Tag Archives: Miraflores

The different faces of Lima

‘Oh my god’. The American drawl of a yummy-mummy doing lunch with her toned buddy hits my ears. ‘I didn’t realise that she had children from a previous relationship’. They are on the sofa in Starbucks, turned in to each other; comfortable friendship. And familiar environment, I would imagine. I have been here for over an hour making use of the Wi-Fi and catching up on a pile of emails but these two were already chatting when I arrived and they look in no hurry to leave. All the time in the world, it would seem.

This is La Molina, a tidy suburb of Lima. The streets are organised and clean and lined with trimmed plant life. Houses are beautifully presented – not too grand – but fresh and architecturally balanced and considered with pleasing curves in all the right places. It feels a fairly safe neighbourhood, especially once inside the security gates that block the entrance to nearly all residential streets.

But it also feels a bit separate to the overall reality of Peru. Women come out of gym sessions in tight, new workout wear, men in expensive suits sit with colleagues for a coffee and chat, and young cool adults lounge with laptops and expensive Frappuccinos.

This is a place of professionals and expats, of ladies who lunch and rich kids who hang out, a place where I feel a scruff and where my backpack is an incredibly foreign and frowned on article (although people just stare, they’re far too polite to frown publically).

Miraflores, another district of Lima, heaves with people of all nationalities; professionals and backpackers side-by-side. It is gringo central with tonnes of hostels and standardised eateries catering for the unadventurous or those seeking something safe and comforting. Up at the top end by the central park, it doesn’t seem to possess the same self-assured affluence of La Molina, probably because a fair few of us scruffy travellers bring the place down a notch or two.

But don’t be fooled; it is pricey and upmarket compared to much of Peru. Miraflores is clean and Western and convenient. It has the edge of being beachside, of being a place of leisure with opportunities to paraglide and surf or whack a ball in the tennis courts. To actually live here rather than pass through the place highlights the inaccessibility for most Peruvians who earn on average S/.1,148 per month (although this is based on figures from Lima). To rent a two bed flat in Miraflores would set you back around S/.3,790 per month ($1,400 / £900), but you would get an immaculate, modern apartment for the price within a stone’s throw of the beach and bars and restaurants. Obviously not an option for most.

La Victoria and the Tacora area of Lima offers up a complete contrast to the wealth and style of Miraflores and La Molina. It fulfils the expectations of a tourist in Latin America, being undeveloped and rough around the edges with a hint of danger and disorder.

Battered, dirty buildings are cramped into littered streets that swarm with people, a heaving district on the breadline. Slums rise up on the sandy mounds that frame the area; brown, blocky buildings clinging to the hillside. Built slightly recessed to each other, the site can reach up to six or more houses high. There is no space between them; it’s overcrowded and hectic and looks somewhat precarious. A few people have painted their buildings in bright colours but predominantly it is a brown sea of chaos.

And downtown Lima, the so called centre of the city?

In some respects, it is much like other Peruvian city centres with pretty parks and plazas dotted about the place, but it is also considered a world heritage centre by UNESCO. Architecturally it has some impressive buildings and churches including the Convento de San Francisco, Catedral de Lima and Palacio De Gobierno. (See Peru This Week and Peru en RoUte for some photos of the historic centre and downtown Lima).

Traditional places to eat sit alongside McDonalds and KFC and Bembos. A mix of people wander the streets of Lima, some tourists, some everyday people getting on with their daily chores, some hopefuls trying to make money out of those passing by.

Overall, Lima offers what one would expect of a big city: lots to see and do, old alongside the modern, visible disparity of wealth, imposing architecture and a diverse mix of inhabitants. I got a week long peek at Lima, staying much longer in such a big place than I would usually do because it grabbed me. I avoided the usual tourist comforts of taxis and flagged down cramped collectivos and jumped on the Metro. I sampled bits of the culture and sights and all of it recharged my batteries.

An energetic city by the beach with a great climate? Yes please.

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First impressions of Lima

It’s 7:00AM in Lima, Peru and the city is getting ready for the We Run Lima 10km run sponsored by Nike. Stands are being set up and areas of the street cordoned off and sound systems tested.

At 9:00AM the horns blow and the music starts. A group of young guys are ready with their ‘junk’ band – metal bins and brooms – along Malécon de Reserva on the bridge by Parque del Amor. Onlookers join in, clapping, and the occasional runner breaks from treading tarmac to shake their hips to the beat.

I’m walking into the flow of runners (no, not being totally annoying, I’m out of their way). The sea of red t-shirts bobbing up and down makes one dizzy. There’s a real mix of age groups taking part although I can’t help but notice that the majority of runners are male. What’s that all about?


I duck out and sit in Parque del Amor. The huge stone statue of lovers entwined serves as a backdrop for couples photographs and the colourful mosaic seating outlining the park acts as a rest point for couples emulating the statue. The mosaic spells out messages of love, declarations of affection and positive messages: Viva la vida, Angela’ says one. Live the life.


Looking out to sea, the surf is coming in in perfect lines and peeling steadily to allow the clusters of surfers to catch rides. Most surfers stick to the Redondo breaks left of the pier, away from the beginners learning to surf at Makaha Surf Beach. They catch long left handers. The better, bigger waves are farther out; even the ones being surfed are a considerable paddle out, although it’s fairly relaxed, not too heavy on the inside.

Little parks and pedestianised walkways are dotted along the road that runs the stretch of the sea front. People of all ages rollerblade, skate or longboard along the pavements, peddle their bikes, wander along hand in hand or walk their dogs. It’s a lazy Sunday morning but these guys are in full swing despite the grey start. The sun tries to push through; it’s warming up.

The walk back into Miraflores up Malecon 28 de Julio takes you by the pristine tennis courts of Club Tennis Las Terrezas Miraflores, a place that smells of affluence. From the courts there are far reaching views out over the sea and for a moment I try to imagine myself living that life: weekend tennis with my friends followed by a coffee or cocktail (or is that too unhealthy for this place?). I shake the thought pretty quickly.

By the time I make it back to the central park of Miraflores, the early morning stillness has been replaced by the sound of vehicles and chatter, and the streets and the parks are heaving with people of all nationalities.

The Miraflores district of Lima feels wealthy and westernised, full of comfortable, homogenised places to eat, drink and shop. It feels nothing like the other parts of Peru that I have visited. On the one hand it is pleasant and familiar; on the other hand it’s horribly boring. I realise that this can’t be the full picture.

Show me more of yourself, Lima.

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