NB There are 2 Lima blogs - you won´t want to miss the 2nd. Just change the date.
We passed through Lima on our way from Ushuaia to Huaraz in the Cordillera Blanca. For our short time in Lima, we´d arranged 3 things. The first was a nice hostel in the touristy Miraflores area of the city, with shrubbery that could easily conceal an excitable David Bellamy. The second was a taxi from the airport to the hostel, as our flight landed after midnight. Best of all, we´d managed to track down a Peruvian lady, Gaby, with whom D was at university (many years ago) in Sheffield and we´d planned to meet for dinner.
The taxi driver said - "You must be very careful in Lima - many thieves."
The hostel receptionist said - "You must be very careful in Lima - many pickpockets."
Gaby said - "You must be very careful in Lima - many forged notes and dangerous taxis."
These comments from locals made us re-evaluate what we´d thought of as the somewhat hysterical tone of the Lonely Planet on the city. Although Miraflores is a fairly safe area, you cannot practically walk from there to the city centre and a taxi is required. The downside to that is that many taxis are unregulated, being little more than beat up tin cans, with lawnmower engines. Judging which ones are registered is a fine art. Of course, even the regulated ones don´t bother with fineries and fripperies like seatbelts, speed-limits, overtaking on the correct side, and braking.
The town square, the Plaza de Armas, holds the presidential palace overlooking a very colonial set of facades. During the changing of the guards, the marching band appeared to be playing a Simon and Garfunkel number on the tuba...badly. It turns out that the song El Condor Pasa is based on a traditional Peruvian folk song, to which Paul Simon simply added new lyrics.
The sheer size of Lima (9 million people) combined with the fact that Miraflores is so far from the city centre, gives the whole place a very disjointed feel - not helped by the various warnings not to go exploring the streets, which is usually the best way to find your bearings. Even indoors, you can feel a bit vulnerable, as many archways have a "S - Zona de Sismos" sign, indicating they are a good place to stand in the event of an earthquake. This is not an uncommon event in Peru as there is a major faultline right off the Pacific coast. Still, you can always buy fresh slices of pineapple and water-melon on any street-corner.
Meeting with Gaby again was a real pleasure - she took us to a local restaurant to share a selection of Peruvian specialities, including cow heart kebab, sliced yam, and potatoes (of which Peru has over 4000 varieties - they invented it, you know) stuffed with fried mince, all washed down with Inka Kola, which tastes like cream soda (although R thinks you can get a whiff of bubble-gum and a soupcon of Irn Bru).