Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Miraflores, Lima: The South Beach of Peru?

The Malecon (and fog) in Miraflores
OK, South Beach of Peru might be a bit of an exaggeration, however, there are a few similarities, and after visiting the cities and towns we did while in Ecuador, Miraflores was a huge step towards a more westernized place than we've seen in a while. 

We had three days in Lima, Peru, and one full day was spent outside the city, paragliding (more on that later). We stayed in Miraflores, a district of Lima, as recommended by the COO of the company where I work in Buffalo. We quickly realized that Miraflores is much more westernized than any of the other cities we've visited so far in South America, but I think it is more a representation of this section of the city rather than the city as a whole.

Miraflores stretches along the ocean, and there are two sections for enjoying it: the Malecon and the beach.  The Malecon is a six mile stretch of road, walkway and parks high on top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. This area, along with some of the interior roads we traversed reminds me of South Beach (scaled down a bit) with palm trees, locals running along the sidewalk, fancy glass front buildings, and a slightly pretentious vibe. There are several much-used parks along this section, some taller hotels and condos, and the Larcomar, a shopping mall built into the cliffs (cool, but besides being built into a cliff it is just a mall. It had a Chili's, a Friday's, and a Tony Roma's; I didn't come to Peru to eat at those places, I rarely eat at chain restaurants at home, so it didn't do much for me.) The lower section is about 1,000 feet below and is a walkway along the beach. The beach, however, is NOT like South Beach; there is no sand! To walk along the ocean you either walk along the sidewalk or across the stones that make up "the beach." Apparently the water is very cold (we never took an opportunity to go in), but it is a very active surfing area.
Excited to see a special section for me in the grocery store!
(They only had a few GF items, but still!!)
City walkway in Miraflores
The Beach
Road down to the beach
The beach, cliffs, fancy hotels and Larcomar
Our accommodation (a homestay booked through was in a prime location, just blocks from the beach, and around the corner from a main drag with heaps of bars, restaurants, clubs, and shops, plus just a 20 minute walk from the famous Pre-Inca ruin, Huaca Pucclana, which we visited on Saturday. It was really interesting to observe the dichotomy of ruins of ancient pyramids that were in use from 200 to 700 AD set among the bustling metropolis of Lima. 

Huaca Pucclana
The pyramid was a place of gathering
 for rituals of the Lima people
The dichotomy of ancient and modern is striking
The ruins stretch out and then collide
 with the modern city

A few other interesting notes about Lima:
  • I felt there was a lot more diversity among the population here than in Guayaquil or Quito. Everywhere we went in Ecuador we stuck out as tourists. I could maybe pass as a light-skinned local after I got tan, but Drew could definitely not. The vast majority of people in Ecuador are short, with dark tan skin, dark hair and eyes. In Lima, locals were much more diverse.
  • People are always out in public areas; parks, beaches, the shopping mall, streets-they're all packed. Part of it might be the nice weather, but it just seems to be a part of the culture. People of all ages packed the parks at all times of day. Couples laying in the grass napping, young people in groups chatting, older people sitting on benches watching the world go by, families walking and standing around taking in the view. It didn't matter what time of day-people were out and about and in public. (We also noticed this in Quito, Ecuador)
  • People are on a different schedule. We went to dinner at 8:30 one night and left around 9:30. The restaurant was much busier with people eating when we left than it was when we arrived. And when we walked into the street and through the park - packed! Kids, young people. older couples, it didn't matter, everyone was out and about.
  • Both days we were actually in Miraflores, fog rolled into the city during the afternoon. It literally covered our view of the buildings and then swept back out to sea. Very strange phenomenon.
Overall, we enjoyed our time in and around Lima, and three days was the perfect amount of time for us.

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