Thursday, April 19, 2012

Peru – Lima April 16 – 19, 2012

Lima is the start of our 35 day Peru land tour.  Our tour began by visiting both the modern and colonial sites of Peru’s capital; Lima, called “City of Kings”.  We started with a drive along the residential areas of Mira Flores with a great view of the Pacific Ocean and San Isidor with its orchard of olive trees to arrive downtown and observe the colonial sites, due to Spanish heritage.  Including: Plaza Mayor with its cathedral and Presidential Palace, San Francisco’s Church with works of art by the Masters imported from the New World, and Catacomb burial sites still housing thousands upon thousands of bones and the exquisite architecture of Torre Tagle Palace seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

San Francisco Church, Lima Peru

 After a full morning’s tour we enjoyed a wonderful buffet lunch at Mango’s Restaurant overlooking the water.  It was the most delicious cacophony of treats for your senses.  Colors, scents, tastes, smells, and a never ending display of foods, some recognizable and some total mysteries.  Without a doubt they served best Ceviche (Cebiche) we have ever tasted.  This is the most emblematic dish of Peruvian national cooking.  It originated with the ancient fishermen who inhabited Peru’s northern coasts, who added to fresh fish and shellfish a little salt, lemon juice, slices of onion and chili pepper.  After a few minutes, the lemon juice penetrates the flesh and softens the fish while providing it with an exquisite highlighting of natural flavors.  They also love their sweets in Peru and we die daily while passing shops that look like art boutiques with their amazing displays, but in reality they are pastry shops with cakes and sweets and chocolate things....mmmm…talk about ‘yur eye candy’. 

After lunch we visited the Larco Museum which is privately owned.  This museum is housed in an 18th century Vice Royal Mansion built over a 7th century pre-Columbian pyramid.  It showcases chronological galleries that provide a thorough overview of 4,000 artifacts of Peruvian pre-Columbian history, which has one of the largest, best-presented displays of ceramics in Lima. 

 Solid Gold Artifacts!

Founded by Rafael Larco Hoyle in 1926, a dedicated collector and cataloger of all things pre-Columbian, the collection is said to include, among other things, more than 50,000 pots.  The museum showcases ceramic works from the Cupisnique, Chimu, Chancay, Nasca, and Inca cultures, but the highlight is the sublime Moche portrait vessels, presented in simple, dramatically lit cases.  Equally astonishing: a Wari weaving in one of the rear galleries that contains 398 threads to the linear inch-a record!  What lures many visitors here however,  is a separately housed collection of pre-Columbian erotic pots that illustrate, with comical explicitness, all manner of sexual activity.

Peruvian cuisine is remarkable rich and varied.  The fusion with Spanish culture after the conquest and the subsequent contributions of African and Asian cultures during the colonial era and the first years of the republican era all played their part in the creation of Peruvian cuisine by adding new dishes and flavors to local customs and creating new styles.  A clear example of this is Chinese food in Peru, which has been influenced by Peruvian tastes and ingredients and modified to produce a unique cuisine: the Chifa, mmmmm mmmmmm good.   They are inexpensive and everywhere! 

Next stop the sand dunes of Ica...Pisco anyone?

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