Monday, December 13, 2010

Lima and Home

Our last day in Peru came far too quickly.

After a wonderful sleep in (however necessary, having gone to bed somewhere around 5:30am) I missed breakfast served at the hotel. The general plan was to meet the other girls in the lobby around noon and go from there to find lunch and the markets that were supposed to be somewhere near by.

Slowly the group convened and after much deliberation we decided to set out and find something to eat. Justin had mentioned that he and Matt were going to a little place a few blocks from the hotel and if we wanted to join up with them we could. We didn't make any concrete plans but told him maybe we'd run into them.

Our idea was to find something along the water so the group of us went out in search of somewhere to eat with a view. We did our best not to get hit by a car (the only way to cross a street in Lima is to start walking and just stick your hand out in "stop" fashion, with pure hope that the cars stop for you) and started walking down random streets... which led us directly to the restaurant that Justin and co were at. We sat down with the intention of eating there, since we were hungry and just needed food, but soon discovered that the menu was all seafood. Some of the group couldn't do seafood and the rest didn't think it was the best idea for the first meal of the day, so we got up and decided to head towards the sandwich place we'd gone to the day before.

We didn't really know where the sandwich place was but managed to find it anyway. Lunch was just as delicious the second time around, though I had the chicken sandwich (instead of the chicarron) this time.

All of us were in the mood for something low-key to do so we set off in search of the markets. We found them without too much difficulty (they were actually just down the street from our hotel) but were somewhat disappointed to find out they weren't anything like the markets in Cusco- more just shops selling the standard knitted fare that we'd seen everywhere else. However it gave us a chance to stay out of the bit of rain that was starting to fall (and they say it never rains in Lima!).

We window shopped for a while and then decided to just find somewhere to sit down and get a warm beverage. We'd passed a Starbucks on our way to the markets and decided to go back there (free wifi was a definite deciding factor). On the way Rose and I were lucky enough to get some pretty awesome necklaces from a guy on the street for only 10 soles. Maybe my best find of the whole trip.

Warm bevs in hand, we killed at least an hour at Starbucks. While there we asked a security guard where the best place to buy a bottle of Pisco might be - the ones we'd seen were about S/20 for a small bottle. He suggested Metro which was basically just across the square. We started our adventure to find the store, taking the long route around because there actually seemed to be cross walks around the square so we wouldn't die by Peruvian motorists.

Once in the Metro we asked where to find the Pisco and were led into a room filled with bottles floor to ceiling. One whole wall was dedicated to the country's national spirit. Prices ranged from S/24 to about S/60 but most of us opted for the cheap bottle with a picture of Machu Picchu.

Pisco in hand we headed back to the hotel. We had a few hours to kill before meeting Barbara for dinner and most of us just hung around the hotel lobby. I myself curled up in the corner of the couch and had a nap. At 6 Barbara came and took us to a nice place on the square for dinner - she made great suggestions for stuff to eat and I don't think any of us were disappointed. I had a seafood dish that was similar to jumbalaya (one of my fav things).

We couldn't linger too long after dinner since we had a shuttle to the airport booked, so we went to meet everyone at the hotel. Onto the bus we went, taking with us a few other GAP adventure people that were also staying at the hotel. The bus trip was about an hour but it definitely didn't seem that way. Traffic was terrifying as always... I don't think I would EVER be able to drive in Lima!

Since Carolina had checked us all in the day before we didn't need to do anything at the airport except head to the gate. Some of us were going to the west coast of Canada and others to the east, so we parted ways before security. On the way to the gate Justin suggested a beer at one of the bars so I took him up on the offer. By the time we got to the gate we found out that for some unknown reason our flights were delayed by about half an hour. Someone told us that there was a free wifi zone back around gate 17, so a few of us went back down there to kill more time on the internet.

While waiting in line Rose pointed out a guy with a pretty fantastic looking hair do - pure 80s magic. We snickered and commented on the fact that he looked like he belonged in a band from the 80s and so did the guy standing beside him with the long curly blond ponytail. The longer we stood in line staring at the pair the more convinced we were that we were staring at Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

We weren't lucky enough to get first class on the way home (darn!) but Carolina managed to get us bulkhead seats AND complimentary champange before take off. Before take off "Dee Snider" passed by us, muttered a few words and the voice and face together was enough confirmation for us that it was indeed him.

Because our flight was so late taking off, almost 1am, both Rose and I opted out of dinner and promptly fell asleep. Having the extra leg room was awesome, and even though we weren't in first class any more the blankets they had on the plane were SOO cozy. I almost stone one, I have to admit (and with this cold weather I've been dealing with since returning home I wish I had). I slept soundly the entire flight and only woke up when the flight attendent was right beside me with the breakfast tray.

Our flight being delayed in Lima meant that we missed our connecting flight in New York, but luckily LAN reprotected us on a flight with American Airlines. We ended up having to wait an extra hour or more for the new flight, which caused me to have to change my shuttle that I had booked back to London. I'd only flown via JFK once before (when I flew with Finnair in Aug) but the terminal we left from was the same so it was sorta nice to feel a bit of familiarity despite the disruption in our flights.

Got back to Toronto just after 2pm and had to say goodbye to half the group since they were taking a taxi downtown Toronto. Rose, Heather and I hung around terminal 3 until they had to catch their planes, at which point I went down to wait for the shuttle... all alone after 8 days of being surrounded by people. It felt weird.

Got back to London around 7pm, and a friend picked me up in my car (I'd loaned it to him for the week while I was gone) and took me to home. It had just started to snow, which was quite the shock after it being close to 20 degrees in Lima when we left!!

Overall Peru with GAP and LAN was a fantastic trip that I think will stick out in my mind forever. Experiencing the Peruvian culture, food and country is just something everyone should do in their life time. South America is a facinating place, and there are so many more places on the continent I'd like to get to (Galapagos, Brazil, etc). LAN was a great airline to fly with, the service was amazing and the planes themselves were full of amenities (over 40 movies alone to choose from!). GAP made the whole thing a very "real" experience and we had lots of free time to do what we wanted. Our guide, Barbara, was adorable and I wish we could have brought her back with us to Canada ... and she tells me she would have liked to come along because for some reason she loves the snow!

As with every trip I go on, I met some amazing people that I hope to stay in contact with for years to come - it helps that the women on the trip were all people that work for the same company but I think we became more than collegues over the week long trip - we definitely became friends.

And so ends my accounts of my trip to Peru - I hope everyone has enjoyed reading my stories, and continue to check back on this page from time to time... I don't sit still very long and will be off on another adventure soon.

Next stop: Costa Rica in Feb with Volunteer Abroad (if I can get a big enough group to go) to help save the sea turtles
Thailand in May for the full moon festival
Egypt with some of the TCUTS/ATC ladies from Peru in the fall.... hopefully.


  1. Hi Alanna, just read your whole blog via a link on the SWAP site. It was awesome! I dream of one day going to Machu Piccu. Your blog is great. I really enjoyed reading your view and comical insight. It seems like it was an amazing experince.
    Can you please tell me which Gap tour you took or was it a special TravelCuts Manager only tour? They have a few options for Machu Piccu on the Gap website and yours seemed like it was lots of fun. And did you bring a big pack that you chcecked or just a big carry-on bag?

  2. Hi Tippy!
    I feel so terrible, I completely missed this comment so long ago. Thank you for the kind words about my writing!
    The GAP trip that I did was basically the Machu Picchu Adventure (Trip code SPMP), though it was tailored a bit more specifically for us Travel CUTS people. It was a great sampling of what Peru has to offer, but if I were to do it again I would love to see places like Arequipa, Lake Titicaca and the Nazca Lines - just a thought.
    I took a big bag (about 55L) and a carry on backpack, though I've learned to take less stuff on each trip since.