Getting what we want out of Lima
To learn that a hardcore Limeño like Elder hasn’t eaten guinea pig—the dish that most challenges and intrigues newbie visitors to Peru—starts to chip away at the stereotypes we brought with us. And she isn’t done with us yet.
We’re enjoying the humid and hopping Lima Friday night life on the terraza of trendy Picas—a restaurant, bar, and cheesy-to-us disco, all in one. High above our heads hangs the Puente de los Suspiros, the Bridge of Sighs, its wooden pedestrian path packed with Peruvians.
Elder is the cousin of our San Francisco friend, Claudia, who prepped our palates for Peru by having us to a dinner party featuring homemade empanadas (breaded packages of meaty joy), causa (architectural potato salad), and aji de gallina (chicken stewed in a spicy, creamy yellow pepper sauce). Claudia did us good connecting us with her English-speaking cousin, who is a lot of fun.
Over our second round of cold Cusqueña beers, Todd and I tell Elder that most people, blogs, and books say that Lima is skippable or, worse, that it’s dirty, unsafe, and not worth visiting. She’s understandably appalled.
I quickly reassure her, saying, “But, they’re all wrong. Lima’s great, even just for eating and exploring. Especially Barranco—it’s a cool neighborhood already and it’s got so much promise. But, we’re city people, so we’re gonna like most cities.”
As it gets later, and Picas gets crowded and its 80s pop dance mix louder, we move to laid-back La Noche for our third Cusqueñas. Huddled with us at a wooden table, Elder asks, “You’ve seen the tourists in the shops, buying the knitted hats?”
“Sure,” I say, “the ones with the ear flaps and tassels.”
“Yes, exactly. Do you know? You will never see a Peruvian in that hat! Never. Only tourists. Why is that the hat they buy?”
Todd mulls, “Well, it is practical.”
I turn sharply to Todd. “You’re thinking of buying one, aren’t you?”
“No. Hmm, maybe…no.”