Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad!
I much prefer this to the term ‘Valentine’s Day’, because it means Happy Love and Friendship Day. This makes me feel that anyone and everyone can celebrate and give thanks for those that are special in their lives, whether it be their boyfriend, brother, extended crazy family, their friends or even their tortoise. Who am I to judge, seeing as I can give thanks for all of those…even the tortoise.
We have reached the final day and I have a bumper pack for you today, with numbers 8,9 and 10, and these 3 I’m recommending to everyone, not just visitors. There aren’t any tourist-y bits, but there is a bit of something for all of you!
During the Summer months, sometimes the heat and humidity in the city can be too much and the Limeños escape to the beaches. Although the city itself is on the coast, I’m pretty sure it’s only surfers that brave those waters that border the city. Everybody else heads south on the Panamericana to the beach towns between about km 40 and km 95.
Playa El Silencio is one of the closest to the city; a long stretch of beach flanked by beachside shacks serving food and drink. The beach here gets very busy and sun loungers are only available to customers of one of the shacks and only if you spend enough money. It’s a nice beach but there are a lot of walking vendors passing through selling their wares, from sun hats to books to snacks. In this particular beach you won’t find many surfers in the waters, as the waves seem to be smaller within this bay.
A little further down the Panamericana Antigua (the old route of the Pan American that runs alongside the new) you will find a town called Punta Hermosa. This area is very popular with residents, and surfers, escaping the city. Many Limeños may own or rent houses or apartments at the beach over the summer months as a bolt hole for either weekends or the entire summer. One of the beaches situated in town is called ‘Playa Caballeros’ (the ‘ll’ is pronounced as a ‘y’), and this one, unlike El Silencio, is popular with surfers as the waves are much better. It’s also a very nice beach to spend the day, especially during the week, as at this point the crowds have not yet descended, and there are small food shacks and ice cream sellers too. On the south side of Playa Caballeros, up on the cliff, sits a very nice restaurant called Entre Mares. It’s the perfect place to sit outside and admire the view after enjoying a relaxing day at the beach or to take a break from the sand and the sun for lunch. The club just outside of town called El Dragon del Sur attracts a crowd at weekends, and some of the live bands that play there are worth the drive out to see, even if you haven’t spent the day at the beach. If you want to do something like this then it is best to hire a driver or take a safe taxi, because, like most places in the world, drink driving is not an option here in Lima.
To any visitors wishing to have a day at the beach during the peak summer months of January and February, I would recommend choosing a weekday when the beaches are calmer. The beaches are busiest from Friday afternoon to Sunday when the rest of the city arrives (a slight exaggeration..). On the plus side the city itself is less busy and you can enjoy a slightly quieter version of Lima whilst the beaches are at their highest occupancy.
Some people prefer to travel even further afield down to the beaches in the Asia district. This area has a different vibe, as it’s mainly the upper to middle class that come here. Even though it draws a lot of families (a lot of Limeños rent or own houses down here too), Asia also has a big nightlife scene which draws in the party crowd on weekend nights. El Boulevard de Asia at km 97.5 has a supermarket, restaurants, shops and even car dealerships, however later at night it’s the bars and nightclubs that are the focal point.
Whatever you might want from your beach, you can find it here. Whether it be a day trip, a beach-break weekend or some nightlife outside of the city.
Barranco is the district just along the coast from Miraflores. It is seen as the bohemian district, because it is where famous Peruvian artists and writers used to reside (Lima Easy).
I wouldn’t recommend wandering around at night, but during the day taking a walk through some of the streets in Barranco is truly enjoyable. The side streets on the coastal side of the main square are quiet and filled with flowers, coloured houses, and trees. It is a very photographic district as the architecture is beautiful too, some of it hailing from when the rich would have had their summer houses here in the 20s (The Guardian), as well as just before this in the republican era, and parts even further back in the colonial period. You can find your inner artist whilst you are here, taking pictures of old fashioned cars or admiring the creative graffiti on the sides of buildings. If that’s not enough, then you can find many exhibitions or galleries here including MATE (Asociación Mario Testino). MATE is home to the largest collection of work of world renowned Peruvian photographer Mario Testino.He has captured the Royal family and photographed for Vogue, and some of his work is displayed here in his home town of Lima. The gallery also features the works of other Peruvian and international artists as a way to help promote them.
From the main square, walk over the famous Puente de los Suspiros (the Bridge of Sighs) and pause in the middle to look down the walkway, or bajada, that leads to the sea. This ‘Bajada de los Baños’ is lovely to walk down with small residences, trees, flowers and restaurants on either side.
Barranco has a great restaurant and bar scene, from little bars and cafe’s tucked down residential streets, like Las Vecinas (see post), to bigger more popular bars, like Ayahuasca Restobar (see this post!) which was named a few years ago by Conde Nast Traveller in the top 35 bars in the world (via El Comercio).
Since I’ve lived here, I’ve noticed more artisanal beers appear in bars, and a new brewery/bar called Barranco Beer Company just opened its doors last year on Miguel Grau and is already becoming very popular. It has a good atmosphere, modern decor with a rustic coastal flair, and extremely well priced beer. The beer itself comes in 3 varieties; lager, ale and a ‘combi’ (a mix of the 2). A pint (in a large tankard) will set you back only S/. 12 (£3), which for artisanal beer in Lima is a great deal.
In my opinion, one of the best places to head for dessert is right here in Barranco at La 73. They do the best churros I have ever eaten, filled with manjar blanco and served with chocolate dipping sauce on the side. They also serve a wicked melting chocolate fondant pudding.
Many tourists miss out on Barranco, which is a shame because it has so much to offer. So come and feed on the creativity that comes from the art, the music and the food.
I believe I may have saved the best until last.
It is certainly one of the reasons that I love this whole country, and not just Lima. The food here is spectacular; from the raw ingredients themselves, to the home cooked meals, to the plates brought out in a top restaurant. However, seeing as you can’t ‘visit’ food, I’ve chosen restaurants (and other places where you can eat!) as my number 10 spot.
I highly recommend you visit as many places to eat as you can whilst here in Lima, whether they be small, homestyle places, cheap buffets and set-menus, or big fancy restaurants. Whatever your budget, whatever your taste, you will find something new or different here that you will just fall in love with. I mean completely head-over-heels with. Try Japanese/Peruvian fusion, Chifa, Criolle or ceviche. Try chicharron sandwiches, ravioli stuffed with Aji de Gallina, or empanadas. There is something here for everyone. I dare you to try and leave Peru without your stomach having been completely and utterly stuffed full of wonderful dishes. It won’t work.
I am going to carry on this particular part of the post in many sections, because I cannot possibly recommend everywhere I love, or mention all of the great ingredients and national dishes in this one post! You would probably be reading forever.
So, over the next few months I will be posting about great places to eat all coming from different areas of cooking; the best places to find the most delicious Peruvian desserts; and even how to eat amazingly well on a budget!
Peruvian cuisine is being recognised not just in Latin America, but all over the globe now, and not just their superfood ingredients, or their chocolate and coffee. Their chefs, restaurants, styles of cooking, and the way they use their native ingredients, are all becoming a force to be reckoned with and so they should be!
I know that there are Peruvian restaurants popping up all over the place, but there is nowhere better to try Peruvian food than in right here in Peru. So come over here, and come hungry!