It’s now 7.50pm and we have returned to our lovely, elegant hotel in a rather historic area of Lima. We left the ship this morning and have had such a terrific day, it’s hard to know where to begin.
So, I’ll start at the beginning and maybe I’ll get as far as lunchtime?
It wasn’t the beautiful blue sea we could see over the bowl of Special K this morning, but a busy dockyard with lorries moving tons of grain from a ship just over the way.
But, shortly after nine o’clock, we’d checked into the hotel, had investigated everything and realised that, in spite of our busy – and we thought, comprehensive – schedule, unless we hot footed it into the city centre this morning, we weren’t going to have chance to see some of the highlights of Lima. The hotel manager said that, although we could hire a taxi, it would probably be easier to simply get a car for the morning and have the driver wait for us whilst we saw what we wanted to see.
Half an hour later, we were on our way to the Plaza des Armes.
We never did learn the drivers name and since we had no Spanish and he no English, it was a pretty quiet ride.
Once more, we passed a good number of people selling food by the side of the road though we were never quite sure what they were selling.
(I love the faces of the people here, by the way)
Once in the Plaza, we were dropped off outside the Cathedral and after a little difficulty, we managed to agree to be collected from the same spot in just over an hour and a half.
“Quarter past twelve….twelve fifteen…errrm, diec y dos…what’s fifteen in Spanish?….oh heck…show him your watch!!”
Much nodding all around and off we went.
We did a quick scan around the square, to decide where to begin and as we did, we spotted something going on in the yard in front of the Government House. It looked pretty colourful too!
We went over for a closer look but as I stepped forward to take a photo through the railings, a policeman stepped forward and stopped me. No closer than six feet from the railings, it appeared.
We heard speeches over the loudspeaker and the words “El Presidente”. Oooh, was he there then? We had no idea – and wouldn’t have recognised him anyway. So, I took a photo and thought “I’ll google him later!”
But, excited though we were (though I was!) to see all the goings on, it was frustrating to be kept at such a distance and we decided that we needed to see what we’d come for – the cathedral and the other colonial buildings around the square. No good standing here bemoaning the fact that we can’t get close enough to all of this when there was good, old fashioned sightseeing to be done.
The square itself is very spacious and there’s a wide pathway all around.
There’s also a covered arcade all around with lovely black and white tiled pavements. So, we strolled around, enjoying being here and simply watching everyone around us.
On the steps outside the Cathedral, an elderly couple were sharing a snack. I’d seen a woman dressed in traditional clothes yesterday but hadn’t been quick enough to catch a snap of her. Here, I plenty of time to take the photograph I wanted.
Just along from them was another, younger pair. I love the way women here dress in such bright colours!
Hearing a commotion from the other side of the Square again, we spotted that the police had gone and there seemed to be a free for all. Did I want to go and have another look? I thought about it and declined – far more sensible to go into the cathedral than spend our valuable time chasing around trying to see all of that again.
I was so pleased we did. The interior of the cathedral was lovely. Fairly plain for the most part, but along each side was a series of the most richly decorated small chapels.
We peered inside each one in turn, gasping at the richness of the pattern, the colour and the beauty of the figures.
The altar was set a good way back and framed by two lines of elaborate misericords.
But most people here had come to see one particular chapel, containing a special tomb.
Francisco Pizarro is buried here. The Conquistador who overcame the Inca on behalf of the Spanish and the founder of Lima’s remains are in a large, colourful chapel just inside the cathedral’s main door.
The walls are decorated with mosaic images of the man himself and if we’d had the place to ourselves, I might well have spent the next half hour looking more closely. But, sharing the small space with a large group (not from a cruise ship, surprisingly!) wasn’t easy, so I did what I could and we moved on.
Stepping back outside into the sunshine, we saw the beginning of a procession right outside. There was music, dancing and singing and we recognised the people from the celebration earlier as they moved towards us.
And we had the grandstand view!
Throwing themselves wholeheartedly into every move, the first group came by.
The men were wearing woollen ponchos and were swinging their arms inside them, wafting the fabric to the music and singing at the top of their voices.
The women, in their white, lace dresses took a gentler approach but nevertheless were enthusiastic performers too.
The next group were more colourful and more boisterous too.
They were laughing and shouting, having a thoroughly wonderful time as they paraded around the square, creating quite a din!
Every so often the procession would come to a halt and they’d dance on the spot for a while, turning around and laughing with their friends.
Their costumes were amazing!
And though it was really great having them all walk past, I’d have loved for them to have stood still for a while, just so i could take their photograph!
Bringing up the rear was the man with the dustpan and brush, sweeping up the streamers which some of the dancers were leaving behind.
Was that it then?
Well, not actually, for another colourful group was over there on the other side. Let’s go…
They were the most brightly dressed of them all. Not only that, they were gathered, standing around chatting and sharing drinks and snacks and posing for photographs. And guess what? My camera battery died! Not only that, but I didn’t have my spare one with me.
No. More. Pictures.
I know, I’ve often written that the best photographs are in my head and that is certainly true. But here we were in the middle of one of the most photogenic places, surrounded by colour and faces and life and I just wasn’t sure I was going to be able to remember it at all.
So I did what anyone would do in this situation – I got out my phone. As I did so, I cursed, because as we did our final pack up this morning, I realised that I’d forgotten to charge my phone overnight. It had 16% battery life left but I’d thought nothing of it, thinking that I don’t use it on holiday anyway.
Not like some…
Being able to get in amongst the dancers made all the difference, but as I faffed about in my bag, looking for spare batteries and switching my phone on, this bunch were assembling for their part in the procession. And this man was in charge.
They hurried over – the little one holding tight to her Mummy’s shoulders as she went.
You’re right, that is a harp – fancy playing that in a procession?
The girls looked so pretty and the boys looked a great deal better wearing those hats with earflaps than people usually do!
They were off…and so was my phone. This time, it was really the last photograph. Never mind, I probably had enough.
We looked at our watches and noticed it was almost time to meet our driver. But hang on a minute…we’d arranged to be picked up outside the cathedral and now this procession was going on, the road was closed! We did a quick think about the best action to take, did a recce of which direction he might come from and worked out what to do if he didn’t appear somewhere at 12.15pm. We stood on the corner and kept a look out for a black Toyota and for once, I was glad I’d worn my lime green T shirt – at least he’d see me!
12.10 and we’re wondering if we really are standing in the right place. Would it be better if I went and stood in the place where we’d agreed anyway? But no, it made no sense to split up. He’d be along in a minute.
Just when we were beginning to panic slightly (we had to be back at the hotel for 1.15pm and it was now 12.15, we were sure) I spotted the roads had reopened. The procession was over and it was back to normal. We ran to the spot outside the cathedral and met our driver hurrying along on foot to the same spot. I’m not sure who had the most relieved expression on their face! He’d parked the car around the corner and we were soon on our way back to the hotel, where my hero was surprised when he asked for $10 more than the hotel had quoted us. Oh well, he’d done as we’d asked, he’d got us back on time and maybe the extra was for the car park or something.
Shortly after we reached our room, the phone rang. It was the manager on reception with the news that the driver had just returned to the hotel with $10, full of apologies that he’d made a mistake and charged us too much.