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“The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.”
— walt whitman

Living Lima

Living Lima

Looking through the smog of Lima and into her savory, artistic, and historically-rich landscape.

I am not the type of traveler to glean too much info about the places I am on the brink of exploring—perhaps it’s my lack of interest to over-plan or my stubbornness that wants to discover on my own. So, leading up to my travels to Peru, I had few preconceived notions about, took little advice from friends, and read only a few online articles. Mostly they said that the city was not worth skipping over, which many travelers to the region tend to do, many claiming it to be too dirty and with terrible traffic. I came to decide that for myself.

Peru’s capital city is often referred to as ‘Lima la Gris’ for its persistent gray skies and low-lying clouds that wrap the coastal city in a damp marine layer. It was a city that was never on my radar, but it was en-route to Cusco and of course, Machu Picchu, so my journey would appropriately begin in this modern metropolis comprised of 10 million people within its 43 districts. Some I would discover to be worlds-apart from the last. On my day of departure, I guess you could say I was a clean vessel; well-rested and ready for my second South American country to show me what she got. After a 3.5-hour flight from Medellin, I took the long and congested route from the airport to my hostel, where I discovered a barrage of tuk tuk’s weaving through the chaotic streets where rustic busses hauled the locals home for the night and taxi cars blasted through red lights while nearly side-swiping one another. Horns blared to comprise the chaotic harmony on the streets reminiscent of my trip to Hoi An, Vietnam—a place of similar disarray.

After arriving in one piece, I stashed my bags under my bunk bed at Selina Hostel and took the rest of the evening to walk the main square of the tourist haven, Miraflores. It was a Saturday night, alive with couples clinking glasses at the restaurants that encircled Parque Kennedy and Peruvians bundled up in neck scarves and hand-woven sweaters. Tourists picked through tables of souvenirs sold in the center of the park and snacked on churros and bags of popcorn. I guess my skin was still warm from Colombia because I ditched the jacket to bare my arms boldly in the brisk winter as on-lookers questioned my sanity. I, too, scoured the tables well-aware that my stuffed luggage was at max-capacity and I could only peruse with a smile of gratitude towards the vendors. Silver rings, alpaca stuffed animals, pink and red striped purses and leather-bound journals and satchels were draped across the pop-up shops. At the edges of the park, cats of every color and demographic lounged beneath sky-scraping trees and grassy knolls. I quickly learned there were hundreds of these gorgeous felines that called this park home. They were fed and cared for by the city and all up for adoption. A type of public agency for animals to be celebrated rather than neglected. I asked around for the best damn Pisco Sour in town, which led me to the Museo de Pisco where I was served a frothy and heavily alcoholic cocktail crafted from the native Peruvian spirit. I chatted with the bartenders who barely came up to the counter in height and then called mom to tell her where I was this month. She must have heard the Pisco in my speech, because she told me to be extra careful alone at night in a new foreign city, oh, and to make sure and chain my backpack to my body before falling asleep at the hostel. On it, mom. My walk home showed me graphic street art branded on high-rises and glittering cathedrals and iglesias in the glow of the streetlights. Old men shined shoes on the public benches while white, tan, and black kittens curled up around strangers’ ankles and licked the hands that reached lovingly towards them. It was all so…charming.

Seeing a city at night is a bit like going on a first date at a fancy—and dimly lit—restaurant. The lighting is typically flattering, warming the skin and softening blemishes. But when the sun comes up the next day, the veneer of perfection wanes. You start to see the cracks in the infrastructure, a few damaged blood cells, and even some frayed wires sparking overhead to reveal the reality of your short-lived romance.   

Lima took me by pleasant surprise, but it wasn’t without its challenges. The next morning I awoke to the biting cold, the buildings and restaurants are not heated, so, I layered on every piece of clothing I had, wrapped my face in a thin scarf and hit the city beyond my shabby apartment that smelled of boiled potatoes and aji picante. Most of the side streets reeked with the underlying scent of urine and abandoned colonial-style homes stripped of beauty lined the busy roads where busses churned out black smoke from tail pipes. There is immeasurable poverty that exists in Lima, beggars with broken limbs asking for change, young boys and girls selling candy for cash, and older men with weary eyes shaking their tin cups at passersby. You can’t look past it, it is a part of the story. Beyond these small challenges, I was shown a city of collaborative and creative gastronomy, generous and welcoming locals, large-scale modern art and a pre and post-Incan history that fascinates.

Below are my discoveries of living in Lima la Gris for a week along with a collection of my favorite photos.

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Taking the city By Foot

Ever since Colombia, I learned that walking is my preferred method of navigation. Being able to walk alleyways, squeez onto city sidewalks, and down wide avenidas where constant energy is being exchanged, for me, is the most accurate way to get a pulse on a new place. This is one of the reasons I fell for Lima, she showed me boardwalks connecting the sea to the city, bridges over highways linking the vast city into one walk-able region. I had to laugh at the flow of pedestrian traffic though. There was seemingly no sense of direction making it is easy to get pushed around and scuttled off the curb, not because people are rude, there is just zero flow of pedestrian traffic. Beyond the crowded walkways, large green parks and city centers divided the developments so there was always a place to sit and observe, snack and lounge. And then there are the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean below; perfect sets a half-mile long feeding insatiable surfers and novices who aren’t afraid to dip into the chilly water for a chance at catching a wave.

I thought taking the city by foot was very safe during the day, as each place I went to I was left unbothered and could ruminate in peace. But everyday I did call it quits around 8-9 in the evening, foregoing the party scene in Lima and avoiding any trouble as a solo traveler who was more interested in the daylight ventures. Lima is supposed to have incredible Salsa dancing and great live music and although I can’t speak on the nightlife, I feel as though I did exactly what I needed to during this first trip to Lima. My days started early with coffee in bed and a good book, perusing museum pamphlets and writing down my experiences. My mom asked me how I was getting around, how I knew where to go and what to do. I told her that when you walk 5-6 miles a day, it is impossible not to find things to do and new ways to occupy the mind and feed the curious student within. Lima welcomed me with a bitter cold that I was certainly not ready for, but she brought me a series of visuals that kept my camera occupied during these long walks through her concrete veins. There is an indigenous culture that is tucked into organized gallery’s and emblazoned on large-scale murals. There is also a young generation that is focused on preserving the history of their people. One girl told me that the touristy parts of Lima are flowing with acceptance of the native cultures, but outside of these select spots, many people are too focused on getting a new pair of Adidas shoes and binging on contemporary music and fashion. Western culture and consumerism holds a powerful presence here.

I probably could have seen a lot more if I had taken taxis and busses to other regions of Lima, but I followed my feet instead and stepped within the groove of a vibrant city that did not disappoint.

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Tasting Lima: A course in Peru’s cross-culture culinary Landscape

The food, the food, oh, the food. Lima’s reputation didn’t carry much weight with me, but the high-praise for the city’s culinary culture has been a buzz in my ear for years. After chewing down on the ‘Paisa’ diet of central Colombians, I was more than ready to welcome the upbeat and fresh flavors of the country—savory meats and citrus-infused ceviche were top of mind. My foodie experience would show me fusion dishes blending flavors from China, Spain, and Japan with the native diet from hundreds of years ago. Despite my attempt to make this a month of budgeting, I had to accept that when in Peru, you do as the Peruanos do. And that is to eat.

The inclusivity of flavors and ingredients shows me the diversity of Lima’s landscape and their ability to welcome different cultures into their own. The Spanish made their aggressive mark on the region and the inhabitants and their food is present in many common Peruvian dishes, like criolla, where a heap of rice is topped with a seasoned chicken breast and cilantro. The Chinese immigrated to Peru’s coast bringing their Cantonese culture and diet with them, while coastal dwellers from the Caribbean regions of South America brought their Creole diet to Peru and Japanese inhabitants integrated their strong work ethic and unique dishes of fish to the city. There is seemingly a celebration of cultures across the country and because food is such a strong reflection of a place and the values of the people, I can’t help but view the Peruvians as open-minded and willing to blend the new with the old.

In the contemporary barrio of Miraflores there are hundreds of restaurants tucked in between the shopping malls and stores selling alpaca goods and Patagonia thermal wear. They know tourists come hungry, so, they stay prepared. I typically asked taxi drivers and shop owners about their favorite spots to eat as perusing Trip Advisor’s recommendations just seemed too easy. My thirst for discovery ever-present. A common breakfast served around town is fresh squeezed juice, pina and maracuya being my favorite, along with a cappuccino, fresh bread with butter and marmalade, and scrambled eggs with picante. A hearty and wholesome way to start the day. Afternoons led me to sample espresso from different cafes to compare their beans and brew-style. Peruvian coffee beans are known for being organic and are slightly less intense than the Colombians version, but just as smooth—and addicting. Perusing restaurants and open-markets would show me that a typical Peruvian meal is served with two dishes, sometimes three. Expect a chalkboard scribbled with a list of entradas and segundos that includes a soup or salad and an entrée with a soda. One of my favorite lunch meals is the Aji de Gallina, a spicy creamed chicken served with white rice and the region’s famous yellow potatoes, only grown in Peru. The ceviche is a must try and a great alternative for pescatarians. On my last day in the city, I wound up at this little joint run by two 20-year-old Peruvians (aptly named 420 Café) where I was served up a glass of Leche de Tigre. Made right in front of me with sliced red onions, raw white fish and shrimp, lemon, cilantro, chili, choclo (similar to hominy), and topped with francha, fried Andean corn (similar to corn nuts), this fishermen’s dish is fairly simple, both sour and spicy yet well-balanced, and certainly one of my most satisfying meals to date. Chase it down with the locals beverage of choice, a toxic-yellow colored soda named Inca Kola. Just like they drank 500 years ago, right?

For dinner, I devoured the salty and tender Lomo Saltado at the Museo Larco restaurant and topped the meal off with a creamy Lucuma mousse made from the regions unique tree fruit. I indulged in Chifa, the Chinese/Peruvian fusion food blending fried rice with potatoes, seasoned beef, and sour and spicy sauces covering steamed vegetables. In a dingy restaurant in Magdalena del Mar, families hunched over shared plates and watched the soccer match unfold with fixated eyes on the screen and mouths stuffed full with chifa. I ate some of the best fusion sushi I have ever had while chatting up the Venezuelan waitress who migrated to Peru at just 18 to look for a better life. Her family still back home in the crumbling and corrupt city of Caracas. She had a fiercely independent spirit and a bubbling energy that I imagined would take her far in this industry or any other she chooses to pursue. In between bites of soy-sauce soaked Japanese tiradito and sips of Pisco, we mocked world politics and questioned why there are so few good people in power. As a solo traveler, I am finding that my dining and drinking experiences are my link to conversations with people living locally. I always sit at the bar and find out where everyone is from. Often times there are Venezuelanos who have left their homeland in search of re-building their life. Many of the young immigrants in Lima had left without their families, a solo move to a new country, with the intent to create anew away from the political powers that failed them and their neighbors. I felt a kindred connection with them for we are both on a journey abroad. But the disconnect between me and them was the suffering and loss of resources they witnessed that I simply can’t relate to. My struggle with American politics can’t compare to theirs. I listened intently to their stories, watching their positive attitude outweigh any hidden scars below the surface. I tipped my waitress extra, still within my means, but hopefully enough to make a small difference.

One of my greatest food discoveries was in el centro, the cacophonous and commercial district downtown where history museums and Spanish cathedrals mark the influence of the Spanish conquistador’s architectural invasion. Off a quiet street I saw a long line of people waiting for churros to be freshly made. Churros are a dime a dozen here so it piqued my attention that so many people were waiting for these. I decided to wait just behind a tiny man in oversized trousers and a jacket that appeared to be damp. I leaned in and asked him if these were the best. He smiled with all 6 of his teeth and I had my answer. People were coming out with paper bags filled with 20 steaming churros fresh off the fryer with a look of protection of their prized treats. I couldn’t help but think some of them would scarf them all down before arriving home to the family empty-handed. After nearly 20 minutes I approached the counter where women in pink aprons dunked dough into sizzling fryers then dipped them each in white sugar and wrapped them in brown paper. I ordered just one that cost me practically nothing and continued on my way. Once the hot dough cooled I sunk my teeth into the golden brown exterior, inside would reveal a sweet dulce de leche sauce hot against my lips. The airy dough cradled the goo beneath a sugared crust—and forever the churro would never be the same.

My favorite time of day in Lima was dusk, when the brief afternoon sun had warmed up the pavement and burned off a few layers of the gray. The temperature was decent enough to indulge in a little ice cream, so, I would scour the streets for local vendors hand-scooping gelato from carts, often sampling the queso helado, a famous flavor that blends condensed milk with whipped egg yolks for a rich treat. Because street food is plenty here, it is a great opportunity to grab a post-dinner treat while people-watching in different neighborhoods. In my favorite district, Barranco, I discovered an Italian gelato place with the best flavors to date. I sat on the first few steps of a cathedral in the park and watched a young father play catch with his disabled son while toddlers crawled in between their game with smiles gawking at the action above. Raspberry and pistachio gelato dripped from my mouth and onto my denim jacket as passersby stepped over my feet as they looked down at me deeply involved in my treat.

This collaboration of food from Asia, Africa, and South America creates a confluence of spice and el sabor that simply can’t be compromised. Where Colombia offered some of the most beautiful and passionate people, Peru offers all of that and then some in the form of its food—without the drama.

Food & flavors worth noting

  • Chifa — This Chinese / Peruvian style of food served everywhere in the city. Try the Little China district or the affordable eateries outside of the tourist havens  

  • Chicha or Maiz morado — The fermented corn beverage is served in a sweet, purple non-alcoholic drink or in the style of an alcoholic beer

  • Pisco-made cocktails — I am a fan of the classic Pisco Sour but many bars feature Pisco infused with local fruits and herbs for a twist on the traditional

  • Postres – key-lime pies and brownies covered in hard chocolate fill the glass cabinets on every street corner

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art & History in the heart of the city

Peru is home to one of the most powerful ancient empires in history, often compared to the Romans for they both had strategic diplomacy and advanced travel routes that led to their thriving cultures. The Incan culture, along with many South American and indigenous tribes, was overlooked in my history lessons in school. So, part of my journey south has been to peel open the stories that were withheld during my education so that I can see for myself what really went down during the pre -and post-Incan times. I was recommended to visit Museo Larco during my stay in Lima and so it was my first stop to review the history of the natives in the Amazon and along the Pacific coast. A time before the Incas would dominate the region from Colombia to Chile, and who themselves would eventually be overthrown and stripped of power by the Spanish. Peru is considered one of the Cradles of Civilization because of their early civilizations that emerged independently, uninfluenced by other societies. Makes you think about how vastly different our modern societies exist from theirs.

If you are particularly interested in this subject matter, a half-day visit to Museo Larco is a must. This is where I would learn the basic timeline of the Incas and specifically the native tribes that developed impressive systems and tools thousands of years before the reigning empire. The layout of the museum is thoughtfully designed to walk you through the timeline of history accompanied by beautifully written English descriptors. The expansive collection includes hundreds of thousands of ceramics, textiles, tools, and attire making it one of the finest museums I have ever walked through, even when compared to elite European and American museums.

During my visit, I read about the devoted native people of the region who worshipped many gods all representing different elements of mother earth. I came face to face with a mummified child who was sacrificed to the gods for the purpose of inviting in good weather and fertile soil for their agriculture to flourish. I saw my reflection in the gilded crowns of the royalty, septum piercings donning wide gold plates and gauged ears dropping to their shoulders to show their high-ranking in society. I was fascinated by their body modifications that included re-shaping their skulls, stretching out skin on the body out and donning proud gold and silver jewelry that was nothing short of ostentatious. Many of these styles of personal expression and changes to the form still exist today. As room after room kept opening up to more collected relics, I was more and more consumed by the intricate art forms that displayed before me. I can remember walking beneath a tapestry made entirely from delicate bird feathers to make up a thick textile that must have taken a year to produce. I admired the sheen from the pronounced metalwork that was worn by tribe leaders during celebrations and I counted the birds, serpents, and feline icons that dominated nearly every handmade good. Walking amongst the glass cases that reached high to the second story were filled with layers of clay pots, reminding me of the artifacts in Pompeii that show the everyday objects of an entire civilization. They are simple tools that become a more grandiose story of their own when all held in the same space like this. The final exhibits were of the decorative and gold-leaf adornments worn by the royalty of the Incas. Much like the Egyptians, they were highly decorated, they saw themselves as regal beings on earth and were unafraid to walk proudly while dripping in hand-crafted elements from the earth. They were even buried with their treasures, so their ranking would carry on to the next life, in the hopes of becoming timeless gods themselves. This history is complicated as stories are still developing and artifacts are being examined continuously as technology develops, giving archeologists and anthropologists ever-evolving information about what life was like 500 to 5,000 years ago.

Whichever part of world history fascinates you, diet, fashion, language, politics, social structures, or architecture, the Peruvian history is one worth exploring as it is informs us of advanced cultures from the pre-Incan Quechua people that are still alive today to the rise and fall of the Incan empire.

Art-fanatics can’t miss these other museums

  • MAC Museum of Contemporary Art—Rotating exhibits from contemporary artists and creatives are displayed in this sophisticated and modern museum that seems to float above a water feature outside, becoming a piece of art itself.

  • MATE Mario Testino Museum—Fashion photography fans must stop by this museum. Testino is one of the most well-known photographer’s in the world and was shaped by his culture and roots in his home city of Lima.

  • Museo Pedro de Osma—An excellent way to see the Peruvian’s religious iconography adapted from the Spanish through painting and sculpture, along with a few gallery’s with extensive artifacts from the Inca’s and Spanish royalty

  • Art Galleries—there is an entire tourists map dedicated to the plethora of art galleries that can be visited between Miraflores and Barranco

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District-Hopping: From Miraflores to Magdalena del mar

It is hard for me to not see the contrasts that continue across South America. Where chaos and filth ends, tranquility begins. In one hour in Lima, I witnessed the migration of humanity shift from those on the edge of survival, cold and hungry, and then into luxury, where time stood still and comforts were afforded to those who could afford it.

I started my week in Lima in the popular area of Miraflores, it is easily the safest and the most approachable place for tourists to feel incubated. You will find Parque Kennedy, high-end restaurants, and endless commercial and local shops in plenty. I noticed there were a handful of high-rises home to co-working spaces as well, making this an approachable place for nomadic freelancers. On my first day, I convinced the peeps over at We-Work to host me for the day so I could get some work done away from the temptation of the street life. Perched up on their 10th floor where mostly local employees worked was a sparkling open-office space clad with beer and coffee on tap, decadent avocado toast served up every hour, and expansive views of the city below. I hunched over my laptop for 7 hours, doing the freelance writing dance and getting a head-start on a few projects that I new could get overlooked by travel experiences. The space was decorated with black and white stills of llamas and alpacas in the foothills, steel bins of flora and fauna and concrete and pine wood interiors for a very Instagrammable setting. Despite these comforts that my own privilege afforded to me, I decided that my preference for work is hunched in between tables at a café with a street view over being in a tower looming over the daily grind of the Peruvians. Nonetheless, Miraflores is an excellent place to start exploring the city as you have access to tour guides, interesting landmarks, many sources for information, and fantastic eateries. But please don’t stop there.

Barranco 

If you are itching to get out of the tourist trap, I highly recommend stepping next door to Barranco on the edge of Miraflores. I discovered it by accident after deciding to go visit the MAC, Museum of Contemporary Art. I was greeted with a barrio beaming with striking colonial architecture, newly-opened pubs, artists markets, and a few museums worth noting. Although many of the colonial homes donning pastel blue and pink tones were abandoned due to lack of money to renovate them, there was a historical charm here mixed with early signs of development and growth. Talk to me in 10 years, and I think Barranco will be the Venice Beach of Lima. I ate fresh fruit sold by the indigenous women in gorgeous garb, traditional to the farmlands of Peru, and walked my way through art galleries and flowering parks with stone fountains. I discovered the MATE, Mario Testino Museum, which is home to some of the iconic fashion photographer’s best work. I have been flipping through his editorial fashion spreads for years in Vogue and Vanity Fair, unaware that he is from Peru. Highly-saturated photos of Lady Gaga and Kate Moss were blown up to cover entire walls, like a fashion-porn paint job. Testino is known for his group imagery featuring dolled up models dancing through crowds and capturing candid shots of the world’s most famous faces. I walked through the halls with wide eyes, drinking in the colors and beauty of near perfect humans in their svelte skin. Making my way to the second floor would reveal a series of Princess Diana photographs in her delicate yet striking demeanor as well as a white gown she once wore. Her moviestar smile held a tangible warmth that I didn’t find with any of the supermodels in Testino’s work in Hollywood.

The final exhibit was his images of Peruvians from a special celebration in Cusco, titled “Alta Moda” or high-fashion. Referencing the altitude of the famous city and the traditional wardrobe of his ancestors whose embroidered and elaborate design-work would rival many current textiles. I was taken aback by the shots, I stood mesmerized. Slack-jawed, I waited until I saw every image before going back and snapping some shots of my own for documentation. Colors more vivid than the last burst from caramel-colored and sun-splashed faces with almond-shaped eyes that told a story I was eager to unfold. If you ever get the chance to see his work from this project, it is worth your time. It is the intersection of modern technology capturing the richness of Peruvian textiles the people are so widely celebrated for. Back on foot and high on a visual journey, I headed down the block to see what other treasures were waiting for me. Barranca is just a stone’s throw from the steep peeks above the Pacific Ocean and is far less commercial than its neighbor, so much quieter in fact that I stopped by a 3-story gin bar that had recently opened. It was gorgeous but completely empty. They were serving looks of gilded decor from the1920’s era mixed with modern industrial elements and had a wall of alcohol more impressive than any other I had seen. Cozy residential areas were flanked by prestigious office buildings and rugged alleyways led to humble abodes connecting college students and the elderly in the same line of sight. The thought crossed my mind that I could live here for a season, summer for sure, and really sink into this up-and-coming area, pre-gentrification.

The Historic City Center

Heading to the Plaza de Armas is a must for any visitor to the city, as it was once the historical center when the Spanish reigned. There are many large history museums and landmarks if you are interested in religious art and the history of the city. It is also home to rows and rows of storefronts where cheap shoes, Nike knock-offs, and jewelry are sold by the bushel. But that was new Lima, the old Lima is marred by the conquistador’s profound mark on the city, turning it into a replica of their homeland with towering stone cathedrals for the royalty and paving the land in cobblestone. I couldn’t help but feel the weight of this reality on my heart. Yes, the grandiosity and baroque architecture is impressive, but at what cost to the native people who inhabited the land before? I look up at these beautiful buildings as merely a veneer for the bloodshed and sacrifice that came before them. Beneath the shadow of these landmarks are many people selling in the streets. I caught eyes with a young artist promoting his work and we proceeded to walk side-by-side while he showed me his leather-bound portfolio full of paintings of the ancient Incan culture that he holds close to his heart. He led me to the iglesia where I took a tour of the oldest church in Lima from the 14th-century and walked the skull-filled catacombs where thousands of Peruvians were laid to rest.

 Magdalena del Mar

My last few days in Lima were spent far from the destination spots and instead in a rough-around-the-edges barrio where I didn’t spot another tourist for days. My Airbnb in Magdalena del Mar was hosted by a beautiful Peruvian woman whose sparkling apartment was a much-needed upgrade from the last. I ate breakfast with her each morning as she hosted me with careful attendance and her delicious home-brewed coffee. She told me all about her family, spread across the world, from Chicago to Chile. She was open with me, like we were old friends re-visiting a familiar relationship. Outside of her home was a crowded and bustling barrio where I discovered the all-inclusive marketplaces unseen in Miraflores. Raw naked chickens are splayed with their legs wide and stuffed with tomates and herbs. Royal red carpets and drapes hang across the narrow walkway where short and wide women are selling bundles of yarn that span the rainbow. Broken telephones and rusted wires in piles are where elderly men run their repair shops. These junk piles look similar to my Grandpa Joe’s basement, where heaps of busted electronics and frayed cables that appeared to be trash to me and were his own secret ingredient to man’s next great invention. Adjacent to this repair shop is a glass cabinet brimming with perfectly decorated cakes and pies, postres with iced toppings and garnished with fruit. A juxtaposition I appreciate so much. I hustle through the crowds, looking for a pace but there is none. People stroll, rush, push and loiter all in the same flow of movement. There is nowhere for the smell of raw meat to go, so it goes with me. And I can’t un-smell it, so, I join in and embrace the salty reek of innards just like my aunt Jody always taught me to. “Not everything worth writing about has to be pretty, Liv,” I can hear her say as she sucks in the Malibu salt air filled with pelican poop and rotting seaweed. My laptop bag brushes the tops of the locals short shoulders as I try to make myself skinny, smaller, more blendy. It’s not working. A woman approaches me with a bucket of chocolate and I hand her 5 pesos with my other hand over my heart and she does the trinity looking right into my eyes. This encounter reminds me that I have yet to see someone asking for money get turned down by anyone. But here they feel less like homeless beggars and more like your neighbors who happen to be down and out, as if they have lost something important that they once had.

San Miguel

I stumbled into this coastal area as I was on my daily 5-mile walk to see how much ground I could cover in one afternoon. San Miguel is a residential and commercial area for the locals, a bit breathier with more walking space and a boardwalk that followed the spine of the cliffs. It is a cultural landmark as well with many archeological sites and Universities. I walked past families binging on ice cream and walking their dogs as the Sunday sun shifted westward over the blue ocean. Boys in black flocked to the skatepark where a statue of John Lennon stood proud. The cliff-sides of Lima are much like the ones in Santa Monica, Calif., they are dusty brown covered in netting and vines and difficult to build on. But the city here has taken measures to connect the people above to the beaches below through beautiful concrete walkways lined with potted plants and lookout points. On the vast and barren beaches is a massive development being built with dirt bike parks, skating arenas and even a shopping mall. Despite the aged buildings and dingy hotels, this part of the city seemed to be evolving into more of a destination spot. Like Barranco, in 10 years time I am sure this will be a happening spot with more refined edges.

Overall, I would say that staying outside of the more expected spots in Lima was a highlight of my time there. For me, seeing more of the real life is necessary. I don’t want to write from the same perspective as every other blogger and I surely don’t want to see the same five landmarks repeatedly hashtagged on IG. On my last morning in Lima before jetting to Paracas, I sipped cafe with my airbnb host and we talked about how tired she was from giving so much to her family, to her sick mother and to the many animals she has rescued. She didn’t have anyone showing up for her and her body hurt because of it, she told me as she cried over her toast at the table. Before I departed her home, I left a large chunk of cheese in the fridge for her karaoke party she was hosting that weekend and my yoga business card telling her to call me anytime if she needed exercises to help relieve her back and neck pain. As I folded into my taxi headed to my bus stop, I heard the tiny silver keychain she made me clink against my water bottle just before slamming the door shut.

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loving lima