So, this post is a little overdue considering I did all of these things almost a week ago, but hey…sometimes you get busy.
In any case, last weekend I went exploring & sightseeing in Lima a bit…not to all of the places I was hoping to get to (getting around town takes time, you see) but enough to give me two days’ worth of adventuring.
Friday’s big goal was to get to the Plaza de las Armas (also known as the Plaza Mayor), which is Lima’s grand old historic plaza–the birthplace of the city. To see information about all of the important/historic buildings surrounding the plaza, I will generously re-direct you here. (Trying to cut down post-length, you see). In any case, it’s a beautiful, spacious plaza with quite a large fountain smack in the middle. It took me quite a while to get there, as it was still my first week and…well…I knew 0 information about that part of lima. I took a combi from Miraflores to central Lima (getting off on Avenida Tacna, where it crosses Huancavelica, & following Huancavelica to Jr. de la Union (turn left) which will take you right there, for anyone who wants to know) and after wandering a bit (read: lost) finally managed to find the plaza.
Good news: it was the first and only bright, clear, sunny day I’ve seen in Lima so far! Bad news: It was hoooot! Definitely got a little bit pink from walking around so much. The area had noticeably less security than Miraflores (which is pretty normal) but definitely still enough so that I felt alright walking by my onesies. However, the Plaza in particular is known for pick-pocketing, as tourists are so busy gaping around, so for anyone visiting the area, I’d recommend still keeping a sharp eye out. I snapped photos of the plaza, and then moved on to my next destination, el Monasterio de San Francisco.
This monastery is quite lovely on the exterior, though unfortunately covered rather heftily with pigeons, and inside there are supposedly some huge and fascinating catacombs to tour. I had actually planned to take said tour, but I’d gotten started so late in the day & had other things I wanted to do, so I just moved on. I kept walking north, as I was looking for a particular street to turn on to take me to…wait for it…Chinatown! Alas, in Central Lima, street signs tend to be more like in Europe-scribbled on small plates on the walls. Somehow or another I missed the turn, and began to notice that my path was taking me down some very empty, run-down alleyways. When I saw a guy who looked like he hadn’t showered in a few years + tin roofs up ahead, I decided it would probably be very much in my best interests to turn back. Chinatown, alas, must wait another day. As must the Cerro de San Cristobal–a small mountain (hill, even?) right outside the city that is the highest point in the area, and apparently magnificent for taking pictures of Lima sprawled out below. Since it was a clear day for once I strongly desired to do this, but the only respectable taxi I could get ahold of wanted to charge me 50 soles…no thanks. (Supposedly there are buses that go there & back for like 5 soles, but I kind of gave up & just went home, pausing to test out a restaurant for dinner that I will write about later.)
So, Saturday I decided to hit up some museums. I picked Museo Larco (a private museum) and El Museo de Antropología, Arqueología, e Historia del Perú, because they are literally a 15 minute walk apart and had very good reputations.
I started with el Museo Larco, taking a combi to la calle (avenida? can’t remember) Bolivar and getting off at cuadra (block) 15. All ya gotta do is cross the street and boom, you’re there! Which is good, because the area looked a weeee bit sketchy from the bus ride, but once you walk into the museum’s space (which is also an entrance to a nicer neighborhood…Pueblo Libre, maybe? Need to check) it’s quite secure and friendly. The museum itself is painted a crisp white and has flower trellises all over the place. The entrance fee is 30 Soles (Roughly $11.50) but, if I had waited until I had my university student ID, it would’ve only been half price. Doh.
In any case, this museum is quite lovely on the inside–very airy feeling. The collection MOSTLY features pre-colombian pottery/indigenous artifacts from all over Peru, all of which are outrageously well-preserved and beautiful. Information about the pieces is always given in Spanish, English, & French, and most pieces also feature descriptions in Italian, German, and Japanese (and tours are offered). In addition to pottery, you can also view textiles, ancient sacrificial knives, and all kinds of humongous gold jewelry. However, what makes this museum really worth visiting are two collections not included in the main area (although you don’t have to pay extra for them). One is their archives–this museum is the only one I’ve ever heard of (though not the only one in existence, apparently) that actually lets the public walk through its many rooms chock-full of glass cases holding their reserve artifacts–literally floor-to-ceiling shelves stuffed with thousands of artifacts, and frankly, of the ones I saw, very few had any cracks or damage or missing pieces. It’s definitely worth looking through just to see the sheer volume of artifacts–and this isn’t even a huge museum.
The other special exhibit, my friends, is one dedicated solely to pre-colombian…erotic pottery. Yep. There were some dirty-minded fiends occupying this part of the world in ancient times, I tell you. Or rather, normal people who simply chose to record in ceramics important parts of their life cycles. Pots range from those depicting childbirth, to Kama-Sutra style positions, to…STDS. No joke. So, I passed through there and took a few souvenir photos. In other world news, El Museo Larco also has what is apparently a pretty nice restaurant, but it seemed a little pricey and I was not THAT hungry, so on I trotted.
To get to El Museo de Antropología, Arqueología, e Historia del Perú from el Museo Larco, your job is pretty simple. Exit the museum. Turn left. Look down. See that blue line? Follow it. That’s it. It will take you round some turns and through some nice residential areas for about 15 minutes or so (provided you don’t stop watching the line and therefore don’t have to spend extra time back-tracking, as I may or may not have), and dumps you right at the doorstep of then next location, which is in a pretty little plaza surrounded by tasty restaurants. Entrance to this museum is only 10 soles, but again, had I known/waited, with a student ID it would’ve been half price.
I absolutely loved the design of this museum-possibly because it was being set up for a wedding at the time, so I could see all of its potential decked out in flowers and drapey white fabrics. There are a series of open courtyards surrounded by black & white checkered tile floors, red walls, and rooms branching off full of artifacts for you to explore. As a warning, while some of the bigger tidbits of information can also be found in English, by and large this museum was only in Spanish, and if you don’t speak it, I suggest a tour guide. Or you’ll just be staring at old stuff for a few hours not knowing what any of it is.
The downside of doing these two museums in the same day is that the first part of El Museo de Antropología, Arqueología, e Historia del Perú kind of features all of the same pottery & whatnot as el Museo Larco. It does have other things in these exhibits that make them still worth seeing, such as huge stele’s, tons of archaeological site recreations, etc, and then of course the other parts of the museum have much more Post-Contact artifacts that el Museo Larco doesn’t cover. From ancient weaponry to beautiful paintings (including a version of the Last Supper that features a more “local” style Jesus–he’s eating cuy, aka guinea pig, which is a Peruvian specialty, along with other regional fruits/veggies!) There’s also, for reasons I genuinely could not figure out, an exhibit covering 2 small rooms at the very end featuring all kinds of different paraphernalia/printed editions of Don Quixote. I chose to just keep walking at that point, because by then this had turned into like a 6 hour trip and I was tired.
So, that was my bit of city-seeing this last weekend. This week featured my first week of classes, so I’ll be writing about that soon, along with a review of a delicious Peruvian specialty called Lomo Saltado, doing the laundry, and whatever else I can find to blabber about.