Monday, September 7, 2009

Welcome back to that same old place that you laughed about

There is a unanimous opinion about Lima. It sucks. I often like to disagree with people and this is one of those times. Lima gets a bad rap but it’s not the city that's the problem I think it’s the sky which is almost always grey and hazy and makes the city seem depressing. Sure that grey sky is thanks to pollution but it’s not all bad. There were plenty of things to see and places to visit and we hadn’t seen them all the first time. Well that’s what I remember from our first trip here ages ago and that’s why we didn’t mind returning to Lima. Our bus arrived early and it was still dark as it navigated the city streets. We were in no hurry to get to the hostel as I didn’t expect them to have our room ready but even dragging our feet we arrived at the Hostel Espana just behind the Plaza de Armas at 6am.

Most people stay out in the chichi suburb of Miraflores with the malls, movie theatres and bars but we chose this hostel because it was in the historic centre within walking distance to all the main sites. The hostel was also a historic building – an old colonial mansion filled with the weirdest collection of art (it either belonged in the museum or the trash). We had plenty of time to take it in because as expected our room wasn’t ready. We headed to the roof to wait (the one bad thing was that there was no common area). From there we could see the roof of San Francisco and the thousands of pigeons walking up and getting ready to poop on tourists. We waited there for two hours and then went to check in. Our room still wasn’t ready and now wouldn’t be until 10 so we went upstairs and had breakfast and then went to walk around the Plaza. The city was just walking up but it looked just as we remembered it – the city hall, the cathedral, the presidential palace. But the problem with having been here before was that all of it was too familiar and after a poor sleep on the bus we really just wanted to check in and nap. Luckily our room was now ready and it was worth the wait. It was on the roof with the same view of the church (photo above) plus a private bathroom, tv and lots of room. We promptly took advantage of it and went to sleep.

When we woke up it was mid afternoon. Oops. Adrian demanded McDonald’s for dinner and I acquiesced because we have an agreement. If I allow him McDonald’s every so often (when available of course) he’s agreed not allowed to complain about eating rice with chicken/fish everyday. So we walked by lots of little local cafes offering $3 menus and headed to the pedestrian shopping area – Jiron de la Union where McDonald’s was waiting. No longer sleep deprived, Lima seemed a lot cleaner (except the grey sky) then I remembered and at the city hall a “your tax dollars at work” showcase proudly displayed the urban renewal of the last years. So it wasn’t our imagination. What also wasn’t our imagination was the huge number of gringos – most of them converging on the Mcdonald’s. They all had a look of shock and disorientation that screams “I just got off the plane from Iowa, Milton Keynes or Oshawa” or any other exotic place. Lima is the first stop for maybe backpackers and it shows. I wanted to tell them all it would be okay but didn’t. Instead we lined up for our McNuggets and Big Macs behind them and then headed back to our hostel room to indulge in another comfort – tv.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree on that gery sky thoing - annoyingly enough for me though the day I arrived had clear, blue skies, with barely even a cloud, but I was so knackered from my flight and too much partying in Bogota I didn't explore the city that day - only to find the familiar grey every day after that!

liz and adrian said...

Poor you missing the one blue sky they have every year. Now you'll just have to go back and try and hit another one :)

I honestly believe that if the sky was always blue (and the pollution wasn't so bad) that people would say nicer things about lima. It's just as nice to walk around in as any other latin american capital city.

I also think that it's the first place lots of backpackers arrive the culture shock of seeing crumbly things, dirty things and poverty, makes them think that lima sucks but Cusco is great. Of course, Cusco and I are not friends - too tacky and touristy and not Peru. But that's just this one girl's opinion.