Monday, July 23, 2012

The Strangest, Saddest City

Herman Mellville once visited Lima. He called it the "strangest, saddest city thou canst see. For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe." He was talking about the garua, the fog that the Evil One warned me about, the same fog that caught up the lights of the airplane when we were descending and made it seem as if we were landing during the day, rather than at night.
It's winter here - I'm south of the equator for the first time in my life, and the fog is a winter thing in warmer climes (remember how we got stuck in a train station for hours on end in India, faithful readers? Well, same sort of thing - although except for a take-off yesterday I haven't been able to complain much about this fog). I can understand how it might be kind of depressing, but for me, I'm happy to be traveling again, and the grey skies are just part of the journey.
I've been in Peru for five days now - I should have written before now, but I've been both lazy and busy soaking up the atmosphere. Thursday I spent wandering the Evil One's barrio - Miraflores. What can I tell you about Miraflores? Excellent food, nice parks (filled with gatos!), tourist crap shopping out the ying-yang...Oh, and it's perched on the cliffside. But I'll be writing about that sometime next week, so just wait for it. It's expensive and has a much newer feel about it, but you do have occasional moments of that former colonial feel.
Her Evilness suggested taking the Mirabus to get a glimpse of greater Lima, so that's what I did on Friday, in spite of the fact that I don't really DO double decker tour buses. What can I say? I don't speak Spanish and Lima doesn't have a subway system. This was the easiest way to look around, even if it was a bit on the expensive side. And I finally started to get the feeling that I wasn't in Kansas anymore - inside Miraflores I could blur my vision and sort of convince myself I was still on the Plaza in Kansas City (Evil One, be quiet - you don't have as good an imagination as I do). Once I got a little further afield, it became apparent I was in South America. In the US, we just don't appreciate color enough.
The bus stopped (sorta...see...well, long story, I'm getting ahead of myself) in the Plaza de Armas - Lima's town square. There are a lot of plazas de armas in Peru - in the next week or two you'll see more, trust me. This particular one is home of the Palacio de Gobierno, Peru's equivalent of the White House. Pizarro established this as the center of his new capital.
While the buildings aren't original, the old tyrant himself is in residence at La Catedral de Lima. Apparently they thought they had his body, but while cleaning the crypt underneath the cathedral, someone found a box that said something along the lines of "Pizarro's head," and after much testing they were able to find the right body and reunite the two (why were they ever separated and hidden, you might ask. I'm not sure. Pizarro was a great guy, after all, and he never pissed anyone off, especially not his newly conquered subjects).
After the catedral I was supposed to get back on the bus and take a different route back to Miraflores. Evil told me I could possibly catch the later bus back at the end of their tour, and after discussing this with my guide, this was the plan (I ended up being ready to go an hour early and rather than waste more time on my feet I took a cab back). I wandered around the plaza some more, ate lunch, and went to visit the catacombs under the Monsasterio de San Francisco. Which was cool and all, but their library was what actually took my breath away. Unfortunately they didn't allow photos to be taken of the inside, so I'll leave you with a shot of the entrance to the church.

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