When I first landed in Lima, it was night. The city from the sky looked like any other city, with its gleaming lights but with much fewer skyscrapers. It was late in the night and our drive to the hotel involved me thinking, ‘well, a little ugly’ and as I heard voices of in my bus just saying what I was thinking, vocally, I was already telling myself, ‘its good we have only one night here’. That was in 2011. Cut to 2018 and I find myself wanting to spend all my leisure time here in this city in before, after and in between the tours. So, what changed? First impressions are always the best ones?!
It’s true, the district of Callao in which the airport is, can look very ugly on the outside. It is not until the inner city roads lead you to the ‘costa verde’, a green highway built kissing the Pacific Ocean, that you might actually want to change your impression. Lima is a dessert. I did not know that at first, as also the fact that it doesn’t really get sunny in Lima until it is afternoon. The winds blowing from the cold Pacific ocean cause a phenomenon called the El Nino effect. There is a constant haze in the sky, but under it, the city wakes up quite early to get on with its day. With its 48 different municipalities, Miraflores gets the title of being the tourist hub. San Isidro is the financial heart, which has also most of the Embassies. What really caught my attention and proved to be a game changer was the district of Barranco. It is here that my love with Lima started to gain a foothold and ever since all I have been wanting to do, was to know more about this crazy city with a lot of heart.
Barranco is very Bohemian, and it looks really different from any other district of Lima. But for me, Barranco really downsized Lima to start getting to know it, first through, take a guess!! The food. It is here that I discovered the food of Lima in tiny bits and pieces. True, a local might not agree, but for me as a tourist, it was a perfect head start. I think it was on an evening in early 2016, that I kind of started playing with the idea of having something more to associate myself with Lima. The big travel agencies that I was working with at that time all gave me the same ideas and seeing no other option but to start my own company in Lima to create better itineraries, “Anubhav Peru” came to life. It hasn’t been a smooth ride since, but that’s ok. This is about Lima and what place it continues to hold inside of me.
So where were we? Yes, Barranco. I will always be in Barranco somehow I guess. The entire city stands on a cliff and as the cliff slopes towards the sea, there is La Punta on the far end of Lima. On the face of it, La Punta looks like what Barranco might have 20 years ago, before the advent of restaurants and boutique hotels. La Punta hugs the sea and has a beautiful bay that latches on to it. There are lovely waterfront villas in which rich people live and here is where you know that they will never let La Punta be like Barranco. It is nice to look at the entire stretch of Coastal Lima though from the peninsula of La Punta. Here is also one of my favorite seafood restaurants, Manolo. Not many tourists come to La Punta, but the ones that do, end up liking it.
Between Chorillos in the South and La Punta in the North, Lima is spread out inland. The spread is quite a lot with mad traffic, a public transport system which is as chaotic as it gets but still helps you to go from A to B in 1/3rd of a dollar, and then the amazing array of food joints. There is nowhere in the world that I have seen so much of chicken than in Lima. Polleria means the place of chicken, and in every block of Lima, there is at least one. The succulent whole chicken is grilled on skewers and the condiments plus the way of cooking makes all the difference. The other thing very evident in the Lima food scene are its Chifa’s. The Italians settled in La Punta, but the Chinese other than settling in the China Town, yes Lima has one, also opened Peruvian Chinese restaurants all over Lima. I can go on and on with the food in Lima. The Ceviche, the Japanese Nikkei, the old diners, all make Lima what it is. The food capital of South America. It is not just Peru’s own food that gives Lima this title, but the fusion of what the settlers got to Lima.
Lima has its tourists sights, its museums and all that. But the food is what makes it what it is according to me. I sometimes feel like I can just come and settle here in Lima, not just for the food though. But, because Peru, on the whole, feels very much like home.