Lima is not like South American at all
I’m going to jump around a bit here. I owe you a blog about London and Berlin from my summer trip, but I want to get Lima on the blog while it’s fresh in my mind. When I started my three months in South America in Lima this month I didn’t know what to expect. My only experience with this continent was in Medellin. So when I spent three days in Lima I wasn’t expecting it to feel like a gloomy Los Angeles.
The area of Miraflores, also known as the tourist and safe area of Lima, is full of nice restaurants, even nicer homes and apartments, and Starbucks on every block. The Airbnb I stayed in was in a very nice apartment building with a door man, gym, and all the comforts of home but it only cost me $22 a night. It was on the cusp of Miraflores and Barranco, another nice area known for it’s beautiful street art, bohemian vibes, and modern comforts.
Could I possible use the word “nice” more times? You can see how this threw me off. I was expecting a little more dirt and grime from Peru. Granted I was in the tourist area. It does get less nice as you go out from this area, but it felt so weird. The one thing that screams South America is the traffic and drivers. I had to basically close my eyes on the way to my Airbnb from the airport. You can see from my photos some of the wonderful art across Barranco. It is definitely my favorite area to walk around because the street art is plentiful and you’ll find many little galleries with art and handicrafts made from locals. My favorite is Dedalo; I wanted to buy everything!
Lima in general has two seasons, summerish and winterish. Most the year is gloomy and chilly, and a few months are warmer and sunnier. Every morning I was there it was gloomy, but then mid-afternoon the sun would peek out for a bit. Layers are crucial for any South American city because of this. It’s hard to capture the beauty of the street art throughout Barranco when it’s cloudy but you won’t want to miss it.
As I always do in a new city I went on a free walking tour of the historic downtown. I use the term “historic” loosely because Lima has had many earthquakes over the last thousand years. It has been rebuilt over and over again, leaving no older structures. Because of this you’ll find a hodgepodge of different architectural styles from baroque, gothic and neoclassical. They are crazy about their balconies, mostly covered with a lattice design so you can’t see who sits on them. And of course lots of churches. This is the common denominated found in Spanish invaded countries. You’ll have plenty of cool things to look at in Lima. I was lucky enough to catch a festival happening where people were dressed up in costumes, though I’m not sure exactly what it was about.
After my month in Medellin and looking through photos on blogs I wasn’t expecting much from vegan food in Peru. So far I haven’t had anything spectacular, but you aren’t going to starve. In fact the vegan food is plentiful and quite healthy, but simple and not very flavorful. Lunch is the biggest meal and you’ll want to order the menu del dia for the best deal and many courses. If you go a la carte you’ll pay twice as much for less food! In Barranco, I visited Germinando Vida for a nice lunch costing only 18 soles (~$6 USD). It included a starter called causa, a traditional layered terrine of potato stuffed with veggies, avocado and mayo in the middle (usually it has tuna, egg, shrimp, etc. but this one was the vegan take on the dish). The main dish was another vegan take on a traditional dish called lomo saltado, made with mushrooms and veggies. You always get a drink and small dessert with your menu of the day. It’s really my favorite thing about South America because it’s such a good deal. And I like eating my largest meal for lunch.
One of the best meals I had was at the vegan restaurant Seitan Urban Bistro. I went there at the tail end of my trip on my way to Ecuador. They are known for their burgers and is the only place you can get a proper pisco sour vegan (it’s made with egg whites normally). This meal plus the most amazing chocolate lava cake I’ve ever had (not pictured) put me back about $15 USD, so it was the most expensive meal I had in all my travels in Peru. Totally worth it though!
Other memorial meals in Lima include a dirt cheap all-you-can-eat buddhist place in the historic district called Vegetariano Zhu. The food was really simple but my belly was stuffed for only 10 soles (~$3 USD). You can’t be that in all of Lima! On my last day I visited La Verde and had a nice mushroom veggie sandwich with roasted potatoes and the most delicious chocolate truffle and brownie.
Overall I enjoyed my stay in Lima. Since it was more metropolitan I was able to find vegetarian and vegan restaurants easily and even find quinoa milk at a small cafe right by my Airbnb. The litmas test for any new city is how difficult is it for me to get a latte with plant milk or if regular grocery stores sell them. It’s mostly challenging in Peru outside of the big cities. Definitely spend a few days in Lima. You might be tempted to rush off to adventures in the south, but Lima has many great things to offer.
Have you been to Lima? What did you enjoy most?