Day 6 | Saturday, October 29, 2016
Today we are hitting the ground running with a whole list of things to do and sites to see. I did some research earlier this week and have found an organic open air farmers market and a few health food stores in the local area. So far, the first two health food stores, although not complete busts, have been a bit underwhelming. They have been nice stores and have had an ok selection given their size but just were not quite what we were hoping for. As is typical in Peru stores are small, almost micro in size by American standards, smaller than a Seven Eleven. This morning we are walking across town to the open air farmers market and third health food store with high hopes. Based on the health food store’s website we are expecting the Whole Foods of Peru. Our route is taking us through a less touristy area of town which I enjoy. I like seeing how people really live not how a marketing team wants me to perceive how people live in a country. Steve isn’t quite as excited about our route but you never know when you might stumble upon a gem.
About a 1/3 of the way to the health food store all of a sudden we stumbled upon an Inka Market, Indian Market and an Artesanias Market. This is when it is great to be on foot and not on an official tour. Now yes, these are a bit touristy but that doesn’t make them any less fun to wander through. First the Inka Market, with stall after stall of baby alpaca scarves*, sweaters and throws, silver jewelry, vases and service ware, paintings of local scenery, clothing of fine Peruvian cotton, all manner of kitschy Peru t-shirts, aprons, mugs, coin wallets and the like. This market is large, it feels like a winding maze of vendors. Now across the street and on to the Indian Market. I thought the Inka Market was large, this market is HUGE. It is easily twice the size of the Inka Market and if you have ever been to the International Marketplace in Waikiki it makes the International Marketplace look small. A winding labyrinth of endless stalls of more of the same as in the Inka Market. We are always drawn in by paintings and photographs by local artists. In fact there are two things we try to collect from each place we visit, a piece of local art in the form of a painting, photograph or print and a piece of casual jewelry for me. One of the first few stalls we came upon had an impressive collection of paintings by local artists. One in particular was so realistic you had to study it for a few moments to realize it was a painting of Zebras and not a photograph. We were both captivated by it but ultimately decided it didn’t remind us of Peru so it wasn’t the piece we wanted to bring home.
We wove our way through the stalls as we went, becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer size of the market, all the bright festive wares and the stall owners calling out to us to come take a look at their merchandise. Upon exiting, the shell shock set it. Now making our way towards the Artesanias Market I mention to Steve that I am about done with our detour. The sensory overload and the mass amounts of repetition are starting to wear me out. A quick pass through the Artesanias Market and back on track and heading toward the Bioferia de Miraflores (open air organic farmers’ market).
The Bioferia de Miraflores is small about 1/2 a city block long on the sidewalk bordering a park. It has everything from fresh vegetables and fruit, honey, fresh baked bread and pastries to a couple of stalls selling prepackaged organic snacks and cereals imported from the US. Think a single row of the Beaverton Farmers Market and that is about what this is like. If we weren’t moving to a new room tomorrow I would be tempted to purchase some items.
Now on to the health food store, ECO Tienda Natural, what we are hoping is the Whole Foods of Peru. Within 15 minutes we were walking in the doors of ECO Tienda Natural. Another disappointment. Although it is a very nice store and has a good selection for its size and even has a cute little cafe in the back it is not the Whole Foods of Peru. Another small shop. One with a very web savvy owner or an owner who was willing to spend some serious money on their website. After picking out a few snacks for the walk to Parque Kennedy we were on our way again.
About 9 minutes later we rounded the corner to Parque Kennedy. If you haven’t read Steve’s post, ¡Santo Gatos Batman! [Holy Cats Batman!], you should, to get the full details of our Parque Kennedy adventure with pictures. I will say this to wet your appetite. This is a cat lovers paradise, a park that has become home to some 80+ cats that you can go and visit any day of the week. You can sit and have lunch with the cats or snuggle one for a while. Between the municipality and an association that has formed, the cats are cared for and even adopted if someone is interested.
In order to save a little time and help us check as many sites off our list as possible we caught an Uber back to our room, did a quick change of clothes and headed out in an Uber again toward the Plaza de Armas of Lima which is in old historic Lima and is where you can find the Government Place of Peru, Municipal Palace of Lima, Palace of the Union, La Guardia Real (The Royal Guard), Cathedral of Lima, the Parish Church of Sagrario, the Archbishop’s Palace and just a few short blocks away the Church and Convent of Saint Francis of Lima complete with catacombs you can tour.
Upon arriving our first stop was at Tanta for some lunch. You first heard me mention this place on Day 4 when we visited Larcomar. As we approached the restaurant we exchanged friendly greetings with a security guard and waited at the host(ess) podium. It really is true, old habits die hard. It feels so wrong to just walk into a restaurant and seat yourself when there isn’t a sign telling you to do so. Finally, the security guard smiled and took pity on us pointing us in the direction of an open table for two. Without further prompting we made our way to the table. Given my dietary restrictions I am still hesitant to order from a menu in Spanish if I know that one in English is available. When our waiter approached we asked for English menus and he obliged but could only give us the main menu in English, the drink menu was only available in Spanish. No big deal. I am much more confident ordering drinks from a Spanish menu than I am ordering food. After a few moments to study the menu and some Spanglish negotiations with our waiter about what we could order sin lácteos (without dairy) for Steve and sin lácteos y sin gluten (without dairy and without gluten) for me we settled on the following: For Steve – Agile Jugo (a mix of fresh pineapple, orange & lime juices ) and The Big Combo (which is green rice and chicken, salsa criollo, fried plantains, corn with ocopa, huancaina potatoes); for me – Norteno Jugo (a mix of fresh mango, pineapple & orange juices) and Paella Chola (which is sticky rice with chicken, chorizo, seafood and vegetables. Minus the fried calamari, extra chicken because of the breading on the calamari. Paella with a Peruvian twist.) I don’t say this often because honestly I am a food snob. It isn’t that I like fancy food. I like homestyle cooking with fresh seasonal ingredients done with care. Chef Gastón Acurio Jaramillo has figured out how to serve up heaven on a plate. He also has mastered consistency amongst his restaurants and head chefs. If you are ever in a city that boasts a Tanta restaurant you must make time to go there. You will not be disappointed. There is a Tanta in Chicago, IL. As promised last time here are photos!
Now with full bellies we are ready to head out into the bustling Plaza de Armas and admire the impressive architecture of the Government Place of Peru (originally built in 1535), Municipal Palace of Lima (also built in the mid to late 1500s), Palace of the Union, La Guardia Real (The Royal Guard), Cathedral of Lima (originally build in 1535), the Parish Church of Sagrario, and the Archbishop’s Palace (the current building built in 1924).
Then on to the Church and Convent of Saint Francis of Lima. This impressive church was built in the seventeenth century. A guided tour is about $3 per person. Get all the details and view the complete photo album in Steve’s post, Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco [Church and Convent of Saint Francis] .
That is a wrap for day 6.
*Baby alpaca wool is simply the first fleece that is sheered from an alpaca. The alpacas are generally under a year old but are not teeny tiny babies. The alpacas are not harmed in the process.