There is a time honored question for expats: “What do I show to visitors to my new country?” When I first moved to Peru, it seemed that my friends and family were anxious to come and be awed by the wonders of this beautiful country. I was thrilled to show them around and share the vast amount of knowledge I had obtained about the multitude of cultures that occupied the long history of this area.
Over time though, the expense of accompanying the people you know to Cusco, Machu Pichu, Lake Titicaca, the Amazon and other areas can start to get excessive. During those first years, between visits I started taking tours of Lima with a friend of mine, Jose Perochena, the owner of Bike Tours of Lima. Jose shared his considerable knowledge of the City of Kings freely with me. His enthusiasm for his home town was contagious. I came to love this city, its people and the wealth of its culture.
Now when groups or individuals come to visit me, I take the time to show them the beauty of this large vibrant metropolis so full of life. I send them off to all those very touristy places alone. But, before they arrive, I tell them to plan on spending a few days here in the city with me. So few tourists come to Peru with the intention of staying in Lima for more than a day or two while they wait for their connection to Cusco or some other destination.
I always begin by taking them to the historical center of Lima. We start at the Plaza de Armas surrounded by the Presidential Palace, the Palacio Arzobispal, Lima’s Cathedral and Casa Oidor, one of Lima’s oldest surviving buildings.
I lead them on a journey through time. There are the old homes like Casa de Osambela, Casa Riva Aguero, Palacio Torre Tagle and Casa Goyeneche, with its magnificent balconies. We visit Casa Grau, now a museum dedicated to the life of Peru’s most venerated war hero. I take them to Cordano for the famous ham sandwiches, and then a late lunch at Huerfanos, the oldest Italian restaurant in Lima, with its handmade pastas.
Pisco Sours are the national drink of Peru so it’s only fitting that we compare the ones made at the Hotel Bolivar and Maury’s Hotel Bar. They have a long standing rivalry as to whose is the best.
We walk past churches like San Agustin and La Merced with their intricate facades. My guests will tour the catacombs of the Monasterio de San Francisco; see the beauty of the Iglesia de los Huerfanos before stopping at the Basilica y convento de San Pedro to hear the story of the three doors. The stunning colonial architecture surrounding the Plaza San Martin never fails to bring out the cameras for photos. The old Teatro Colon, Hotel Bolivar and Club Nacional are on this square.
In the days that follow, a walk on the malecon through Barranco and Miraflores provides spectacular views of the coast and parks filled with flowers. A tour of Huaca Pucllana, a 1500 year-old, partially-restored temple pyramid from the Lima Culture, never fails to impress. There are museums too numerous to mention that hold treasures from thousands of years of Peru’s archaeological past.
Sampling Lima’s daily life from eating at a menú, shopping for fruits and vegetables in a market or exploring some of the little walk in shops to see what they have to offer always seems to entertain my guests.
Then there are the parks. The famous Circuito Mágico del Agua, with its fountains lit with the colors of the rainbow at night; Parque de la Exposición and its art museums; and Parque Kennedy, filled with flowers of all colors, spontaneous dancing, artists and other vendors selling their handmade crafts.
The Circuito Magico del Agua
I’ve only touched the surface of all there is to see and do here in this pearl called Lima. If you live here, make sure the guests who visit you come to appreciate this glorious thriving capital, the grand old lady of South America. Learn the stories and myths associated with some of the sites I’ve mentioned. Be a tour guide to your friends and family. They will appreciate the wonders here and your efforts to show them. This applies to any city you might live in: Arequipa, Tumbes, Trujillo, Puno, Iquitos, et cetera. They all have their own special magic.