by Maureen Zupan '72, P'09
The HWS Peru 2011 trip has begun! We all arrived on the same flight from Newark into Lima last night at about 9pm. Professor Scott McKinney met us at the airport…only an hour after sending his term abroad class back to the US. He seemed to think he was going to have an easier time sheparding us around Peru; we plan to do our best to disavow him of that!
Our hotel is in the Miraflores district of Lima, near the ocean and considered to be Lima's prosperous commercial hub. We started our first day in Lima with a bus tour of the city in the morning. Within the Miraflores district we saw ancient adobe pyramids dating back to AD 200 and 500. They are being excavated, but slowly, because there aren't enough funds available to fully support the work.
We stopped at Parque del Amor, named because of the huge statue of a couple embracing. The park is at the top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean. The cliffs have enormous drop offs down to the narrow beaches of the ocean.
In Central Lima we visited the Plaza Mayor and La Catedral which dominates one of side of the Plaza. The original building was started by conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1524. Several decades ago they discovered his remains (certified by matching the sword slashes on his bones to the reports of the sword fight that killed him), and those remains are in a chapel in the cathedral.
As we walked toward San Francisco (a complex that comprises a church, a convent chapels and catacombs), a caravan of police vehicles and black cars zoomed by us, into the Presidential Palace. It was the President of Peru who (we are certain) waved to us as he went by.
San Francisco is incredible. It has a library of 25,000 books from the 15th to 18th centuries, many hand written first editions and parchments. The catacombs under the complex house the bodies of 25,000 Peruvians. In the early 1950's, the Franciscans decided to organize the bodies and separate the bones by type…so we saw huge piles of femurs, etc. No wonder the people we saw come out of the catacombs as we waited to go in looked a bit stunned!
After our tour, we broke into a couple of groups to go to various restaurants for lunch. One group went to a Swiss restaurant by Kennedy Park (yes, named after President John Kennedy) and had pasta! Our first meal in Peru: Italian food in a Swiss restaurant. It was fabulous: not one person has ANY food left on their plate!
Then we had shopping to do: the various crafts shops sold silver jewelry and various types of textiles. One member of our group wanted an Incan calendar necklace, so we trooped to stall after stall to find someone to sell it for a good price. We tried to bargain, but we weren't good at it! Joanne got the necklace anyway.
We had dinner at an incredible restaurant called "La Rosa Nautica". It is on a rock and wood jetty that goes quite far out into the ocean. As we ate, the waves were crashing under us as they made their way to the beach. Nearly everyone started with the national drink of Peru: pisco sour…a concoction of juices and liquor that taste somewhat like a whisky sour. Then the waiters brought out huge platters of seafood appetizers that included some traditional Peruvian foods, like ceviche, followed by entrees of fish, chicken or pasta and Peruvian desserts. At a nearby table, the waiters started singing "Happy Birthday" (in English!) to a guest. We joined in. For the second verse, they sang a faster version, in Spanish, accompanied by clapping. We joined in again! There was cheering all round.
The bus ride back to the hotel was raucous, a sign that the group has jelled well.
Tomorrow we head to Cuzco…for our first try at high altitude.