We got up, had breakfast (included with the room), and immediately got started. We began at Exposition Park. I think this might have been a world´s fair park, or something like it. Either way it was neat. There were some pretty neat buildings, some clown statues, and some places to just sit and enjoy nature. I enjoyed it. We kept walking north towards the center of downtown, the Plaza Mayor. On the way, we passed the dingiest Sheraton I´ve ever seen. When we got close, we could tell the inside is neat, but the outside looked pretty shady. I think that´s because all of the cars and buses are sol old and put out so much nastiness that the soot just covers that part of town. There were other buildings that would have looked nice, except that they were also covered in the gray. It really made me appreciate US emissions testing. We passed an Italian Art Museum (I´m not quite sure what that´s doing here) and Plaza San Martin, with the Mercedes Church. Eventually, we got to Plaza Mayor. One of the first things I noticed were the bored cops with the crown control shields. They were prèpared for protests (apparently there had been some earlier in the month that were less than pretty), but there were no protesters. As such, the cops were just standing around, talking to each other in order to keep from falling asleep on their feet. We went up to the Cathedral and wanted to go inside, but there was a mass going on, so we decided to head elsewhere first. As it turned out when we tried to go back later, it was the Pope's holiday and the Cathedral wasn't open for visitors, just mass. We figured we'd try again when we were back in Lima again. We saw the governor's palace, which is also on the plaza and is quite exquisite. On our way out of the plaza, we passed the church next to the Cathedral. It had some really cool door knockers. We enetered the monastery around the corner for a tour. They wouldn't let us take pictures, but I wish I could have. From the balcony, we saw a mass going on, and could see all of the monks dressed in their robes. It was kind of neat that there were still monks using the monastery in this day and age. We also got the opportunity to see the intricately carved choir chairs and the big rotating music stand that they used to use (it was cheaper and easier to have one big songbook than many individual ones). They had a big music book open in the library so that we could see what it looked like on the inside. Along with that, they had thousands of very old books. But, unlike the library in Dublin that protected the books, this library had them open to the elements. The window was open and there was nothing stopping the weather and the birds from coming in. I'm not a librarian, but I don´t think that is the best way to preserve old books for future generations. In addition to the old books, many of their original art on them. There were Moorish-style tile mosaics and ceilings, large frescoes, paintings, and statues. Many of the items were plated in gold foil. Our tour of the monastery ended in the catacombs. The ceilings were low, but manageable and the walls were brick as opposed to dirt. We entered through a side set of stairs, but the original entrances were simply grates in the floor of the church/ceiling of the crypts. However, the grates are still there, and we walked under them. The church should remind ladies in skirts not to stand over them during services. 'Nuff said. According to our guide, there are 25 thousand people buried here over 3 centuries. However, when an archeologist went to go dig up some of them, the humidity had gotten to a lot of the bones other than the heads, legs, and arms. So, he took what remained and sorted them into large bins in the floor. The catacombs also have some brick wells designed to help in earthquakes, and these have been filled with the bones of regular people (not clergy) in interesting bone designs. After the dead people, we headed over to see the dead animals at the market. In addition to the standard animals and parts you would find at a market in the US, I was able to identify tripe, some guinea pig (I think) and some other types of meat. They also had veggies and fruits, but we had no where to cook them and were told not to eat things that were simply washed as the water might not be good. Somehow, we still had our appetites and headed over to Chinatown for lunch. Apparently Lima is known for its "Chifas" or Chinese restaurants. It was a little interesting trying to decode the Spanish Chinese. Some things were relatively easy to figure out (wantan=wonton for example), but others were harder. I ended up getting fried rice that was supposed to have tofu in it, but didn't. Basically, it wasn't that different from fried rice in the US except that there were more green veggies and fewer carrots. The real difference was the portion size. This plate was HUGE. If we'd had a place to keep it and reheat it, I could have had it for at least 3 meals. Also, the soy sauce tasted different. I think it was a little fuller and darker than what I'm used to. We somehow managed to drag our gravid stomachs up toward the river Rimac and walked through a park just south of the river. We were very tempted to try to get on the moonbounces and other attractions that the kids were having fun on, but we thought they might frown upon two grown, foreign women trying to play like kids. Peru is very much a cash society. Very few places accepted credit cards, and those usually charged an additional 10% for the privilege to use a card. Even the places that accepted cash didn't want to make you change. We would go somewhere that was S/20 to get in and try to pay with S/50 and they'd ask if we had anything smaller. I never saw a cash register, so I wonder where all the money went. In order to break a big bill as that is what the ATMs give you, we went shopping. Jen negotiated for a blanket and was able to knock the lady down a little from the original price. When she went to pay, the lady asked her if she had anything smaller, and when the answer was no, she went to a neighboring shop to get change. You'd think these people make one sale a day the way they never seem to have money. Along those lines, they also check every bill. They accept dollars as easily as sols, but not if they have even the tiniest tear or are wrinkly. So- bring a big stash of crisp small bills if you want to buy stuff in Peru. Also, we were told not to exchange money with the people on the streets wearing green jackets as they often have counterfeit money. Since dollars are easily accepted everywhere though, we didn't really need to use them. Now that we had change, we went to catch a bus- what an adventure! The buses are more or less large minivans with a higher ceiling so that people can stand. They have a few extra rows of seats because the seats are much thinner, they don't have seatbelts, and they can fit a backwards row in the front. The doors are sometimes standard minivan sliding doors, but are often folding doors like you might find on a closet. The driver drives, slowing down at marked stops and wherever there are people flagging him down on the side of the road. The ticket person leans out the window (it has been removed from the minivan door) or the door (if it is a folding door) and shouts where the bus is going to. If it is your bus, you flag it down and hop on, sometimes while it is moving slowly. Because we didn't know the decoder ring to figure out where the buses went, we always had to ask the ticket person if that bus was going our way. As a result, the bus was always at a complete stop when we got on. The buses are almost like a huge conveyor belt around the city. Unlike many places in the US, you never had to wait more than a minute for your bus. The street was packed with buses and often several going the same way would stop at the same time, all vying for the same passengers. The people getting on the buses were from all walks of life. Throughout our stay in Lima, we rode the bus several times, and it became one of my favorite parts of the city. I got a chance to see little old ladies, business people in suits, teenagers, moms with kids, nurses in their scrubs, helpful old men, and well-dressed 20 somethings all ride the bus. It really wasn't that shady. If you had room left on your bus, peddlers would sometimes get on at one stop and then get off at the next. In between, they tried to sell you gum, candy, or other snacks. Room is a relative term. We rode one bus where every seat was filled (including the front seat with the driver), and people were standing all the way from the back to the door. We didn't think anybody else could get on. And yet, at one stop, we got another passenger. Beyond just the adventure of riding the bus, it was cheap and very convenient. Most of our bus rides were across town and were 1 sol (33 cents). The expensive one from the airport on our second day in Lima was 2 sols (gasp!) or 66 cents. For those who weren't quite up for the adventure of the bus, the other 50% of the vehicles on the road are taxis. While they are super expensive compared to the buses, they are still very cheap. Plus, the taxis charge you per ride. If you were so inclined, you could share it with as many people as you wanted to. We got to where we wanted to be in the north part of Miraflores and asked the ticket person for a stop. The bus stopped 2 lanes into traffic, but at least it stopped and didn't make us get off while it was moving. Since the 1st lane was just for other buses anyway, we made it across safely. Our final tourist destination for the day was Huaca Pucullyana. These are some ruins that had been abandoned pre-Inca. When Lima was developing, 2/3 of the ruins were covered in houses before somebody thought to step in and try to preserve them. As a result, there are these ruins in the middle of a neighborhood. The entrance fee came with an English-speaking tour guide who took us around the ruins and told us about the people who used to live there. She told us about their sacrifices, why sharks were sacred and how they made adobe bricks by hand. There were a few mannequins demonstrating some of what the guide told us. Additionally, in one corner of the site there was a little farm. It had a plant section that showed native plants and an animal section where we could see llamas, alpacas, birds and guinea pigs. They also had a native Chimo dog roaming the site. We learned that llamas make a better pack animal but that alpacas have better fur. They are closely related though, as you can interbreed them. After the tour, we took the bus back to the north part of town and had dinner at Roky's, a place that seemed to be some sort of chain diner. It was a little difficult to find a vegetarian meal that didn't have any fresh vegetables in it (like a salad). I was told not to drink the water, which also translates to not eating anything that was washed in it and not cooked. I had to get a little creative, but I ended up getting some pasta, which was not very Peruvian (although the sauce was). They also put this yellow sauce out on the table. I tried some of Jens fries in it and it was bad. It almost tasted like a bitter curry. The fries were good though. Peru has something like 2000 species of potatoes and it was obvious from eating the fries that these were not made of the same kind of potatoes we might find back at home. I like them much better actually. After dinner, we walked back to our hotel. At least where we were in Lima, it really didn't seem that shady. There were plenty of people outside, going about their business. We got back to our hostel* and went to bed.
Tomorrow: Off to Cusco
- Posada del Parque calls itself a hostel, but really it's much, much nicer. First off, it has a good location in the middle of the north side of the city. It is a block or so from a major road. At the same time, it is on a tree-lined cul-de-sac that makes you completely forget that you are in a busy, polluted city. Secondly, it has a lot of character. All of the buildings in the neighborhood seem to have been colonial Spanish mansions. This one has high ceilings, the original big wooden doors, and is decorated with tons of Peruvian folk art. The place is very well maintained, both from a functionality standpoint, a cleanliness standpoint, and a prettiness standpoint. Beyond all that, the service is great. The people at the front desk were very helpful, whether it was helping us locate attractions or food, calling a taxi, or taking care of our questions. The included breakfast was simple (bread, butter, jam, OJ, and coca tea), but good. They had 2 good computers with free internet. Honestly, it is more of a bread and breakfast or a small hotel than a hostel. I was very happy with our accommodations in Lima.