I remember the last time I came to Lima. It was last February, the city was pretty amazing as usual but it was too sweaty and hot, cars running at high speed ready to hit you round every corner, lots of smog and grey sky. Maybe it was just me – I was tired and stressed after many hours of travelling and the last thing I wanted was to get lost in such a big city that is notorious for being inhabitated by a number of pickpocketers and little criminals who pop up once the sun goes down. I remember I didn’t want to leave the hostel but not wanting to stay inside either, for the heat was unbearable and the people at the hostel too. But again, I am starting to think that the problem was me – coming from a number of smaller cities in Bolivia and Eastern Peru, it had been a while since I visited a big city and my metropolitan mindset was turned off, and I wasn’t able to turn it back on. Lima felt overwhelming at the time, although yes I did recognize a couple of nice things here and there.
Now I am back here. This time it’s June, and my bus came in early in the afternoon, not at night. I am only carrying a small backpack because I am not going to stay here for long, just a couple of documents to sort out. Sun is shy and hides behind the clouds as usual but it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain. What really amazes me is that it’s actually a bit chilly outside, I didn’t expect that – the heavy humidity and heat that was there last time still resonates in my memories and I can’t believe it can be this different this time. Well, let’s go, ”taxi!” and off to downtown, Miraflores, arguably the nicest area in Lima – together with Barranco – and certainly the most recommended as a place to stay for visitors, especially foreigners. The hostel I am staying at isn’t great, but it is reasonably cheap and the staff is nice, so it will do. I take a shower and sit in the living room for a bit, double-checking that all my documents are in place ready to be presented tomorrow. But hostels are just really for sleeping aren’t they? So after a few minutes I go out to take a walk.
Lima is such a different city at this time of the year. And I’ll add: it’s also a different city at this time of the day. Yes, because it’s 4 PM and rush hour is still a couple of hours away. A city without cars would look to creepy, but also too chaotic when there are too many – well I remember that at that very moment I thought that there was just the right amount of cars for a city like Lima to feel alive and enjoyable at the same time. I made my way through calle Berlin and a few more streets in the neighbourhood, wandering around, firmly decided to return to my accommodation with a different idea of Lima from the last time.
There was a weird calm in the ”barrio” as I turned as many little corners as I could in order to make sure I definitely lost the known path and I could immerse myself into some part of the city I had never seen. Little restaurants were being cleaned up for the coming evening, a handful of people passed by me, without making much noise, and the loudest I could listen to was some random chat between a customer and an old lady at an isolated cornershop. As the night approached, I almost instictively made my way towards the seaside, thinking that there is no better place to enjoy sunset than the sea. I remember I was told that I should visit one of the nicest malls of the city, called Larcomar. The unique thing about Larcomar is that it’s basically built on the edge of the stone wall that separates main Lima from the actual shore. It has a wide terrace with a beautiful view over the ocean in all its greatness, and it really was the ideal spot to observe that ball of fire commonly referred to as the Sun as it disappeared behind the clouds into the water.
For the first time in Lima I truly felt I loved the city. Lima really has something special but if you just have a quick glance at it, then it won’t be enough. No wonder why most travellers, that just see Lima as a land-of-no-one whose only purpose is having an international airport, say that they didn’t like it. I had the same feeling when I came here the first time, but now I had to change my mind. I left Larcomar and continued my walk through that main avenue, passing by some young people jogging on the wide sidewalk. I found a little kiosk called Beso Francés – the French Kiss – that sold crepes. I had one of them – delicious by the way – and ate it while contemplating the shady evening sky of Lima. Some quite cool air was coming from the ocean – it was winter, after all. Luckily I carried a windproof jacket with me.