This post has been incredibly difficult to write, and I’m not exactly sure why (which is why it has been weeks since our last). One reason may be the terrible news we received while in Lima that Joshua’s grandfather had been in a car accident: fracturing his neck and totaling his car. It was the first time I’ve ever cried in a McDonald’s (we were using their free wifi!). We felt helpless. What could we do from so far away? Were we being selfish for traveling so long? Should we go home? Was it time to focus on our families? We discussed options for all the scenarios we could imagine. It was not easy to talk about giving up our dream of traveling, but at the same time, the worry in our hearts and stomachs made us question our decision to keep going. Thankfully, we’ve been able to check in frequently with everyone at home for updates. Joshua’s grandfather is as sassy as ever and giving his grandmother a run for her money now that he is back at home. But, the entire situation definitely gave us pause.
There was one thing about Lima which we planned to take full advantage of–the delicious food. So we decided to scrimp on lodging and splurge on food in the capital. We stayed on the 15th floor of a building (with an out-of-service elevator) in the not-so-touristy central area/downtown. The neighborhood was dodgy, but the price was right. Joshua’s mom is going to hate this post–she once told us to stop writing so much about the food since “it’s not eat your way around the world,” but in Lima, it’s their finest attraction.
Our first afternoon, we headed straight to a highly recommended ceviche restaurant, La Choza Nautica. We tried another tiradito (life converts after our experience in Arequipa). The restaurant was full of locals eating ceviche at night…a rare sight in Peru. Ceviche is typically a lunch food, but the quality at La Choza was not compromised by the time of day. Although it was good, we knew we were still in search of the end-all ceviche restaurant in Peru.
We spent one day in Miraflores checking out the hip, tourist-friendly neighborhood in between food stops. We had an incredible latte at Cafe Z. We stopped for a sandwich at Hot and Cool. It was a combination of meats and cheeses that hasn’t graced our stomachs in all our travels. Exciting, but not the end of our culinary experience for the day. We doodled along the coast, taking in Lover’s Park, before we could fit in another meal. The coastline is reminiscent of northern California with cliffs and grass running right up to the water. The days are relatively grey – although not from smog, just lack of sun.
For our third food stop of the day before 3pm, Joshua made a bold move when we arrived at another top notch ceviche restaurant, Punta Azul, by ordering Tiger’s Milk, a drink made from the leftover ceviche fish marinade (the “milk mustache” was purposeful).
And then, in a fluke of greatness, we walked past a restaurant that had been recommended in Lonely Planet, Astrid & Gastson, for a “splurge.” We asked for a same night reservation, and they had one for 10:30pm. We decided we could find room for another great meal. After seeing the Range Rovers and the staff in suits outside the restaurant, Joshua got a little nervous about how the cost of nights like this might impact the longevity of our trip; so we ran to the nearest internet to determine exactly what “splurge” meant. We were pleasantly surprised to find the restaurant listed as #35 in the world while ALSO being reasonably priced. We wore our “Sunday Best” as usual, although the meal was far from usual. It was incredible. We had promised ourselves we wouldn’t eat the traditional Peruvian dish cuy (guinea pig) in honor of my childhood pet Theresa and the only guinea pig in Joshua’s life, Blackie. Unfortunately, that promise was broken when the waiter recommended it. DAMN. It was so fantastic.
I’m glad we didn’t let our memories stand in the way. Every detail of the meal was well thought out, including my favorite part…the complimentary dessert treasure drawer…no gift could be sweeter than when you “lie” and say you don’t want dessert, even though you want dessert–just not a whole one–so they bring you a few nibbles to taste. It was actually so good that we made another reservation for the 21 course tasting menu for lunch the following day, although we couldn’t keep it in the end.
We woke up sweating, bellies so full…it was the first time we had really eaten in weeks after battling the latest TD. It wasn’t like we didn’t DO anything in Lima. Of course, we had to walk between meals to help ourselves digest before the next one. We acquainted ourselves with the Plaza de Armas during a changing of the guard and with the Cathedral of Lima, both of which were near our accommodations.
The one thing left on our Peruvian food to-do list was the street food called anticuchos. The chef at our cooking school in Arequipa said that our visit wouldn’t be complete until we had grilled marinated beef heart on a stick. I’m pretty sure that whatever Joshua ate was not just heart (but intestines, as well), but by the look on his face, you can imagine that mystery meat will soon become a staple in his diet.
Our last stop before heading to the airport was a restaurant by the same chef as our incredible dinner, Gaston Acurio. We visited his more casual, Tanta, for a leisurely lunch filled with fresh juices and “mama’s” Peruvian favorites with a twist. We had a full adventure in Lima, living up every aspect of their delicious cuisine, from fine restaurants to street vendors. I’m not sure we will be hungry for a while, and Lima will definitely need to stock up before we come back!