Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 1 in Lima

Yesterday (Monday, December 19th) was a day full of errands.

After a lazy morning at Jessie's apartment recouping from travel exhaustion and making plans, etc. we headed out. (Jim and I, in typical fashion, had tried to be as ready as possible to leave ahead of time but still only ended up getting two hours of sleep the night before we got on the plane. Ugh, we do that every time no matter how hard we try. :( )

We met Jessie for lunch at a wonderful buffet restaurant called Polo Marino close to the US embassy (where she works) that had really good ceviche, sushi, and Peruvian dishes. My first taste of Lima's famous ceviche was very good and I'm looking forward to having more before we leave. The boys tried a local purple corn drink called chicha morada. I had some of Jim's and it was really good, just very very sweet, so I was glad I hadn't ordered a full glass for myself. I wouldn't have been able to finish it! I had a frozen limeade-type drink instead.

Following the meal we headed out for our errands. Jim and I were able to make reservations for our flights to Cuzco from Lima and the Machu Picchu tickets online, but you have to pay in person (or at lease we did; our cards wouldn't work on their sites online). Our first stop was to an ATM to withdraw money. Jim accidentally withdrew US dollars not realizing the machine could give us dollars instead of Soles (pronounced so-lace, the local currency)... so then we ended up at nearby Citibank to exchange the US dollars into soles. Luckily the woman at the counter was very nice; we got a good exchange rate with no exchange fee and she even helped us by making a little map to our next destination... Banco de la Nacion... all with our combined broken Spanish.

Between the four of us we can roughly communicate basics in Spanish, haha. Steph took 5 years of Spanish and teaches high school with a large population of Spanish speakers with whom she's been practicing, so hers is the strongest. Jim took Spanish in high school, but hasn't used it in over 10 years so he's forgotten most of it but still knows some basic phrases. I took French and Latin in high school/college (not fluent but I can fend for myself), so I can read most signs using root words and cognates... I picked up a little bit of basic Spanish during the kids' Spanish classes they have in my room on Fridays (greetings, animals, and fruit, hahaha), and I have my trusty Spanish Lonely Planet phrasebook. Erik speaks a few basic phrases from what I can tell. Between all of that we manage to get around.

We walked quite some ways to Banco de la Nacion to pay for our Machu Picchu tickets. After waiting in a line that would win the "Longest Line not in an Amusement Park" category for about half an hour, it took about one minute to present our reservation paper, pay for the tickets, and get our confirmation. Using my broken Spanish I said "Pagar Machu Picchu, por favor" (Pay Machu Picchu, please... I know, primitive!) and that got the point across. Haha. (Jessie thinks that between Christmas coming up, which is of course also celebrated here, and the possibility that today was payday for a lot of people, that could have been the cause for the long lines at the banks.)

Afterward we headed back to Jessie's place in Miraflores by taxi... Jim and I had more to do but I think Erik and Steph were a little tired of waiting on us and wanted naps, so we went back out on our own.

Driving in Lima is a lot like several other big cities I've been to that are not in the US. Trust me people, driving in Boston (which I'm not brave enough to do, btw), is nothing compared to traffic in most cities around the world. It's not quite as crazy here as, say, India or Vietnam, but it's not too far off. Erik describes it as a giant game of Marco Polo, whereby the driver honks "Marco" and the other drivers honk back "Polo" so everyone knows you're there as you weave your way in and out of traffic, stick your nose out to turn in the middle of traffic, and drive in two lanes at once. Fun cab rides, let me tell you. :) I'm used to it though. Still not quite as fun as rickshaws in India.

So Jim and I got into another cab to go to the Star Peru office to pay for our airline tickets to Cuzco. It was pleasantly uneventful. We visited a local grocery store to replace some of the milk and cereal we ate at Jessie's apartment and pick up a few other things, then got another cab back to Miraflores.

Except even with the address handed to him and telling the cab driver that the apartment was across from Larcomar, the cab driver dropped us off a mile or two from Jessie's place and we didn't realize it until we got out. We're still getting familiar with where we are and how things look. We didn't know how far off we were, but knew what direction to head since it was on the walkway by the coast overlooking the ocean, so Jim and I had a nice half hour walk back from there. At least the views were very pretty! The fog had rolled in, which added a peaceful feel to everything.

Back at Jessie's place we regrouped and then headed out to dinner at a great restaurant named Tanta. We had some great Peruvian dishes (I should have written down the names, mine was beef with potatoes and onions Peruvian style) and juices.

Unfortunately on the walk back home Steph started feeling sick. We're still not sure if it was just a bad sugar crash or if it's travel related or what. Either way, we dropped them off and then Jim and I went down to the park and Larcomar area across the street.

Jim took several nighttime shots of the skyline, then we headed down to the three story mall that is built into the cliffside there. We just wanted to check it out since it was so close. It was pretty much a bunch of stuff that you would find in US malls with the same prices, so not too exciting. We headed back as everything started closing down around 10pm.

Jim and Erik stayed up chatting like two teenage girls at a sleepover (they will kill me for saying it but they're such a cute pair of friends) until around midnight while I drifted off on the couch before heading to bed.

We were all woken up in the middle of the night by a big boom that shook the walls. It definitely wasn't thunder. We still don't know what it was... nobody on the streets acted out of the ordinary and there is nothing in the news about a bomb or anything like that, so we'll probably never know. Oh well, we were fine, it was just a big noise.

Since Steph was still feeling sick we ended up having another lazy morning around the apartment (hence me having time to write this, lol) even though we had intended to go out and do stuff hoping she might start feeling better. It's lunch time and she's still feeling ill though, so the three of us are going to head out to get some lunch and maybe stay close to the area today. I hope Steph starts to feel better!!

-Sarah (and Jim)

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