -- I wonder if fusion cuisine incubated here? Now, let's talk about potatoes and the almost 4,000 varieties in this country. Yes, that's right. I only had time for a sampling of some, but wow were they tasty. I tried them baked, sautéed, fried and in every color of the rainbow and I couldn't decide on a favorite! Every dish included this yummy carb delight and it was an essential part of stunning presentations of gastronomic excellence and palette pleasing flavors and textures of meat, poultry, vegetables and herbs.
Another great find in the Miraflores district is the pre-Inca ancient pyramid ruins of Huaca Pucllana, or Huaca Juliana. While this archaeological complex does not inspire awe, it certainly is a site to behold as the wall formations of the pyramid can still be seen. This important ancient administrative and ceremonial site has been undergoing excavation for decades, yet its staunch walls of hand-hewn adobe bricks are set in place without mortar and even narrow a piece of paper can't be pushed through the bricks -- trust me, I tried but couldn't. The sheer stature of its large stones made me wonder how on earth they were able to place these structures at heights that were unimaginably steep. Picture an ancient ruin in the middle of a big city, only Cairo and the pyramids at Giza come to mind and they aren't even near the city center like this one is.
Mari Solari is a gentle woman from Wales, who owns one of Lima's most fascinating folk art gallery spaces, Las Pallas, in the Barranco district of Lima. It features pre-Columbian era crafts as well as contemporary and modern traditions in fiber, wood and metal. Her collection is born of her long fascination with Peruvian crafts that started soon after her arrival in Peru from England over 40 years ago, and subsequently after her marriage to a Peruvian. An airy wood and stone atelier is both home and gallery. The individual rooms are filled with carefully placed treasures that delight the eye. I was mesmerized by the colorful shawl displays, the intricately patterned boleros and the dizzying geometric designs of the colorful triangular pointed caps with ties that we are accustomed to seeing at art fairs and ethnic outlets in Chicago. Temptation! I wanted to scoop up every thing in sight. But I was particularly drawn to the priceless pre-Columbian era clay pots and ritual figures carefully organized on shelves in wooden cabinets. Her space is a must-see for aficionados of folk art and crafts of Peru.
And, lest I forget, I hereby name the Pisco Sour as my favorite drink in the world. It is a sweet, tangy, refreshing and pleasurable concoction distilled from Peruvian white Muscat grapes. I was introduced to this treat after visiting Chincha and the Vinas de Oro winery and the Casa Andina Sausal. I know it doesn't count at an exclusive "Lima" experience, but it was a fond memory of Peru as a nation. I had the chance to observe how the pisco is distilled (the process is great, but the sampling is better if you know what I mean) and during the rest of the trip, I treated myself to at least one of these fabulous cocktails every night.
As I said, this is just a glimpse of the treasures in art, culture and cuisine that we experienced. So, before or after your Peruvian mountain adventures be delighted and delight in what you will find in Lima!