Lima feels like a city that is just now awakening after a long sleep. Rehabilitation and redevelopment are underway everywhere. We passed dilapidated buildings, buildings undergoing repair, and buildings fully restored to the remembered glory of past ages. There were a few vacant, weed-filled plazas, but many more were immaculately maintained and filled with flowers, sculpture, fountains, and people. I could see busy shops and businesses and, while the city never looked crowded, the streets and plazas were active with people going about the business of daily life.
First a confession: I LIKE Lima.Most of the tour books and guided tours seem to view this teaming metropolis of 8 million as a necessary evil – the easiest place to begin a tour the “real” Peru. (Indeed, I suspect the only reason we had a day there was because flights to Cusco go out too early in the morning to make a same-day connection.) This attitude is unfortunate.
Yes, Lima is a huge, sprawling, polluted mess of a city, its colonial heart in a state of only recently (and only slightly) arrested decay and its poverty-stricken shanty towns teeming with the desperately poor from across the Peruvian countryside. However, Lima is also a fascinating mix of people and cultures, elaborate and sometimes elegant architecture both new and old, lovely plazas, leafy green neighborhoods, cheerful flower gardens, bustling wealthy neighborhoods, fine restaurants, amazing museums, a gorgeous dramatic coastline, and a history that predates the arrival of the Spanish. . . and that is without considering the gorgeous plazas that are at the heart of the typical tourist itinerary. It is a fascinating place.