Thursday, December 3, 2015

Crazily Colorful Lima!

3 December 2015

We've been busily planning our time in Peru, since we only have about a month here.  There are various warnings about political situations that make travel for foreigners a bit iffy in certain areas, so we're being cautious and sticking to the more usual travel paths than we often do.  Avoiding those areas where, oh, the US embassy prohibits their staff from visiting.  Places like that.  Old enough to know when caution and discretion are the better part of valor, and all that.

One of the things about beaten paths and usual routes is that there are more people taking those same paths and routes.  So that bookings fill up, hotels are taken, plane or train tickets aren't as available.  All that.

Which leaves us doing more planning ahead than we like, but, well, there it is.

Since we're enjoying Lima, we've opted to stay here for another week.  There are tons of museums, wonderful little parks, more kitties to play with, and just things to do.

Plus random works of art, including murals!!!!

Lima is a great city for walking - it's built on bluffs or cliffs above the sea, with gravelly beaches below.  The city itself is fairly flat, even though it's roughly 300 feet (or 100 m) above sea level.  There are slight inclines, but not really any hills.  Perfect for walking distances.

The weather in Lima is, well, dry if nothing else.  Lima is on record as the second-driest capital city in the world, second to Cairo.  Okay, I can understand Cairo being dry.  But Lima is right on the coast!  I truly don't understand why or how a coastal city ends up so dry!  But there's a huge desert area south of Lima - so somehow all the moisture from the Pacific stays in the clouds, heads to the Andes, and dumps the rain there.  I'm sure there's a meteorological explanation to it.  

Anyway, we don't have to contend with rain.  Occasional mist, sometimes fog rolling in from the ocean.  But no real rain.  Of course, we also rarely see the sun, the sky is almost always overcast.  

One wonders why the explorer/conquistador Pizarro founded the city of Lima right here.  The story is that he arrived in January, mid-summer, when the air is warm and the skies are blue.  Turns out that Lima in the winter, roughly June through September, is smothered in fog without end.  People have written stories about how horrible the Lima fog is.  (This is why we're here now, and not in the Peruvian winter!)

Since it's springtime here, there are wonderful flowers all around.  The kitty park is full of flowerbeds, which the cats enjoy.  (No, these are not catnip flowers.)

Speaking of kitties - we met some costumed people on the road.  They may have been part of some soda giveaway, since they tried giving us a bottle of something.  But, well, they were just funny, so Richard organized a photo shoot for me.  

And then the pig hugged me good-bye.  Really.

My next exciting adventure was trying to find Chanukah candles.  Okay, so I didn't expect to find specifically Chanukah candles in Peru.  Yes, I'm sure there are Jewish people here.  But Christmas decorations are everywhere, this is a Catholic-majority country, and Chanukah candles aren't the easiest items to find.  So medium-sized birthday candles work for our menorah.

I started at our local supermarket, with my handy pad of paper - drew a picture of a candle, showed someone who works there, asked where to find this.  They said what sounds like "bollas" so I added this word to my vocabular.  (Yes, it's wrong - I'll get to that.)  So someone took me to an aisle and showed me big holiday tapers - I said "more small" in Spanish - he asked "happy birthday?" and I said "si!" - he took me to the deli/bakery section, where they have birthday candles.  But only tiny skinny candles.  I tried to explain I needed candles about the size of my little finger, "poco mas grande," a little more big.  (I know, I don't speak Spanish well.)  "Ah," the young man said, "no chiquito?"  "Si, si, no chiquito."  (Chiquito seems to be used for really small.)

They sent me on to another store.  Just a few blocks up the road.

I walked a few blocks up the road, couldn't find the store.  Went another block or three.  Still no store named Wong's.  So, well, what to do - I went into Starbucks and asked if anyone knew where Wong's store was.  Fortunately, the young man spoke English, and gave me specific directions.  And off I went.

Of course, I followed his directions and couldn't find the store.  I asked again but each person I asked gave me different directions.  

I finally went into a huge department store and asked for "bollas."  Showed them my sketch.  Was sent up to the third floor, found pillar candles in Christmas colors, tapers, everything but birthday candles.  So I had to explain, in Spanish, that I wanted small but not chiquito candles.  Yes, that's what I said.  No, they didn't have them.  And again, I received new directions to Wong's.

Off I went again, on my candle quest.  I wandered for a total of three miles.  No candles.  No Wong's. 

I finally found another supermarket on my way back to our hotel.  They had birthday candles.  In a medium size.  Bright colors, stripes, polka dots, one special pack in blue and white, perfect for Chanukah!  I was thrilled!  I bought eight packs of six candles.

And guess what the proper word is for "candles" in Spanish?  VELAS.  Velas, not bollas.  Not that it made much difference, since no one gave me complete directions to Wong's.  Which I passed by after having bought my velas de compleanos.  Even though they aren't for a birthday, but a fiesta.

It was quite the quest!

We've walked along the malecon, the waterfront.  Here in Miraflores, the malecon is on the bluffs overlooking the ocean.  It's REALLY a good thing that this city is so dry - these bluffs are essentially small rock in compact sand or soil.  One good storm and the entire palisade would melt away!  The face of the bluffs are covered with some kind of netting, most likely to prevent erosion as well as keep falling rocks from injuring people down below.

In fact, the beach is gravel, with rocky breakwaters every so often - I'm guessing the breakwaters help prevent beach erosion, which in turn helps protect the bluffs.

The big thing seems to be hang gliding off the cliffs of Miraflores.  (I think this is hang gliding.  Could be para-sailing.  I don't know if there's a difference.)  There were maybe fifty people hang gliding overhead as we walked along, all sort of colorful arcs of fabric with crazy people hanging in various kinds of harnesses.  Just drifting along, swooping and turning in the wind currents, using hand pulls to steer and try not to crash into the tall buildings along the shoreline.

There are a series of parks along the malecon - Parque del Libertad; Parque Iitzhak Rabin (yes, after the assassinated Israeli politician, we aren't sure why); and Parque del Amor, which I'll get to in a few minutes.

It really is a beautiful way to get from one part of town to another.  The faster road is down by the beach, but the upper road, along the malecon, has a better view.

So, what is the one place almost everyone thinks of when they think Peru?  Machu Picchu, right!  Of course we're planning a trip there - and the planning entails either a bus or plane ride (because the train from Lima goes elsewhere, and doesn't even head vaguely in the direction of Machu Picchu).  Most people go to Cuzco, which also was a major Incan city as well as a Spanish city under the conquistadors.  Then there's a train that goes from Cuzco to Machu Picchu town, and then a bus (or hike) to the Machu Picchu citadel itself.  

Turns out the train tickets need to be purchased ahead of time.  The tickets to Machu Picchu need to be purchased ahead of time, because there's a limit to how many visitors are allowed in each day.  (The limit is 400.  Doesn't sound like very many people.  But it helps to not damage this historic and fragile site.)

There are websites to book the tickets to Machu Picchu, including the government's website.  I did all my booking and thought it worked just fine.

Then I booked the train tickets, and it didn't work just fine.  In fact, it said my credit card didn't go through.  Then it told me I couldn't book a ticket because I already had a ticket.

What to do.  I had to go to the closest Peru Rail station.  Which was about two miles down the malecon, at a major shopping mall.

So I walked on down, and it took forever but I managed to get our tickets from Cuzco to Machu Picchu and mostly back.  (The schedule wasn't perfect for our needs, so we'll return partway by train and the rest of the way by bus.)

Since the train website didn't quite work out, I thought I'd send the Machu Picchu ticket info to the concierge at our hotel there, and see if I had the right tickets.  Turned out it said in Spanish that the financial transaction failed.  So the concierge is working on our tickets, and we'll get them that way.

I only mention this so that other travellers know to double check their tickets.  Can you imagine getting all the way to Machu Picchu and finding out we couldn't go in because we didn't really have a ticket???  How horrible!!!!!!

Because I had to get to the train station, I walked by Parque del Amor.  Except, of course, I had to walk in and see the whole thing.

The park is surrounded by rolling and swerving and snaking benches and walls, all covered in mosaic designs.  Devoted to quotations of love, names of real or mythical couples, and symbols of love.  With the ocean beyond, and the lacy waves below.  

It really is a beautiful spot, although to me it looked like maybe one of Antonio Gaudi's less-talented students created this place.  Pretty and interesting and fun, but not as outright gorgeous as Park Guëll in Barcelona, which is the most sumptuous use of tile that I've ever seen.  This was pretty, but lacking Gaudi's exuberance.

Anyway, if you get to Lima, definitely visit Parque del Amor.

And I will leave you with the photos, large.  Because that's the only way to see the work and the intricate details.


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