LIMA, Peru—In Lima, every interaction is dotted by smiles and ends with hugs.
The historic Plaza de Armas, with its pretty colonial architecture, is a tourist draw, and the changing of the guards at the Palacio de Gobierno, set to a live brass band, is a regal affair.
But to rub elbows with locals, you need only wander off a bit. Cross Puente Trujillo to the north, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped 50 years back in time. In some places, people don’t care to have their photos taken. In Lima, people were so happy to pose for me.
Mercado de Surquillo is a bustling market where you find a ton of older ladies peeling vegetables, and also selling vegetables, spices, juices—anything you can think of. Several people told me not to stay out too late, out of concern for my safety, pointing to the camera I was carrying.
Peru is the land of potatoes, and Lima has access to great seafood. One man told me, “If you don’t have potatoes, you have fish. If you don’t have fish, you have potatoes.” He was saying the land and the sea were so good.
Speaking of the sea, I went out to La Punta, just outside Lima, and I’d highly recommend it. Cesar, the taxi driver who drove me there, thought, “This gringa está loca to go there by herself.” We became friends on the 45-minute ride, and since it was the end of his shift, he showed me around—the beach he went to as a child, and the church where his sister got married.
For some reason, La Punta is far enough that tourists don’t go there. I only saw locals enjoying views of the ocean or going on boat rides.
It’s easy to become friends with people there. Conversations with strangers always ended with a goodbye hug and blessings to send me on my way.