Taiwan with friends

Featured

Our last trip in SE Asia (for this time period – hopefully not forever!) was to Taiwan.  We have 2 friends living there and being so close to them (well relatively speaking, the flight was still 4 1/2 hours but closer than 18 plus hours from Portland!) it would be a shame to not visit them.

We stayed in an area close to the domestic airport; I was told this is the old financial area, there’s a university here, and I think my friend might be the only Western person in the area!  Lots of fun to walk around; many small mom and pop restaurants, small shops for every need, went to the fish market,  checked out the grocery store and the all important Metro is nearby.  All in all a very dynamic area.

Many scooters, more than what we see in Singapore and all buzzing around you.  Eyes are needed everywhere to watch out for them (though we found the trick is to walk calmly forward and they (scooters) will buzz around you easily.  Though hard to think calmly as those scooters are barreling towards you!!  Here in Singapore we have the “green man” to walk.  In Taipei their green man is animated (I wish I had taken a little video of the green man walking, funny).  There is a count down clock above the animated green man and as the time is getting closer to zero the green man walks faster until he’s running.  The green man reminds me of the cartoon character from “Mad” magazine (one of the Freak brothers; Freak Brothers – it’s the big feet of the green man, and the loping walk is what reminds me – okay this is really showing my age!)

I booked a tour for us of the Dadaocheng area; “the major street of Dadaocheng are lined with hundreds of old houses. The facades of the buildings reflect architectural trendings in different eras. Some of them suggest the influence of Qing dynasty (the last imperial dynasty of China), while others give way a marriage with european styles or modernism. Despite the diversity in style, they are all long and narrow.   The first section is used to run business, showcasing goods from herbs for Chinese medicine, dried foods, bamboowares, to lanterns. The second section behind the court is in its capacity as a living room or warehouse.”  This area is known for their fabric; as in a huge building full of little fabric shops (if you have any need for fake fur, tulle, polyester printed fabrics its there; overwhelming is an understatement!)  Good thing I don’t need any more fabric.  We had a tea tasting in an old tea house (very fun – loved the architecture!)  The whole area is being revitalized; keeping the old facades and making the space inside into new functions – lots of art space is the newest thing.  The above picture is from the Dadaocheng area (North gate.)

Our next day was a short hike into the city mountains (Taipei is ringed by mountains, lot of lovely green to see, unfortunately though it suffers the same fate as Los Angles, smog.  All the smog is captured into a bowl situation.  This time of year, not too bad – but I understand it can be bad.)  From the short hike we go to Taipei 101; the world’s tallest Green building.  The building has a wind damper which is supposed to help the tall building sway and resist the typhoons and earthquakes.  The wind damper has now been made into a damper baby toy/mascot.  Damper Baby.  Had the very famous dumplings at Din Tai Fung (1 Michelin star!)  Lots of fun and very delicious!

We spend a couple of days at Sun Moon Lake which is in the middle of the country.  Beautiful.  The lake is small (about 30 kilometers around), it has a boardwalk/trail around for most of it (biking around the lake is considered one of the top places to go, though I will say, if you’re on the trail it’s great.  When the trail stops, you have to go on the road.  Well, the roads is narrow and the drivers are a bit crazy.  I’m not brave enough to be on the road with the drivers!)  We walked around some of the boardwalk, did a boat ride around the lake (though next time we might need to see if we can’t find a private boat to allow us to investigate a bit more of the lake side.)  Got to a butterfly garden and saw some of the biggest butterflies ever!  We took a gondola ride, not only a great views but we ended up at an Aboriginal center (Taiwan has 27 local indigenous people, and 9 of these tribes were represented.)  Many of the houses are original and moved to the village, from bamboo to great slabs of slate (I was surprised to see the slate!)  There were displays of,  clothes, basketry and wood carvings, lots of interactive things the kids could do (weave, clay work, playing traditional games – the boys tried out a blow dart.  John is a natural!)

What I’ve discovered about Taiwan; it’s hotter and more humid than Singapore (or at least during Taiwan’s summer months!)  I thought I’ve gotten used to the heat/humidity here (maybe not becoming one with the it, but being able to press forward at least).  Taiwan smacked me down with the humidity!  On the other hand Taiwan had some of the best food we’ve eaten since we got here!!!  Wild boar ribs, ribs with roasted cumin seeds and chili peppers, water spinach with garlic, morning glory greens, spring roll ice cream, beef noodle soup, milk fed pineapples and lots of red wine (okay that last part was with our friends and not in the restaurants).  Sorry SIN you have some good food, but I think Taiwan might have you beaten as a foodie destination!

No photos again. The internet where we are is painfully slow; if you’re Facebook friends with me, I’ve posted pictures of our time in Taiwan.

Well this is it.  We head back home tomorrow morning.  Thanks for listening to my rambles.  Will chat with you again when our next adventure starts!

Lynn

And we’re out of here; well mostly

Featured

Contracts can run long (case in point Australia; we were to be there for 3 months, 21 months later we left) and they can run short (this contract; we were to be here until the end of November).  Rarely do they run on the dates that were originally given to us. Since John “serves at the pleasure of the client”, we have learned to be flexible (John is way better than me, but I’m slowly learning!)  We’re now getting ready to head back home to Portland, with a couple of slight detours.

Detour 1; a trip to Myanmar!  I’ve booked a tour, Yangon (the defacto capital of Myanmar), Mandalay (the religious and cultural center of upper Myanmar) Bagan (an ancient city full of pagodas) and Inle Lake (this where the fisherman row their boats with their feet!)  It should be quite the interesting trip.  We leave this Sunday for a week.

Detour 2; a trip to Taipei Taiwan to visit 2 friends.  We’re so close it would be terrible not to “run” over and visit. The (tentative) plan will be a couple of days in Taipei and then a couple of days outside of Taipei.  Back to Singapore and then fly out to Portland.  I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to write a brief post about each trip once we get back to Singapore after each leg.  We leave Singapore permanently on Weds July 27th (and arrive home that same day through the miracles of International Date line!)  Looking forward to catching up with everybody in person; red wine, BBQ and friends.  Can hardly wait!

In the meantime it’s time to say good bye to SIN.  It’s been fun living here, and there’s many things I’m going to miss.  The food: lime juice; with lemon grass stalks, cilantro, kaffir leaves, lime wedges  all muddled together with sparkling water. Very refreshing and so tasty!

20160514_121249

Love your carry bags for drinks, a little plastic sling with handles.  Very clever and convenient!!

20160707_140358

Your Indian food; all of it so good – I haven’t had a bad Indian meal the entire time here, and all those lovely mango lassies.  Oh so good.  Your fabulous Thai Honey Mangoes, we might be able to get them at home (and I’m certainly going to look) but they have been a treat to have here, every day with my yoghurt.  It’s going to be sad to go home to bananas and yoghurt.  And I’m really going to miss my ice cream sandwiches; slab of ice cream in bread.

20160511_141458

I’m going to miss my Garden city; for being such a urban city you have so many gardens and green spaces.  I just found out that for every new building going up (and there are many) there needs to be the equivalent space dedicated in the building for gardens (so if the building takes up a square block, there needs to be the equivalent of a square block of garden in the new building).  Nice, helps bring down the temperature of the city and improves livability.  Now if they could only put in some bike lanes, so all the bikes will get off the sidewalks, ditto for the scooters – that will really help with the livability or at least with walking on the sidewalks!

20160521_134339

We’ve gotten to Fort Canning, Gardens by the Bay, Botanical Gardens.  All lovely green space right in the heart of the city.  Plus we were able to get out to some of the outer edges of the city to see more nature; Southern Ridges, Changi Boardwalk, Labrador Boardwalk, St John’s Island.  All wonderful pockets of goodness.

All the little neighbourhood areas; Little India my favourite haunts (though it helps that it’s so close to where we live), Chinatown, Kampong Glam (Malay area). The temples, mosques and churches all right beside each other (and no fighting!)  The oldness of the city; it’s been around forever VS Portland is barely 100 plus years old. 

The public art; so much of it.  Love it all.

The wet market that I’ve started to go to – the choices; all the fresh produces, dry goods (spices/rice), all sorts of seafood.  I maybe won’t miss seeing all the meat – it is slightly off putting to smell the meat (chicken especially) and to see the chicken heads.  I have to say I like my meat a bit more hermetically sealed!!

The friendliness of everybody I interacted with.  I’ve heard stories of people not being very helpful, I never found it at all.  Everybody went out of their way to help us out.  Though I will say, once they got behind the wheel of car; not quite so friendly!  Oh well – I’m sure we can say the same thing about the states.  And very safe here.  John made a comment to a little girl and her dog at our first place, wanting to know if “Bruno was an attack dog?”  “No, she replied –  you only need attack dogs in America for the burglars, it’s safe here in Singapore!”  We could (and did) walk everywhere and felt safe everywhere.

I love your floral displays – fun to see all these tropical flowers/plants outside, especially since where we live all these tropical plants would be house plants for us!

Plus the views; night views in all it’s lit up glory, or up high in the trees, Singapore shines.

Thank you Singapore for a great time.  Hope to see you again, very soon!!

Lynn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shopping; A National Sport?

Featured

I think if there is a national sports in Singapore, it might need to be shopping.  For what is a small island city state (276 square miles; half the size of LA) and with a population of 5.6 million people (that’s 21,077 people per square mile!) I’m amazed at the amount of  malls here.  And I’m not talking about just the typical mall I see in big cities (you know a mall located in one area with many smaller stores surrounding it and a couple of big department stores).  I’m talking about a street full of malls; 4 to 5 stories with shops, restaurants, and other services.  High end shops like Gucci, Chanel, Calvin Klein, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany are common.  So common in fact, I see them in many malls that are right beside each other.  Not that Singapore is a poor country, but who is buying all of these goods?  Clearly there is more wealth here than I imagined.

Are the ex-pats driving the shopping?  Bringing a touch of home to the “unknown”? My local mall has Marks and Spencer and John Little (both British) and Spotlight (Australian home goods and fabric/notions).  I’ve seen Harvey Norman (OZ electronics) and the local Dollar store, a national Japanese store Daiso, (where everything costs $2. I buy all my kitchen stuff from them!!)  Plus of course all the shops from the States; Forever 21, Victoria Secret, etc. And not to mention all the food chain imports; McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC (I personally think these are some of the worst things to import to this country!)  I’ve come across a Baja Fresh (I wonder if their fish tacos are as good was what I could get at home?)

Stores are getting ready for the Great Singapore Sale (end of May until the end of July); 10% to 70% off goods.  Will be interesting to see what it will entail.  I’m looking for a few things; carpets and fabric, but so far have only seen that in small shops.  Somehow I’m not thinking I will be getting 70% off a carpet or a sari!  I am hot for a silk comforter and hope I might be able to get one one sale.  Checked out Tang (Japanese high end department store), chatted with the staff, looked at what they had, discussed merits of silk cover VS cotton cover.  Okay going with cotton cover.  Oh sorry, we only have cotton cover silk comforter in a single width, new ones in the size I want won’t be for another month or 2.  Why it wasn’t it mentioned right up front when they knew the size I wanted?

John and I headed out on Saturday to celebrate Vesak Day at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. http://www.btrts.org.sg/museum-guided-tour.  Buddhists world wide celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha on this day, it’s a time of joy, peace and reflection.    The temple/museum is new(ish) built in 2007 in Chinatown, cost of $75 million dollars.  The sacred artifacts of Buddha (his bone and tongue) were on display in the Buddha culture museum, and the tooth is in a giant stupa (a dome shaped building) weighing 3.5 tons and made from 320kg (that’s about 7o5 pounds) of gold, of which 234kg (515 pounds) were donated by devotees.  4 floors of incredible!  2 floors of worship, bathing of Buddha (significance of one of his legends that the infant prince was showered with waters of nine dragons soon after he was born).  10,000 little statues of Buddhas, many stations of little alters of fruit and flowers with a bowl to put change in and Buddha in many poses.  The museum was very interesting; how Buddha became, his journey of enlightenment, how Buddhism traveled the world.  The top floor is the roof top garden; more Buddhas (annual sponsorship – business/general public would pay a fee to “own” Buddha for a year), along with a lovely garden and a prayer wheel.  It’s the largest cloisonne Buddha prayer wheel in the world, every turn represents a single recital of the scripture and mantra.  Huge, but shockingly easy to turn the wheel.

Sunday the plan was to head to one of the smaller islands and hang out there for the day.  Well it would help if I could read the schedule better.  I clicked on the wrong area so we were a half an hour late for the ferry.  Okay, we now know the drill and will for sure go back this weekend.  In the meantime we decided to go to the east side of the island to check out the beach boardwalk close to the airport https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/changi-east-boardwalk.  Of course we didn’t have all the information and only a phone to try to figure out some of the logistics.  We did find a lovely park, and the ocean but not the area I was looking for.  The big amazement to me was the camping along the beach.  Mostly the amazement was, enclosed stuffy tents with NO A/C.  I know one is supposed to “suffer” when you camp, but this went way beyond suffering and bordering dangerously close to torture (well for me anyways!)  I’ve checked out the logistics and we now have a plan for the next time we head out that way.  Starting with after we get off the train, we should have taken a cab to the beach area.  Clearly the heat/humidity had affected us!!

A romantic date tonight at the Long Bar (where the Singapore Sling was invented!) at Raffles hotel.  I’ve walked around the shops, would love to walk the ground or at least see the lobby.  You need to be a registered guest, but at $760 a night I guess I will be happy to check out the Long Bar and the shops!  Going to check out the little islands this weekend, now that I know the right ferry schedule.

Have a great holiday weekend for those in the States.

Lynn

 

I’m here!

Featured

First week in Rio, yep I’m back in South America.  Where everything is just a bit harder to figure out and to do.  Went and got a SIM card for my phone; knew to bring my passport, waited in “short” line that was really at least 15 minutes long, then the experience of trying to convey what was needed to the store associate.  She had to whip out her phone a few times to Google translate to us what she needed and used her phone to figure out where the English settings were.  We were all pleased an hour later to have a functioning phone (the next hurdle will be to add minutes to the phone.  I’m hopeful that by the time I need minutes, I’ll be back in the states (chicken I know!)  Today’s hurdle will be to find laundry soap for a front loading washing machine.

World Cup: Brasil made it from the quarter finals and is now into the semi finals.DSCN6034(mascot)

The game was on Friday and a day off for most of the work force (John did go into work).  The locals (of course) are super excited that they advanced – during the game when they scored fireworks went off, cheers, horns honking.  We walked around the beach after the game; swarms of people dancing, lots of hugs and kisses, somba lines – lots of pandemonium.DSCN6048(me w/local football star)

Tomorrow Brasil will play Germany (another day off from work) and the final match will be on Sunday.  What will be interesting is how the city will be once all the tourists are gone.  Right now I’m (seeing lots (and lots) of military and police (many in full riot/storm trooper gear!) on street corners (though I feel pretty safe from them as it seems without fail all are looking at their phones (Facebook updates?!) and not watching the public.DSCN6029 When everybody is gone, will crime rise up (no more overtime for police?)  Regardless for all the publicity Brasil was getting about not being ready for the Cup – there has been only 1 problem (that I’m aware of) about a bridge collapsing at one of the host cities.

John and I got up to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar) this past weekend.  Beautiful views of the city – you can really tell this is a beach city.DSCN6056

We live near the end of the point – you’re seeing Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach is on the other side of the point.  Sugarloaf Mountain is 1312 feet tall of granite and quartz (perfect for climbers!)  You can hike to the summit (though too humid for me), so we took the cable car (which has been running since 1912 – though not the same one!)  The view from the top is incredible – 360 degrees, you see the whole bay, and for as crowded as the place is, we were actually able to find some quiet, shady spots to enjoy the scenery.DSCN6042

A few items of note: I have the “biggest” bathing suit here.  I was kidding before about a string bikini, but maybe I might need to re-think!  Though I won’t go out into the public until I have more tan on tummy – will need to get more of a base tan here at the pool. Tried a few of the local favs – aqua de coco (coconut milk – not bad if the coconut is nice and cold), acui ice (a super berry that comes of slushy machines, a bit gritty and a little sweet; though you eat with your eyes, and the berry is very dark purple/brown.  I don’t need to say anything more!)DSCN6070 The best have been the pastel de carne (meat empanadas!)  I can eat those every day.

Tchau, the girl from Ipanema Beach

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventure Begins (soon!)

Featured

I’m almost ready to head out the door for our next adventure, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil (I can barely believe I’m saying those words!)  I’ve started to pack (do you find it hard to pack for weather in another country?)  Even though I’m watching the weather in Rio it’s still slightly hard to pack.  The saving grace, they’re on the Tropic of Capricorn and it’s their winter.  Essentially our summer, warm during the day and a bit cooler at night.  Dresses, flip flops and lightweight sweaters, possibly a string bikini (well no that won’t happen – but maybe when I’m there I might have a look at one or two!)

My list of places to see and do while there:

the beach – we’ll be living at Ipanema Beach, right beside Copacbana Beach (just hearing it sounds like fun!)

Sugar Loaf Mountain, Christ Redeemer, Favelas (located in what might be called “sketchy areas” this would be a tour, there are supposed to be some pretty amazing art/samba schools), cooking school (can hardly wait to try some of their food – http://www.buzzfeed.com/gabrielakruschewsky/traditional-brazilian-foods-you-need-to-eat-right-now  – all of that food sounds amazing), plus all the usual suspects of museums/shops/botanical gardens/and hopefully a few weekend side trips (Mr Adventure is working after all!)

Iguazu Falls (bigger than Niagara falls) found at the corner of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

The Amazon – Manaus – jumping off port for the Amazon.  Though after reading one of my guide books; DEET needs to be packed, and no fingers or toes into the water (either super dirty or bitten of by Piranhas!)

And of course World Cup!!!  Not that I’m a huge fan (okay barely a tepid fan) but I’ve seen clips of fans all excited, watching on the big screens on the beach (Copacabana) and generally having fun and I’m all about having fun!

I’m all ears if anybody has words of wisdom of things to see/do/people to connect with in Brasil.

Tchau (pronounced ciao)

The girl (soon to be) from Ipanema Beach

leaving for home.jpgHopefully this won’t be me leaving for Rio (luggage wise I should qualify!)

 

 

 

Nazca Lines and a Parade

It was a full weekend.  Cooking class on Friday, Nazca Lines on Saturday and a Fiestas Patrias Parade (Peru is celebrating their Independence – it seems like it’s about a month long celebration) on Sunday!

The cooking class; one of John’s co-worker’s wife was in town and since I’m always looking for a buddy to do something with, I asked if she might be interested in a Peruvian cooking class (and visit to the local Mercado).  We were picked up and met our chef at the market; nibbled on a few pieces of fruit (sweet lemons – tasted more like grapefruits), found out the very small limes are sour and used for ceviche only while the bigger limes are a bit sweeter and used for cocktails.  Looked at lots of fresh fish (and an octopus up close and personal!) saw some meat bits that almost made me think vegetarianism might not be a bad option and lots of fresh vegetables from around the region.  Then tried a few cheeses (slightly bland for my taste, though the one smoked cheese was good enough to buy some for home).

Onto the Peruvian cooking class.  We made sauce for the traditional Huancaina (it’s a yellow sauce made from the cheese we picked up, aji Amarillo (the traditional Peruvian pepper) milk, crackers (I know I thought an unusual ingredient also!)  The sauce is then spooned over 3 slices of cold potatoes, with a half an hard boiled egg and a half an olive on top.  Love the sauce, though I’ve always found the potatoes a bit bland.  Passion fruit Pisco sours.  Well my day was made.  They were perfect, delicious!  And the greatest tip – to separate your egg whites, a small(ish) hole was made in the top of the egg, and the egg white sort of oozed out, yolk left behind in the egg.  Very clever.  Shake that shaker until you see the outside is a bit frozen like (good exercise for your arms as a side benefit!)  Ceviche is the next item to make; fish is diced, red onion is slivered with a few red chilies and cilantro.  But the real magic is the sauce; limes (squeezed by hand so as not to become too bitter!), fish stock (best if its homemade of course), ice cubes.  Then the real magic happens when you had a whole chili pepper (which you crush twice with a mortar in the bowl), garlic left whole and thrown in and stirred, and cilantro.  Once you have your sauce, then fish and onions into the sauce for a few minutes.  Ceviche is ready.  Wow!!!  Incredible.  The last dish was Lomo Saltado (a Chinese fusion dish, very popular here).  A few vegetables stir fried with the beef cut into cubes.  The key is to have a very hot pan; fire is to be expected (chef’s dining room ceiling has a slight charred look to it from all his classes!)  One more tip; white vinegar was used to wash your hands to get rid of the hot chili residue.  Great tip since I’ve been known to cut chilies and then proceed to take my contacts out.  Not a pretty picture!!  Lunch was wonderful.

Saturday we head to the Nazca Lines for the day.  We are driven to Pisco (the town, not the drink!) to the International Airport and from there we flew over the lines.  The airport is designated as international, but the only place they fly to is the Nazca Lines (for 1 very short month there were other flights, but the airline decided they weren’t making any money and discontinued the service.  It’s used by the air force and Nazca Line flights only.)  Half the counters are still wrapped in plastic, the day we were there was the busiest it’s been all day (all 24 people for 3 flights over the lines), there is more staff then passengers.  But of course there is still the slight South American chaos that I love.  You check in (and weighed – luckily the weight can only be seen by the agent!), show your passport, then with your boarding pass you go to another desk and pay a departure fee ($4.27 US), back to the check in stand to get your seat assignment.  Now you need to clear security (and show your passport and boarding ticket – we were told when the airport first opened a group didn’t have their passports, convinced the airport to let them on since they were a family group.  Bottom line, plane was taken (drugs) and piolets returned.)  Passports are now shown twice.  Cool our jets in the waiting room. As a side note; while we were waiting to check in, there is a wonderful exhibit upstairs at the airport with some history of the Nazca Lines and of the surrounding area – I rushed through (which in the end I could have taken my time) thinking I had to be back downstairs to check in.  One of the interesting tidbits was why the lines are still so distinct – one theory is when the lines were, the soil was exposed and lighter in colour.  The hot air of the desert created a buffer along the exposed new soil and in the morning the dew mixed with the plaster in the soil caused another layer of buffer.  Very fascinating, I clearly need to spend more time reading about the  Nazca Lines.

Small plane over to the lines, we each had our own window, and we were told the plane will be like a roller coaster with step banks over each side to see the lines so look out only your window!  Air sickness was the concern (huge barf bags in the seat pockets – clearly this has happened before!)  Luckily no problems with our flight.  The lines were smaller than I expected – but I guess so since we were up so high?  Very cool to see and it was equally interesting to fly over to the lines; dry water beds, lots of sand dunes!, and the patchwork of green fields to the dry sand.  All in all a fascinating trip!

Astronaut

Astronaut – or maybe an alien!

Sunday was the Fiesta Patrias (Independence Day) Parade.  And yes it was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped.  Loud; (the band played at 11!, pre warm act before the parade started), packed with people (4 and 5 deep at the curb and as we were leaving we could have picked up our feet and be swept along with the crush of people!), and selling anything/everything.  The best for sale were these plastic footstools/chairs for S/10 (about $3 US) to stand on if you were at the back of the crowd, or sit on if you were at the front of the crowd.  As we were leaving we saw a car with 3 rows of those plastic footstools and about 20 in each row.  Clearly this is a popular thing to use at parades.  There was cotton candy/candy apples/popcorn/Inka cola/ plus a whole lot more.

Wong (local grocery store) was the sponsor for the parade (their 30th year!), there was an employee from the chain about every 10 feet on both sides of the street.  Police in riot gear (always a bit disconcerting to see them in riot gear; but then to see them in riot gear at a parade!  Should I worry?  Luckily I know the correct answer is no – they are in riot gear everywhere.  It’s just the state of life.)  The parade was to start at 3:30 pm, which it might have; but we were at the end of the parade route (and the parade route was shockingly long!  Like at least 5 or 6 miles long), so it took awhile for the parade to get to us.  Started out with Chinese Dragons (remember Wong sponsored the parade), along with Chinese dancers, and then the local people civil servants (for lack of better word).  It was police and firemen/women, parks and rec people, recycle service (side note; one of the floats shot off paper confetti and another float had “soap bubbles” which was plastic, not sure how that played into the recycle bit!)

Finally the parade itself; local school bands – I love the marching bands!  Lots folkloric dancing (great costumes and the locals were equally impressed with the dancing).  A few floats – interestingly the floats were mostly advertising; saw one for toilet paper (fellow on it made giant soap bubbles and had 2 ladies out front in white little dresses), another one was for bleach (3 ladies in small dresses were on the top and doing a little dance and listening to the same 15 second jingle for hours – I wouldn’t be so smiley at the end of the parade after that experience!), another float was a movie promotion (it was a sequel, 11 men and football (soccer) hugely popular with the crowd, clearly I missed something in the translation!)  Miss World Peru had a float, she was on a giant swan.

A very fabulous weekend of fun activities!  Heading out to Arequipa (the White city) this weekend for the long weekend.

Fiesta Patrias!

Lynn

Women with Wine

Now that I have your attention!  Women with Wine is a local group I found on Facebook (the miracles of technology.)  The group activity this month was a mixer (yea, I could bring John – first time out it’s always a bit nice to bring somebody I know) to Mamacona.  Lunch (Individual grill includes: loin + chicken filet + bondiola (pork shoulder is what I think the rough translation is) + anticucho (several slices of heart on a skewer – a bit too salty for me, thank goodness I wasn’t super sure what I was eating until after I had a couple of bites and swallowed.  Otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have said no thanks!) + chorizo sausage + blood sausage + salad or french fries.) Plus you bring a bottle of wine and the corkage fee is waived.  That was a lot of food/wine for the middle of the day!!  And we only brought one bottle of wine – many people brought 2 bottles!  Where do they put it?  After lunch, there was a horse show, Peruvian Paso – a breed of light saddle horse, distinguished by a natural four-beat lateral gait called the paso llano.  And a Senora who danced with one of the horsemen (so to speak.)  It was a lovely day, lots of fun conversations with everybody and I might have even made a few new friends! 

Sunday we took walk along the waterfront in Barranco, a neighbouring area to where we are living now.  I was there originally on a bike and food tour, back again to see the area with John.  This time the fish market was open with loads of fishes (and lots of bad boy pelicans waiting around to be fed!)  and a graveyard of boats.  And maybe one or two pieces of art. 

One of the (many) great things about where we live is the park outside our apartment, or the Malecon.  It’s a cliffside boardwalk, about 5 miles in length with many small parks all connected together.  Outside our apartment is the Nazca lines (smaller versions of the Nazca line images that are filled in with marigolds and then lit up at night), Parque del Amor (mosaics and a kissing statue), along with cycle lanes (though the bike lanes are a bit on the skinny side – some of the lanes are luckily on the sidewalk and I’m good, when the lanes go onto the road I feel a bit nervous (lanes are skinny and the bikes go in both direction.  I’ve been known to stop and bring my bike right to the edge of the sidewalk, so bikes can get around me.  Clearly, I haven’t ridden enough here!) 

The park is used all the time – not only the obvious of walking/jogging/cycling.  But I see it used for yoga (the Zen of watching the ocean), boot camp workouts (that would be me, along with many other groups), parasailers (both leap off the cliff kind and the ones with a little motor to allow you to go further), and to watch the fabulous sunsets (though at this time of year all that I see are grey skies, rarely is the sky clear for sunset – but come summer it’s fab!)  Plus, I see ceremonies (graduations) dances, picnics, selling of everything.  The Malecon is incredibly well used. 

Heading to the Nazca lines this weekend; a very long day trip but excited to see them in person.  Sunday is (hopefully) a parade; the start of the celebration of Peru’s Independence (which is the end of next week, celebrated over a couple of days; what a great country!)  Nothing like a good South American parade for a bit of pandemonium!  Plus fireworks!!!  I’m not sure how it can get any better. 

On a side note; one of the ladies I’ve met here told me about a tourism plug for Peru.  The jest of it, a bus full of local Peruvian celebrities end up going to Peru, Nebraska to promote Peru.  Very clever.  It’s a bit long (15 minutes) but well worth a watch!! 

 Hasta Pronto

Lynn

Colonial Lima

Hola everybody.

John and I went on a Colonial walking tour of downtown centro Lima (around Plaza de Armas) this past weekend with Lima Walks.  We had a great time; the owner/operator is from Holland with a background in architecture, came to Peru in 2008 and has since developed many different walking tours of Lima.  Lots of history (of course) about the what and whys of what we were seeing.  Some of the buildings the Inca were already using (church and government palace) were made more “Spanish” and used the same way (still government palace and church).  One way to make the conversion over to Spanish.  All the buildings around the square are “new” – as in the last 200 years (I think that’s how I understood it).

buildings around Plaza de Armas; the cathedral, the government palace and an office building

There is only one small building that is original (17th century) that now houses the Pisco Sour Museum!  We were told this building was unused until the last few years.  A few random interesting facts (well interesting to me!)  The original buildings were only 2 stories high; due to building materials (there was only adobe bricks available in the city and the second level of the buildings were made out of sugar canes – so there couldn’t be a third layer due to the lack of support from the sugar canes!  The sugar canes were laid vertical, plastered over and now you have a wall.)

 

P1030674

the sugar canes are the vertical slats

 

And the other reason the buildings were small is due to the earthquakes that happen here.  (and a side note we had an earthquake here this past Saturday night – it was a little one; 4.7 on the scale.  We were in the elevator when it happened; I thought it was John goofing around (you can really make the elevator move around by shaking it – which is what I thought John was doing.  He denied it!) Come to find out it was an earthquake!)  There hasn’t been a big one in many years, but the knowledge is common enough for the builders to make the buildings earthquake ready (all through the ages!)  The wooden balconies (Moorish in design – from the Spaniards) were where the  ladies would sit and watch life go by.  Intricate wood designs, heavily carved so the passer by couldn’t see in, lots of air ventilation.  Love the balconies!

 

the wooden balconies

hard to tell, but the bottom picture is a courtyard with stones and vertebra (from cows not humans!)

some of the lovely detail work

 

P1030676

my personal favourite shot of local transportation!

 

One of the stories we were told was the “unofficial” use of the old buildings.  Printing presses were housed in the buildings – 1 would have been fine, but evidently many will go into a building (essentially squatting is what I understood!)  The vibrations from the machines aren’t good for the building (even though the building is standing empty and the local government refuses to do anything about said building!)  So the printing presses are swept out (government crack down on squatters) and moved to another area of town (sounds vaguely like how Portland solves their homeless problem; sweep it to another area of town!)  And then the printing presses slowly creep back to the original buildings.  Process is repeated!  It was pointed out some of the buildings now have brick or a cement “pony wall” in front of the doors – this is to prevent people (printing presses!) to get back into the buildings.  Oh and the printing presses, are a big deal here – not much in way of social media, everything is done by flyers/brochures/business cards so printing presses are actually quite useful.  All in all a very fascinating tour of one small part of the city.  I’m now hot to see more of his tours.

Sunday we met up with friends (well friends might a strong word; John’s co-workers is really who they are, but they are very friendly!) at a local Spanish Tapa Bar for the “running of the bull”!  We were to wear white shirts with a red sash, the “bull” was a decorated shopping cart, maybe one or two glasses of beer was involved and a huge pan of paella was made!  Very fun way to spend the afternoon.

the making of the bull!

the “running of the bull”; we had left when the rest of the group ran with the bull!

the making of the Paella

This weekend we’re off to Peruvian Paso horse “iconic” horse show, not to sure what to expect.  But I know it will involve eating and drinking with a bunch of other people, so I’m sure it can’t be all bad!

Hasta Pronto

Lynn

 

Back to Lima

Back to Lima (did anybody even notice I didn’t post for several weeks and wonder why?!)  We did a surprise trip home for mum’s birthday (we knocked on the front door and she was very shocked to see us standing there!) and John got his work visa sorted out.  A lovely time of seeing family (trip to the coast and it was sunshine), lots of BBQ and red wine (as in almost every single night), got in an urban hike and we were able to see many friends while we were at home.  All in all a wonderful trip.

Time to settle back into life here.  I signed up for a month of boot camp exercise class (the class happens along the Malecon (waterfront) in the park.)  It’s more public than what I would like, nothing like doing squats and lunges with the whole world looking on!  On the other hand, the ladies are very nice and one of them has graciously invited me to her craft group which makes me very happy!!  I’ve found another group through Facebook; Women with Wine in Lima (my kind of group!!) and we’re going on an outing next weekend.  It’s lunch, wine corkage fee, and a show of horses and dancing?  I’m not sure how to explain the horses/show.  My impression is, the show is part of the celebration for the Peruvian Independence (the official days are the end of this month).  Regardless it sounds like it will be fun, and we’ll be going with a bunch of other people (potential friends?)  I’ll let you know how it goes.  I had another lady invited me to the American Women’s Literary Club – the club does some philanthropy activities, has a general meeting with a speaker/tea once a month, along with a few monthly misc. activities (reading groups, quilting, etc.)  I went to the general meeting this past week.  Very nice ladies and the big bonus, a few of the ladies belong (so to speak) with the American Embassy.  Can I quick become friends with them so when our next contract comes up, I might have a few more people I can ping for introductions?

The big thing now is to actually sign up for Spanish lessons.  Though I have a feeling what I want may not be what I get!  I want to meet twice a week for a couple of hours over the next many months.  What I’m finding is the classes are Monday to Friday, 4 hours a day.  I’m thinking it might be private lessons, at least for the first while.  I’ve sent out a few notes, we’ll see what sorts out.

There was a lovely art fair this past weekend near where we live; sponsored by the government no less!  Some very lovely pieces for sale (we bought a picture and I was able to hang up in our apartment).  The artisans were from all parts of the country, pictures were some of the activities that was happening that day.

Friends were in town this past week (they visited us when we lived in Costa Rica almost 20 years ago!)  We only had time for dinner (their list was long of places to visit before heading home).  We celebrated 4th of July at the local Irish bar (nothing says 4th of July like an Irish pub?!)  The red, white and blue balloons were the “fireworks”, the special 4th menu; hot dogs (one version was served with mayo – I gave it a miss), hamburgers or BBQ ribs with slaw (the ribs and slaw were both very tasty!)  There was an US trivia quiz (developed and mediated by 2 blokes from England!)  I’m not sure we did very well.  The first part was celebrities not looking good (2 pages), we needed to fill in the names of who they were, I bet we got about half.  One of the local waitress knew one of the pictures (thank goodness!)  Second part was US trivia; we most likely did pretty okay on that one (though 2 questions that we had no answer; Griffith Observatory is where? (LA is the correct answer; I suggested it, John said to smoggy.  Guess who was right?!)  How many founding fathers were there?  We put down 26, 56 is the correct answer.)  And the last part of the quiz was name the song and artist (all to do with places in the States).  We did crap on that part!  But it was lots of fun, though we didn’t stay long enough to see how we scored.  Hopefully we didn’t do total crap!!

Heading into central Lima tomorrow for a tour of the colonial buildings.  Should be very interesting, and I see there is a chocolate festival at the convention center in town.  Well since it’s so close to where we’ll be – we might need to check it out!

Hasta Pronto

Lynn

 

 

What I’ve noticed

A few observations; since I’m walking everywhere these days I have a different perspective on what I see (VS what I see at home in the States from my car!)  Dogs; the people here (or at least in Miraflores where we live right now) love their dogs.  I feel like I’ve never seen as many dogs as I’m seeing right now.  Not just apartment size dogs; but Great Danes, Dalmatians, Boxers, Bull Dogs.  Oh and many of these dogs are walking with coats on, as if it’s minus degree weather (FYI it’s cool here, but more like mid Spring cool – mid 60’s).  I haven’t noticed much in way of gyms (though I will admit I haven’t looked really hard), but what I do notice are the many people working out in the parks.  The park across from us (which is a huge long sweeping greenspace that is miles long), has many different permanent exercise stations (saw these originally in Rio at the beaches), used all the time.  And I also see all types of exercise classes (and yoga) in the park (as a side note, I went to a boot camp class this past week.  Rolling around on the ground; myself and 8 other ladies.  The class was good, but I was sore the next day (clearly walking isn’t as much exercise as I had virtuously thought it was!)  I see tennis courts (clay no less; it doesn’t rain here, so easy to maintain), volleyball courts (always in use; though surprised to see volleyball courts, seems like an unusual sport to be so popular?) Soccer (of course, but not fields more like tennis court size).  So much outside activity; too crowded at home?, space is at a premium and it’s easier to exercise outside rather than a gym?, weather is decent enough that it’s easy to exercise outside (though humid, it’s not super hot, or super cold and again no rain!), or all the activities are taking place along the waterfront and it’s naturally a fun place to be at?

Still on the exercise thought; John and I rented a second bike this past Sunday and went for a spin.  One of the streets near Parque Kennedy is closed Sunday mornings to traffic, probably for about 3 or 4 miles in each direction; bike rentals along the route, places for kids to learn to roller blade (roller blading is seriously popular here), saw a group practicing some local dancing, and the best is a fellow who teaches a group how to salsa dance.  There were still rules of the road, even when there is no traffic.  The bikes have to be in the left lane, and all the rest of the modes of transportation is in the right lane.  There were even “bike” patrol kids enforcing the rule!  But of course it’s randomly enforced.  Lots of pedestrians randomly crossing the streets (without even looking) a bit of “white woman yelling like an idiot” was involved!  All in all very fun and a nice way to spend a Sunday morning.

 

IMG_0826

can you see me in the pink shirt, lots of fun!

 

On Saturday we learned how to take the Metropolitan bus into town.  This bus would be the equivalent to a local train; only goes on the freeway and it has it’s own lane on the freeway.  So while the cars are stuck in traffic (and they always are!) you’re racing along in the bus, which means the hour cab ride is now 20 minutes by bus.  You need to be quick to get on and off the bus; maybe not seconds (but certainly not more than a minute) so if you’re not at the door ready to disembark you’ll be still on the bus until the next stop.  Getting off quickly is fine if the bus isn’t crowded, but when we got off it was crowded enough that we made our way towards the door two stops before we needed to get off.  The true test of using the bus is the little collectivo, a very local style of van with a driver and a conductor who hangs out the window and yells to the people where the collectivo is going, stops for 2 seconds and then it’s off again, with the conductor barely getting back in.  I’m sure there’s a rhyme and reason to this whole adventure but I can already tell the only way I’m going to experience it is with a local!

We went into town to check out one of the museos and to walk around the area (Parque de Exposition).  Several museums that I will for sure be coming back to check out (especially since I’m now conversant with the bus!)  That day there was an Urban Hip Hop fair going on; a few booths, music, T-shirt sales, and the best somebody from Chicago teaching a huge group of kids how to do a dance (he would speak in English and somebody on stage would translate for him.)  Lots of fun to watch, a few selfies with local celebrities from the States (not that I recognized anyone!)  We wondered around some more in the park and came upon a food court/market set up with what we thought was a kids singing something (the voice sounded little kid like – more speaking than singing).  We took a very quick spin around; the little kid voice is a young lady singing (I think I might need to have grown up hearing that style to appreciate it!)  Her voice was a tiny bit grating on the ears!

I think the most surprising part of this whole trip into town was to see 2 different motorcycle traffic cops giving out tickets to 2 different cars.  As in, what possibly were the cars doing that the police would hand out tickets?!  Honking their horns excessively?  Following too close to another car?  Turning left from the right hand lane?  Moving from lane to lane in a very random matter and with no turn signals?  All things we see on a very daily basis and nobody bats an eye.  Maybe they were from another country and were holding up traffic as they were minding the traffic laws, going the speed limit? Not that one can go very fast here and there are way too many cars/people!

Out to a lovely dinner this past weekend with friends (I know friends!  One of John’s co-worker’s wife was in town, we out with them twice.  So much fun!!)  Huaca Pucllana is the name of the restaurant and Huaca Pucllana, the place (a huge adobe and clay pyramid where we live).  The restaurant overlooks the pyramid, and at night it’s all lit up, we sat on the patio with Pisco Sours (and under patio heaters – it’s winter here after all!) and generally had a fabulous meal/time.  If you want to come visit us I can promise you some very fabulous meals.  Foodie Trek to Peru, is just one of the many reasons to come here.

I’ve found an Organic Food market and an English book fair for this weekend (the book fair is especially important since I cleverly left my Kindle on the plane coming down here!)  Another bike ride on Sunday and out for ceviche for lunch (I was told ceviche is a lunch thing only; the fish is caught that morning and eaten at lunch when it’s at it’s peak of freshness.  If the restaurant still has fish left for the evening it is then cooked for the evening meal.)  Which means I need to eat my fill of ceviche on the weekends.  I guess I can “suffer” that task!

Have great weekend everybody,

Hasta Pronto,

Lynn

 

Paracas, Islas Ballestas, Huacachina

We Peru Hop(ped) this past weekend.  The premise of Peru Hop is to ride on the bus from city to city (there is a loop – essentially the Gringo trail) around Southern Peru.  You can get off and on; just like a hop on and off bus in the city.  Very much a backpacker thing (or so I thought, we actually didn’t bring the age of the bus down like I thought for sure we would!  The tour does cater to all ages.)  Very fun, and I hope to do another trip with them (NOTE: for us the best trips are just the overnight ones; all the other cities are hours (overnight on the bus) away.)  Trying to see what I can work out with the Nazca Lines and another stop.

p10304971.jpg

We were given an itinerary for our weekend; which included essentially 3 rules for the bus.  Rule 1 – Wear your seat belt (the guide told us Peruvians are bad drivers and they’ve embraced that fact.)  Rule 2 – Toilet is for number 1 use only “…hopsters stinking out the bus with number 2’s will be named and shamed!!!”  Rule 3 – no drugs.  I have to say, don’t disagree with the rules.  But huge laughter on named and shamed!  Needless to say, our bus was stink free on the trip.

Paracas is about 3 hours south of Lima, and it’s the jumping off point for Islas Ballestas (the “poor man’s Galapagos”) and the Reserva Nacional de Paracas.  We stayed in Paracas; super cute hotel, balcony that overlooked the sea, comfy chairs that encouraged us to sit outside and read our books.  Though the hotel didn’t become quite so cute when we were woken up about midnight and had the pleasure to listen to a local disco out on the pier until 2:00 am.  Close the windows, bummer the only thing on the fan that worked was the timer.  Window back open, once the music stopped it was all good.  Until the seagulls woke up at dawn.  Okay I will say the sleeping part of the trip was a bit hard.  But we had great food (ceviche and Pisco Sours!)

The first stop was Reserva Nacional de Paracas; a huge desert (again I continue to be surprised that Peru has so much desert – I would just think it would be more lush and tropical so close to the equator!)  Lots of bird life (the reserve occupies most of the Peninsula de Paracas), and the protection of the actual land (historical cultural heritage of the area).  We did a small loop around the area (but not to the visitor center – I wonder why?  Wouldn’t you think that might be slightly important to see?)  Plus supposedly Chilean Flamingos to be seen!  The reserve is so stark, but breathtaking scenery along the coast.  Red beaches.  Very interesting.

The next day we head to Islas Ballestas; wow on the amount of birdlife we saw.  (If this is “poor man’s Galapagos” can hardly wait to check out the real Galapagos!)  Lots of pelicans, cormorants, Humboldt penguins (so very cute!) turkey buzzards (so very ugly!)  and a little bird with orange beak and legs with a dark body).  Of course sea lions (they spoke with a Spanish accent!)  The islands are accessible only by boat (tours at 8, 10, and noon – and there were many boats and many tourists doing these tours!)  One interesting tidbit about the islands – lots of guano is located here.  Enough that there was actually a war (well maybe a skirmish) in 1864-1865 between Spain and Peru!  Evidently a botanist sent samples of the guano back home to Europe where the British farmers found it to be much for effective than the fertilizer they were using.  Now all of a sudden the guano is being exported by the ton back to Europe, and it’s now a huge part of the Peru’s national GDP.  Spain didn’t like that fact, tried to occupy said island.  Peru went to war and took the islands back.  All over bird poo!  The Peruvian government still extracts the guano, but it’s done once every eight years.

 

p1030554.jpg

part of the fertilization extraction set up

 

Our first stop is Candelabra Geoglyph; it’s a giant three-pronged figure etched into the hills (as in 492 feet high, and 164 feet wide).   No one knows exactly why the figure is there on the hill or when it was made.  But many thoughts; navigational aids for the sailors, connection to the Nazca Lines (they are found a few more hours south of this area) or even thought to be local cactus species with hallucinogenic properties.  We then continue on to the rocky islands; arches, caves and the birds.  Really quite something.

 

While we’re waiting for the last part of our hop; a parade comes by us.  I’m all about a parade.  Not sure what’s up, or even why.  But there’s two marching bands, dancing by two different groups, a “Miss”???  and several people dressed in Inca dress.  They march/dance/walk along the boardwalk and then head onto the tour boats out to the islands.  Even the locals go out to the islands.

The last part of our Peru Hop is to Huacachina; a small desert oasis (permanent population 100 people!  Now this is small town).  But so many tourists/backpackers all coming to go into the sand dunes and sand board down the dunes.  There’s 9 of us in the dune buggy (firmly strapped in – good thing as this is actually some of the fastest driving we’ve had in the country!)  I’m sitting in the back with John and 2 guys get into the back with us.  Big.  As in chico grande big!  I decide it’s just too crowded for me and I go into the extra seat in front (3 small ladies).  One more person still needs to get into the dune buggy (into the seat I left) – another guy, not grande but still big.  I feel bad for John in the back with 3 big guys but he tells me he’s fine.  The good news (so to speak); he’s not going anywhere – they are wedged in there!  We race up and down the dunes (my eyes are close quite a bit; it’s like a roller coaster I was told.  I hate roller coasters!)  Then we get out and now are going to go sand boarding.  The board is waxed, we’re given our instructions (lay on your stomach, hold onto the bindings, steer/brake with your feet, keep your mouth shut!)  First hill is good (the bunny slope) – I go just fast enough for it to be fun.  Two practice runs.  Now we’ve graduated to the big slope.  What; are you kidding me?!  We go down the big slope, walk up the other side and slide down the second dune.  Surprisingly fun.  Last stop on the ride is to watch the sun go down over the dunes.  Very fun weekend trip.

This weekend we’re going to try out the freeway bus (like a city train).  Goes straight, few stops, and dedicated lane on the freeway.  We buy a card and load it with cash, scan and board the bus.  20 minutes later we should be in Lima centro for less than a $1 VS 45 minutes and $7 cab ride.  Hopefully it works out!!  I can see museum trips in my future if it goes well.

Hasta Pronto,

Lynn

 

A Few Observations

Now that I’ve been here for a few weeks; I’m slowly getting the hang of life here.  Here’s what I’ve noticed in my new “home” town (Note: I will admit some comments are “sweeping generalizations”!)

Driving/traffic: as in OMG it’s chaotic, nerve racking, and all my senses are on high alert!!  Somebody asked John if he was going to drive here; his response back – no as it would “ruin” his driving in the States!  I have to laugh.  When we lived in Costa Rica, we drove (everywhere) and it certainly made my driving a bit questionable back in the States (oh that yellow line by the airport doesn’t mean I can’t part here – that’s for all the other people not to park here!)  What we learned in Latin America; there are many traffic laws – all are “flexible”.  Was the flexible law shown at the safety traffic course we see here in town?  As we drive by the airport, there is a place to practice driving and the laws of the traffic.  Now grant you the course is for kids on bikes, but guess what?  Nobody (as far as we can tell) uses it.  Which might explain the traffic on the roads!  Oh and we saw this same course in Costa Rica.  Nobody used it there either and traffic is chaotic.  Maybe there’s a cause and effect going on here?!  I’ve been told there are only good drivers on the roads here in Lima.  The joke is, if you’re a bad driver you’re killed in a traffic accident.  Slightly morbid, but I’m thinking not very far from the truth!

Here in Lima at the stop signs (big red stop signs PARE), evidently most drivers won’t stop (flexible laws don’t forget.)  So in addition to the stop sign there are big speed bumps.  Guess what – speed bumps as stop signs are pretty effective!  This is especially handy for crossing streets; I see a car coming plus speed bump = I can cross the street easily as the car will slow down (not for me, but rather the speed bump!)  Left turns in cars on busy roads; first car jockeys into place to turn when he gets the chance, then 2 more cars will come up right beside the car and also jockey into place to turn left.  Now there are 3 cars all turning left, all at the same time (or not – one might go first if he (seems like there are only men driving) thinks the cars are going slow enough to go in front of everybody.)  Cars and buses all randomly stop (or it certainly seems random to me!) – right in the middle of the street, which leads to lots of horn honking (right under the sign that says don’t honk your horn!)  The other day a car had it’s flashers on (at a traffic light) and nobody in the car.  I never did see what happened.  But the bus behind the car was pretty irritated (horns honking) and I saw the bus driver get out and I think the car was going to be forcibly moved.  The ebb and flow of traffic – a bus stops, horns honk and a second (or even third) lane of traffic is created to flow around the bus.  Strong nerves, and to be ever vigilant are the two things needed here to drive.

With all the cars, parking is a bit of an issue.  I’ve seen cars that park on the sidewalks with their engine running; nice?!    My favourite park job, the car is sideways in front of the house with a gate protecting the car.  As in the car is literally parallel to the house, and we’ve not figured out how the car gets in, let alone gets into position – the gate isn’t that big.  No picture – I’ll need to get one and post.  And I noticed many Playa signs in town (I know the word for beach is Playa – I also know there aren’t any beaches in town!)  Come to find out is a shorten word for park here.

Lima is considered a desert (less than 1/2″ of rain a year!!!)  Which to me is just crazy – it’s so lush, 12 degrees from the equator, how can it be so desert?  What I’m noticing though, the plants are watered by the sea fog (there’s lots of sea fog right now – it’s winter after all!)  And there are trucks full of water, with a guy on top of the truck watering the grass/plants with a hose.  All these lovely green parks/trees/flowers and the majority of them are hand watered!!!  My mind boggles at the thought of it.  My local park had about 15 to 20 new palm trees planted (they’ll be lovely once they become mature).  All the holes were hand dug, planted and hand watered.  These were not small little palms – the holes were at least two feet deep and across.  Full employment?  In the area of where we live – the sidewalks are quite clean (both of natural debris and litter, though for do watch you step, the city has lots of dogs and the clean up not so good!); the sidewalks are hand swept by local workers.  Full employment?

 

P1030433

Local sign we saw in Barranco!  Clean up after your dog is the gist of the sign.

 

Lima is very humid, not a hot humid like Singapore, but a cooler humid feeling (maybe more like the Pacific coast?)  Interestingly we’ve been to two different historical areas of the city and in both places the humidity was talked about – as in it’s always been a problem here.  (It’s not me being a shrinking violet about it being so humid here, which is what I was in Singapore).  Regardless trying to get the moisture out of the air is an on going project.  John got a dehumidifier and it’s going all the time.  Which leads to the damp bathroom.  No outside window, what we have is a shaft that goes the whole length of the building, and each bathroom has a window to open onto the shaft for air circulation.  Our window is always open; and so is our upstairs neighbour.  Let me just say, kinda startling to hear him in the bathroom/showering/blowing his hair dry/talking on his phone/etc.

This past weekend we headed into town to go check out Monasterio de San Francisco; a Franciscan monastery and church famous for its catacombs (70,000 remains – all the bones fascinating in a slightly morbid way!) And a lovely library (25,000 tombs – humidity problem was chatted about for the library – I didn’t see what was done to control the humidity).  Monasterio de San Francisco.  A geometric Moorish style cupola carved out of Nicaraguan cedar (evidently stands up well to humidity we were told) is over the main staircase (carved in 1625; restored in 1969 because of the earthquake – Lima gets lots of earthquakes.)

Ceviche for lunch, yum as always.  Did I mention; ceviche is a lunch thing only.  We’ve seen some very lovely restaurants and think, okay we’ll come back here for dinner.  No it’s a lunch spot only – 12:30 to 5:30 – and I mean some serious money lunch spots, not open for dinner.  Guess this means on the weekends we’ll need to get to as many ceviche places as possible for lunch!

On Sunday we went walked over to the neighbouring barrio; Barranco (known for it’s murals, Barranco), It’s the artist area of town; though becoming gentrified and the artists are being pushed out due to the high prices and moving to other areas of town (sounds like a familiar story of what’s happening in Portland!)

 

 

It was a great day to wander around; caught a farmer’s market (didn’t buy anything – but very lovely), stumbled on a flea market (nothing we couldn’t live without), and another fabulous lunch (though I deviated and had a “causa” (cold mashed potatoes with an avocado and chicken salad on top, sounds a bit skeptical but very tasty!) and John had a Taco Tacu (a local dish of beans/rice/potatoes/veg and a bit of meat and gravy.  It was good, but huge (could have fed us both).

 

P1030438

My causa at lunch – chicken salad on top of potato roll, with garnish.  Avocado in the middle of potato roll.  Oh and a Pisco sour for lunch!!

 

Heading south this weekend; Paracas to see the Reserva Nacional de Paracas  and Islas Ballestas (“poor man’s Galapagos Islands”) and then over to Huacachina for sand dune buggy riding and sandboarding.  A popular tour/area for the backpackers (I’m sure we’re dragging the age curve up with us going!)  Going on a bus (leaving at the crack of dawn on Saturday and back late on Sunday).  Will be a full weekend.

Hasta pronto

Lynn