Lima, the big city !

We arrived in Lima early in the morning after an exceedingly comfy bus journey care of Cruz del Sur, probably the best bus company in Peru.  Mind you, regular readers will remember that in Ecuador a 10-hour journey would cost US$10 (about £7), but this one cost more like £21 each.  For that, though, we did get better quality movies, a pillow and a blanket !  Our hostel was on an exceedingly busy road, reminding us that Lima is the biggest city we’ve visited since Bogota, but on arrival we were immediately offered breakfast and so we felt better.  Here Paul models his new Peru t-shirt, to remind you of where we’re at.
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Our host, Francis, gave us a half-hour briefing about buses and the sights to see – after that we needed a coffee and a walk.  About 20 minutes later we found ourselves by the sea.  Lima has a warm climate, but suffers from sea fog, hence we never really saw the full expanse of skyscrapers (maybe just as well).  It was 1st May, a public holiday in Peru, and there were lots and lots of surfers riding the waves.  The photo was taken from an upmarket shopping mall, Larcomar, built into the cliff side.
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The nearby “Love Park” has a huge statue of a kissing couple, surrounded by Gaudi-esque walls reminiscent of Parque Guell in Barcelona.
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Next day it was time to venture further, into central Lima.  Following the various coloured indications on our host’s map we managed to get somewhere near the historical centre.  But then we found ourselves driving over a huge bridge and into the “red zone” – you don’t want to go there our host had said.  Too late, so we hot-footed it off the bus, and walked quickly back to the safe side !   See how busy this place is.
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We visited the main square and two of the famous sights.  First was the 16th-century Convent of Santo Domingo with its exquisite courtyards, wood carvings, original frescoes, paintings, library and bell tower with views over the city – here are a few pictures.  The Spanish clergy didn’t mess about with their buildings: they are beautiful, high-ceilinged, cool spaces with large cloisters like the one below.
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Serious frescoes, as well.  The tiles below them were imported from Spain.
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The main church, still in use.  Much gold leaf was used in it’s construction.  The cedar wood was brought all the way from Panama,
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The parchment book in the picture below is now in the library.  It was used in the Choir, the part of the church where some of the monks sat to sing during services (the picture above was taken from the choir).  The book is absolutely huge so that they could see it from their seats around the walls.
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Diane looks relieved at making it up the steps to the top of the bell tower.
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Next we went to the 17th-century Convent of San Francisco, a little more imposing and with catacombs full of bones (they think they have the remains of about 25,000 people!) but we weren’t allowed to take photos inside, so here’s an outside shot of the huge main door of the still-active church.  This place is also still a monastery, with about fifty monks.
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After that all we needed to do was to get the bus back to our hostel.  Unfortunately it was late afternoon rush hour and finding the bus stop turned out to be impossible – although there are signs, none of the bus drivers take any notice! After watching the locals for a few minutes (and whilst Paul was wondering if we had enough money with us for a taxi) Diane decided the only option was to wait for our bus, and as it arrived to jump out the road into the lines of buses and wave at our bus driver.  Luckily it worked without her getting run over.  We have heard that in the autumn there will be a new transit system introduced – maybe it’ll be a bit easier for the tourists then.
Central Lima probably deserved more time, but the city was a little too large for our liking.  So the next day we decided to do something we find easy – a bike ride.  We chose a tour which would take us around the coast, from where we were staying, the upmarket suburb of Miraflores, through Barranco (even more upmarket) to Chorrillo (er, not very upmarket at all).  We rode first down to the sea again, perhaps Lima’s most attractive feature.  Here’s an arty shot by Diane.
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This is a ruined church in Barranco: it was built by fishermen before the place was populated, after a miraculous light led them back to shore when they were lost in the fog.  It’s been ruined for a good while, but according to the sign, it’s restoration is imminent.  I wonder if they’ll let the vultures stay.  The vultures were protected here because they cleaned up after the Spanish, who, our guide said, turned the city into a sewer after they moved in.
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Our group gazes down the coast past a building which was built illegally, as it blocks the view of the building behind us.  They’re in court, arguing about it and in the meantime part of it is used as a car park !
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Our guide tells us about the monk’s leap, where a monk infatuated with a young girl jumped into the water.  The day we were there, the waves were about 4 metres, and I certainly wouldn’t have been keen.
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Here we are arriving in sketchy Chorrillo.  The houses here used to be upmarket, but the area is susceptible to earthquakes so all the money moved out.  Today it’s a pretty poor area: there are shanty towns behind the houses you can see here.
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Our hostel was a few minutes walk from the busy tourist centre of Miraflores, but we were tempted back early each evening for the free pisco sours, the local cocktail which is made with egg-white, lime juice and pisco, the local brandy.  It’s delicious.  Anyway, off to Arequipa in the south tomorrow on our new favourite bus company, for a quick trek down the Colca Canyon.  And maybe more pisco sours J

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