We said our goodbyes to our second family in Pucallpa and set off on a 16 hour bus ride to the capital city of Peru. Our hosts live in Miraflores and we couldn’t have asked for a better location. Their apartment is just one block from the Pacific Ocean, and in one of the trendiest neighborhoods, filled with many of the best restaurants in Lima. We shared an apartment with a French nuclear engineer, Amelie, her Peruvian boyfriend, Franco, a political advisor, and two other Peruvian guys, Andres, a physicist, Camillo (also works in politics) and Camillo’s semi girlfriend/coach surfer from Chile, Mitsi. Needless to say it was a full house, but we got along great.
Our first night in Lima we went to grab dinner, but most places were closed, so we ended up at a gourmet Italian food store where we spoiled ourselves with rosemary biscuits, prosciutto, Italian cheese, olive tapenade and a decadent piece of chocolate cake for dessert. We ate our dinner on a bench atop the cliffs that overlook the ocean and listened to the revelry of the soccer games unfolding in the courts behind us.
The second night two more couch surfers arrived, a young German girl and her Ecuadorian male companion. That night we all went to a dive bar in an older neighborhood where we could play Sapo. This bar was nearly indescribable. Not one person in the bar, including the bartender and “bus boy” was under the age of 65 except for us. We purchased tall bottles of beer and joyfully drank as we watched the older generation (O.G.’s) show us how the game is played. Soon nearly everyone in our group had an elder amigo and we soaked up stories that spanned generations and continents.
Sapo is played in lanes and players toss all of their brass coins (similar size to washers but thicker) from the same distance (a bit further than darts) towards a square table resting at waist height. The surface has numerous slots cut into, including copper spinners, and a copper toad with an open mouth in the center, which are all worth different amounts of points. The board, number of coins, and scoring varies from city to city and country to country, but compete against each other either individually or in teams. In our particular pub, the goal of the game was to be the first player to get 10,000 points. Players are awarded the most points for throwing the coin in the toad’s mouth, and as Lisa found out, if you miss the table entirely, you are more likely to make it in the toad’s mouth on your next throw, and get to walk away with the title of Sapo Champion!
Lima served as an outstanding venue for us to recharge our batteries and soak up all the perks a large city has to offer. We had lunch at one of highest revered chefs in Peru’s restaurant, El Mercado, where we ordered grilled octopus with roasted vegetables as well as fried fish sandwiches. Words fail to describe the ecstasy both plates provided. We also indulged in a $10 burger from a restaurant named Juicy Lucy, after the burgers made famous in Minneapolis, so we had to try it and it did not disappoint, however, there were no leprechaun legs (deep fried green beans).
Several times we had fresh ceviche and Leche de Tigre (Tiger’s milk), a Peruvian hangover cure, which is essentially ceviche in a glass of reduced ceviche juice and topped off with fried shrimp or calamari. The most rejuvenating meal we experienced satisfied our craving for Indian food (not once but twice). We had a great Valentine’s day (without the stress and expense like in the States) at a small Indian/Pakistani restaurant and we ordered butter chicken, vegetable curry, naan, paratha, mint chutney, Indian chai tea, and fresh mango juice.
Our last night in the city we appreciated the gorgeous sunset by taking a bottle of pura pura flavored aquardente to Parque de Amor, which overlooked surfers attempting to catch the last waves of the day in the pristine ocean below. It was very difficult to leave Lima, both because our hosts were outstanding people, and Miraflores was definitely a place we could see ourselves living and working. The weather was always amazing; it was sunny every day with temperatures in the 80s during the day and never below the mid-60s at night.
Besides the splendor Miraflores offered, we also enjoyed taking the omnipresent public transportation options to different parts of the city. We spent an entire day downtown walking around the historically and culturally rich city center. We stumbled upon a delicious vegetarian buffet for lunch that was ridiculously cheap, sampled chocolate and pisco, admired an ancient huaca, and shopped in some hip bohemian boutiques. Overall, Lima exceeded our expectations, and will remain a special place we look forward to returning to.