Mash, Skulls and Pisco Sour in Lima - Day 520
What a fascinating day in the heart of Lima finding out about La Causa, seeing Skulls and drinking the best Pisco Sour where Orson Wells and Walt Disney have also graced their presence.
Did you know that La Causa, a popular dish here in Peru, was called this from when people were collecting money for Independence? The rebels would sell the meal on the streets and yell "dinero para la causa". People, even Spaniards, would pay, thinking that this dish of two layers of mashed yellow potato, ground yellow pepper and lemon juice stuffed as the cook pleased, often with scraps of meat and veg was called " La Causa".
This was one of the many fascinating facts we heard on our walking tour in the historical downtown of Lima.
We met Fernando holding his Strawberry Tours umbrella near the Obelisk at Plaza de la Democracia. Sophie and Chris from Surbiton and Salomé from Taiwan joined us.
We moved to Plaza San Martín, where we heard about the La Causa story of the freedom of Peru led by Libertador José de San Martín. Admiring the central monument gifted by Argentina, we were amused to see a Llama on top of a helmet; it was allegedly supposed to be a flame. I thought it was also amusing that a Spanish sculptor created the design!
Walking down Calle Boza, Fernando informed us that investment to build this area came from a vital economy - selling bird shit as fertiliser from local marine birds.
Onto Plaza de Armes, we suddenly heard the sound of a brass band. Fernando pointed to the Government Palace and said that the Changing of the Guard was taking place. Well, we saw the band but no guards changing. How strange.
The Plaza de Armes is beautiful and the birthplace of Lima city. The Government Palace, Cathedral and Municipal Palace surrounding the square were all built on top of the original Inca government, religious and municipal buildings respectively by Francisco Pizarro who captured and killed the Incan emperor in 1532 and claimed the lands for Spain.
In the centre of the square is a fountain that the first weekend of February is filled with Pisco and drunk by locals and tourists alike. People used to bring buckets to fill, but now an organised queue is formed to receive a taster.
Moving on, we visited the House of Peruvian Literature that used to be a convent where they cared from the destitute and dying.
Next door was the old Desamparados train station. The line is mainly used for the mining industry but occasionally offers one of the world’s great railway journeys: the trip from Lima to Huancayo over the central Andes.
Also on our walk, we looked at fabulous buildings constructed in a Spanish-Arabesque style known as Mudejar with cloisters and stunning balconies; churches made from red stone brought down from Panama as ballast and so much more. We both were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this city.
Afterwards, the five of us went for lunch at a cafe filled with locals, always a good sign, and cheap. Salomé is researching tours for American and Canadian tourists, what a fascinating job! Chris and Sophia are in South America for three weeks; it sounds that they have their trip all planned. We recommended a couple of good cafes for them.
After saying fond farewells, we went to visit the Catacombs under San Fransisco church. The tour was rushed and in Spanish, but we suddenly saw another guide talking in English, so joined her. It was quite eerie to go underground and see skulls and large bones laid neatly in various chambers. Over 30,000 bodies were laid to rest here in 200 years, many of monks and probably people of wealth.
We decided to treat ourselves and visit the Gran Hotel Bolivar, THE place to go for the best Pisco Sour. We didn't have their Pisco Sour Cathedral which is 150ml of this strong alcohol. Too much for a lightweight like me. We were in good company, stars such as Walt Disney, Orson Welles, and Ava Gardner have drunk here. The place felt tired with tears in the canopy and dying flowers in vases. It has seen better days in its youth.
We hailed a taxi, but at 30 soles we declined the ride. As we continued walking, I suddenly saw the Metropolitano, a bus route that has its own fast lane. A very helpful attendant informed us what bus to get on, then asked a man to add our five soles onto his card and assist us. This was Louis, a Doctor who left Venezuela to live here six months ago. We meet the most interesting people on our journey, and they are all so helpful to #GrownUpTravellers.
A great end to yet another wonderful day.