Peru part 1 (getting there and Lima)
So this is another vacation section. Hope everyone enjoys the telling. click on the pics to see nice big versions. I will re date the entries so everything is in trip order later but here it goes.
Rachel assures me it was my idea to go to Peru, I don't recall coming up with this idea but I'll happily take credit cause it was a fantastic trip. We decided to take red eye flights cause quite frankly what else can you do on an airplane but sleep. Especially considering that this is the second time in the last 7 years I went anywhere without my mac. One of my favorite parts of any trip comes right at the beginning. It's when we take the AirTran, Rachel's eyes light up like a kid at Chucky Cheese's when she's in the front on the AirTran to JFK airport. We did our usual... put down a couple of pints and then stumble to the gate.
The flight was nice... the people at LAN airlines are delightful. The only problem is that when we landed (way earlier than scheduled) we were in Ecuador. Seriously I was all delightfully asleep and then was woken up by "...fog, we will be landing in Guayaquil, Equador."
It's a little disorienting to be told, when you're just out of sleep, that instead of landing in the completely and totally foreign country that you've made arrangements for you will be landing in a completely different totally foreign country.
Apparently there is always fog in the morning in Lima and this happens regularly, so soon we were in the delightful Guayaquil airport eating free breakfast and admiring the frozen shrimp to go place. I took this picture of the "Camaron to Go" place shortly before security (all in surgical masks made it clear that I shouldn't take pictures of it... apparently the methods of shrimp transport in Ecuador is a national secret). Finally the plane took off and headed to Lima. The view through the little plane window was amazing as we flew above mountains that stood above clouds. These white capped mountains stood everywhere with clouds just rolling around them. Lima is a desert city and it was stunning to watch the abruptness at which the mountains turned from green and forested to the dull brown of the desert.
When we arrived in Lima the accommodations Rachel made immediately paid off cause despite out 4 hour late arrival a person was there holding up Rachel's name on a dry erase board. As far as Lima itself, I must admit I was completely taken back by the foreignness of it. The streets were packed with mopeds, small cars often of clearly old design from makers I'd never heard of, big cars, Vans driven like buses and buses driven by normal civilian owners. The cars were packed 5 across a three lane road. I must admit I must have laughed in that giggly sort of way I do when I find something odd or strange 10 times in the 40 minute trip to our hotel. Rachel said that it reminded her of Cairo, (not the one in Illinois) but for me it was completely new.
We arrived in Lima to one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip. Our hotel was the Hotel Espana and it was in a beautiful old colonial mansion. The center of it was very open all the way to the roof. It was directly next to one of the sites (the Cathedral de San Fransisco) and the views themselves was stunning.
The Cathedral de San Fransisco, and a Hill as seen from the Hotel Espana.
They also had a series of odd things in the hotel, from oil painting reproductions, classic sculpture reproductions, human skulls, to a myriad of animals that roamed the common spaces. The cutest of which was this here turtle.
We got out and took a walk around and we tried out the local ice cream bars (not terribly impressed with Peruvian Ice Cream choices). That done we headed to the Cathedral de San Fransisco for a tour of the building and the catacombs. Our guide spoke little English and we speak little Spanish so together we pieced together as much as we could about the place. There was an 400 year old library with gigantic books made out of leather that was really quite stunning. The intricacies of the woodwork were also quite impressive, as in a seemingly plain chair from a distance, one could see little beasties carved into it when one got up close. The catacombs were... well catacombs, bones piled up in neat stacks (Human remains are not my thing).
After the Cathedral we went out for a beer and then back for a nap and a shower. Dinner would be served to us by nun's in a place we found in the Lonely Planet Peru travel book, L'Eau Vive. The door to the colonial mansion the restaurant was in so huge they had to put another door in the door so the nuns could open it. The place was astounding architecturally, cavernously large and built to capture the natural light of the day. The nuns asked if we spoke Spanish (un poco is the answer we always gave), then oddly, after finding out we were from Nueva York, if we spoke French. The nun who ran the joint was clearly an old French woman, and several of the other nuns I guessed were from the Western region of Africa as they seemed very accustomed to the French language as well (I later discovered one from Senegal). The food was as heavenly as the atmosphere. Rachel had a crepe stuffed with mushrooms, cheese, cream and hunks of gigantic thick bacon. I had the beef tenderloin with Roquefort cheese that came with these wonderful little fried potato puffs.. Oh my god just thinking about it makes me fatter. Speaking of fatter... we also had a ridiculously thick and delicious chocolate mouse. To top off the perfect meal the nuns came out and sang a beautiful version of Ave Maria in French. The whole dining experience there was the greatest I've had.
After diner we walked about the main square of town trying to help the digestive process. We saw some cool fountains, buildings, bridges and the like. But what struck me the most was the people. People in Peru are much more touchy and affectionate in general. The main square was filled with lovers and families, touching and hugging and kissing. It felt good to walk arm in arm around that city.
The next morning we were up early to go back to the airport an get our rental car to drive to Huarez. I will leave you with the ridiculous art that was in our room... I desperately wanted to draw a horn on this horse to make it a unicorn.