Lima Blends Ancient History With Fine Dining

This Peruvian capital is worth a visit

By Phyllis Steinberg

People have lived in Peru since 10,000 B.C. when groups of hunters traveled the valleys and coastal areas of Lima searching for food. Today, this capital city founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1535 is a blend of colonial and modern architecture combined with an abundance of fine dining restaurants, museums, attractions and art galleries.

This was my first visit to Lima, so I started out with a trip to the historic downtown square called the Colonial City or old city. The old city dates back to the 1500’s and is the hub of action for locals and tourists. It is flanked by several beautiful examples of Colonial architecture. The square is lined by the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace and City Hall. The bright yellow building with distinctive brown balconies on the square is the City Hall.

The Santa Domingo Convent built in the 1560’s is located in the old city. The Convent is the home to a group of monks and has beautiful art work and gardens. The convent walls are decorated with tiles from Seville and the main room features Baroque carvings. As I walked in the garden, I thought I was in a scene from the movie, “The Godfather” when Michael Corlene went to the convent to confess his sins.

There was a crowd of students and adults gathered round the stately San Francisco Church, built in 1674 in the old city.

The cloistered area, is decorated with tiles and houses the Vice-royal Art Museum. The church also has catacombs that you can visit which was used as a cemetery during colonial times. This predominately Catholic country houses its most precious possessions in its churches, so don’t pass up the opportunity to step inside them. You don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy the historical significance and awesome artwork inside of Lima’s churches.

There are a number of souvenir and other retail stores and restaurants within walking distance from the Colonial City. After you have had your fill of sightseeing, take time out to shop at some local stores for a unique gift for someone back home or take time for a snack, Try the locals favorite the empanada.

In contrast to the old city, Lima has a modern underground shopping center. A visit to Larcomar Shopping Center is a must. The underground mall is located on two levels. The top level overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is flanked by restaurants and upscale stores. Good items to purchase in Peru are scarves made of alpaca and local arts and crafts. Beautifully designed handmade pottery vases and jewelry are available throughout the city.

If you like gourmet food, you will find plenty of it in Lima. I enjoyed every meal in this South American city. I started my culinary adventure into fine dining at El Senorio de Sulco. Here, I was wonderful cerviche made to order and a vast selection of local items artistically arranged on an afternoon luncheon buffet. Desserts were plentiful including a dessert made from corn, a black corn that is sweet and tasty but not available in the U.S. This unusual variety of corn was also used to make a delicious drink at

Another culinary tasting masterpiece in Lima was Astrid and Gaston, one of Lima’s most popular restaurants. I arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes late and almost didn’t get to dine there. You need reservations and I would advise making them upon your arrival to the city. I had a mouth-watering fish soup, which everyone at my table had to taste and raved about for hours later. The restaurant was located in the Miraflores section of Lima, a trendy and lovely area to shop and dine.

Pisco Sour is the national drink. This tasty beverage is made with lemon juice, egg white, sugar syrup and a special grape.

I had the opportunity to dine at the home of Jorge Navarro Bernal and enjoyed a Pisco Sour and some local cuisine that was also simply marvelous. The Bernals have award-winning horses and the entire family competes in South American horse shows. They also perform for groups at their ranch. Imagine sitting on a lawn and watching a talented family parade their dancing horse’s right in front of your eyes?

My visit to the Rafael Larco Herrea Archeological Museum was inspiring. I could have spent hours there just examining all of the ancient ceramic vases in the shape of animals, birds and ancient people. There was a huge collection of pre-Hispanic art especially works of ceramic, gold and textile. There was also an enormous collection of erotic figurines and mummies from the Inca cultures.

There are many fine hotels in Lima. I stayed at the Sonesta Hotel El Olivar which was centrally located and very accommodating. My room was spacious and comfortable and had dual electrical outlets so I could charge my camera and phone without the use of a converter. The hotel also has a business center and friendly staff if you have a problem using the computers. I  enjoyed the delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel.

Pachacama, 45 minutes south of Lima, is an interesting place to visit. This pre-Inca archeological complex contains the remains of palaces, plazas and temples including the Temple of the Sun built in 1440 A.D. There is also a site museum that displays pieces found during the excavation. I saw many students accompanied by their teachers touring the ancient ruins to learn about the history of their Incan ancestors. Guides take vacationers on a tour of the site helping to make the rich cultural history of the area come to life.

Lima offers an exciting international experience, but it isn’t that difficult to travel there. Spirit Airlines offers a low cost non-stop flight from Fort Lauderdale that is five hours and 30 minutes long, just enough time to read a good novel!

Photos by Phyllis Steinberg

Information on Peru, www.promperu.org

Sonesta Hotel El Olivar www.sonestaperu.com

Caballos de Paso horse show, Jorge Navarro Bernal www.dpaso.com.pe

Astrid & Gaston, reserves@astridygaston.com

Maria Antonieta Caballero, official tour guide, kikaperu@hotmail.com

El Senorio de Sulco, www.seniordesulco.com

Rafael Larco Herrera Acheological Museum

Larcomar Tourist and Entertainment Center www.larcomar.com

Iperu, information on peru, www.peru.info/iperu

SpiritAirlines.com

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