4/30 Last Day: Barranco
I love Barranco! It’s a neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima. By the sea with a nice balance of chill and things to do. The artistic and literary pedigree of this places shines through, if for no other reason; the good bars. An air of Southern California beach town, with the weight of decades of people meeting, sharing ideas and creating art. The Pacific Ocean crashes silently below the cliffs, and Barranco maintains the coziness of a suburb by the sea (although I hear on the weekends the bars are epic).
Last night I dropped my stuff at Hostal Gémina, a nicely situated hotel with friendly staff, fridge in the room (cold beers!), and awesome brick-a-brack decorations throughout. I got in touch with Daniela and she met me after work at the Barranco Beer Company. BBC is a 6 month old brewery right here in Lima (further solidifying the SoCal connection). Modern and hip, all the beers are made in house.
We caught up over a couple tasty hefeweisen, giving me a preview of how difficult its going to be to answer the inevitable question; “So how was the trip??”. Thinking back there is so much, and for each moment words just don’t seem to do it justice. In a lot of ways it was a very internal journey, punctuated by spectacular sights, good people and the fake Bolivian police. But for now, I’m still here, and intend to soak it all in. I could’ve skipped this whole entry thanks to a pic Daniela just sent me which portrays it expertly in illustration.
So yes, next she took me to Juanito. This place really hit the spot. Good beer and literary weight all up in your face. Daniela, forever awesome host, told me about the history of the joint. Its current location was relatively new (originally next door, but after a family feud; moved a door down), but this would be the place to talk politics, arts and gossip over cheap pitchers of beer. Behind the counter were surly men slicing ham into rolls for awesome looking sandwiches. My plan was to start drinking at lunch here tomorrow, and definitely trying one of those suckers.
Next stop was La Noche, also a good bar, and also felt like a place revolution can start. A little less so tonight, must admit. The wood walls are lined with characatures of public figures, but the population of Lonely Planetiers in the sparse crowd lowered the street cred a bit. Ice cold beer, and good convo nonetheless. By the way, pitchers of beer are called a “chopp”. I thought I’d become pretty good in my beer related spanish, but this was new to me.
So today I just did my usual. Walking around taking in the beautiful colonial buildings, tree lined boulevards, and tiny back streets. I walked down the stairs to the beach at the bottom of the cliffs to get some last sun and have a little beach time. Who knew what shit weather was waiting for me back in New York. With the cars hurdling passed behind the beach on the Circuito de Playas, I wouldn’t call it the most tranquil of beaches I’ve been to. Nonetheless, it hit the spot. I’ll NEVER complain about a vibrant city that also has a beach (when can we put NYC on top of LA?).
On Daniela’s suggestion I went to Bisetti for a late morning coffee. Its an airy cafe with fucking great coffee. Outdoor patio and art/literature lining the walls. Its about lunch time so about to head over to Juanito’s (praying its open) for lunch. Hoping to strike up a conversation with a stranger over cold beer and sandwiches, and then just bumming around Barranco for the rest of my last night.
I’ve never been at this point in a trip and wanted to go home so little. Usually a point is reached, no matter how great the time’s been, that one is just ready to be back in one’s home turf. I have NO feeling of readiness to return. Its funny to think back to my trepidation in Lima those first days. Now I feel like I could live here. Especially Barranco.
Having lunch at Juanito, and this sandwich is hitting the spot! My appetite hasn’t been 100% since Arequipa, but this is the shit. The barman said the jamon de norte is his favorite (as opposed to the jamon de pais), naturally got one of those with the works (onions and peppers). Tasty and spicy, with the meat reminding me of an Easter Ham. Wouldn’t mind coming back here for dinner, but there is one last bit of culinary exploration I need to try.
After lunch and basically on a complete whim I decided I needed to document this trip on my skin. I messaged Daniela about a tattoo shop around, and she turned me onto Zhimpa Tattoos in Miraflores. Determined, I walked the 20 minutes to their studio, and asked for a tattoo of the The Condor from Nazca. Simple but poignant, and a high flying symbol to represent my elevated connection with the Pachamama…or whatever. My kind of souvenir. Nice staff, clean studio, and this dude (I never got his name) put in some clean line work. Every time I look down, I feel the stoke of Peru.
So that night it was chifa time. I met Daniela at her spot, Chifa Chun Yion. Thanks to a huge Chinese immigration in the early 20th century, Lima has some amazing chinese food. The recipes remain tradition chinese, more or less, but the addition of peruvian ingredients takes it to a new level of tastiness. We got fried wantons and fried rice, and it was awesome. In addition the whole experience had a certain nostalgia to my younger days going on family dinner trips to the neighborhood chinese place.
That night after dinner we went hard. It was the eve of Labor Day for Peru, and I got to see what Barranco is like when no one has to work the next day. We met a few of Daniela’s friends at La Noche, and it was a different scene all together. The place was over flowing with limeños sharing chopps and enjoying the night. A great send off that involved jukebox dance party, many pitchers of beer, and lasted until about dawn. Gracias por todo Daniela!!! Me encanta tu cuidad y pais!
5/1 Este noche, me voy.
Was definitely slow to get up today, but relishing in the memories of a fun night last night. I eventually got up, and went towards Bisetti for a coffee. Sadly it was closed because of Labor Day, but the devil Starbucks next door was open. I grabbed a coffee there and when I sat outside was treated to a fantastic morning cup of joe next to the public piano. THE PUBLIC PIANO! So dope! Right there in the plaza people can come up and display they’re musical talents. A crowd was gathered, and although I had told Daniela I would meet up soon, I was entranced. Ocean air, wafting piano, coffee, all on a holiday morning.
On the plane bound for New York City. Home. Struggling for words to sum this all up. Good. A re-set. Informative. Mystical. Eye opening. Fuck, what to say.
I’ve been back now for about a month. Great to catch up with friends, and enjoy the birth of another NYC summer. At this point I’ve pretty much seen everyone, and my trip is old news. But Jesus, how hard it was every time someone asked that question. “How was the trip!?”. “How much time do you have?” is what I wanted to say. And then ramble for hours about history, politics, and the cosmos. But to sum it up in a quick talk over beers without sounding like a hippy, self righteous or straight crazy has been tough.
I didn’t do anything special. The route is well beaten by many, many tourists over the years. But this was a person triumph for myself in light of how long I’ve been dreaming of it, and the sum of its parts are SO much more than I could’ve expected. At first I’d half joke with friends back home that “I feel different”. As cliche as it is there is a certain truth to it. The truth is I don’t feel different in an “Eat, Pray, Love” sort of way, more exact; I feel back to myself, and more myself than ever. It had been a while since my last journey, and thanks to Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and all the people I’ve met along the way; I’m reminded what I always knew are the important things in life. Living is up there towards the top of the list.
Thanks for reading. Looking forward to the next adventure.