A passage to Lima

From what foreigners who had been there told me, I had pictured Lima to myself as being a grey and unattractive city. But during the few days before getting there, Herbert, from an architect’s point of view and with a lot of enthusiasm, had put more colour into it and I have to say that, in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Some buildings, especially the houses with the wooden balconies, reminded me of Madrid. The Art Nouveau stained glass roof of the Casa de la Literatura Peruana, on the other hand, took me back to Brussels. And even more so, the Palace of Justice. No wonder, as the latter actually takes its inspiration from the one which is the obsession of one of my favourite Belgian cartoonists: Schuiten. With the scenarist Benoit Peeters, they created a series called “the Obscure Cities”, which are located on a continent parallel to our own world. One of these cities is called “Brüsel” and, in a video made in the eighties, part documentary and part fiction, it is suggested that doors exist between Brussels and Brüsel.

Brussels being also the capital of surrealism, I just fell in love with that theory of time passages and made it the subject of one of my photography assignments a few years ago.

Yes. It does sound crazy. But everyone needs his little escapes and fantasies and I liked to think that there somewhere in the bombastic building a few blocks away from my house, I would have a gateway to get back to South America whenever I liked. If in a few years, you read in the newspapers the story of a mad woman wandering day and night through the corridors of the Palace of Justice, looking for a secret passage that will take her to Lima, you’ll know what to think. If so, be so kind as to come and rescue me.

Other interesting visits included the museum of the Inquisition and the catacombs. The Cathedral of Pisco – Pisco Sour being a typical Peruvian drink that has come to dethrone Margarita as my favourite cocktail. And numerous restaurants in the area of Miraflores. Don’t ask for names, I forgot them all. Except maybe “El Punto Azul”. But if you ever go to Lima and need a good place to eat, I know who to ask. I do remember some dish names, though. Ceviche – a must -, anticuchos, chupe de pescado, canchitas – unmissable for the aperitive. And at all times, day and night. -, chaufa, which is Chinese food revisited the Peruvian way. And chilcanos, another pisco based cocktail. There is much more but that is how far my memory goes. Something I ignored – and therefore maybe so do you – is that the Peruvian cuisine is the most varied of South America. If I had managed to shed a few pounds in the 5 last months, there I got them all back. But who cares? Life and food are made to enjoy.

I also went for a walk in Barranco with Carlos, another couchsurfer I had contacted but who couldn’t host me. Barranco and Miraflores are the two most sought after areas to live in Lima. Simpliflying, I would say that Miraflores is hype and Barranco is hippy. A bit like Ixelles and Saint Gilles, for those who know Brussels. Not that I want to compare the two capitals too much. They are quite different. Although, discussing with Carlos, I realized they had another thing in common: the sky is grey more than 200 days a year. With the – rather important – difference that, in Lima, it doesn’t rain nearly as much as in the city I come from.

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