1. Amazing Culinary Scene. Perú’s capital city is a booming gastronomic hub with fabulous eateries of all genres. A variety of fresh ripe seasonal ingredients — from nearby jungles, forests, mountains, waterways, and ocean — are used in creative, classic, and clever ways. From cafés serving “peasant food” (comida de campesinos) to Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s possible to get a memorable meal in Lima no matter how many soles you have in your pocket.
2. Plaza Mayor (Plaza de Armas). Lima’s majestic main plaza boasts the Palacio de Gobierno, the Cathedral of Lima and Archbishop’s Palace, and stately Spanish Colonial buildings housing museums and municipal buildings. Chill on one of about 50 marble benches scattered around the lush fountains, statues, flower beds and lawns.
3. Good-Looking Guys.This is self-explanatory.
4. Pisco Cocktails. Perú’s signature liquor is Pisco, a strong brandy of muscat grapes. The national cocktail is the Pisco Sour, made from limes, beaten egg whites, simple syrup, and bitters (and invented, curiously, by a gringo). As good as a Pisco Sour is, don’t hesitate to try Pisco in other boozily effective forms, such as Pisco and sweet-tart maracuyá juice, chilcano de Pisco (Pisco with ginger ale and lime juice, both shown below), or the innocently lethal Pisco Punch.
5. The Pisco Sour Trifecta. On that note, cocktail aficionados will want to visit a threesome of bars said to serve the best Pisco Sours in Lima. Go to the swank Hotels Bolivar, Maury, and Country Club Lima to taste the difference between a good Pisco Sour and a great one.
6. Dudo, or “Peruvian Liar Dice,” is a drinking game said to have been invented by the Inca and taught to Spanish conquistadors when they arrived. I have to doubt that, because if so, the Spanish would have been way too wasted to conquer anyone. Whatever its origins, this is a game of bluffing, educated guessing, and reading other players — simple to learn, but difficult to master.
7. Sunsets. Settled as it is on the Pacific, Lima has some damned impressive puestas del sol (at least in the summer months, clear of fog). The sun sinking behind Isla San Lorenzo shoots a zillion colors across the sky and bathes the city in a dreamy glow.
8. Se Habla Ingles. It seems most of Lima’s population can speak at least some English — not just professionals and scholars, but shop clerks, taxi drivers, and bathroom attendants too. This had a down side for me, as it became tough to improve my Spanish when everyone wanted to practice their English with me.
9. Sauces! From the tongue-blistering salsa de rocoto (hot pepper sauce) to the creamy, tangy salsa de Huancaina, to salsa Criolla (onion-chili relish) … Peruvians know how to dunk and smother their food. My favorite is aji, a popular yellow chili sauce that ranges from mildly to suicidally spicy, and could make an old running shoe taste good.
10. Attractive Men. … You know what I’m talking about.
… and 3 Things I Don’t (Part One)
Straight Pisco. With all the raving I just did about Pisco, it’s probably surprising to see this here, but straight-up Pisco, to me, invokes the flavors of nail polish remover with undertones of pesticide. I say this knowing full well that in the past decade Pisco has become more sophisticated, and elegant, and artisanal, and sought after, and bla, bla, blaaaa … I will happily drink Pisco mixed with something else and love it, but leave the shot glasses on the shelf please.