Tag Archives: Lima

Pisco Sour At The Bolivar

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I’m sure its just me, but I get the sense that Peruvians really like to partition their map into smaller and smaller divisions. With a similar population to Canada, but within a much smaller land mass, Peru begins by dividing the map into Departamentos (which by the way is also the word they use to describe an apartment that one lives in), or what we call Provinces. The Provincias are then broken down into Distritos, which are in turn subdivided in to Comunidades, not to be confused with the actual towns and cities.


I get that everyone has their own way of organizing the books on their bookcase, but it makes for a very convoluted bureaucracy, with multiple, overlapping levels of government, all within a relatively small geographical region. I gather that the geography in combination with the largely rural nature of much of the country, and poor roads, are primarily responsible for this, and even though, those modes of communication have improved greatly it still remains that the greater the physical barriers the more likely that the various regions will develop autonomously and the resistance to remain so, is likely very strong. I was told that one such Departamento has over thirty smaller Provincias.


Then we move into Lima. Did I mention that it’s a huge city? I believe I did. First, you have to get a handle on the use of the different words used to describe the various levels of municipal divisions, then it takes a while to incorporate the names of the different areas into the vocabulary and finally, it’s a question of visualizing them on a map, to get a better sense of where you are and where you need to go.

What we in Toronto or New York City call boroughs, they call districts, however, they are administratively completely separate from each other, right down to police and fire services and even each district has smaller divisions which are vestiges of what were once colonial Spanish fincas or estates. The current count puts the number of autonomous Districts within the Greater Lima at over fifty.


Something I find really neat, although I don’t know that it makes finding an address any easier, is that each city block is numbered, so that if you provide your address as say 456 Avenida Grau, everyone knows that you live on the fourth city block of that street. Question then becomes, starting where. Is it always from a major street, but what if there’s a major street at either end Or is it away from el Rio Rimac, where the old historic Lima is situated, or is away from the coastline? What about the compass rose, does that come in to play


The answer is that there is absolutely no consistency. In fact if a street runs through several Districts the numbering begins a new each time, in one example coming from one end and the other, the opposite end. What this means is that it’s not good enough to provide the street name and number, but that you have to give the District Name. To top it off, as the city expands, people squat on surrounding lands and the streets have no names. There’s a song title in there somewhere! We had to visit several such locations but fortunately either the Taxi Driver or Annie, knew where we were going.


My home base, while in Lima, has been Miraflores and between me and the CUSO offices, which are up the coast in Magdalena del Mar, I have to cross through San Isidro, the patron saint of Spain. Heading down the coast is Barranco, and heading inland to the Historic Quarter of Lima, I need to cross through Jesus Maria, and just in case you’re wondering that’s not what you yell at the woman that just stepped on your foot.


I spent a wonderful day on Good Friday with Annie, Jorge and Javier, getting a personal tour of the Historic Quarter of Lima, which we started by having a Pisco Sour at the Gran Hotel Bolivar.Originally built as a luxury hotel for visiting royalty, heads of state and famous celebrities, the hotel is a beautiful example of the grandeur that befits it’s intended purpose. Pisco, by the way, is a fortified wine derived from white grapes and is served in combination with every type of fruit juice imaginable. What that means is that you could have a different Pisco Sour each day of the week for a month and never have the same one twice. We only had four all day.


My day ended on the rooftop patio of a CUSO volunteer that lives in Barranco, who had invited some friends over, before heading out to a dance club. You meet the most interesting people where you least expect it. I spent a good hour talking to three young woman in their early twenties, from Germany, who had attended school together, where they had completed studies in Graphic Design. The way I understood it, it’s encouraged that before starting work, students travel abroad to get a better understanding of the world around them, only that abroad might mean within Europe.


They, however, decided to take it more seriously and traveled to Tierra del Fuego, on the southern tip of Argentina, and are hitchhiking their way up the length of the American continent and couch surfing along the way. The plan is to continue through Central America, up the west coast of the U.S. and then into Canada. They weren’t clear on whether they would visit anywhere in eastern Canada, but I left them my business card and made a pitch for visiting Toronto. One of the woman said her parents fully expected her to meet with an unfortunate death along the way. You’re probably asking yourself how we communicated, and that’s where languages come in really handy.


Join me by raising your Pisco Sour to wish these three gutsy young woman safe travels and much adventure along the way.


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This collection of photographs was produced over a one day period in Lima, Peru.

Peruvian Nights

It’s tough to put down the camera, but here I am back indoors settling in to share some photographs and paint some mental pictures as well.

In October of 2012 I received an E-mail from Sean Kelly at CUSO International to cast another tempting opportunity my way, Would I be interested in signing up for another photographic posting, this time to Peru. It had to be a trick question, because it would be like asking a hungry man, it he’d like a three course meal. I felt a little like Sally Field You like me, you really like me.

It did, however, come down to timing and the initial timeline was for departing in mid January. Not bad weather-wise, but I had to consider other family responsibilities that were pressing on me at the time. However, by mid December I’d made up my mind and the wheels were set in motion. CUSO’s greatest challenge would turn out to be finding a Journalist that would also be interested and available, and who spoke Spanish. As a result it was the end of January before they were able to confirm departure dates and who my Hardy would be, this time around.

Someone at CUSO was thinking and Annie Theriault, from San-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec who is already posted in Lima, is taking a short leave from her current assignment to work with me.

My trip from Toronto to Lima on Tacca Airlines was uneventful, with one connecting flight in San Salvador. As you might imagine I left Pearson dressed lightly with just enough to get me from the car to the terminal in -5’C. San Salvador was a sweltering, humid 30’C and Lima wasn’t much better. The saving grace was that our arrival in Lima was under the cover of night and a cool breeze was blowing in off the Pacific.

Lima is a very large city on the Pacific, built on a coastal dessert with a population approaching 9 Million inhabitants. Now consider that the number of personal vehicles has doubled in the past twenty to thirty years and you have a pretty clear picture of the traffic mayhem. It’s crazy. Now imagine that we don’t start today to build a network of subways in Toronto and you’ve got a living example of the chaos to come.

Therein lies the adventure. My first day in Lima was spent on a refresher course regarding safety & security, diseases & food concerns and how to navigate the complex system of taxis and privately run busses. However, as the work day came to an end, it was back to the apartment that I’m sharing with two other volunteers, change out of my sandals and shorts, and out to navigate the streets in Rush Hour traffic, Fun Wow! I successfully found my way to the Metropolitano an articulated-bus right-of-way that runs from Miraflores on the coast, inland to the Casco Viejo or old part of Lima, to stroll the pedestrian boulevards and take in the night life around the central square, La Plaza de Armas.

A great number of streets surrounding La Plaza de Armas, have been transformed into wonderful pedestrian boulevards, and in my experience, wherever this is done, the locals and tourists alike, flock to these people friendly areas, like flies to… bright lights. There was a military band playing in the square, vendors hawking everything from children’s toys to cell phone covers, families with young children, teenagers holding hands, old men lining up for a shoe shine, woman arm in arm recounting their day’s challenges and the lovers. Ahh!! the lovers, taking over the benches and seemingly oblivious to the human traffic surrounding them, aware only of each others eyes. It’s the same everywhere. We are so much more alike than we are different.

For all our orderly by-laws and regulated urban planning, we have a lot to learn about humanizing our large urban centres, from places far more chaotic, like Lima. We could have the best of both worlds, if only there were the vision, the political will and the passion to see it through.