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Friday, June 21, 2013

A million miles away, your signal in the distance...

A tapping. What was that?

I groaned and rolled into a half sitting position beneath the bedsheets, squinting as the door to our room opened.

The maid. Lord, what was her name? I had no idea.

She looked startled but recovered. Señor might have to be off to work at 4:30 am but Señora had obviously slept in.  "Así que lo siento, buenos días ¿cómo estás?"

"Y grande estas," I blearily replied, which sort of means "and I'm big."

She nodded and took all the towels out of the bathroom.

Now I had no towels. And no idea what the word for towel is. (toalla de baño, it turns out.) Nor did I feel like pantomoming drying myself off. There is only so much a woman abroad can do before coffee.

So I did what any self respecting gringa would do; I gave up on the idea of taking a shower, slammed down a mango and got out of there in as quickly and cowardly a manner as possible.

Today I had an ambitious plan. Well, not really. I was going to walk down to the ocean and head South and see what happened. It was a Natalie plan, for sure.

First, to get down to the ocean. Miraflores is on top of the cliffs, the ocean is, as one would suppose, down at the bottom. So I followed a rocky path down flanked by a wall of morning glories on one side and cars whizzing by on the other. In the road, women bundled head to toe in blue, like some sort of cleaning ninjas, swept the concrete; city employees risking their lives for almost nothing in so many ways.

Quick thank you to the skies that neither I nor my children had been born into such a life.

After dashing across the lanes of traffic (I followed some runners at an optimal-looking spot), the beach. The beach in Lima is not sunbathing territory. It's rocky and while the city cleans it up here, (and it's still not all that pretty) I am told that not that far north it is buried beneath 6 feet of garbage.

But still, it is the ocean.

I headed south, the traffic flying past on one side, the breakers crashing on the other.

I stopped at a vaguely disgusting set of port-a-potties and been charged a Peruvian sole (pronounced sole-ay, about $0.36 in USD) for the privilege. I only had a 5 sole coin and was pretty sure the woman (is it always women who run these things?) wasn't going to give me my change back. I made a fuss, on principle, and got my 4 soles back.

After all, there might be 4 more port-a-potties in which I might want to partake.

I rather hoped not.

There were many, many signs for Tsunami evacuation routes, enough to give a girl pause. Some were bright neon yellow and orange, some more placid but all showing a great wave that would surely come take you away to watery depths from which there would be no escape.. Admittedly, Lima has many earthquakes, and the cliffs up are steep and high.

This sign made me laugh, however:

Whatever you need to evacuate; beach, bowels, hey! We've got you covered.

Maybe that's just my sense of humor.

I was watching the sea birds overhead somewhat warily; they're quite lovely, oaring and wheeling and cackling to one another, but they were also dropping spiny sea urchins from heights onto the sidewalk and I imagine that one of those hitting you in the head would not be my idea of a good time.
The birds would undoubtedly disagree with that assessment.

I was hoping to find the local fish market, and after walking for like what seemed forever, asked a local police officer where it was. Mercado Pez?
He looked at me like I was insane. Not promising. Blame my bad Spanish and accent once again. Perhaps is was that pez means a fish that is swimming in the sea. Pescado is a fish that has been caught.
Even so.

And why are our pez candies called that?

Just wondering.

I gave up on the seashore, the few surfers and security guards, and climbed up hundreds of stairs to emerge happily into the Barranco region of Peru.
Without fail Barranco, which means ravine,is described by every guidebook as both "bohemian" and "romantic". And it is that. Art and art galleries, mansions and promenades, music and musicians.
I hadn't gone terribly far beneath the palm trees before I found a guitarist playing by the Ermita de Barrancos, the Hermitage.

Not really a dwelling for hermits, but for fishermen and travellers to come to the priests for help of whatever sort, spiritual or otherwise. Legend tells that a group of fishermen were lost in a terrible fog and a glowing cross appeared to guide them safely home. The hermitage was built on the site and Barrancos grew up around it.
Like everything else, the Chileans burned it in 1881. Like many other places, it was rebuilt.

 The Peruvians are still mad at the Chileans.

This guitarist was undoubtedly playing the song La Flor de la Canela, a romantic bit about the Puente de Los Suspiros, the nearby "Bridge of Sighs."
Dejame que te cuente limeno,
Dejame que te diga la gloria
Del ensueno que evoca la memoria

Del viejo puente, del rio y la alameda.

Let me tell you limeno,
Let me tell you the glory
Evoking the memory ensueno

The old bridge, the river and the mall.
Not only is the fellow in a good spot for donations (I ponied up too), but he also gets to watch busloads of tourists try to hold their breath as they cross the bridge for the first time. If you make it on one breath the wish you make is supposed to come true.
Either way, it's pretty funny to watch.

There are many other handsome fellows with soulful eyes in Barranco. This one, for instance:
and a bit of pathos as well. Poor R2D2. Who thought it would come to this?

That's what he gets for living in a whimsical, bohemian neighborhood, one suposes.
The nice thing about Barrranco is that is it comparably quiet, away from the honking and traffic of the rest of the city. I took a deep breath; flowers and a bit of tuk-tuk exhaust.

The local Biblioteca (library) is also the tourist office. I went in and in Spanish asked for a map.

This proved to be a mistake as I then spent some of the longest 5 minutes of my life saying "si" and "claro" and nodding over and over again to what I think was a description of the area's attractions as earnestly detailed by one of the very sweet tourist office gals who was trying to be helpful.

I felt like a total fake but finally escaped after signing the guestbook, map in hand, so go see what I could find.



  1. So interesting - would love to see this area for myself. Your photos and tales make it seem well worth a visit.

    1. Aw, Tara, that means a lot coming from you. Thank you!