We have no particular plans on Friday night, so we decide to do what the locals seem to be doing: wandering the streets, with no particular destination in mind.
Our hotel is about a block off the main drag — a busy four-lane strip of asphalt lined with banks, offices, dress shops, and restaurants. We head off toward what we know is the edge of town along the Pacific coast — a pleasant ten-block walk on a cool, breezy, late-summer evening.
Nothing, though, prepares us for what we see when we get there.
Tinted rosy hues by the sunset, this pleasant park is bustling with couples, students, skateboarders, parents and children, locals and tourists. There’s an amazing energy in this place, perched, as it is, on the lip of a cliff that plummets down to the sea. Just being here makes us happy:
But it’s when we get to the edge of the steel and glass observation deck that we discover the secret of this place: there’s a mall, the Larcomar, built into the wall of the cliff below us!
The shops themselves don’t interest us much — if we chose to, we could always shop at the Apple Store or the Gap or eat at Tony Roma’s or TGI Friday’s at home — but given the unique location of this bustling shopping center, I’d still rank it as a must-see:
Again, you wouldn’t eat there (not even at the food court, which is dominated by the likes of China Wok and Burger King). So we decide to walk back up Avenue Jose Larco toward the hotel and explore our options along the way.
And, as we do, we stumble on Miraflores’ Central Park — which, on a Friday night, is apparently *the* place to be. What I take, at first, for a well-lit market is actually a little amphitheater where locals come to enjoy the live music and dance the night away:
This all takes place in the shadow of a local church, which has become famous for feeding (and neutering) the huge congregation of tame cats that cavort in the bushes and the flower beds of Central Park:
Kids chase down the cats, hugging them and petting them. Couples pick up stray felines and walk a bit with a strange feline in their arms. Elderly men sit on benches, with the odd cat perched in their laps. The cats don’t seem to mind the attention one bit.
By this time, we’re hungry, but not starving. And — wow! — just across the street is a Lima tradition — La Lucha Sangucheria:
As you can see from the foot traffic surrounding this place, this is *the* joint for trying what have become known as the city’s freshest, most flavorful sandwiches. Given the fact that we’ve eaten everything from hand-made ceviche to beef heart earlier in the day, a sandwich sounds like just the ticket.
So, we make our way up to the noisy, boisterous outdoor counter where folks are shouting their orders to the young, friendly staff:
At first, I’m afraid my lack of Spanish is going to be a problem … but I shouldn’t have worried, because a young woman spots me, welcomes me, and pops an English menu into my hand. I ask what’s most delicious, and she steers me immediately to two choices: the La Lucha (a sort of Philly cheesesteak, heavy on the cheese, with lots of crisp onions on top) and the El Preferido (a sandwich our friend Jeri would love, given the fresh bread, the tasty shaved beef, and the slathering of fresh guacamole).
I don’t have photos of these to share with you. They didn’t last long enough.
And with that, we stroll back through the park and down the street to our little hotel, which is just enough off the beaten path to encourage a good night’s sleep.
A remarkable first day in a remarkable place! I think I’m falling in love with Lima.