Peru – Plaza de Armas (Plaza Mayor), Lima
Continued from here.
After lingering over lunch we left the restaurant and our trusted taxi driver was waiting outside. We asked him to drop us off at the Plaza de Armas (aka Plaza Mayor) in the old city, about half an hour drive from Milaflores through not particularly scenery highway. The Capital, Lima, is a sprawling city with population of 9 million, one of the largest cities of South America. Like other cities on the continent the old part of the city built around the main Plaza de Armas where colonial history is evident in the architecture and structures surrounding the plaza.
The plaza was founded by the infamous conquistador Francisco Pizzaro in 1835 when he commission a palace for himself but the grand structure we see today is the result of centuries of reconstruction and repurposing. Today it is the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) and home to the president of Peru. Pizzaro remains are buried inside the Lima Cathedral across the plaza.
Palacio Arzobispal (Archbishop’s Palace)
The plaza is framed on all sides by historical buildings, the Lima Cathedral being the most prominent. The original cathedral was also built in 1535 but a couple of earthquakes and rebuilding resulted in what we see there today. Next door is the Palacio Arzobispal (Archbishop’s Palace) serving as the residence of the Archbishop of Lima and offices of the Cardinal. The Palacio de la Unión, located on the west side of the plaza is a more recent addition from the 1940’s and now serves as headquarter for the prestigious Club de la Unión.
Palacio Municipal de Lima
On the same side sits the golden Palacio Municipal de Lima, or City Hall. As with the other structures, earthquakes and rebuilding resulted with a neo-colonial architecture that we see there today. The Plaza was once the location of the cit’s gallows, a market and a bull fighting ring as well as home to the Inquisition’s first public execution in the new world.
Convento de San Francisco
Around the corner and a block away from Plaza de Armas is the Convento de San Francisco (San Francisco Monastery) located in Parque la Muralla. The Monastery is circa 1600s, built in Spanish baroque ornate style. The convent served as a burial place and is particularly famous for the catacombs containing thousands of bones and skulls arranged in a concentric design. In addition to the catacombs the monastery has a library containing more than twenty thousand ancient books, parchments and other texts in various languages on subjects such as religion, philosophy, history, literature, music and more. The interior features art, stained glass windows, antique furnishing and beautiful architecture throughout.
Gran Hotel Bolivar
After spending a few hours exploring the historical buildings in the area our driver came to pick us up to go back to Larcomar for a sunset experience. Before we left the area though I had one more stop in mind: the historical Gran Hotel Bolivar. The hotel was declared a national monument, having over since the 1920s hosted kings and queens, emperors (Japan), presidents (de Gaul, Nixon), intelligentsia, diplomats and politicians, artists, writers, film stars, musicians and more. Pablo Neruda, John Wayne, Hemingway, famous bullfighters, Rockefeller and others have walked the halls and sat at the historical bar of this hotel. Stepping into this elegant hotel is like stepping back in time and some of the history is colourful. The Rolling Stones were expelled from the hotel for bad behaviour, Ava Gardner danced on the bar after one too many pisco sour and Orson Wells drank 43 pisco sours in one night. I had one pisco sour but this would not make the news. In the lobby of the hotel you will see a Ford T20 that was pulled by horses in the 1920s.
Sunset at Larcomar
Well, we had to leave the historical district and get back to 21st century. Our driver took us back to Larcomar and dropped us off on the promenade where we intended to have a drink and a bite on the patio of a restaurant on the cliffs and watch the sun go down. What an experience that was. Watching the sun slowly sink into the Pacific in a splash of red, pink, purple and orange was a sight that will stay with for a long time.
From there we headed back to the shuttle, said our goodbyes to our driver and headed back to the ship. I must go back to Peru before too long. So many places, so much to see, so little time.