15. April 2013 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

Okay, confession? I didn’t do much today. It’s my vacation! And I’ve worked like crazy the last few weeks so my office will hopefully run smoothly in my absence. So yes, I decided a day to sleep in, hang out at the pool, read a book, watch television, and play on the internet was in order.

Look at that beautiful pool! I tried to swim a few laps, have since discovered that I suck at swimming. Where as the tiny Japanese business man swimming laps next to me was amazing and kept triple lapping me with his butterfly stroke. Sigh, nothing to do but keep trying!

My view of Lima from our hotel room on the 25th floor. I knew it was a large city, but wow, that's huge with no end in sight!

A popular and common snack that we've found in Peru. They're crunchy salty fava (broad) beans. I've had these before in Taiwan, but they're everywhere here in Lima! It was a surprisingly familiar treat!

I know I was boring today, but Andy’s class took him on a couple of site seeing tours around the city. He has promised to blog about what he saw. When he finally gets around to it, I will link it here. In the mean time, I’m going back to being a complete slob and finish out my lazy day in a perfectly lazy style. Though I did manage to meet Andy after class for a pisco sour. Pisco is a grape brandy that when mixed in a pisco sour, makes for a very tart, very fresh, and dangerously tasty alcoholic beverage.

My first taste of a pisco sour, a perfect nightcap!

14. April 2013 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

We made it to Lima, Peru late Saturday night! The 6.5 hour flight wasn’t bad at all. Granted, after the 13+ hour flight to Asia, nothing seems that bad any more. And after all the horror stories we heard and read about the long lines in customs at the Lima Airport, I feel that we got out relatively easily. It seems that all flights into Lima are really early in the morning or really late at night. None too shockingly, we chose really late at night. So, after a wonderfully refreshing hot shower and a good night’s sleep, we were ready to do a little exploring on Sunday!

 

First things first, an early lunch at a local supermarket and cafe, Tottus. The area we’re staying in (San Isidro) is the financial district, so a lot of restaurants are closed on Sundays. So, we wandered into what looked like a local Walmart-esque store. They had everything!! And thankfully for us, everything included a little cafe in the front. We got a couple empanadas de lomo saltado (stir fried beef and onions), a sandwich, and a bottle of the infamous Inca Kola to share. Nothing fancy, but definitely a huge upgrade from yesterday’s plane food!!

Our light and tasty lunch in the bright yellow glow of an Inca Cola bottle.

The story behind Inca Kola is that no matter how Coca Cola tried to take over the soda market in Peru, they could never beat the Inca Kola popularity. But unfortunately, due to a company restructuring gone badly, the original owners had to turn to Coca Cola for help. They agreed to allow Coca Cola to own the trademark name everywhere else in the world except in Peru, which they run together as a joint venture. What do I think of Inca Kola? It’s a strange mix of flavors…like banana bubble gum soda. It’s not too sweet like one would think a description like “banana bubble gum soda” would sound. I’m not sure it’s the drink for me, but it is definitely unique and worth a try.

 

After lunch, we wandered toward the Parque El Olivar. It is a beautiful city park with a large olive grove planted by the Spanish Colonists in the center. The park was filled with children playing futbol (soccer to us North Americans), people napping in the shady groves, and an out of the blue church service on a large grassy field with what appeared to be confession hour. And everywhere we looked, there were gorgeous brightly colored flowers! I know it’s autumn here in the southern hemisphere, but it looks beautiful enough to be spring!!

Just one of the pretty flower covered courtyards in the Parque El Olivar.

The weather in Lima was beautiful, especially on the nice shaded main path through the park.

Though I probably could’ve spent hours on a park bench doing a little people watching, we were off in search of the Huaca Pucllana. After a 20-30 minute walk through some beautiful old (and what looked to be historic) neighborhoods, we stumbled upon a massive clay pyramid. We finally found Huaca Pucllana, an ancient burial ground and a place for religious rituals for the Wari Culture between 500-900 AD. If you know your Peruvian history (which I definitely do not, but am learning as I go), this was WAY before the Incan civilization in 1400 AD.

Look at all of those individually made clay bricks! They are specifically stacked vertically with small gaps in between each brick to help withstand the trembling of earthquakes.

Andy checking out the nice city views from the steps of Huaca Pucllana.

And look! They had llamas as part of their "how the ancient people lived" section! Oh Mr. Llama, I hope to see many more of your kind this trip!

Things I learned from our tour guide? 1. Lima is in the coastal desert, which only gets an average of 2 cm of rain/year. Which is why this massive clay and adobe pyramid is still standing. A large set of thunderstorms could potentially melt away a lot of the historical structure. Thankfully, scientists and archeologists are working hard to study and preserve the structure, as well as reveal more of its secrets. 2. Different regions of Peru, different gods. The Wari Culture were coastal people and therefore worshiped the god of the sea. Unlike the Incans, who were mountain based people and worshiped the sun as their god. 3. Among the buried skeletons in the pyramid, several chambers had what appeared to be servants that were sacrificed and buried alongside their masters. According to the tour guide, these servants thought it was an honor to be sacrificed. They were given a hallucinogenic drink (similar to peyote) to commune with their gods before being killed. I guess that’s nice of them? To make sure you’re high as a kite before stabbing you through the heart? All in all, an interesting and informative tour!

On our walk back to the hotel, we decided to take this pedestrian walkway called Avenida Arequipa. It's a nice stroll through the Miraflores district.

Along Avenida Arequipa, we saw a lot of modern skyscrapers and condos and every once in awhile, a beautiful old building like this one. No idea what it was for, but look! It's for sale!! I'm sure it must be for a reasonable price! 🙂

Since we were tired from a full day of walking and adventures, we decided not to venture too far for dinner. In fact, we kind of cheated and ate at the hotel’s restaurant. When traveling, we generally love to really seek out interesting cuisine that we can’t find at home. But the hotel’s restaurant (since it was a fancy Westin) had a pretty wide selection of authentic Peruvian food for us to choose from.

Our first taste of real Peruvian ceviche. It's very very different from all the previous ceviches we've tasted before. It's very tart, a little spicy, and it goes without saying that the fish was very fresh. Also...have discovered that Peruvian corn kernels are GINORMOUS compared to what we have at home! Very tasty though.

My entree was broiled corvina (a type of white sea bass) and yucca in a aji amarillo (yellow pepper) sauce. Delicioso! (And yes mom, we did get a nice salad to split for our appropriate daily veggie intake. It just wasn't interesting enough to take a picture.)

Andy's entree was Arroz con Pato (rice with duck). A tasty pan fried duck thigh and leg on top of a bed of the most fantastic cilantro rice. Trust me, Chipotle's rice has nothing on this version of cilantro rice. I'm definitely going to have to play with some recipes and variations when I get home. This is some tasty tasty rice!

There you have it, our first full day in Peru! Lots more to see, explore, and eat!! You can see the rest of our Day 1 pictures by clicking here.