Our day began last Sunday as a quest for gnocchi. Ania had a hankering for some, and since Sunday is Magna’s day off, we usually go into the city to eat. Utilizing one of the many Peruvian guidebooks that were lying about the house, we learned that there are, in fact, only two places in the whole of Lima that serve gnocchi. We immediately reserved a lunchtime seating at one, and hopped in a cab to get there.
Let me take this opportunity to explain how cabs work in Lima. Firstly, it is more common to see a cab than a private car on the streets of Lima. They are everywhere. And even if you are walking and clearly not trying to flag one, they will follow you for blocks honking to try and persuade you to take a ride. Second, if you can’t see one, you are sure to hear one, as their horns make an irritating noise similar to that of a clown car seen in the circus. Third, and perhaps most importantly, there are no meters or GPS systems in any cab.
This last point being said, when you flag down a cab, the first thing you do is tell them which part of the city you are going to. If the cabbie isn’t familiar with that part of town, he declines, and pulls away, often while you are still leaning on his door. When you do find someone that knows which part of town you speak of, the haggling begins. Cabs are ridiculously cheap here about 10 soles ($4.00 US) for a 15 minute ride. Divide that by the number of people in the cab (in our case, usually 4), and you’ve got one dirt cheap ride. Unfortunately, because we are gringos, cabbies often hike up the price thinking us stupid tourists won’t know any better. To prevent this, Julio is usually the one that does the initial bargaining with the cabbie. And there’s been more than one occasion where he’s sent a cab on its way and searched for a new one, because the price was too high. Now that we’re on the same page about cabs, I’ll continue.
The particular restaurant we were seeking out was in a touristy area called Mira Flores. For whatever reason, our cabbie was not particularly adept at navigating the area (even though it’s one of the most popular ones in Lima), and we ended up spending 10 extra minutes driving in circles looking for the restaurant. To top it off, HE charged US more soles than we had agreed upon for the extra time spent driving around, even though it was HIS fault. Go figure.
While it was rather annoying to deal with this stupid cabbie, the tune of the group quickly changed when we saw where we had arrived. It was Julio who had chosen which of the two restaurants to go to, and he had neglected to tell us that it was situated at a local archaeological site. Picture me dancing in happiness again.
Huaca Pucllana is a pre-Columbian site right in the heart of Mira Flores. It’s made up of labyrinth-like passageways and a huge temple. Even more impressively, every part of it is made up of individual hand-crafted bricks – in total taking over 300 years to construct. The restaurant we were in is situated directly adjacent to the site, and is open-air. While you eat you can watch the tourists walk through the site!
Since it's a super-touristy restaurant (the likes of Bill Clinton, Queen Reina Sofia of Spain, and many other famous people have been!) there are a lot of non-traditional (by Peruvian standards) food on the menu. Ania got her gnocchi, and I had coconut-curry shrimp with spicy rice. It was excellent! What was not excellent however, was our bill. Regardless, it was a nice treat, and as Ania said in her blog about the site, "how often do you get to eat next to 1600 year old ruins!?". (To read Ania's blog about Huaca Pucllana, click here.)
After lunch, we headed into the ruins on a guided tour in English. The tour turned out to be 10 times more amusing than normal due to our companions; 8 recent female college grads from the US. One of their better questions to the guide, "Do alpacas still exist?!" And people wonder why other countries laugh at us. Oy vey.
Anyway, the site is beautiful, and very well preserved, compared to Pachacamac.
Restoration work has been done on most of the walls, and where mummy bundles were discovered there are recreations in their place. There are also models showing how the mud-brick walls were constructed, and live animals to represent those the ancient Lima used to provide clothing and meat.
The site was really interesting, and it was nice to get a tour and learn about the site with more depth than we would have by simply walking through ourselves.
After we left the site, we took a 5 minute cab ride to the neighboring district of Barranco. It's right on the water, and has a lot of scenic view points. We got some sweets from a local pasteleria, and munched for a while, taking in the sites. We eventually settled on a cliff-side bar where we enjoyed Pina Coladas and the seabreeze. All in all, it was a lovely day, and we saw a lot of the city. For more pictures of the day, be sure to check out the album on my photo page (link is on the left hand side).
Just an FYI, I'm writing this blog a few days after the fact (it's Wednesday). Tonight we are going into the city to show our new roommate around, and I know I'll have a lot to share. Hopefully I'll blog about it tomorrow! Until then...