Lima, Peru

Frankly Ecuador, at least the port city of Manta, was disappointing at best. We stopped there on this World Cruise of 680 guests I believe only so that 80 lucky folks who were able to book long before the cruise ever left, the spots on the overland tour to Machu Pichu, which of course was the reason why a lot of folks came on this cruise in the first place. Granted, it was about $3,700 more per person to do the Machu Pichu tour, but a whole lot of folks wanted to do the tour and were disappointed that Princess only offered 80 spots. Why limit it to 80? Speaking now as a CCL and PCL (Carnival Corp and Carnival PLC which is the UK company that acquired Princess) stockholder, Princess generally leaves a lot of “money on the table” in the way they organize and sell shore excursions. In a day when most cruise lines are scrambling to make as much on board revenue as they can off of shore excursions, Princess seems curiously aloof. Micky [Arison, not Mouse] take note.

The folks who weren’t lucky enough to go to Machu Pichu experienced a Mexican-Riviera-style tuna-fishing port city which was totally underwhelming.

But Lima on the other hand fulfilled expectations of a fascinating port of call. Maybe we went there only to pick up the Machu Pichu folks, but it was a very interesting city for the 600 other folks. I’m surprised that with 600 to 1,500 visitors a day stopping by my blog that nobody identified the header picture this week . . . which is the front of the Archbishop’s Palace in the old historic section of Lima, Peru right on the Plaza Mayor. Although it follows the Spanish Baroque style of architecture that characterizes much of the old section of Lima, the Archbishop’s Palace was not opened until 1924, by which time you would have thought the church would have found a better use for the money. It is the residence of the current Archbishop, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani.

The Moorish balconies were popular because there were almost constant processions through the streets honoring one saint or another, so the balconies enabled the rich and powerful to watch the processions, and street life, without having to go outside and mingle with the common folk. There are around 1600 balconies in historic Lima and since the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site the exteriors of all of the old buildings must be preserved.

The Casa del Oidor or Magistrate’s House sits on the Plaza Mayor across from the Archbishop’s Palace on the same corner of the Plaza Mayor. One of oldest mansions dating back to end of 17th century, “Casa del Oidor” means “house of one who listens” because magistrates listened to complaints of the public. The balconies provided a convenient way for the magistrate to keep an eye on goings on in the Plaza Mayor and watch comings and goings across the street at the Cathedral and Government Palace.

The Cathedral was begun 1535, expanded, renovated and restored many times due to earthquakes which are common in Peru due to its location where the South American Plate and the Nazca Plate come together. Underneath the major churches are connecting underground catacombs where over 25,000 people were buried, and over the years their bones have been neatly arranged with groups of femurs and skulls, if you like that type of thing.

The Plaza Mayor is a wonderful spot at the heart of the historic area. In 1523, King Charles I mandated that the creation of cities in the New World should follow this plan of a grid centered on the square shape of the plaza

Miraflores is the new, upscale, Santa-Monica-like modern area of Lima overlooking the Pacific.

I couldn’t live in Lima. Not only is it the relatively high crime rate in many areas, including the port area of Callao where we docked, but it is almost always grey and gloomy. Because of the ocean-side location and the Humbolt Current just off shore, Lima is usually cool, cloudy and foggy. The cool is fine, but day after day of gloom, like June in Santa Barbara and Ventura, isn’t my cup of tea . . . or coffee.

Speaking of which, I missed going to the Gold Museum! Not that I was that interested in the display of gold and antique weaponry, but now I find out that the gift shop at the Gold Museum was selling little French press coffee makers! I looked all over Chiriqui for one before I left, and have been searching in every port since for a French press. Knowing the coffee on the ship is . . . well, let’s just say it’s not Boquete coffee . . . I brought my own home-grown beans and a coffee grinder . . . but no way to make coffee! Yesterday I spotted some folks from New York City who had a this little Cafe Britt French press coffee maker on their table out on deck. They flagged me down and said, “Richard, who grows the best coffee?” Of course I said, “Panama!” Well, they had run out and were looking to buy coffee. [Note to self: this may be a future market! Smuggle it on board and start my own coffee black market.] I asked where they got the neat, small French press, and they said at the Gold Museum. Who knew? Anyway I ran down to my room, down on V Deck [as in Jules Verne], ground some coffee, and we made and sampled my Palmira, Boquete coffee . . . and I realized, once again, how wonderful it is! Not bitter, like the ship coffee, and instead of the bitter aftertaste of the ship coffee, leaving a warm, mellow, almost buttery caramel, chocolate, coffee aftertaste.

My next great hope is in a few days when we get to French Polynesia. Surely they must have French press coffee makers.

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