I had driven past this beach and harbor many times. The area is almost always a traffic choke point as the cars going to the Regattas club inch past the millions going to the public beach and Chorillos harbor. This time, we stopped.
Like in Thailand and Mancora, and other tourist traps, the restaurant ‘sharks’ were corralling anyone who came within the harbor area to eat at their restaurant. Laminated menus with English writing and tatty photos glittering like confetti.
We sat down on plastic chairs and a table covered in a sticky plastic plaid table cover. There were a few other foreigners, crispy pink from the sun, sitting around us as it was early (1 p.m.) but otherwise fairly empty. As we waited for our food, the ‘entertainment’ started. A troupe dressed in jungle costumes and a green yoda-like creature with a painted green body stocking… (note: this was a representation of a real mythical creature from the Amazon — a chuyachaqui) then a sad patriotic clown who set fire to his thick hair… then a guy dressed in a brown monkey mask and brown body fur… At the same time, trinket salesmen and women flogged their goods. At one point a man with the saddest face serenaded us in a gruel-thin reedy voice. At this point, I realized that WE were part of the entertainment. Along with the other customers. It was a hot day but the two ladies next to us were dressed in puff down coats and wool hats. By way of official entertainment, a young Venezuelan guy sang love ballads making the waitresses swoon. The vendors of everything were joined by beggars.
My observations were interrupted when the waitress brought the nutcrackers.
For the crabs. My seafood rice was mounted by a half crab with a hard red claw. My fried seafood was topped by the other half (I think, although probably not because only the right claw is big, right?). My friend managed to crack hers sending a grenade of crab shell ricocheting across the table. I tried to crack the other claw. No way was this crab fresh. The claw had petrified.
I never felt in any danger at the harbor even when I went to the toilet. The staff in the toilet even wanted to help flush the toilet for me but I’m also used to the ‘water jug gravitational’ method of flushing. Odd thing was that the sink had running water even though the toilet did not.
Later, when I relayed this adventure to my upper class Peruvian friend, the tightness around her eyes told me that we should never have gone to such a place, but she realized that we gringos will do silly things. She would prefer to spare us this touristy experience.
The food was not that good and for three people it cost 132 soles. Not cheap. Not quaint. But I got a blog article out of it.
The friend who went through this with me said, “Is this for your blog? Or are you just trying to make sure that I see the full spectrum of restaurants in Lima?” Two days later, we ate at Kjolle, one mile but three or four worlds away.
I have spent more than 300 nights in hotels in the past few years, and this experience has made me appreciate the joys of having a fixed home. Here are some of the experiences that I had while staying in hotels and being “on the road” for months at a time. It’s not all bad, and, it’s not all good. Even at the most expensive and fancy places.
Toe nails: There is nothing so sharp and hard as a toenail shaving. And they don’t shine like diamonds.
Beads: I have stepped on more random beads (is it Mardi Gras everywhere?) than I care to count. I suppose it’s the nature of them being round, usually small, and many.
Shampoo: All those little bottles. It gets tiresome.
Laundry: Some hotels charge $24 per shirt. There seems to be not consideration for those who stay in a hotel for more than a week, and do not have 30 changes of clothing with them. Traveling makes one miss doing laundry.
Take out: I’ve had lots of it. It can get tiresome not being able to cook for oneself.
Bored of the food: Related to the point above.
Microwave or stove: you miss a way to heat up food.
Tiny fridge: not the name of a band. Also, why? Why oh why are these tiny fridges so low to the floor?
Cameras: yup. They are everywhere.
No privacy: Living in a hotel, one is never really alone as there are constant knocks on the door.
Five years ago, I visited Lima for a weekend. My friend and her family, are my experts on Peruvian food and culture. She turned the weekend into a Peruvian food tour. Now that I have lived in Lima for a few years, here are my recommendations for a three-day food tour of Lima. Of course, if you plan your travel here around reservations at Central or Maido, then do that or go to one of the other places on my list of 100 places to try. This list is focused on showing your visitors some of the variety and best of “nueva andina” cuisine.
El Cacaotal, Jr. Colina 128A, Barranco: Closed on Sundays. Grab a coffee or hot chocolate at this premiere chocolate “library” of Peruvian fine chocolates.
As I mentioned in my posting about what I like about living in Lima, I wrote that I would blog about domestic staff. One of the nice things about life in Lima is the affordable help. Most people use the term “empleada” as the term for domestic help since traditionally one’s domestic help was a “female employee” and some refer to them as a maid. I use the word cleaner if they are someone who comes to clean or “ama de llaves” (homemaker of the keys) if it is a female housekeeper. Expats pay between 60-150 soles per day, average 70-90, soles per day. Some pay up to 180 (Peruvians may pay less). Domestic help sometimes lives in the home, but these days, this is becoming rare even for the Peruvian households to have live-in help.
I think that payday is twice a month or per day (if part-time). If the employee works full time, then they must have a contract and insurance. If they are part-time, they don’t need insurance. Twice a year, in July (to be paid by early July) and December, there is a bonus payment. The bonus is half of a month’s salary (there may be some calculation for how many years they have been employed, but I think that’s a percentage as well). Some people pay for a uniform for their staff. These days, the uniform seems to be a polo shirt and khaki pants (not distinguishable as a uniform — at least to my untrained eye — I guess it’s sort of like “gardening clothes”).
The doormen (porteros) also receive a bonus in December. Commonly, a Christmas Panettone (a type of sweet bread) is given in December. Or money. One can give them something in July as well. Or, one can give them nothing. It’s not required.
Tipping: Generally, tipping has become common at higher end restaurants. It’s 10 percent. At the local places, just a few soles if you thought it was good service. No tipping in taxis. That said, if you have parked somewhere, generally you tip the parking attendant or the person who has flagged you in (and kept an eye on your car…). Just a few cents like 50 cents or a sol. Some stores, like Wong, have bagboys (they are always young men) who carry your groceries to your car or house (yes! if within a certain distance), but they don’t need a tip and the ones who carry your stuff to your car will actually refuse a tip.
In celebration of Peru’s independence days, “fiestas patrias,” (July 28 is independence day and July 29 is a holiday for the armed forces and police), here is my posting about what I think is great about living in Lima. As I did for some of the other places I have lived, I have already written about what I don’t like about living in Lima. Before living in Lima, I had visited more than five times as a tourist. The first time was immortalized in this blog posting. Now that I’ve been here for more than a food-frenzied weekend, the following things are what I like about living here.
The food scene: The restaurants. It seems like every week, there is a new restaurant opening, and thanks in great part to Gaston Acurio, the culinary scene has become part of the national identity. There are fancy-foamy-intellectual dining establishments, fast food franchises, family-run restaurants, neighborhood favorites, and hole-in-the-wall secrets.
The immigrants: This is one of the reasons that the food scene in Lima is great. Thanks to the Chinese (Chifa is a normal word here for a Chinese food and restaurant, and it is as ingrained in the local food choices as hamburgers), the Japanese (Nikkei is the word used for both the food style and the Japanese Peruvians — this month celebrating 120 years in Peru), the Italians, the Lebanese, and all the other immigrants who have been been contributing to the deliciousness in Lima. Thank you to the newest (those two Thai restaurant owners, those Pakistani and Indian guys, that American with the chocolate shop, and those three Swedish ladies, that Mexican guy, and the Venezuelans, and all of those others whom I have yet to discover… I’m looking at you, shawarma palace!). Plus, many of the Peruvians are domestic immigrants — from somewhere else in the country (bringing things like their delicious cheeses… which I’m told is called “country cheese”).
The Palta Fuerte (the palta fuerte is too delicate and buttery to be exported, I’m guessing): It is always avocado season. When buying an avocado, the vendor will ask the day and time that you plan to eat it so that they can sell you one that will be ripe at the precise moment that you plan to enjoy it. “Palta” is the word for avocado in Peruvian Spanish. No one in Peru says “aquacate” even if they may know what you are talking about. At a restaurant, you can ask for a side of palta and it’s totally normal, like asking for butter (but better).
The juice (plus fruit and produce in general): the lemonade (they offer it made with pureed lemongrass at most places), the passion fruit, the orange juice, the blackberry juice. Plus, the pineapples are delicious and the mangoes have a season (like Edwardian socialites). The Edward mango is especially yummy as it has fewer fibers.
The chocolate: Go to El Cacaotal. That is my one must-do for visitors, for newbies, for chocolate haters… now serving hot chocolate and coffee!
The cultural offerings and activities: cooking classes, chocolate tasting lessons, Cordon Bleu courses, surfing classes, dance schools, wine tasting lessons, the circus, theater productions, gyms, yoga, concerts, archery sessions, wine and paint classes, museums, open studio nights, expos, marathons, fairs, farmers markets, and almost any other activity that you can imagine in a metropolis (there is always something to do). Even comicon.
The walkability: they even have ciclovia. Yes, you can walk here. There are sidewalks, parks, and hiking trails.
The neighborhoods: I like that there are actual neighborhoods, farmers markets, barrios, districts, parks, malls (mega ultra modern and local “centro commerciales”), and the coast (its own microcosm).
The positive attitude toward expats/foreigners: Generally, as a foreigner, I don’t feel hate or suspicion from the locals. The Peruvians are, generally, pro-American culture, and certainly pro-European culture. While most Peruvians don’t approach/talk to foreigners, they also don’t harass them and follow them around (as would happen in other countries where I have lived)… It’s funny, the little things one appreciates. As a foreigner, one can have a life here without being a circus act.
The security: I am completely amazed to see people out jogging, with headphones on, at night. Granted this is along the more patrolled streets but I am still amazed. Utterly. Amazed. Every. Single. Day. Really. Still. Ah-maze-ed.
The view of the ocean: Yes. It’s amazing. Beaches too. If one likes sand.
The public toilets: Almost all grocery stores and malls have public toilets. One has to remember to not flush the toilet paper, but, at least they have toilet paper, although, not always in the actual stall — so get it beforehand.
Delivery: Like in Bogota, almost anything can be delivered.
The taxi prices: $2 for a basic short ride of a few miles. Sometimes $7 for an hour’s ride.
Help: there is always someone to carry the groceries, the taxi drivers help with luggage, the doormen help with stuff, and domestic help is a normal part of life here. I’ll write more about that in a separate posting. Aside from the domestic cleaners, there are nannies, gardeners, drivers, porters, dog walkers, DJs, caterers, dishwashers, movers… you name it. I have an “event tech” whom I hire for parties. I may change that title to “event engineer” as engineer seems to be the new generic term for “trained” (I was chatting with a taxi driver who told me that he used to be a “production engineer” — he potted yogurt in a lab. He chose to drive a taxi because the yogurt potting only paid $670 per month, double the minimum wage, but he makes double that as a taxi driver, even though he works double the hours. But, at least, he is his own boss).
The prices for dental care: as with most things, one can pay lots of money for dental care, but one can also get good dental care for $17 (cleaning and checkup). But, if one wants to pay $170, one can. Many of the dentists have trained in other countries and their certifications in those countries may not be valid here.
The prices in general: from picture framing to groceries, to clothing alterations, to the above mentioned items.
And, did I mention the palta?
Having now lived in Lima past the honeymoon phase, I thought I’d write about some of the “realities” of life here as a foreigner (as I did about Dhaka and Bogota. An aside: I continue my search for the perfect “chaleco”.). Most of the daily annoyances that I go through are due to my own personal peeves, but, as the song says, I yam what I jam.
- Indirect communication: that is the modus operandi here. As a direct person, I sometimes get tired of the indirect route. I like to ask upfront and not have to guess what is being asked. To the locals, being up front is rude. The twain shall never meet.
- Formality: The Limenos are formal people. They like things to be formal. It ties in with being “respectful” which I think might be more important to them than being “nice.” They like to dress formally. They like formal. Have I made it clear? If you can add more gold and more formality, the better.
- Class: Yes, they have classes here. Yes, there’s racism. This is not unique to Lima. I still find it annoying to watch people treating others differently simply based on where they live, or their accent, or what job they have. (Let me get off my soapbox… aaaaagh…)
- Time: There is the standard comment that people are “late” for everything. If the invitation says 8 p.m., then people will show up at 9:30. But, time, in another sense that I find culturally different, is that Peruvians are night owls. Therefore many things are not open until 10 a.m. and some businesses aren’t even open for lunch on Sundays until 2 p.m.! Also, many restaurants close for a few hours in the middle of the day. Sometimes I like to eat dinner at 5:30 p.m., and there are very few dinner restaurants open at that time.
- Paying upfront/business deadlines: I recently had a reminder of this cultural lesson. I like to pay for things upfront so when I had something custom made at a tailor shop, I paid upfront. This was wrong because it meant that the shop no longer had any incentive to get the job done or get it done in a timely manner. To top if off, when I got the item, it was not done properly.
- Making a scene: Peruvians, due to their preference for indirect communication, do not like it when people make a scene. I told the tailor (see above) that I thought he had terrible service, that I did not want to hear his excuses, and that I would not recommend him to others. This was a scene. But, the tricky part here is… that they were embarrassed for me that I lost my cool. Not embarrassed for themselves for their sucky service. So it’s a no-win situation. One has to simply use the “withhold payment” method (see above) to ensure that you get what you paid for (or will pay for.).
- Calling: Peruvians love to use the telephone. They call to double check that the email went through, they call to make sure that what one ordered online is actually what one wants, they call to tell one that things are not going to be ready on time, they call to tell one that things are ready on time, they call, call, call, call… and call. Eventually, you will too.
- The weather: In winter, there is no sun. I’m not sure one gets used to it. One gets through it. This may be one of the things that is unique about Lima (maybe also San Francisco, Seattle…)
- The air pollution and food poisoning: The air is bad. It’s clammy and almost everyone gets colds related to the clammy air or suffers from other lung related issues. It’s worse closer to the coast. Food poisoning or “intestinal” issues are sort of surprising considering the reputation of the Lima as a foodie city. But, it happens, and it’s not special to Lima. And it happens to the locals too.
- Security: Yes, it’s a big city of nine million. (The photo is actually from a place south of Lima, but I like the security measure for one’s purse. Or is it for the chair?) What I miss most is being able to wear a backpack in peace. If you wear a backpack on your back, and you walk in a crowd, you will most likely find that the outermost pockets have been picked. That’s just the way it is. It might not happen. But it might. Also, when paying by credit card, don’t let the card leave your sight. Most restaurants will bring the machine to you, but once in a while, you will need to go to the machine (usually at the bar or cashier).
- Traffic: Every city seems to want to win the “worst traffic” award. Lima too. Yes, the traffic is bad. It is what it is. I still think that the traffic in Dhaka wins for badness. It is rare in Lima that you will sit in one place for 90 minutes, swarmed by 500,000 bicycle rickshaws, all while being eaten by mosquitoes. In Lima, as the locals say, “se mueve” or “it moves” — which is true. The traffic is bad in Lima, but it does actually move, even if it’s only at five miles per hour. Glad that I could end this on a positive note.
Another time, I’ll write about the best things about living in Lima.
Normally, I would have done lots of googling before moving to a new country but with Peru, I’m playing catchup. Here are some expat sites from a quick trawl on Google:
Live In Peru: for finding real estate in Peru. The hot spots are Miraflores, Barranco, and San Isidro, but I’d go for Magdalena La Mar and Lince, if I was looking.
The blog of an expat.
For concerts: http://conciertosperu.com.pe/agenda-conciertos/ (including free ones or “gratis” in Spanish)
And because food is one of the major delights of living in Peru (picarones shown below): Peru Delights
******* Updated February 2020******** My idea of a good pizza is chewy Italian style pizza. Apparently, what I like is called an artisanal pizza. Having now eaten lots of pizza for a few months, I would say that there are four types of pizza in Lima. Andean: thin crust; Lima-style: cracker thin crust: artisanal as in hand stretched, artsy, and often with a moist center; and American as in from the USA in the style of Pizza Hut or school cafeterias with a bready high crust.
My favorites are:
Troppo’s pizza dough is the best in town — it is salty, crunchy, chewy, and made by a prize winning Italian chef.
Spizza, recently moved to Miraflores: a chewy Italian style crust and the oven is all wood burning. Some of their toppings are not good but select carefully. They also deliver through food delivery apps.
Punto Italiano, in La Molina: touted as a non-fancy place, I’d say it has a sort of rustic feel but it’s not a hole-in-the-wall, and the waiter speaks English. All wood burning oven as well.
Mercado 28: has a good pizza place. Few options but good.
La Caleta: cracker thin but good toppings.
Pan Sal Aire, Almirante Miguel Grau 320, Barranco: all wood burning oven but pizza crust is very wet and they use CANNED mushrooms which I think should be illegal when fresh ones are available.
La Pizza de la Chola: The oven looks right, the place is “hip” looking, but, but, the wood is for show, and most of the time, Chola (the owner, also owns El Pan de la Chola and Chola Dasso), fires up the gas in the oven when he bakes the pizzas. Good ingredients and super-chi chi such as Stilton Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts (I think). There are only four flavors.
Antica: Don’t go for the cocktails (I say this because some folks do go there and think that they will also be able to get a good cocktail…), but they make a solid pizza and have the closest thing to a pepperoni a la the U.S. pizza that I’ve found here. They also make a nice oily spaghetti with oil and chili (when having carbs, go for carb with carb!).
Fornaria 850, in Barranco: they look legit, have the oven, but their toppings are not top. But, I’ll say that when I went, they gave me a free arugala and proscuitto pizza. That was good. The other toppings are not.
Pizza Al Volo, a mobile wood burning oven pizza cart, 984 714 955; email@example.com: the owner, Brian, speaks fluent English, and he will bring his wood burning oven to your garden party. It’s thin pizza but he can make thicker ones if you want him to. See photo above.
Morelia, Miraflores: very kid friendly. Good salads, and the pizza is actually a large oblong flat bread which they cut in half for the “personal size” pizza!
La Linterna: an old fave with the Limenos. Also good carb on carb pasta options.
Veggie Pizza: a chain. Each of the locations has a different feel. The pizzas look artsy like sushi or dominoes. I took mine home and added meat. The story of this chain is cute because it’s four or three brothers who wanted to improve the health of their other brother.
Then there are other places that also serve pizza: Donatella, Danica, Rafael (yes, THAT Rafael) who all make Lima style pizza. Not exceptional.
Mama Rosa: this is high foccacia (but not as tasty) style pizza.
Lima has a Pizza Street. For Limenos of a certain age, they recall wandering down this street (off of Parque Kennedy) after a night out. I did not go there for my great pizza hunt.
To those contemplating moving to to Miraflores in Lima, think about the sun. During the winter, May-September, the sun doesn’t come out. At all. There are no shadows in the omnipresent gloom of winter. Hard to believe but true. During the winter, in the afternoon between 5-7 pm, a cold damp wind will blow up and it will feel noticeably colder. This is when the Limenos eat “lonche” a “lunch” that is akin to British afternoon tea of a hot drink and a sandwich. Also during the winter in Lima, the smell from the fish meal processing plants often pervades the city (apparently many Limenos who live abroad relish that familiar smell when they visit).
But, in the summer, the weather can be glorious. That said, in the summer, the weather depends on where you live. If you live inland (even five blocks can make a difference) in San Borja, or Surco or La Molina, there will be sun, and often quite hot burning sun. But, if you live within blocks of the ocean in Miraflores, prepare for bouts of fog. Yes, even during the summer. I’m told, that for health reasons many people choose not to live on the coast because of the humidity in the air.
Another thing about the weather in Lima — it never rains. Ever (a few piddly drops is not rain in my books). Lima is a desert city on a coast. No rain storms although there is usually a nice wind blowing on the coast.
The temperature in Lima stays fairly even. 70-80 in the summer. In the winter, the temperature can drop to 55-60 degrees. The locals tell me that because they are not accustomed to extreme temperatures (snow and 100 degrees), they are more sensitive to the weather. In the winter, one sees Limenos to wear puffy winter jackets and gloves.
I’ll be the person wearing sandals all year.
The Spanish is slightly different here in Peru. First of all, it’s not Spanish. It’s “castellano” which is a result, I’m guessing, from when the conquistadors came over from Castille. The Peruvians use an incredible amount of slang, but I’m not sure if it’s more than everyone else. Now that I have dreams in Spanish (many of which “no entiendo”), some Lima specific terms are becoming part of my daily language. Here are a few of them:
de frente: in Spanish class, we learned “derecha” for “right” and “de recho” for “straight on” — that won’t work here. If you say “de recho” to a taxi driver here, they will assume you said to turn right and got the vowel wrong. If you want them to go straight, say “de frente”. Not to be confused with “en frente” which is across”.
A doubler – to turn.
Playa: parking lot (yes! so you will find “parking beaches” far away from the water).
Cobrer – to cost/pay.
Maracuya: it’s passionfruit but I have to recall the English because that heady scent seems much more of a “mah-ra-coo-yay” for some reason.
Guinasso: F&*(*ing awesome. I think that’s how it’s spelled…
Hallar: hitch a ride
Sencilla (Efectivo/Plata/dinero in other forms of Spanish): for petty cash or small change. There is a lot of fake money here so people prefer coins and small bills.
Barrio versus district: seems to be a matter of “class” — when I referred to Miraflores as my barrio, I was met by giggles of embarrassment. It’s apparently not a barrio, and certainly not in Castillian!
I think that Vancouver is too nice for me. It’s more than first world. It’s first plus world. Clean, modern, cosmopolitan, green, environmentally friendly, and surrounded by gorgeous nature. Sure, it rains a lot. Like every day. It’s a bit pricey. But, life is good in Vancouver. Vancouver is serious about recycling (and cycling) and the traffic lights blink — even on the green — when a pedestrian is nearby. The restaurants are good, the food is good, and there’s Granville Island market. And the Caesar.
Sure, there are downsides to life in Van. It’s got fast drivers. There are shaming commercials on television to force you to recycle. Apparently the taxes can be high… but the food is good (some sort of good fish with local vegetables grown with moon beans and poetry, shown here).
Like I said. Too nice for me.