Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Paddington Bear's Peruvian adventure - day two

Today saw Paddington take more of an educational  trip of his old stomping ground - with a visit to Lima’s cultural centre.

The day was made all the more enjoyable by our brilliant guide Luis who after nabbing us outside Lima Cathedral gave us the definitive tour of the region.

There is a lot to see in Peru’s capital which after centuries of Catholic influence is heavily laden with religious buildings, a cathedral and monastery.

Admittedly there are only so many statues of Jesus and saints that you can take in one day and Lima has enough for the most die hard history buff. But it is fascinating all the same.

Luis knew and filled us in on every spit and cough behind the architecture, art and stories behind all that he showed us around the city.

The most prominent saint in Lima seems to be Saint Rosa de Lima who is represented heavily across the city - particularly in a very haunting picture of her in the church of Santo Domingo.

Like the Mona Lisa, her eyes follow you eerily around the room.

After the religious heritage of the city we were taken to a market which sold everything from yards of white cow tripe hung in rows to guinea pigs in hutches - which will not end up as pets.

Massive beef hearts, fish caught off the coast of Lima the same morning and every type of fruit and vegetable you can imagine.

Walking through the vegetable section delivered a nasal assault of coriander,  orange, rose, and fresh fruit from the produce which must be fresh on the day by law.

Luis  guided us through bustling stalls of spices and herbs, before eventually taking us to the old woman who sold coca leaves from a huge bag.

Coca leaves of course come from the coca tree and are refined to make cocaine, although the raw  leaves are perfectly legal in Peru and are chewed or made into a tea to act as a mild stimulant.

They are mostly used in the high regions of Cusco where their caffeine-like properties counteract the effects of altitude sickness.

The are also served up as mate de coca, a popular herbal infusion drunk by Peruvians and some curious tourists as a mild pick me up.

Finally and bizarrely, Luis insisted we have our picture taken with a rank of riot police outside the congress building, Paddington was a bit put off by the guns and opted to stay in my bag.

So a great visit to Lima. If you are ever here and meet a small Peruvian man outside the cathedral who offers to take you on a tour of the city, do. It is well worth the money for three hours with Luis and his expert knowledge of his capital.

Next stop Cusco.

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