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Posts tagged ‘lima’

getting off the compound ;)

Even though I’ve been back for a while I am reliving the sadness that it’s almost the end of the trip as I write this.  (Luckily I will soon be on the third continent of this year’s five continent travel extravaganza 🙂

Arriving in a foreign place is always such an adrenaline rush but departing is difficult so I try to do something significant and memorable to mark the final travel day.  I doubt I will ever top blowing kisses in the pitch dark stillness of the Serengeti with a Masai warrior but I try 😉

Since Lima is not risk-free I paid the dollars to have the hotel organize a driver for me when I returned from Cusco.  Yet another charming Peruvian man 🙂  Julio was widowed and we talked about his job, the challenges of raising a teenage son alone and – of course – dancing 😉   A lovely introduction back to Lima – and this time I was confident I WAS headed to the hotel!

I had booked the Miraflores Park, which is also run by Orient Express.  I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about the hotel or the neighborhood – and from my computer screen in Canada, Lima seemed very foreign.

the shiny mall carved into the cliffs

the shiny mall carved into the cliffs

But now that I was arriving for the second time I wished I’d booked something local.  It felt like I was trapped in a glamorous tourist compound.  The hotel is right next to Larcomar – not exactly the Peru of intricately woven blankets and alpaca scarves in every colour of the rainbow.

Luckily I had walked all over Miraflores on my first visit so I grabbed a map and hit the streets to find some locals and get a sense for the real Lima.

My first mission was to go back to my old neighbourhood.  There was a shop full of mouth-watering cakes near my first Lima hotel but on my initial visit I had arrived there at breakfast so was a good girl and had some delicious French toast with fresh tropical bananas instead of cake.  But who says you can’t have cake for breakfast?  It was worth the walk across town!  If you also have a weakness for cake, check out La Mora Pasteleria & Cafe.


Fortified – and needing to walk off the calories – I began an aimless wander in a new direction from the kilometres I logged on my first visit.  That’s how I discovered Avenue de la Paz.  Definitely recommend it to get a snapshot of Lima – and modern Peru.

I didn’t get to spend enough time in the country to really develop an understanding of 21st century Peru.  But wandering away from the other tourists and talking to locals every chance I got did provide fascinating glimpses.  As the young girls in Colombia told me boldly, “we’re emerging!” 🙂

cool architecture on ave de la paz

cool architecture on ave de la paz

I haven’t been to Ecuador yet but it does seem that the Andes are embracing the era of the internet and the smartphone and creating opportunities for a new generation with aspirations of a more inclusive and prosperous South America.

I live in a world of shiny things where people lead easy lives yet find ways to complain about their privileged lives without much perspective on the reality of daily life for most of the world’s population.  There are a lot more people living on a couple dollars a day at best than stressing whether their bonus will be grand enough to maintain their millionaire lifestyle.

Don’t go to Lima for the weather!  It was grey and drizzly for the vast majority of the time I spent there.

view from the hotel

view from the hotel

But great food will lift your spirits!  I wish I’d been able to explore more but did have a couple more outstanding meals before it was time for departure.

The first night I played it safe and ate in the hotel.  The restaurant is called Mesa 18.  It is an intriguing mix of world class Japanese food and luxe Peruvian cuisine.  It feels a little bipolar but I had one dish of each and both were sublime!


For my final night, though, I wanted something truly memorable.  I had spent some time at the previous hotel scrolling through restaurant options on the computer in the lobby.  I found one that didn’t seem too far from the Miraflores Park – and boasted the kind of menu I would gravitate to in Vancouver.  Rafael.


I always like to know where I am going after dark in a foreign city – so I did a daylight recognisance trip to identify just how many blocks the restaurant was from the hotel – and the best route to get there – easy to remember, full of people, emblazoned with working streetlights…

Once it got to Latin dining time, I headed out.  I arrived to a lively scene for a Monday night.  Since I haven’t learned to speak Spanish yet, communication was limited.  But I soaked up the atmosphere – and the delicious inventive nouvelle Peruvian cuisine.

When I was looking for the links for this post, I discovered that I AM really good at finding restaurants in foreign locales… according to the Telegraph, I found 2 of the 5 best restaurants in Lima – without reading the article 😉  but you might want to…


My final Pisco Sour for a while.  A walk home to the hotel through the streets of Lima teeming with people living “la vida dulce”.

I was back on the compound.  But I knew I wasn’t the kind of girl who belonged there.  I was “that girl” – the crazy redhead roaming around Peru without a tour group and, as a result, being seduced by a new country and its people.  I will be back…   and you should go 😉

I didn’t realize I’d signed up for the amazing race! ;)

I really wanted to love g adventures.  It’s run by a youngish Canadian entrepreneur.  When he started it, he WAS young and it ran on a shoestring…

I first heard about it via an Intrepid Travel newsletter advertising Bruce’s trips to South America.  So I always thought when I finally went to Peru, it would be with the Great Adventure People.

Well, there has definitely been an emphasis on the word “adventure” 😉

Before I left Canada everyone kept asking me what I was going to be doing and if it was ‘’a tour”.  The g adventures materials were pretty vague so I kept telling everyone I wasn’t sure – and keeping me on my toes and adding an air of mystery to my itinerary was part of the plan I guess…

It works when everything goes right!  In general it’s all worked out fine and David and Enrique are the rock stars of g adventures so they won me over and I DO recommend g adventures.  Their strength is tours so that is likely the best route.  I met some tour participants on a train late in my journey and they were very keen and felt totally protected.

I DID say I wanted “Independent Style” travel.  I didn’t realize just HOW independent I was going to have to be.  Of course, the fact that they kept getting my name wrong in Lima might have alerted me to their less than stellar abilities.  Calling me Maria is not a way to get things off on the right foot.  I appreciate it might only seem like a letter to you but it’s a totally different name and not one that I answer to… and people all over the world love my real name… so substituting a more pedestrian one is not the way to score brownie points…

I am reading my notes as I write this into the computer now that I have finally scored an internet connection and I see I wrote it in Aquas Calientes while waiting for the train where Enrique would pick me in Ollantaytambo and drive me to Cuzco.  I wrote… I feel that I will end the trip with a bang.  And that I DO really know my way around the tourist circuit in Peru now 😉  Both statements still hold true…

So, to start at the beginning… it was an auspicious one… I cleared customs easily and a friendly lady named Pamela (who thought MY name was Maria) was holding a g adventures sign.  And I knew the name of the hotel just in case…

Then things started to get strange. I was put on a tourist bus, Pamela and I the only passengers.  She didn’t sit near me and after a few minutes I noticed she’d jumped off the bus and was standing in the street.  Hopefully the driver knew where to take me!

It’s always best to stay calm until there actually IS a problem and he dropped me off at the hotel on my information sheet and I began my recognisance of Miraflores.  I went to Parque Kennedy cause that’s all I knew but it was obviously the tourist ghetto of Lima so I knew I needed to be more intrepid.  (But I did have a delicious churro so highly recommend that!)

My grandmother’s favourite saying was “god gave you a mouth for a reason.  Just ask if you need help.”  So the next morning I took her advice as I was supposedly going to Puno the next day but had nada for details on that excursion.

The hotel staff (Antiquas Miraflores) were great.  It took some time but we finally managed to find someone representing g adventures who spoke English.  Someone was going to meet me at the hotel at 6pm to go over the details.  Good thing I didn’t need any advice on what to do in Lima.- but at least I should make the flight – at whatever mysterious time it was departing…

I waited on a bench at the entrance to the hotel (to be obvious) for 15 minutes but no g adventures person.  Finally talked to Miro who apparently dropped by at 5pm (seriously, dude?) and had left me a note.  He could come again after his class but I said I needed to find dinner and supposedly someone was meeting me at 7:30am the next morning to get me on the plane at the airport so it all sounded under control.

Thank god at least Miro had left a number and he picked up the phone.  Not that I appreciate unnecessary telephone calls at exorbitant roaming rates and I’m still not too clear on how to make a call from my brand new Blackberry.

But I was pretty desperate as I was stranded at the airport with no info as to which airline or flight I was booked on!  I talked Miro through the solution and managed to connect with Renzo at counter 14.  I only had to lug my bags from counter 54 to counter 14…

flying thru the andes for the first time...

flying thru the andes for the first time…

But I got on the flight!  And everyone is very friendly so you can’t really get mad.  I decided it was the Spanish way – paternalistic, vague on details and bad at precise times.  The Germans are my people – but the Latins are charming 😉

And Veronica in Puno was outstanding.  Finally, information, tickets.  She even checked in with me to make sure I was ready to get on the Andean Explorer.  Edgar Adventures in Puno.  Highly recommended.

But the guys in Cuzco are trying.  It was all going brilliantly until I showed up in Aquas Calientes and there was no g adventures sign.  But at least they had told me the hotels once I got to Cuzco so the guy from Andina and I figured out we belonged together 🙂

But then I sat in the hotel lobby for over an hour as other tourists met their guides and planned their day at Machu Picchu.  Again the hotel staff were great and finally made contact for me with someone willing to take me to Machu Picchu.  Luckily David had already briefed me on what to take so I just needed a meet time.

And Wagner – my replacement guide, not sure what happened to Marcellino… did show up just after 5:30am.  He forgot his pass so I had to go up alone but he found me before I got into Machu Picchu so all was good.  But thank god I wasn’t looking for my g adventures guide to rescue me from the balcony at the Andina Luxury!  That story to follow…

I like the g adventures style of travel.  David says they have a good reputation in Peru and hire lots of local staff and do some community projects.  All the actual activities were excellent.  I DO recommend them.  You just need to decide how comfortable you are travelling alone.  Apparently I am not the guinea pig for the Independent Travel option… but I am not entirely convinced 😉  <calling myself a guinea pig extra funny…>


My impression is that they are an excellent choice if you are doing a tour in Peru.  And they did make all my arrangements.  And I met David and Enrique – they were incredible and you will hear more about them in future posts.  g adventures is very lucky to have them on the team!

It was really fun traipsing around Peru largely by myself.  You just have to pretend you are on the amazing race and making your own way to the next pit stop to figure out the details of your next adventure 😉

p.s. adventures – and photos – to follow!  Stay tuned….

spanish lessons

How exciting!  I actually managed to find functioning internet before I leave Peru… the rest will follow… as usual I will keep living my travels long after I have left the foreign locale 😉

as usual we are living in the past so just go with the tenses – they were correct when I wrote the first draft 🙂

I wrote the first draft of this on miércoles.  I learned that the night before at the Pitahaya Bar in Lisbon.  From my new friend Juan.

Yes, I am in Peru!  When I first dreamed of trekking to Machu Picchu, the Shining Path was putting Peru on the government advisory “do not go” lists.  As usual I have been too busy doing things to have enough time to write about what I have been doing.  But I have been trying to remember exactly when I was inspired to travel to Peru.

It was sometime in the mid 80s.  It may have been the Peru pavilion at Expo 86.  I know I acquired a book about the treasures of the Incas from an exhibit of some of them around that time.  I forgot to leaf through it before I left home.  But I have carried it over three continents and unpacked it in countless apartments so I know it’s there somewhere…  I remember the great jewelry and rich colours.  My souvenirs won’t be nearly so impressive but I am dazzled by the colours in the markets.  It is hard to not buy everything you see 🙂

Unfortunately in the 1980s Peru was dangerous – so I stayed away… but Machu Picchu stayed in my imagination.  And Peru is now the kind of place where you have to search a little to avoid a dual language tourist menu.

But my first step in a new city is to get a map from reception (just in case 🙂 and then start aimlessly wandering the streets in daylight so I’ll know my way home in the dark!

I’m still packing the map but I’ve actually looked at it only a couple of times and Miraflores is already starting to feel like home.  Lima is no Latin seductress.  The weather is as dreary as predicted.  I think the sun shines more in Vancouver 😉

And the Pacific Ocean looks like an angry stepsister with haunted beaches.  But moody can be interesting… so I had a delicious pizetta overlooking the Pacific as part of my exploration of the Larcomar – a modern mall that is so shiny it glints without the sun even shining 🙂

It’s part of the shiny side of Lima – where I will be staying on my return.  Locating my next Lima hotel created a great aimless wander through the streets of Miraflores.  As I suspected yesterday, I am living on the wrong side of the tracks.  But I think I prefer my older Miraflores with the slight decay that tropical climates induce rather than the tarted up sanitized Miraflores that seems more like a tourist zone.

Peru is definitely an emerging economy and it’s exciting to see it in action.  I would love to come back in 10 years and see what has changed.

One thing I hope won’t change is the friendly, warm character of the people.  I am writing this in a cool, modern bar with a touch of traditional Peruvian

pitahaya behind the park

pitahaya behind the park

decoration – and charming Latin men behind the bar.  The soundtrack is an incredible mix of some of the best alternative rock from the late 80s – Blind Melon, Cindy Lauper, Tom Cochrane, the dudes who sing Runaway Train… sometimes I just knew the music, couldn’t remember the band… the 80s were a long time ago!

juanSo I was absorbing the music and letting Juan make me drinks.  His goal is to work on a cruise ship so he wanted me to help him with his English.  In return, he taught me some Spanish.

And made me a beautiful Pisco Sour – my first.  You always remember your first time 😉  And Juan did a magnificent job!  Pisco Sours are pretty ubiquitous in Peru so I’ve had a few now but Juan’s is still the best!  And he gave me the whole history of the drink for bonus points.

Everyone in the bar is very friendly – and works very efficiently.  The menu is in Spanish so I knew I was in an authentic place.  I had avoided the tourist ghetto!

Decaying villas seem charming.  And I saw some appealing houses on my random walk that speak to another era.  It would be sad to lose all the history and local architecture around the world for shiny new concrete malls.

But we also need to welcome progress – and the emergence of new shiny places in unexpected countries.

I love discovering places like Pitahaya – and young men like Juan.  It’s great to see a modern place with a sense of history and locale.  And the enthusiasm and professionalism I encounter so often in these new economies.  I think I am experiencing the future… Machu Picchu is just bonus points 😉

pitahaya decor

pitahaya decor

p.s. apparently Pitahaya is a bar but it was possibly the best food I have had in Peru!  The first night I ordered what I thought was a simple shrimp cocktail but it had some unexpected twists to it that were delicious.  And the next night I ordered something called Tiradito Achebichado because I trusted Juan 😉  As he promised, it was a bit like ceviche but I had just written mystery fish in my blog notes so he had to get the correct information for me.  It was tilapia – and outstanding.  The cocktails are also delicious.  And the staff are delightful.


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