The capital of Peru was founded in 1535 by the conquistador Francisco Pizzaro. It is said to be home to more than 9 million inhabitants today. This city served as the capital of Viceroyalty of Peru, encompassing an area that includes most of south America, partitioning present day Brazil. But this repeatedly shrunk to a size to that covering preset day Peru, Bolivia and the northern half of Chile.
The city is located in an arid part of the country and at first will be hard to comprehend this location was ever chosen. Like most other important cities in Mesoamerica, the Spanish determined to build on top of already existing infrastructure which normally would be of some religious significance. In this case there was an oracle here and it was replaced with a church. This was both an rational-legal and religious mix approach to govern the conquered peoples.
In Lima there are a variety of local sights that one can explore. One such area would be the old town square and the surrounding neighborhoods.
As we walked to the monastery of San Francisco, we came across a lot of locals gathered before the grand cathedral of Lima. It is another feast day and the crowds are moving in a procession. The older buildings around the cathedral feature balconies that emit a familiarity with Spain’s Moorish past.
Could this be due to the fact that the colonists came at a time not long after Spain had rid itself of the Moorish yoke in the late 1400s?
The Miraflores is a nicer part of town, where more upscale condos are located and the “love park” a place for couples to cuddle while watching paragliders swing in from above.
All these in the midst of the expansive pacific ocean in front of them. Further afield is the Larcomar shopping mall, where you will find all manner of designer apparel and brands. The usual strip mall thing here though the view of the ocean while having lunch.
We had also stayed in this part of town (Sheraton four points) when we first arrived, in an part of Miraflores where lots of silverware shops are located. Now there will be some who knows that Peru is a Silver producer. So, plenty of material to make ornaments for sale! Within a short walking distance is the Inca market, where you can buy lots of local handicraft.
A must visit while in Lima is the Larco museum. Entirely private, the entire place is filled with artifacts from various eras of Mesoamerican history of not just modern day Peru but also a broad region to extending all the way to Ecuador and Chile. You will find nearly 10,000 years of history in this museum. It is ironic that the museum is built over a pre-columbian pyramid from the 7th century!
Believe it or not, this all started in 1925 with just 600 pieces of artifacts, It has now grown to well over 45,000 pieces and continues to increase as the museum funds and supports continue excavations across the country. The ancient implements of tools and fabric tells us that society was quite advanced to have produced such fine works.
But it was equally surprising to know that; while pre-Columbian Peru had bronzes and metal-ware from silver and gold, they did not have iron! And the irony is that today Peru is a major exporter of Copper and iron ore to China…
The impressive array of exquisitely made ornaments for the nobility and royalty is testament of the advancement of metal working and metallurgy. The large nose rings made from silver must have been really heavy. And can you imagine the headache and giddiness from putting on the gold and silver headgear. Note the ceremonial knives, we hope that it had not been used to perform human sacrifice!
The museum also houses the world’s largest trove of ancient erotic ceramics. It seems that the cult of the ancients were very much on fertility. So depiction of pro-creation acts are commonplace! See how open the society was in those days?
Now it should not come as a surprise that the food scene in Lima is quite happening. From night spots to Michelin grade restaurants, Lima as it all.
Of course there are famed tourist traps as well. But our culinary adventures began near the hotel we stayed for our first night – La Paz street.
This street is lined on many sides (alleys and all) with shops of antiques and vertu.
Tucked away in a corner of one of the sidewalk alleys is restaurant Sagra (spelled Saqra locally). Fusion is the name of the game and we tucked into a great mix of Tuna, pork belly stewed in chillie sauce and wok-fried chicken.
This differentiating mix is in line with the restaurant’s ‘mischevious child’ Quehua name. Prices are surprisingly reasonable, even as had washed all that down with lots of Pisco sour, the national drink.
At the Larco museum, our lunch was an introduction to how potatoes can be fashioned into beautiful and delicious works of art. The Huancaina has the taste of both pepper and cheese and is a rich serving. The Causa Limena is a layered mashed potato with fillings of avocado and chicken. Very nice appetizer. Melvin had Loche squash ravioli while Suan took the breaded sirloin paillard served with fried bananas and topped with a fried egg.
Yet another place to sample Peruvian food is at the La Rosa Nautica. It is a usual tourist “trap” set on a Victorian like building on a pier at the Miraflores part of the beach. Again there is a lot of fusion, though it is mainly on seafood, which dominated our meal that evening. The ambience is great especially for a nice night out for a couple and we had good time laughing and exchanging views about a range of topics with our guide.
The highlight of our culinary adventure though was our meal at Malabar, considered one of the top 5 restaurants in Lima. The theme of our meal was organic produce of the Amazon. So you can expect that the servings all had to be sourced in some shape or form, from the forests of Amazonia! It was a 10-course meal and with wine pairing costs Sol450 per person. We had our first Cerviche here and thought it closely the same as sashimi. We had ‘noodles’ of palm strips, and once again washed it down with picsco sour.
Now you have seen us mention so often Pisco Sour. Pisco is a local brandy. It is mixed with a variety of ingredients (look it up in Google) and served with a topping of blended egg white (yes that’s the froth on the surface of the drink). Great to taste and fierce rivalry between Peruvians and Chileans about who’s better
Now some folks including us had been intrigued with Chifas, local restaurants that we assumed has something to do with Chinese food. To some extent it does, but it is more Peruvian than Chinese as it has fused so much into the tradition of the country that it will be impossible to separate. The fact is that the ingredients are mostly Peruvian, while the techniques and some other condiments come from the original cuisine sources. We did not actually went to a Chifa throughout our journey, and that’s a real regret. But now armed with even more knowledge of the continent, we are well prepared to know what to look for when we return. We’ll be back!
In the next leg of our South American Odyssey, we head up to the highlands of Cusco. The traditional center of Inca power, Cusco boasts of a large number of sites that one cannot miss when in Peru. Continue reading…