I didn’t know what to expect of the Peruvian capital when I arrived; my focus leading up to this trip had been on studying for exams and finishing projects, and therefore I didn’t have the time to research every nook and cranny of the city like I would usually do.
But from the moment I stepped off the plane, I found the city speaks for itself. On the cab ride to my hostel, I already learned a few things about this place:
1. It’s hot. And humid. And hot.
2. There’s no distinct Peruvian look… the natives range from dark skin with larger features to light skin with narrow features and everything in between. I’ve also seen a lot of Asian Peruvians, which I have since found out are from a mass migration years ago.
3. Bright colors are a must. The buildings, the people, the shops…all adorned in bright garb or vivid paint. I love it. Being from a city (Washington, D.C.) where the color scheme ranges from gray to brown, I found the radiant shades of yellow, red, green and teal to be remarkably refreshing.
4. It’s crowded! (well, duh, it’s the capital of a huge country, Alexis)
5. It’s clean! That was the biggest surprise. The most relevant city I can think to compare Lima to is Casablanca, Morocco, because of the layout, heat and coastal environment, but the most significant difference is the cleanliness! I’ve hardly seen any litter on the streets, there are no distinct smells — not even from the ocean — and there are trash cans and recycling bins everywhere!
For the first night, I stayed in Casa Nuestra B&B, a quaint, family-owned hostel that was uniquely decorated and felt cosy and homely. My room consisted of simple, handmade furniture, bright green walls, simple lighting, and one piece of artwork hanging above the bed. The hostel owner was a friendly middle-aged mother who gave me a quick tour of the hostel while her toddler clung to her leg. He was the cutest little thing.
After I settled in and chatted with some of the other guests, I set out to explore the city. Map in hand, I found my way to the coast where there was a walking path along the top of a cliff overlooking the water. I strolled along for about a mile, stopping to take pictures. Of course, being a single, young woman who looks like a tourist, a few men approached me to say hello, but I politely brushed them off and continued on.
The view from the coast was absolutely stunning. The photos can do it more justice than I can, but I’ll do my best to describe the scene. From atop the cliff, I could see straight down to the main road that runs along the water and a few of the beaches and structures that makeup the shoreline. Looking out, my eyes danced upon electric blue waters stretching far, far out until they intersected with the clouds, forming a hazy blue mist in the distance.
n either side of me, Lima’s skyline ran parallel with the water, as if the whole city was built along the edge of the cliff. I walked along, following the path that ran parallel with them, until I began to feel tired from the sun. I left the coast, and made my way to a restaurant to grab a bite to eat and an espresso.
Side note: when I used the bathroom at the restaurant, I thought there was just a gender-neutral toilet so I went into that room. Little did I know, the women’s bathroom was down the hallway and I used the men’s bathroom!! That explained the confused looks I got from the wait staff as I walked out…LOL)
Next, I found an art gallery on the map that piqued my interest. It wasn’t far from where I was so I left the restaurant and found my way to the gallery.
The art gallery was called Dédalo, and was actually both an art gallery and shop. On display were a mix of modern art pieces, crafts and furniture, as well as traditional Peruvian cloths, pottery, even garden decorations and plants.
I enjoyed the gallery but soon came to the realization that I wouldn’t be able to afford any of the beautiful works, so I left to walk around some more.
I followed the main road, Av. Almirante Miguel Grau, straight down until I hit the main square of downtown Barranco, Lima. I didn’t know much about what I was seeing, as far as which buildings were important landmarks and what the significance of many of the statues was, but I still appreciated the beautiful Incan and Sevillan architecture.
As the sun started to set, I grabbed a coffee and found a cozy spot to watch the cars go by and observe the locals enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon. From elderly ladies chatting with each other on a bench to kids playing soccer and pulling pranks on each other while their parents tried to control them, the Peruvian people gave me plenty to be entertained with. I later walked through a beautiful small park and watched more locals laying down in the grass, talking, laughing, playing and enjoying the last few hours of the warm weekend.
The sun was nearly down by then, so I figured it was best to head back to the hostel. I got a little lost on my way there, which was terrifying once it was completely dark and I was trying not to pull out my map and look like a tourist (a.k.a.the perfect target), but after a few laps around some familiar landmarks, I found my way back to Casa Nuestra. I ended the day by spending more time with the other guests and the doing some research to prepare for the next day.
The first day in a new country always arouses a mix of emotions — excitement, uncertainty and curiosity, to name a few — and I definitely experienced all of those on my first day in this beautiful country. In a few hours, I already found plenty to love about Lima, but I went to bed excited to find new things to love the next day.