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Lima – Culinary capital of the world and much more

This month, my longtime home town Vienna has again been ranked as the most livable city in the world by The Economist. There are many reasons why this ranking makes sense to me. Public transportation is good and inexpensive, housing is affordable, and having a good social system in place ensures that the crime rate is extremely low. Furthermore, high-quality and affordable health care is available, and there is lots of public green space and opportunities to exercise as well as a myriad of cultural offerings. While I am not ruling out returning one day to Vienna, at the moment, I don’t miss any of these qualities and I enjoy exploring other cities like Lima. There is at least one aspect in which Lima is ahead of Vienna and ahead of all other cities in the world too: Cuisine. Four of Lima’s restaurants made it on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list this month, more than anywhere else. The number one restaurant, Central, is also in Lima.

Shortly after our arrival here, we met up with a fellow nomad who we first met in Cuenca and who is driving his car (and dog) from the United States through Central and South America to Ushuaia, at the southernmost tip of the continent. Through him, we got to know another long-term nomad of 9 years who is undertaking the same journey with his girlfriend. They are enthusiastic foodies and therefore it didn’t take long until we ended up in Mayta, then the world’s 32nd (now the 47th) best restaurant, where they were able to get a reservation. After our visit to the Leo in Bogotá, the 43rd best restaurant in the world, this was my second fine dining experience of this sort. Our culinary journey didn’t stop there. We had delicious food in different restaurants in town. Among my favorites were the restaurants Rafael, Costanera 700, and Isolina. My favorite Liman dish is Ceviche. I had no idea that raw fish could taste so good!

We also got to experience Peruvian hospitality at its best. Friends of Bee in the US put us in touch with their friend in Lima, who invited us to their home and enormous wine cellar, with a delicious dinner at Costanera 700 afterward. Thanks, Pepo & family, for making us feel so at home!

Lima is, with a population of roughly 10 Million, the third largest desert city, after Karachi and Cairo. It basically never rains, but constant irrigation throughout the city masks the feeling of living in a desert climate. Quite the contrary–it actually feels very green. The temperature has been ideal here. During our month-long stay from the end of May until the end of June, we basically never needed a sweater and hardly ever felt hot, given the average temperature of about 22°C / 72° F. It’s currently winter in the southern hemisphere and in Lima this would usually mean that you rarely see the sun behind a gray sky. We were very lucky though because we had a sunny day every 3 to 4 days.

Our apartment was halfway between Parque del Amor and Parque John F. Kennedy in the heart of the Miraflores borough. We lived on the 13th floor with floor-to-ceiling windows in our living room and gorgeous views from nearly every room. Being so close to the Malecón, a cycle and walking path along the cliffs of Lima, was incredibly nice. The views and parks along the Malecón are gorgeous and seeing so many people working out there was inspiring too. Lots of people were running and cycling along the cliffs throughout the day. I ran three times a week on the Malecón and completed my last run at a pace I haven’t managed to run at in a really long time (4k with an average pace of 4:12 min). Our apartment overlooked several tennis courts, and I noticed that people were not only running very early but also started playing tennis as early as 6:00 am too.

If I got up at 6:00 am, it wasn’t that pleasant though, because my espresso coffee maker broke. Since I could no longer extract coffee with the pressure to create suitable crema, I headed out more often to grab a coffee at a cafe. Luckily, just a few hundred meters down the Avenida Malecon Balta where we lived was the Parque del Amor, a cute little park dedicated to love. The Lima chain restaurant Creperia Beso Francés has outlets on both sides of the park. I went there regularly to have a cortado, and sometimes a crepe as well, while watching the surfers below the cliff. There are far worse problems than having to go out to have a good coffee with such scenic views…

Naturally, we made sure to try various craft beer options in Lima. Mosaic, a hazy IPA from Red Cervecera, was our favorite beer in town. We visited both locations of Red Cervecera, one in Barranco and one in Miraflores, and had fun chatting with the owner about our favorite beers in Santiago, since he is Chilean, and other breweries in Buenos Aires and Brooklyn.

The Centro Histórico, and in particular Plaza Mayor, is well-maintained and beautiful. It can be conveniently reached by bus or by riding your bike on a dedicated bike lane. The entire bike ride felt safe and so did the neighborhoods of Centro Histórico, Miraflores, and Barranco. In fact, I would almost say I never felt safer than in Miraflores and Barranco, which is not a matter of course in Latin America and in big cities in general.

For longer bike rides outside of Miraflores, there are bike rental services available, such as GOGO Biking in Miraflores, which I used several times. At present, the Lima Citybikes are only available in Miraflores, but that means stations are everywhere and use is inexpensive. Unfortunately, it took me some time to be able to use them, since their mobile app didn’t work. To use public transport you need a Lima Pass (a small credit card size plastic card) or a similar transportation card, which needs to be charged with money before you can use it. The pass should be available at the Metropolitano stations.

Make sure to visit Parque 7 de Junio in Miraflores if you like cats. Dozens of cats call this park their home and are fed and taken care of by people. You might also be able to see the old and young dancing here to Latino tunes!

My absolute highlight in Lima was a spontaneous visit from one of my childhood best friends and his son. We met the last time almost exactly a year ago when I was living in Porto, so I was extremely happy to finally get back together. We had lots of fun exploring Lima and even went surfing together.

Yes, Lima is a surfing city and you always see surfers walking with their boards through Miraflores on the way to the beaches. Waves are relatively beginner-friendly and surf schools are available too. We took a class with the Hakuna Surf School on Makaha Beach a few hundred meters from our apartment. The beach there is a pebble beach and the stones are relatively big, which is not ideal when getting out of the water on a day with a strong current because a wave might throw some stones on your feet. Other than that, it was perfect and lots of fun!

Barranco is a super cute neighborhood bordering Miraflores and you can walk or bike along the Malecón cliffs to get there. On the border of Miraflores, you find the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, which is worth a stop. We also went to the Jade Rivera Museum in Barranco. Jade Rivera, who grew up in Lima, started off by creating street art and now also works on canvas. We got a beautiful print of one of his works titled “Libre” which is about a recurring dream of moving from one place to another with total freedom and without the anchors of fear. We thought that the theme was pretty fitting for us.

To put everything in one sentence: We had a great time in Lima and I would come back any time!

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