The Spanish language doesn’t roll off my tongue as easily as basic French does. Some mental shifts are required to say buenos días and buenas noches. After spending a major part of the day out on the streets of Lima, I ended up, at dinner, mumbling something about nachos. Oops. Souvik couldn’t figure out the reason for my giggles, so hopefully the staff at the restaurant didn’t hear me either. Maybe it was thanks to the first Pisco Sour that we tasted!
Bloopers apart, I am loving the sound of spoken Spanish, each syllable dragged out as if you have all the time in the world. That, and the radio in taxis always tuned into some swinging salsa music that puts you in a happy mood no matter how rickety the cab is.
And while I was prepared for the grey skies – the winter months in Lima bring no sun at all – I’m not too happy with how dull they make my photos look. Though, after a particularly sunny dry season in Jakarta this year, I can take a bit of grey dullness, since it is accompanied by ambient temperatures. The grey skies seem to impact the lives of ordinary people in a big way, and there’s quite a lot written on this topic. They call it La Garúa – a cold heavy fog, which is more than mist and less than rain. Takes away people’s smiles, makes the urban landscape look dull and lifeless, and brings out the unpolished side of the city. Sometimes called the ‘saddest city on earth’ or ‘taking the white veil’, this garúa has a personality of its own!
I spent my day downtown, at Plaza de Armas, the central square, which is the heart of the action for tourists. Hundreds of people milling about, adding a bit of colour to the greyness, was a joy to behold. I missed the change of guard at the Palacio de Gobernio, the presidential palace, but there were plenty of other tours to enjoy. The city of Lima was established by Francisco Pizzaro, whose remains are placed at the museum of the Catedral de Lima.
The Plaza is a reminder of Spanish colonial architecture, though most of the building have been reconstructed over the years. I love a place where you can sit out in the open without having to pay for being there, and just soak in the atmosphere.
I wasn’t in the mood for museums, but ended up going into two of them, both dedicated to religious art and tombs. The first was the Lima cathedral, and the second, a little further out of the Plaza, at the Monasterio de San Francisco, which had the museum of tombs. I joined the Spanish tour here, but didn’t understand a word, naturally. Just wanted to be in and out as quickly as possible, with a morbid curiosity about the catacombs. And morbid they were. The sight of bones and skulls laid out in geometric patterns brought out a bit of hysteria that I couldn’t share with anybody. It wasn’t scary, just weird. I was glad to be outdoors, but only to be faced with a threat of pigeon bombers!
For the rest of the time, I walked up and down the streets, admiring the boots on sale, catching a glimpse of what may have been local celebrities (because everyone around them had whipped out their cellphones, and I did the same), spotting a bit of local colour, and missing my photo walking friends from back home in Jakarta.