Friday, December 28, 2007
Up at 5AM for a flight to Cusco (11,000’). I had a pretty packed day yesterday but it would have been nice to see more of Lima. The city is approachable human in its scale. Most of the buildings are no more than four stories. The houses are painted in vivid but not garish colors. The facades droop with colonial medallions and pediments. Intricate wrought iron over the windows and staking off small gardens pouring out bougainvillea and roses. There is ferment in this city of nine-million. I came with vaguely low expectations, just another teeming Latin city where you have to keep a tight grip on your camera. It is usually nice to be wrong about negative impressions. This little time in Lima makes me think I was very wrong. I am sure it has its problems, but the city has scale and enthusiasm that won over this sojourner.
The Miraflores neighborhood hums with cafes and is dimpled with small parks and green spaces. Off a quiet traffic circle (Plaza de Bolognesi) turned park I found a textile shop that had pulled off a winning marriage of indigenous production and contemporary design. Hand-loomed and thoughtful patterns. Alpaca items for everyone! Well, a few people anyway. The store was full of beautiful items but it is not a good idea to do much buying your first day out. The modern traveler can feel like a pack mule with our water bottles, guidebooks, cameras, and granola bars (to say nothing of the WWII worthy medkit some overwrought Americans cart around). There is no point in making early additions to the inevitable 20 kilograms of treasure we will find ourselves with at the end of most any trip. That said, I am one blanket, one runner, and three scarves this side of a beast of burden already. Good thing there is an empty bag folded in the bottom of my suitcase. You can’t be a pirate without a chest.
I had to bag an early diner so I could get some sleep before my flight. Lima has a reputation as one of the best food cities in South America. I was not going to pass that up and the city did not disappoint. Also on the Plaza de Bolognesi was a highly recommended restaurant (by both Chowhoud and my guide book). Sometimes I get chills when I eat. It sounds weird, I know, but indulge me. When the total impact of freshness, creativity, care and presentation hits its mark in the progression of a meal then I can get a little teary-eyed. This chef’s aim was true. I had the house Ceviche. It was in an almost creamy lemon emulsion, with just a hint of cilantro and served with slices of sweet potato. Three beautiful, raw scallops in their shell, squid, fish, prawns and octopus. Thin slivers of chile made it taste like sunshine. Their Peruvian Lobster Thermador was a bit more conventional but the small Langostines used at Las Brujas de Cachiche did their species proud. The best lobster has a briny sweetness and is without the rubbery texture so many pick up from too long in a tank or from being overcooked. These creatures went to their death for the noblest of purposes. The hollandaise sauce achieved that often sought after but rarely achieved combination of richness with a light texture. Perfect