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Monday, July 26, 2010

Peru Vacation Day 2: Shopping In Lima

At the end of the half-day tour of Lima, which is described here and here, we were dropped off at a restaurant called Al Fresco. Al Fresco is supposedly famous for the Ceviche they serve there. We were seated at a table as soon as we got there, and handed menus that listed several dozen varieties of Ceviche.

AlFresco RestaurantA view of the front of the Al Fresco Restaurant.

Ceviche is fresh seafood marinated in citrus juices, with various flavorings added to it. It probably originated in Spain, from where it spread to most Spanish colonies in the new world. It is very popular in Lima and other coastal areas of Peru, with access to abundant fresh fish (it is not very popular in the interior parts of Peru such as Cusco).

appetizerAppetizer, with rolls, butter and corn nuts at Al Fresco restaurant.

Once we sat down, we were served roasted corn and bread and butter. This is a sort of free appetizer, much as you are served chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants before you order your food. I then chose to order the mixed Ceviche from their menu, while the others ordered risotto, which was pretty much the only vegetarian entree on the menu.

The restaurant was quite slow in preparing and delivering the food to us. We waited around for probably half an hour before our food arrived at last. The food was very tasty, so there were no complaints about that. The dishes were about 30 soles each (which we thought was reasonable), but when we got the check, it was filled with all sorts of charges that made the food quite expensive. In addition to taxes, they had also charged us some sort of "cover charge". When we finally added in the tips, it turned out to be a 50 soles per person meal. While the food may be worth it at 30 soles per person, I would have trouble recommending the restaurant at 50 soles per person.

cevicheMy ceviche at Al Fresco restaurant.

After lunch, rather than returning to the hotel, we decided to do some shopping. One of the biggest shopping areas in Miraflores is the Mercado Indio (Indian Market) on Av. Petit Thouars. People in Lima were very courteous and helpful when it comes to directions by sending us in the right direction from our restaurant.

Hotel San Agustin Colonial orientation mapOrientation map of the part of Lima we were in. Hotel San Agustin Colonial is marked in blue (it is on Commandante Espinar, which is what Jorge Chavez becomes after it crosses Jose Pardo). The Indian Market is marked with a yellow circle, northeast of the hotel, while Parque Kennedy and Parque Central De Miraflores are the green areas to the southeast of the hotel.

In Lima, street names change frequently, so it becomes a bit of a problem navigating with just the street names in mind. The same street may be called different things in different places along its length, so it helps to know a little bit of Spanish to get directions from the locals. The locals measure everything in blocks or cuadras. Somehow, they have gotten so used to the concept that they can rattle off directions that tell you to continue along a street for 11 blocks or whatever, then turn right and continue for 6 blocks. How they manage to count off the blocks in their heads is a mystery to me, but if you follow their directions, you do get to where you want to go quite reliably.

In any case, we reached the Indian Market without much incident (though traffic is somewhat chaotic on Lima streets, and pedestrians do not have the right of way, so you have to be careful crossing streets as traffic could come at you from many different directions). There are several shops inside the buildings on this street, each stocking handicrafts of various kinds. there were shops devoted to alpaca garments, pottery, wooden handicrafts, silver and other jewelry, etc. in this mall. We wanted to take it easy on our first shopping expedition, so we bought only a few pottery pieces though we did stop by several stores and take a look at a lot of merchandise.

Because of the way the mall is laid out, we went around in circles inside it, and got turned around quite completely. When we came out, we had no idea which way we had to go to get to our hotel. Luckily, once again, the locals were very helpful and guided us to our hotel quite reliably. It was a good thing we had the address of our hotel because people did not recognize our hotel by name, but knew the name of the street it was located on quite well.

Hotel San Agustin Colonial hotel in Lima, PeruFront view of the Hotel San Agustin Colonial. Notice its bright blue color!

After resting for a little while (and packing our purchases in our suitcases so that they would not be damaged during the rest of our travels), we went out once again to do some shopping. Our destination this time was The Miraflores Arts and Crafts Market, which is supposedly the largest open air craft market in the city. It is open from 5PM to 11PM everyday in Parque Kennedy. It was only about 7 blocks from our hotel, so we took a leisurely stroll to it.

Miraflores ChurchMiraflores church, which is located right next to Parque Kennedy.

It was smaller than I expected, with only about two dozen vendors selling stuff off of carts. But, it was genuine handicrafts, with some artisans even making more items for sale right in front of us. The place was quite lively with lots of shoppers trying to pick up bargains. We bought some alpaca scarves at one of the stalls here. Some of the vendors were open about bargaining and eagerly engaged in a back-and-forth with us about prices. Others seemed to be put off by our attempts to bargain their prices down and refused to consider any offers other than the price they quoted us.

Miraflores Arts and Crafts MarketThe Miraflores Arts and Crafts Market in Parque Kennedy.

After spending about an hour in this market, we made our way back to our hotel. On the way, we stopped at an American-style grocery store. This store had pretty much everything you would expect in a US grocery store, including a large selection of fruits and vegetables. Shoppers walked around with carts, and picked items off shelves. Plastic bags were provided for fruits and vegetables. We picked out some bananas for dinner, and when we got to the checkout counters, they were weighed at the counter on electronic scales, and the price was displayed at the checkout stand. The only difference between an American grocery store and this one was that our purchases were rounded off to the nearest 10 centimos, and change was provided to us based on this rounded-off price.

Once we got back to our hotel, we requested a jug of hot water at the front desk of our hotel. A clerk brought the water up to our room quite promptly, and we made ourselves hot chocolate using the water (we had taken some packets of Swiss Miss with us from here). This hot chocolate, with the bananas we had bought earlier, was our dinner for the day. Then it was time to pack our bags in preparation for our flight out to Cusco the next day, and go to bed.


Hotel San Agustin Colonial said...

Thanks for the Mention.

Blogannath said...

You are welcome! A more detailed look at the hotel, including several photos of the nice interior is in this post.

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