Saturday 22 August

(magnify) San Fransisco Church

Two rolls, cheese, and ham for breakfast. We walk from the hotel up to Avenue Arequipa where we catch a bus labelled ‘Tacna’ to downtown Lima for S/.1.80 each. (We had read that buses run along the expressway to central Lima but yesterday when we went to try to find our nearest stop we finally came to the conclusion that the service must be suspended.)

We follow our route carefully on the map to make sure that we can get off at the right place four blocks from the Plaza de Armas. In the event there is no problem working out when we have reached downtown; however we did not want to overshoot because there is a less safe neighbourhood on the other side of the river.

(magnify) Derelect hall of the San Fransisco Church

It is ten soles per person to enter the cathedral, and we decide that this is a bit steep, so on we go to the San Fransisco church and monastery. We take a whistle-stop tour in English, including the cloisters, sacristy, refectory and catacombs. Unlike ten years ago when I visited, photography is now not allowed in the catacombs.

Behind the church near the ‘river’ is a new park, incorporating some remains of the city walls. It is quite pleasant. Lima’s single railway track follows the stony ditch that passes for a river (the Rio Rimac). On the far side is the motorway that we must have followed out of Lima on the bus to Huaraz three weeks ago. Beyond that colourful houses of the shanty town cling to the grey hillside.

City walls
(magnify) Rio Rimac
(magnify) New park
Lima Cathedral

We have decided to eat dinner at the L’Eau Vive restaurant, run by nuns, most of whom are from French-speaking African countries over on short-term placements. We are quite near the restaurant so we decide to drop in and reserve a table. It is the most surreal experience. I ask to make a reservation in my best Spanish, but when asked what time my mind goes completely blank. The lady prompts me in French, to which I reply in a thoroughly confused mixture of French, Spanish and English.

We find an Internet café just before noon in order to do the online check-in for our return flight tomorrow evening. After some initial difficulty finding our reservation on the system we get in and choose our seats. For reasons that we cannot fathom, almost all seats are already allocated, even though the check-in has only just opened a few minutes ago.

(magnify) Changing of the guard

We have a sandwich lunch in a large café off the plaza, and then walk south to the Parque de la Exposition. Our route takes us along a street first lined with stationery shops, then hardware. It all looks rather run-down. At Plaza Grau, near the park, are some derelict tower blocks and what with the heavy traffic and fumes at close quarters it is not the most pleasant place to be.

It takes us a little while to find the park entrance and it is a relief to get in finally away from all the noise and dirt. As parks go it is pretty average, but it keeps us occupied for a while, even though the free art museum appears to be closed and undergoing refurbishment.

We walk back via the Plaza St Martin. We still have time to kill so take a fifty minute Mirabus tour of the city’s sights – also partly to get warm again as it is now feeling decidedly chilly. We feel gratified that we have already seen many of them on foot, though we did miss the new park with fountains, the Parque de la Reserva, not mentioned in our guide book. We ask our tour guide about it and she explains how we can get there by taxi.

Saturday night wedding

We kill another hour in a large family restaurant, me nursing a cold cup of terrible instant coffee, before going to get dinner at L’Eau Vive. It is not quite open yet so we walk round the block a few times, and watch what seems to be a wedding taking place at the San Pedro church, the church all lit up and people milling around aimlessly outside, while a succession of cars come and go.

The atmosphere at L’Eau Vive is lovely. The head waiter is very motherly and we really feel welcomed and looked after. The food is good (as expected). I have the sword fish, which comes with a delicious sauce, and for once the quantities are sensible – we clean our plates without feeling over-full. The only thing missing is that we do not get to hear their habitual rendition of the Ave Maria sung. Perhaps we left too early.