Downtown Lima, Peru

Today, we Three Musketeers took an organized city tour. That kept us out of trouble for four hours. It was nice to get out of the Miraflores/San Isidro area. Driving through San Isidro, we went through a lovely park of olive trees and Tudor style houses. The olive trees were started by seeds brought over by the Spanish. The houses definitely had a European flair, but as the tour guide pointed out, the steep-pitched roofs were really unnecessary as Lima gets very, very little rain. Still, it was a lovely area, that I hope to visit again, soon.

The tour was mostly a driving tour that took us past some beautiful buildings and parks. One such park, was Parque de la Exposicion. It has the art museum that houses mostly Peruvian paintings. This building was built with plans designed by Gustave Eiffel (of the Eiffle Tower fame)in 1872.

Nearby this park, is Parque Italiano which contains the building that houses the Museo de Arte Italiano. This museum is a gift from the Italian people, who resided in Lima in 1921, to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Peru’s independence. Continuing on, we drove to Plaza San Martin, which is in central Lima. Beautiful buildings, that we didn’t get to truly appreciate because we drove past them on our way to Plaza Mayor.

One thing the tour guide pointed out were the bright color buildings. They are painted red, yellow, green. He said the reason for this is that Lima has 9 months of gray due to the fog and overcast sky, therefore, the Peruvians need color to brighten their spirits! I so agree! Thank goodness for color.

There is a pedestrian mall that connects Plaza San Martin to Plaza Mayor. Once in the Plaza Mayor area, we visited the Museo del Banco. We were given a quick tour of the gold room, the ceramic and textile display. Then, we walked to the Plaza San Martin where we enjoyed the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral that was built in the 1500s. One thing that struck me most about the buildings were the beautiful, Moorish style balconies. The balconies are made of wood and are beautifully carved. These enclosed balconies allowed the women to view the daily activities on the square. In Santiago, I took pictures of the doors. Here, in Peru, I think I need to take pictures of the various balconies. They are truly different and amazing!

The final part of the tour took us to the San Francisco Convent. This building is one of the oldest in Lima and is the order of Franciscan monks. Interestingly, we never saw the inside of the church. Our tour took us around the courtyard where we saw some beautiful tiled walls, old fresco paintings and lovely carved wooden ceilings. The tour then took us underneath the church to the catacombs where it is estimated that 80,000 people are buried. Originally, just monks were buried there but over time, it served as burial grounds for the poor, slaves and servants. They would be buried and covered with earth and lime. After the bodies decomposed, the bones were removed to make room for more corpses. Today, the bones are grouped together by specific bones…the femurs are all together, the skulls, the humerus, ect. In the catacombs, there is about a 12 ft deep, well like structure. This was built to protect the church from earthquakes…today, it houses a unique design of skulls and bones.

A tour wouldn’t be a tour without a visit to the gift shop. Our guide took us to one across the street from the monastery. I never saw the gift shop as I was more interested with the painter that was painting the church. His name is Luis Samanamud and there were newspaper articles on the wall about him. One article referred to him as the “Painter of Lima”. I really liked his work, especially the most current painting of the church. He said that he had been painting for 15 years. I hope to get a picture of his before leaving here.

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