Lori Guretzki

Article Summary:

Overview of a vacation in Lima, Peru, including tips and recommendations for travellers.

Lima, Peru

My husband and I flew into the Jorge Chavez International Airport, completely unaware of what to expect when we arrived. Lima is the capital city of Peru and is the gateway to most destinations in Peru. Peru's official language is Spanish, the currency is the Peruvian Sols and their summer falls in the months between December and April.

We had reservations at the Grand Hotel Miraflores in one of the nicest suburbs in Lima. English is not widely spoken in Lima so we felt pretty fortunate to find that the clerk at the desk in the hotel could understand some English although he couldn't speak any. We told him we wanted to see our room before we accepted it, mainly because we weren't familiar with what the Peruvian standards were for tourists. The clerk was friendly and didn't seem to be bothered by our request. Our room, located on the fifth floor, was bright and cheerful. We had a television set in one corner, a very small closet in another corner, and a small table and two chairs in front of three large windows that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. A double mattress with just two sheets and a blanket sat directly on the floor in the middle of the room. We had our own bathroom albeit primitive; it had a shower, toilet and sink. Reservations are recommended for most hotels in Lima, especially in Miraflores where the area has become well known to tourists as "the" place to stay.

There was always lots of people and traffic on the streets. There were traffic lights at street corners however not many people paid attention to the lights; people jaywalked or they would walk to the corner of the street and even though the walk light had turned red, they would cross anyway. Vehicles also didn't always stop for the red lights or the pedestrians. In places where there were four marked lanes of traffic, drivers would make six lanes. What a nightmare that was!

Transportation in Lima was not a problem. The taxi cabs were plentiful and considered the safest way for tourists to travel. There was no meters in the cabs so it was important to agree on a fare before starting our trip that way, the passenger and driver were both happy at the end of the trip. Local buses were also plentiful, Micros were the large buses and combis were minibuses and vans. They both had set fares. It was not recommended that tourists drive in Lima; that was quite apparent once we got a look at the traffic jams on every street.

We hired a taxi to take us to the Indian Market, however, this wasn't an easy task since we didn't speak Spanish and the taxi drivers don't speak English. A good suggestion is to have someone at your hotel write the name and address of your destination on a piece of paper, in Spanish. You can then show the taxi driver the address. Another suggestion, hang on to that piece of paper because you will need to have the address to get back to your hotel. Believe me, we learned the hard way.

When we arrived at the Market, we were pleasantly surprised. There were streets lined with bins of handmade rugs, white Lama Fur coats, and pottery; items that should have been priceless keepsakes would only fetch a few pennies if the Peruvians were able to sell them. We did purchase several souvenirs. One of their Lama Fur coats would have been an item worth purchasing except that it was so hot, I really didn't want to be carrying a fur coat along with me until we got back to our hotel.

The Desk Clerk at our hotel had booked a City Tour for us for our second morning in Lima. We were picked up at our hotel in one of their large buses and along with 30 other tourists, we spent the morning checking out the many highlights of Lima.

Our first stop on the tour was the Lima Cathedral, a very large Catholic Church filled with life size statues that appeared to be dripping in gold, wooden hand carved walls, marble floors and ceilings covered with figures painted by local artists. Even though it was dark and smelled musty, the Cathedral was an absolute masterpiece.

Our next stop was the Parliament Buildings in downtown Lima. The gates were locked and security was tight. There were armed guards on the streets, in cars, and probably even places we couldn't see. We were only allowed to look through the iron bars of the fence as we walked past. The bus then took us on to the local market place. We got off the bus and followed our guide through crowds of hundreds of people doing their shopping. It was amazing, so many people shopping in one place. It would have been easy to get separated from the others in our group so we made sure to stay close to the others. We were taken through a wooden gate into a private yard. The house behind the gate was monstrous. The 60 room mansion had been home to sixteen generations of the same family. We could only view ten of the rooms, but it was an experience to be in such a big, privately owned home. We could hear children laughing and crying behind the doors where we weren't permitted to enter.

We were on our way again, this time to see the Pacific Ocean - the last part of our tour. We passed beautiful mansions, surrounded by iron gates and armed security. In amongst the huge buildings were the Canadian and U.S. Ambassadors' homes. We weren't permitted near the grounds, we could only drive by. When we reached the ocean, the sidewalks were full of tourists and locals. It turned out to be a shopping extravaganza; the Peruvians were selling their hand made pottery, wall hangings, and paintings to any tourist who was interested. What an opportunity to purchase priceless souvenirs to take home. The ocean in the background was beautiful, such a brilliant blue, and the breeze off the water was refreshing and welcome in the heat of the day.

Shopping in Lima was fun and always an experience. The natives expected tourists to bargain for every purchase. Alpaca sweaters, hand made ceramics, silver jewelry and paintings were plentiful and very reasonable. There were also little boutiques that were quite willing to charge what the market would bear. Those shops of course were in the tourist areas only.

Peruvian cuisine was varied and definitely interesting. The most popular dishes were ceviche (raw fish marinated in lemon juice), pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked in the ground) and juane (cornmash pastries) along with rice, fowl, goat, guinea pig, and fried bananas. For the less daring tourist like we were, there was always chicken and rice. A popular local drink was Inca Cola, a lime green, very sweet, soda pop.

There were many restaurants to choose from; the very posh La Rosa Nautica, a high class dining establishment for the elite, to the roadside stalls and everything in between. Our personal favorite was the Liverpool Restaurant, located only a few blocks from our hotel. The food was good, the staff was very friendly and, even though no one spoke English, after a few visits they were able to understand what we wanted to order. For health sake, it was not recommended that tourists eat the food cooked in the outside stalls.

If contemplating a trip to Peru, check with your local Health Department for necessary immunizations against Yellow Fever, Malaria and Typhoid Fever. You will not be able to drink the water, you will need a Passport and there is a curfew on the streets. If you follow the Peruvian laws, there is no reason why you can't make Peru a "once in a lifetime" great experience.

Lori Guretzki lives in Abbotsford, B.C. with her husband of 23 years. By day, she is an Administrative Assistant in a large high school in Abbotsford, by night she has a home based business called Lori's Canine Creations and in her off times, she shares her love of traveling to all corners of the world with her husband. Lori's latest accomplishment is her book, soon to be published, The Reluctant Traveller, about holidaying in Peru, South America.

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