Thirteen Hours in Lima, Peru

When Travelers Ten, Thirteen and I left Guayaquil, Ecuador, our way back to the United States, we had a thirteen hour layover in Lima, Peru. It turns out that lengthy layovers in Lima are not uncommon so if you find yourself in the same situation here is what you do: Contact Lima Cabs and arrange a tour of the city. They will pick you up, take you around the major sites, and then drop you off at the airport in time for your next flight. Our guide Julio was amazing.

I must now apologize for not posting this sooner. I've had a very busy year so far. Also, when we landed in Peru I had only 3 hours of sleep and the entire stay had a very surreal quality to it and this is the best I can do in describing our visit.

It does not rain in Lima. You can tell. The city sits on high cliffs over the ocean and is surrounded by low, dry hills with the Andes looming in the distance. 

First we drove through what I think of is "The Blue Square." This is the plaza Dos de Mayo commemorating the Battle of Callao where a Peru led coalition repelled a Spanish attack on May 2, 1866. We got out and walked around "The White Square" or Plaza San Martin, which honors General Jose de San Martin, a key leader in South America's independence. The square is surrounded by white buildings typical of the early 20th century. Then we wandered the Plaza Mayor, Lima's main square, where the presidential palace and Lima's main cathedral can be found. This became "The Yellow Square" in my head since most of the buildings are an incredible yellow, a color reminding me greatly of the color of the soil in certain parts of Spain. The presidential palace and cathedral were built upon the sites where important Inca cultural institutions sat. That was not an accident.

 Plaza San Martin

If you were looking for Santa last Christmas and couldn't find him...he seems to have crashed into one of the buildings on the Plaza San Martin and gotten stuck.

 The stature of General Jose de San Martin in the center of the square is important because...

 ...the sculpture's apprentice mixed up the words for candle and llama and stuck a llama on the head of this figure instead of a candle...

A note about wandering around Lima. Keep your valuables close or hidden, but don't let that scare you away from enjoying the lively squares, amazing architecture, and great food here.

 The Plaza Mayor

 The Plaza Mayor

 Cathedral de Lima

Detail on the Cathedral

 Detail on the Cathedral

The Presidential Palace

 Andalusians, perhaps, looking like they've had a lot of dressage training.

Off the Plaza Mayor, we visited the Museum of Peruvian Gastronomy. This was a very cool museum both literally and figuratively; it got us out of the unbelievably intense sun and also was incredibly interesting. Peru is known for having some amazing cuisine. We learned a lot of about the history of food in Peru as well as various regional foodways. And don't worry the world famous Pisco Sour was well represented. We also wandered into an exhibition on the history of Peru and the settlement by Italian immigrants (who also heavily influenced the cuisine in this area).

 The Museum of Gastronomy
  Detail outside the museum.

We then found a strange gastronomic tie to the area of Massachusetts where we Travellers reside: Dunkin Donuts. There in the middle of the main square was a Dunkin Donuts. Julio was amazed to find himself escorting three people from the land of Dunkin Donuts (Dunkin Donuts originated in Massachusetts and you can't spit without hitting one around here). We were surprised to discover that there are mint donuts and pistachio donuts in Lima. These don't exist in New England.

 Want a mint donut? Go here.

Then we then went to the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. The church dates back to 1599 and is the resting place of the America's first black saint, San Martin de Porres. Entering the monastery was like being thrown back to Seville, Spain for me, since most of the tile work was in the monastery came from there. And as with most Spanish architecture from this time, heavy Moorish influences can be seen. My favorite room was the library. I wish would could have stayed there for hours in that dark and amazing room full of old words and amazing calligraphy.

 Iglesia de Santo Domingo

 Inside the church

 Climbing the bell tower

 A view toward the Plaza Mayor

Looking out over Lima

Obvious Moorish influences in the architecture

Tiles from Seville, Spain

Looking up at the bell tower.

The magnificent library
Then we were off to the Miraflores district of Lima. This is an upscale neighborhood full of shopping areas, restaurants, and hotels. It is also home to Huaca Pucllana, a pre-Inca clay pyramid.

We ended our time in Lima by having a fabulous meal on the tops of the cliffs, staring into the Pacific Ocean and watching the sun set while surfers navigated the waves below.

The sun setting into the Pacific Ocean