It is easy to find one’s self encapsulated by the many splendors Peru has to offer: Foodies can experience culinary bliss by dining at some of the many eateries or perusing the local grocery stores to purchase food to prepare; adventure seekers can get their thrills by paragliding, biking or doing the 4-day hike to Machu Picchu among numerous other activities; history buffs can visit a myriad of museums and ruins. People of leisure can relax at the beach, go for a stroll, or enjoy sitting in the amazing parks (such as El Parque del Amor), and shopaholics can pop by a number of stores and marketplaces, the latter of which being the fun option.
Our time in Peru found us enthralled by the Food and Marketplaces.
Food: Peruvian food is bold and flavorful, with great use of color and texture, and a subtle sense of whimsicality. We found ourselves obsessed with it, gorging on delectable treats like [trout and other white fish] ceviché, fried ceviché, sea bass skewers, freshly squeezed [guava, orange, mango or papaya] juices, pisco sour [cocktails], countless potato dishes, beef heart (I left that alone, as I don’t eat meat), plantains, lamb with cilantro gravy and scallop shooters to name a few. And we were amazed at those brave enough to order the deep fried Guinea Pig (which, to be completely honest, smelled divine). Since in Lima we rented a condo, we made a valiant effort to buy groceries and cook at least one meal per day. This turned out to be a fantastic choice; we got our pick of the freshest fish, fruits and veggies, and were able to experiment and make outstanding dishes.
Marketplace: Not only did they have an abundance of goods from which to choose, but the merchants were friendly (albeit pushy at times) and went above and beyond for the sale (even going so far as to make a run back to their house to find something more suited to the buyer’s tastes). The best thing about the marketplace: the bargaining! It took a minute before I found my flow; the first couple of tries resulted in my accepting the first prices thrown at me. But I watched and learned, and in no time I was, in my limited Spanish, bargaining with the best of them, smiling to myself as I realized I was not in Europe or Japan, but in South America, where the dollar was actually worth a damn!
Being able to explore Peru from both the tourist side (staying in a hostel in cusco) and the local side (renting a condo in lima) made for a more well rounded experience. Because of this, we walked away with a really good sense of Peruvian culture, and were able to genuinely appreciate our time spent in such a uniquely charming place . -VJ