Day 107 – 17 Jun, 2015
Here is a perfect lesson in not listening to what other people say…. everyone told me that I wouldn’t be impressed with Lima, that it was dangerous and dirty, and that there was nothing to do. Now I have heard the “dangerous” line about every single city I have visited in South America and the truth is that if you use common sense and listen to local advice on where to go and not go and generally not walk alone at night, then most cities are not near as bad or “dangerous” as people say.
Miraflores happens to be the safest, cleanest, and most beautiful neighborhood in the large metropolis of Lima. I arrived feeling incredibly wornout and exhausted – you can only see just so many natural and architectural wonders before you go a little numb. I had heard other travelers refer to travel burnout before, but until you feel it yourself it sounds like such a bratty condition. “Oh, I’m sorry, you’ve seen too many waterfalls? Too many cathedrals? Too many sunsets? What a tough life you have!” (insert sarcasm here) Unfortunately, travel burnout is a real thing and it left me wanting to do absolutely nothing. I was questioning everything about my decision to leave. I mean…what am I doing here, away from friends and family, if I don’t even want to go out and see the sights? I was a bit depressed and a lot exhausted and even a touch lonely. Now, I apologize in advance if I mention travel burnout in future posts (it stayed with me off and on for about 2 months!) and it’s ok if you think I’m a brat for saying so. I’m slowly learning some of the things I need to do to combat this feeling, but it’s a work in progress. Bear with me!
At the time, however, the best thing I could think to do was go for a walk. I had no particular destination in mind but I thought the fresh air and vibrant city would do me some good. I wandered through Miraflores to the sea cliffs, for miles there are beautiful gardens and walking paths and stunning views out across the Pacific. With my Kindle, I parked myself on a bench in Love Park and read for hours, followed by a delicious traditional meal in a city that has a reputation for being a food destination.
While in Lima, each morning I woke up with a leisurely breakfast and stared at my iPad for awhile contemplating writing a blog post. And each morning, the same…..I felt stuck and overwhelmed with my thoughts on what to write and how to begin. I was definitely in a rut. Again, I decided I should go for a walk. On consecutive days, I went to the city center and Barranco, the artsy, bohemian neighborhood near Miraflores.
In the city center, I found myself in Plaza de Armas for people watching. I took a few minutes with my camera to clean the lens and adjust some settings, but in a matter of seconds after sitting down, I was approached by random people that wanted to practice their English, give me a survey on tourism, sell me some kind of junky souvenir, or just leer at me as if they had never seen a gringa before. Because I had my camera out, I had to assume that at least some of these people had sinister intentions to rob me. So much for a few minutes of quiet anonymity!
To escape the discomfort of what felt like the center of attention, I noticed a pretty interesting looking building where other gringos were walking inside. I had no idea what it was but it seemed like a good place to regroup. Inside the front door was a sign that the entrance fee was 11 soles (about $3.50) and I was told that a tour would begin in a few minutes. I still had no clue where I was but the price was right and it would keep me out of the limelight for a few more minutes. Turns out, I had stumbled into the Monastery of San Francisco with an old library and catacombs beneath.
This was a most unexpected find (mostly because I had not researched a thing as far as activities in Lima) but the thing with travel burnout, at least for me, is that I am constantly searching for unique experiences. Show me something I haven’t seen before!! Impress me! I found the catacombs and library to be most impressive. Loads and loads of books with decades of dust and femurs and skulls arranged in geometric patterns in the basement? Now this was something different! Both sights spoke volumes about the history of the monastery. No photos allowed, though, sorry folks!
My day of unexpected discoveries was not complete without the Magic Water Circuit. The title of the place even sounds lame. I couldn’t imagine how a bunch of fountains was really worth a special trip. Being in the city center already, I wasn’t far away so I figured it couldn’t hurt to swing by on my way back to Miraflores. I found it amazing, if not incredibly romantic as well. Thirteen fountains choreographed to music and light are spread out over at least 4 city blocks. I went at night to really appreciate the light show and it was much more than I predicted it would be. Just beautiful.
Barranco was less impressive to me, which is where I spent my final afternoon after another failed attempt at blogging. I expected artsy buildings and street musicians. I was there on a Friday so perhaps people were still tucked away at work, but the whole area was pretty bland. There were some expensive-looking homes and more seaside cliffs with breakthtaking views, but I found the whole excursion a big waste of time. At least I could practice some Spanish homework in the square….? No luck. Again, I sit down and I am approached by all kinds of characters that want to buy me a drink or practice their English (again?!). Even after I wandered down to the surfers’ beach, the beach itself wasn’t so nice and there wasn’t a good place to sit without garnering unwanted attention.
While I liked Lima more than I thought I would, I was beginning to understand that if I wanted a few minutes to myself, it wasn’t going to happen. As an introvert, I relish quiet moments when I’m feeling a little blue so… my solution? I booked a night bus to Trujillo and I was on my way to the beach!