As a traveller hopelessly in love with India, I confess that as I started planning the trip to Peru I was secretly hoping and looking for any glimpse of experience that remotely resembled my Indian trips. Was I to find the exhilirating chaos of the streets, the smells, the colours, the mindfulness of the people, the ”speed”, the luxury, the tastes, the smiles, the chai-s, the nature, the heat, the shops, the bargaining, the ever present sensation that anything is possible at any time..? I know I wanted to.
The landing in Lima, after close to 17 hours of travel and the news that our checked-in luggage would be delayed for another day (that would later turn out to be 4 days) took off less than smoothly. Luckily the driver arranged by the hotel picked us up on time and in a good mood and gave us some tips and tricks..for instance, in the neighbourhood of San Miguel all car doors need to be locked, as most of the attacks and robberies take place while waiting for the green light..(????)
Our lovely hotel washed away some of the first impressions and the cocktails served at the posh restaurant of the hotel next door made us feel like we were finally on holiday. We went to sleep hoping the timezone difference would make no impact on our routines..
Day 1: Lima
So next morning, at 5 a.m. the local time, we woke up, waited for the hotel staff to serve breakfast and then set off to explore Lima. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, it is the most crowded city of Peru with 9 million inhabitants, a population delighted- as a taxi driver confirmed- by the desert climate with subtropical temperatures (the temperatures rarely fall below 12C nor rise above 29C). It has 3 main areas worth eploring: the historic center - Plaza de Armas ( surrounded by the Government Palace and the Lima Cathedral), the neighbourhood of Miraflores (full of hotels, restaurants and shops) and Barranco (the bohemian district comprised of restored colonial mansions transformed into boutique hotels, bars and restaurants). We chose Barranco as a base for exploring the city, as the travel websites and books all presented it in a flavourfull light. Good call :).
Stay: Casa Republica Barranco, prices starting from 150 EUR/night. Ask for a room in the new building, as the ones in the mansion maybe noisy (especially the ones on the ground floor) and more expensive.
Eat: Isolina- for a taste of Peruvian taverna, Central- for an experience of 16 microclimates, Maido-for the Nikkei experience, a fusion between Japanese and Peruvian. Make sure to book 2-3 months ahead if you want to try Central and Maido. Central only serves Chef Tasting menus: the 16 course one we chose was priced at 155 EUR, but it is worth the price- more on that later on.
Drink: If you like cocktails and want to try the Pisco sour in an eclectic ambiance, try Ayahuasca.
Shop: If you like concept stores with items ranging from home-ware to jewellery to souvenirs with a strong local flavour, try Dedalo. If you want the classical mall featuring Banana Republic, Starbucks, Tommy Hillfiger and lots of restaurants, try the shopping mall with a view: Larcomar.