Friday, 11 September 2009


(Monday-Thursday, 10-13 August 2009 – in retrospective...)

Google map:,+peru&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=12.791842,28.168945&ie=UTF8&ll=-12.023203,-77.56897&spn=5.284805,11.206055&z=7

Lima is not pretty. No, it’s not. It’s a huge metropolis of 8 million people, located in the middle of the coastal desert of Peru, with not too much architectural charm to share, a chaotic traffic and a climate that at this time of the year seems more London-like than tropical: always cloudy, and even a bit chilly.

The outskirts can be scary, the old town not that colonial – OK, bits of character here and there... – and most of the rest as uncharacteristic as in so many other big cities in my trip through Latin America.

But then there are the upscale neighbourhoods, by the sea. With grass-covered cliffs in sharp contrast with the sand and sea, with an oddly European feel. With nice apartment buildings (very nice actually!) with surely impressive sea views. Upscale restaurants and hotels - not everywhere, but with enough frequency to make you feel you’re in a different city. People walking their dogs until late night, through parks and quiet streets filled with small villas, all with their own garden. This while being safe-kept by private guards, watching everything and everyone from the entry of the buildings.

A typical Latin American contrast: rich and poor, so close yet so far apart. Miraflores, the district I’m talking about and where we stayed, is probably the most pleasant piece of modern urban real estate I’ve been to in this trip. But the rest of the city is just not something write home about...

Yep, contrasts… The Latin American social gaps, but also the way I’ve experienced them in Lima: I was not walking around the streets alone, I was a couple again.

And as a couple you don’t look at things in the same way. You don’t get lost in thoughts while looking at random places. Or if you do, you don’t let them grow inside – instead, you talk. Of different topics than those you’d reflect upon if you were alone, that's true. You talk of the recent past. Of the – so many! – experiences that come to your mind due to the triggers and stimuli that surround both of you.

You also listen. You see how much you’ve lived in the last half year. How different you seem. And how exciting that is. At times awkward perhaps, but exciting still.

Yes, since that waiting time at the airport my experience of Lima was different. I see it now as a memory of talks in different sidewalks, restaurants, cafes and buses. I think I can even remember what was said where.

I didn’t take photos of Lima – thus this dull sequence of lines from beginning to end. I just didn’t feel like it. OK, the city may not be that pretty, but there are always interesting details, things worth seeing again, right?

But those days were not so much about the setting, more the talks and the walks. Through the most interesting streets and spots, an itinerary I had kind of pre-walked (and rehearsed?) the previous days, I guess to try to make the experience the best possible, smooth and pleasant.

It were days of shared meals – slower and more talkative therefore. Of letting someone else choose, for a change. Of sharing all the nice flavours I had been trying on my own before (god bless the Peruvian cuisine and its “empanadas”!). Of talking of all those so Latin American things that look so new when you arrive, but that I had been experiencing alone for so long. The look of the people and the buildings. The noise. The smells.

Looking at it now, my attitude towards the trip had changed in the previous couple of months. First, it came a "blue” period when I experienced a mixture of nostalgia for great times passed and an unsatisfying search for a repetition of brilliant experiences doomed to be unique. Then, I started almost killing time for the moment I’d no longer be travelling alone, only to finally get my mindset in-sink with what I now think travelling is all about (I'll perhaps build on that one on a later post…). By then, I was just taking it easy.

My attitude towards the trip had changed in the previous couple of months, only to change again in Lima: I was not alone anymore, I was a couple again. And Lima, a not that charming city, looks beautiful in my memories because of that.

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