23rd September 2008
Touchdown! The first time ever that I set foot in the southern hemisphere.
As we collected our luggage and exited the airport, I could not help the overwhelming déjà-vu. The first few minutes were a repeat of the Egypt trip. A noisy, smelly, warm, disorganized airport. People with black hair and equally black eyes milling around. Midnight outside. Being picked up by the travel agent and bundled into a mini-van that drove through empty streets lined with one/two storey houses that reminded all of us of India.
We pulled up into the hotel porch and the image started melting. The hotel in Giza stank of tobacco . This was was a wee bit more cleaner, with quicker service. By the time we entered the rooms, we had revisited the age old conversation that questioned the validity of the number of stars the hotel seemed to have.
We dropped our bags and had our first hearty Peruvian meal. Then we dragged our feet to the 14th floor and dropped dead.
24th September 2008, Hotel Les Delphines
After Gayatri and Vijay had burned some of the calories they had acquired at the midnight feast, we caught a cabbie and headed off toward Plaza de Armas. Most Latino cities, built on a military style grid system have a central square that is known as Plaza de Armas. This large square is usually surrounded by government buildings, cathedrals, and cultural structures.
It seemed like a good place to start.
Once we set foot, we realized once we set foot that there was tremendous festivities and gay abandon around us. We has arrived bang in the middle of the grand festival of Merced. Various flotillas with colorful attired Peruvians tapping to a haunting beat marched through the central square.
Preeti could not resist a quick jive while the rest of us melted into the audience and let our camera's attempt to capture the moment.
Looming right over the square is the Palacio de Gobierno, the residence of the Peruvian president. The building is old colonial and was build in the 15th century by Francisco Pizzaro. We witnessed a solemn change of royal guard.
The main plaza seems to attract thousands of pigeons much like Kabutar Khana in Mumbai. Rhea thoroughly enjoyed launching herself at them, and then breaking out into peels of laughter as they - panic stricken - took off.
We then sauntered over to the nearby Basilica Cathedral. Like most buildings in the plaza, Francisco Pizzaro was responsible for laying down the first stone in 1535. The cathedral built in the unmistakable baroque style is, well, like any other cathedral with vaulted ceilings and checkerboard floors. It does not compare to some of the old churches in Goa. Anyway, worth a peek. Period.
We had completely pre-booked our Egypt trip and hired a guide every day. We had felt that the guides tended to hurry us when we wished to linger following an unnecessarily stringent time table. So we swung the pendulum to the other extreme and left out Peru trip itinerary open. This afternoon was a proof of how bad an idea this can be if the details have not been researched.
After a quick lunch we took a cab to take us to Iglesia de SanFrancisco. We found out that the catacombs were closed until 4:00 PM. After a nice coffee at a nearby cafe, we hightailed to Musee de Nacional (Museum of Natural history) and found it closed. We then headed to Prinas de Titicaca - Closed.
We headed back to Iglesia de San Francisco before that one closed as well. The church has two awesome things to see. One, The wonderful underground catacombs - probably ubiquitous in European medieval churches but quite a novelty for me - where over 70,000 dead have been buried. The bones seem to have been sorted and arranged in shapes for unknown reason. Two, the huge library consisting of thousands and thousands of ancient texts and historical document. The mural of the last supper is worth a see. I mean, how many times have you seen guinea pig being served on that table.
We found Junius serendipitously. Situated in Miraflores, it is a very elegant dinner and a show place.
This is where we had our first Pisco Sour. It is an extremely refreshing cocktail made using a local brandy called Pisco, lime juice, sugar syrup, egg white and bitters. I did not try any other drink my entire trip.
I am fairly certain Rhea was no where close to a glass of Pisco Sour
The food was awesome.
As we headed back to the hotel to call it a day, I could not help comparing our first day here with our first in Egypt and feel a wee bit disappointed. The comparison may seem unfair, especially, since we saw the Egyptian Museum on that day which is top five in my museums list. Lima was nice but nothing earth-shattering.
But then, hey, this is just day one.