The crowded, crazy capital of Peru

Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as the City of the Kings. It became the most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru and, after the Peruvian War of Independence, the capital of the Republic of Peru.
One of the first things you notice is the traffic – it is very busy, vibrant place. Unfortunately there is not a lot of control on vehicle emissions so the air isn’t too healthy. The second thing you notice is the huge number of minivans and buses, packed with people carrying them to and from work. Lima has a population of 9 million people, out of the total of 27 million for the whole of the country.

Fortunately Lima is a relatively safe country to visit nowadays. This is a contrast to 10 to 15 years ago when the country was almost in a state of civil war. Alas like most countries in the region there is a significant amount of poverty, although the country is wealthy in mineral reserves including being self-sufficient in oil. On our drive to the historical city centre it is evident money is being invested in reconstruction in the infrastructure.

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Our first stop is Plaza de Armas, (main square) the historic centre that is home to the Palace of Government, City Hall and its magnificent 16th century cathedral. We are given a tour of the Cathedral, with its 15 adjoining chapels including one which contains the remains of Francisco Pizarro. The ornate alter and the wonderfully carved the choir stalls make it a worthwhile place to visit.

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Palace of the Government

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The Cathedral of Lima

Next we walked around the corner to the Plaza de San Francisco.This is an excellent example of baroque colonial architecture and is comprised of the Convent of San Francisco, and the Capilla de la Soledad y del Milagro (Chapel of Solitude and of the Miracle). Outside the church there was a long queue of people carrying flowers, which they were using to pay homage to Saint Rose of Lima, the saint of employment. Below the church is an extensive system of catacombs which is now a museum. We descended the steps and passed through the chambers where there are troughs filled with human remains, all neatly stacked. The bones were separated out so there were neat piles of skulls, sacrum, femurs etc. Somewhat spooky but Jack and Emily were fascinated by these remains. Purportedly, there are some 40,000 remains of people buried in the catacombs here. Soon enough it was time to rise to the surface and we moved to the more serene environment (an oasis in the context of Lima) of the cloisters, which are famous for the authentic Sevillian tile work, which was completed in 1620. The tile work is lovely but some of the patterns have been completed with odd tiles; in some cases whole sections. As these tiles were made in Seville it took some 12 months for them to arrive in Lima and some would get broken in transit so other tiles were fitted whilst replacements were ordered. The re-order took 12 month to arrive in Seville and another 12 to come, consequently a number of the designs were never truly completed. How the world has shrunk!!!

Our tour of the old town of Lima was finished so we returned to our hotel with a stop to look at the bay. We looked down on the Pacific Ocean waves crashing on the beach. The water did not look too inviting from high on the cliffs, and we are told it is pretty polluted here. You would probably sprout a second head if you swum in there too long. Instead we admired a statue of some lovers in an embrace and there are some young couples attempting their own interpretation. This is not really the place to be for a family with young children so we returned back to our hotel as we had an early start in the morning.

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