He drove us to Hostel El Patio in Miraflores, a safe, green, comfortable area, and we were delighted by this hostelry—a collection of rooms with a leafy courtyard. We had a suite of two rooms, one for Molly and for one for us, on the main floor. The suite had a huge bathroom and walk-in closet, kitchenette, TV and overhead fan.
The weather was perfect: hot and dry with a breeze during the day and cool enough at night to wear light jackets.
Our first day we explored Miraflores, especially the many handicraft markets laden with multi-coloured ponchos, dolls, sweaters, bags, hats, gloves, jewelry—you name it, Lima’s got it when it comes to handicrafts with Inca motifs. Llama and alpaca are very popular as a fabric but also a motif in everything from earrings to sweaters.
We had lunch at a dive in the centre of the market. The impatient waitress was rushed when she took our orders. We wondered why our potatoes with cheese sauce was served cold, only to be told that, yes, “It’s cold,” in Spanish.
We sampled Inca Cola only to discover it’s a Coca-Cola brand, but yellow.
That night, we found a small treasure of a restaurant close by called Rincon Chami on Esperanza St. and Molly had the only vegetarian dish on the menu, spinach spaghetti with pesto sauce. Irwin and I had grilled fish fillet with fries, all very wonderful.
The chocolate cake was to die for and we shared it greedily, only to repeat the experience the next evening after sampling ceviche, marinated raw fish with onion and hot sauce. Both nights, we had choclo—huge corn on the cob, not as tasty as Canada’s and whitish in colour.
The next day we booked Fernando for an excursion to the Plaza de Armas in central Lima, where there are churches and a cathedral built after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake flattened the city in the middle of the 18th century.
We visited the Museum of the Inquisition, where everything was written in Spanish. We saw the words Judeo or Hebreu nowhere.
Lunch was divine in a family restaurant and the cheapest and most plentiful meal we’ve ever had, at $2.40 each for fish soup, drink and Jell-O. Our main course was fried fish and chicken with rice, fries and salad, which we didn’t touch because we were afraid of eating raw vegetables for fear of Montezuma’s Revenge.
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Unfortunately just before lunch, we chanced upon a juice place and ordered three glasses of fresh mango and pineapple juice, which ended up being huge—and I mean huge—and spoiled our appetite for lunch a bit.
We were picked up by Fernando at 2 pm and we asked to be taken to the Museum of the Nation, where for 15 sol, or $6, we had an English-speaking guide explain its pre-Columbian pottery and implements connected with the various ethnocultural groups that were prominent in Peru before the Spaniards conquered the country.
Fernando then drove us to the beach, the Pacific Ocean, where we experienced the off-white sand, plastic table and chairs, good humour of the waitress who served us more Inca Cola and procured ice cream bars for us. This affair cost much more than lunch but it was fun to sit on the city beach, though we found it too cold to swim.
We even had the pleasure of cuddling a tiny puppy, 2 weeks old, owned by some teens who didn’t seem to know it needed water, which we gave it. After instructing them on how to look after their pet, we made our way back to the car and back to the hostel.
The next day we started our month-long tour of Peru and headed by overnight bus to Arequipa, 13 hours from Lima. This presumably would soften the blow of the high altitude in Cusco, which is the gateway to Machu Picchu. There we had booked Irwin and Molly for the Inca Trail, which we described in all its glory two issues ago.
We ordered first-class full camas, or beds—that wonderful arrangement in South America where the seat is transformed into a flat and comfortable single bed. During the daylight hours we enjoyed the view, sitting on the second deck at the front of the bus.
People in Lima were lovely, very friendly and helpful, but it definitely helped that Barbara speaks Spanish.
In one shop downtown, at Barbara’s request, the owner was trying to find the right size T-shirt as her infant daughter of less than a month old, was nursing. Meanwhile a 19-year-old outside made conversation and flirted with 69-year-old Irwin. She said she didn’t give him a day older than 55 and then asked if his wife was the jealous type. She told Irwin she was recently separated and had a 2-year-old. She also told him she doesn’t believe in divorce. So what’s in store for her?
MOLLY NEWBORN AND IRWIN BLOCK CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.