Lima: More Than Just A Pit Stop On The Way To Cusco
Lima is a beautiful city. It is more than just a layover on your way to Cusco and Machu Picchu. It is more than just Miraflores and its touristy bars and restaurants. Lima is a city with quite a bit of its own culture and personality. I just got back from spending a little over a week there with my girlfriend, Grace, and at the end there was so much left for us to explore and to see. It felt like we had just started to see the tip of the iceberg that is Lima, Peru.
We arrived really late Saturday night, but before we arrived we had a 12-hour layover in Mexico City. Being the adventurous couple we are, of course we wanted to take full advantage of our time in Mexico City. We headed out of the airport to downtown after our connecting flight landed. It was about 5am when we got downtown, and it seemed we had just missed most of the nightlife, although on our taxi ride in I did notice a block entirely full of what appeared to be sex workers and their clients. When we got downtown there was absolutely nothing going on. It was kind of hard to believe that no one was awake in a city of almost 9 million. It was cold and we had about two or three hours until the sun came up and any breakfast spot opened up. We explored what we could in the dark and eventually were able to catch the sun rise in the Zocalo (the city center). We got breakfast and coffee (we needed it badly) and explored what downtown Mexico City had to offer. After a few hours of wandering around we decided to head back to the airport. Maybe I was exhausted from being in a plane all night and trying to figure out an unfamiliar city in a language that was not my first language, but I was not exactly digging Mexico City's Vibes. Either way we caught our next flight to Lima no problem and were on our way.
When I stepped out of the airport in Lima, I could instantly feel the vibes here were much better and stronger than those of Mexico City. Something about the Lima air just excited me. We grabbed a taxi to our place and managed to walk around our neighborhood a bit before we both just collapsed into our bed after a two-day stint of traveling on barely any sleep.
Our first full day I decided I was going to go skate. Go figure. I linked up with someone that my homie Ben Price knew. His name was Sandro. We met up at this brand new skate shop called Xtreme Shop and he introduced me to the rest of the crew. We decided we would check out some skate spot way outside of the city in a place called Surco. It was a curved down ledge at a park. The spot was dope, but we got kicked out just as everyone started warming up. We headed out to La Molina Skatepark. All the Peruvian dudes shredded super hard and we had a sick session. The blade scene in Peru is a community that gives off great positive vibes and both Grace and I had an awesome time.
The next day we found a nice little coffee shop called Sófa Cafe and got a solid cup of coffee and breakfast. We proceeded to make our way to Miraflores to check out the Parque del Amor. We walked around Miraflores more and walked around another park, Parque Kennedy, it was basically a haven for the city's stray cats. We went out in some of the more touristy bars that night and got a good laugh at some of the other seemingly more stereotypically ignorant, more obnoxious and more blatantly intoxicated Americans. It was a fun night out though. The next day we attempted to paraglide off of some cliffs, but there was not enough wind, so instead we headed down to the Plaza de Armas and Seminario de San Francisco. They were beautiful sights to see, but we didn't spend too much time there. We headed back to our AirBNB relatively early and got dinner at this delicious spot called La 73.
The next morning we were on the road super early. We were headed to a place called Ica, more specifically, a desert Oasis called Huacachina. We arrived to the bus station in Ica and we met our taxi driver-turned-tour guide named Carlos. At first he seemed like just another thirsty taxi driver looking for tourists, but he ended up taking us out to a local lunch spot for something to eat and helping us plan the rest of our trip before dropping us off at our hotel. The next day, according to Carlos' plan, we were heading to some pisco tours at 11am. Pisco, is basically like a Peruvian wine, but it can also be purified into a form of liquor. It is a popular Peruvian beverage that is made in specifically Ica. So, as planned, Carlos picked us up from the hotel at 11am and we were on our way. We went to one winery, La Tacama, that was more of a commercial winery. The vineyard, however, was beautiful and it was interesting learning about the pisco they made there. The next winery, was a mid-sized business, not quite industrial, but not quite artisanal either. The last one was the artisanal one and this one was by far the most interesting. The entire place was covered in relics from history. There was even a picture painted from the time Simon Bolivar visited Ica. Another highlight from this vineyard was that they still make pisco using the traditional method and we got to try the pisco right out of the clay pots they were using to ferment the pisco.
Each pisco tour served us plenty of samples and we were feeling pretty good by the end of the trip, but upon our arrival we were scooped up immediately by a dune buggy to head out into the desert to ride in some of the biggest sand dunes in South America. After an extremely bumpy ride through the dunes, our driver pulled over and grabbed some boards out of the back of the buggy. We tried sandboarding on some of the massive dunes out there. Most people rode down on their bellies, but of course I had to commit to fully sandboarding and stood up and boarded most of the dunes we went to. Afterwards we went out for dinner and got a few drinks and checked out what Carlos claimed was the best discoteca in all of Huacachina. There was a strong backpacker vibe here, no one really lived at the oasis, and there were lots of hostels and travelers there. Huacachina was fun, but I was glad to head back to Lima at the end of the trip.
We arrived to our last AirBNB for the week and it was amazing. It was a half indoor half outdoor rooftop loft. We stayed in the Barranco district for both of our Lima stays, and I am happy we did. It was our favorite area in Peru. By this time though, we had kind of figured out Barranco and knew our way around, so it was a bit easier. We checked out this nice little coffee shop right around the corner called La Bodega Verde. We got some caffeine and lunch. I really liked this spot. Right after our meal, we made moves right back to the cliff to go paragliding. There was enough wind this time around so we were able to do it.
Paragliding was sick, but it was Friday, and we decided we were going to hit the town in our favorite Peruvian district, Barranco. We got dinner at a place called Restaurante Javier. It was a typical peruvian restaurant with ceviche, lomo saltado and all the rest of the peruvian staples with an amazing view of the ocean. After our meal, we got drinks at a few different spots, and made our way to the club we wanted to go to for the night, El Dragón. There was a 30 Sole cover for the kid, but I finessed my way in gratis, and of course, girls got in free so Grace was straight. This was a really fun place actually. They played a good mix of reggaeton, salsa, and other hispanic music, which is what you will find at most places in Peru, but they also played some hip hop and top 40. The next day was our last day, but we were out and about relatively early to make the most of it. We got coffee from a place called 11:11, we also really liked that place. Pretty much every coffee shop, restaurant, store we went into in Barranco during our second Lima stay was one of our favorites. Anyway, we headed into El Mercado Indio to grab some souvenirs and whatnot. The rest of the trip we enjoyed chilling in our rooftop apartment, taking in the view and I even smoked a cigar. We just relaxed and tried to take in the beauty that our temporary apartment and Barranco had to offer.
We left that night and had a pleasantly uneventful trip home. Like I said previously, Lima is more than just a pit stop to Cusco, Lima is a great city with a lot to offer. I had a blast exploring with Grace and I am looking forward to more of our international adventures.