Landing in Lima and getting through security was a bit crazy, especially when you don’t speak much Spanish. After getting my bag and heading out of the airport, hundreds of taxi drivers and finding the one with my name were interesting, but eventually, it happened by some miracle. (Thanks, mom!) My driver spoke little English, but after showing him the address to my hotel in Miraflores, he thankfully knew where I was going because I didn’t.
Let me tell you; I have never in my life experienced anything like traffic and driving in Lima, Peru. It is constant horns, speed bumps, fender benders, people cutting each other off, but to them, it’s normal, and all seem to drive standards, making it even more enjoyable. I got to my hotel, unpacked some gear, thanked god, and headed out for a bit.
Lima is a fantastic city with so much energy and activity. The population of Lima is around 10 million people. The weather averaged around 62 during the day and 45 at night. There was noticeably cold because they all were wearing jackets, and I was comfortable in a t-shirt. I went out to dinner the first night, had my first pisco sour, explored Kennedy square, had few more Pisco Sours, and headed back to the hotel to get some rest.
The next day I got up, had breakfast at the hotel Casa Andina Select and headed back out to Kennedy square, where Paroquia Virgen Milagrosa church had mass. I was drawn into the church where mass had just started. It was emotional because catholic mass always reminds me of mom, grandma, and pap. Considering the death of my mom and grandma recently, I was understandably emotional. Even though the mass was in Spanish, I felt the sermon’s spirit and was thankful for the opportunity. I lit a candle for mom, swallowed my tears, and headed back out to Kennedy square. As I walked around and I saw many beautiful pieces of artwork, the smells of local Peruvian food, the music of a band playing in the distance, and a lot of Ferrel cats, which I guess is a problem. I went out for dinner and met some locals who offered to take me to clubs dancing and why not. I had a lot of fun that night dancing at the clubs in Locamar and soaking in Lima’s nightlife. They played a mix of modern Peruvian dance music, other Latin music, American hip hop, and electronica.
The next day I went further into Lima. I visited some beautiful churches, various vendors, government buildings, the guard in Plaza De Arms, and the Basilica catacombs. Members of the Convent of San Francisco (sorry, no pictures allowed), were laid to rest in these catacombs; the crypts, built of bricks and mortar, are very solid and have stood up well earthquakes. The catacombs served as a burial-place until 1808 when the city cemetery was opened outside Lima and contain thousands of skulls and bones. The catacombs were not rediscovered until 1943. It is also believed there existed secret passageways that connected to the Cathedral and the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition.
Funny Story: A kid sitting outside the catacombs was selling artwork, so he saw me looking and approached me (see picture). Nice enough kid, but I could tell the artwork were prints except for a few I could not tell for sure. He said it was his artwork. I admired it and asked how much; he said 60 soles and your hat. I was wearing an Under Armor hat I had just bought for the trip and said I’ll give you 60 sole, but you’re not getting my hat. I purchased the painting, and he said I would look into my heart and change my mind, and he would wait for me to leave the catacombs. After over 2 hours in the church and Catacombs, as I came back outside, he was. He came up and said I have a gift for you, my friend, and handed me a red hat that said Peru. Of course, I took my hat off and gave it to him.
Later, when I went to Cusco, I would learn it was not his artwork and a print. The lesson I learned about the willingness to give up material possessions for an experience with another human being that has developed his craft out of necessity was more valuable than my hat or 60 soles.