24 Hours in Lima
My flights went off without a hitch. Flying from Chicago O'hare, I landed in Panama for a short layover with Copa Airlines and then on to Lima, Peru. Copa's service was great and meals each flight were a nice touch. Unfortunately, after landing half past midnight it took nearly an hour to get a hold of my luggage. Thank goodness my Peruvian friend, Esau, had arranged a taxi for me into downtown Lima. Talk about a long day.
Day 1: Morning | Taste Peruvian Cuisine & Catch Coastal Views at Miraflores
After a (short) night's rest we woke and were off for breakfast. Esau and I walked toward Miraflores, a popular area near the coast in Lima. On the way, we stopped in a little pop-up market showcasing interesting handmade goods.
We learned that every Sunday the main boulevard shuts down to allow the public access on foot. The boulevard was packed full of people rollerblading, walking and riding bikes on this beautiful day.
I'll admit, it was tough to find a bite to eat; the area is full of overpriced touristy restaurants and cafes. This was my first Peruvian meal and I didn't want to settle on something inauthentic. Eventually, we chose a traditional style restaurant with seating near the street.
As recommended, I ordered lomo saltado, a beef dish with tomatoes, onions, rice and french fries. It was delicious and full of flavor. The price varies a lot on this dish as it can be found in almost any restaurant. This time, I overpaid at almost 30 soles ($10 US). Esau ordered another traditional dish of potatoes and fish, also delicious. They gave us a cup of popped corn to snack on, as well.
Near the waters edge are gorgeous views of the Pacific. The two of us walked toward the coast and even though it was super foggy the coastline was beautiful. The water looked rough but was filled with surfers nonetheless. As we walked along the coast we made sure to pile on the sunscreen. In Peru, the sun is no joke, even when the skies are cloudy, so lather up.
Day 1: Afternoon | Stroll Through Plaza de Armas de Lima
After wandering along the coast we jumped in an Uber toward the old city square, Plaza de Armas de Lima. The square was gorgeous with so much character and detail. The main plaza is surrounded with beautiful buildings including the Government Palace, Cathedral of Lima and Archbishop's Palace of Lima.
Just past the Cathedral of Lima are a number of side streets filled with little shops, museums and restaurants of all kinds.
As we strolled through the streets we spotted a market filled with stuffed animals. Of course we had to walk through, colors of red and pink everywhere.
Next, we came to the Monastery of San Francisco. Flocks of birds were diving in and out of the plaza. The monastery offers tours but it was pretty busy so we passed on the opportunity. Instead, we took a photo opp with the man selling balloons. For just one sole or 30 cents he let us pretend they were ours. Thank you, sir!
Down the street we found a cafe called La Tapada for a bite to eat. Finally, it was time for ceviche, my favorite dish in seaside cities. In Peru, they typically serve ceviche with sweet potatoes and corn, and it's always extra limey with a bit of seaweed right on top. Just the way I like it.
Ceviche tends to be a bit more pricey than most other foods unless you're in a small town near the water (avoid it in cities like Cusco where it isn't fresh). At La Tapada the cost was 30 soles ($10 US). Don't forget to add a delicious smoothie but keep in mind Peru's water is not safe to drink. You'll always be able to find bottled water but things like fruits and vegetables have likely been washed with tap water. I learned the hard way.
Day 1: Evening | Drink Pisco Sour and Dance with the Gays
With only a few hours of sleep catching up to us, we stepped inside for a quick nap. In the evening, Esau and I met one of his high school friends back in Miraflores for dinner. We chose Mangos, an upscale Peruvian seafood restaurant in the Larcomar shopping center. I tried a typical Peruvian drink, Pisco sour, and beef liver for the first time.
Mango's food and drinks were good but not worth the price. Personally, I much prefer smaller more authentic spots to eat. However, I can’t complain about the view. We choose a table out on the patio where we could see the entire coastline.
After finishing up with dinner, we drove down to the beach just south of Miraflores. I'd have to say, we didn't miss much. It was really dirty and small. Esau mentioned that the nicer beaches are not in Lima but are a few hours south down the coast.
To walk off our dinner, we wandered around the park in the main plaza of Miraflores. There was a small open market selling goods in the center and a group gathered together listening to Peruvian music, dancing up a storm. It was a really fun thing to see, everyone so full of energy.
A few more of Esau's friends joined us and we decided to go for drinks at a popular gay club, ValeTodo DownTown. ValleTodo plays upbeat Latin pop. They have multiple dance floors and even host drag shows. The strange thing - barely anyone was drinking. Esau told me people mainly go to the bar to dance rather than drink. What a refreshing idea. It was so fun and definitely a different vibe than what you find in the States.
Esau also mentioned how Peruvians are very conservative and even though almost everyone there was gay you would never know it. No one was flirting or touching, it all seemed very friendly. The crowd was mostly male - maybe 80% - and the rest was female. Around 1 a.m. we called it quits after an amazing night full of music, dancing and incredible people watching.
Good night. XO