We arrived in Lima via United Airlines flight from Newark reaching late evening around 9.00 PM. The flight itself was uneventful except for a couple of irritations.
- We were seated in the exit row but since Sabrina is only 13 she was not allowed to sit there. We requested the folks sitting in the row ahead of us if they would be willing to switch their seats but 2 of them declined, “we are already seated, we don’t want to move”. The third passenger traded his aisle seat for my window seat and Sabrina was able to seat close to us.
- United served a meal but it was chicken. Being vegetarians we passed on this. The flight attendant apologized saying, “We don’t have any special meals on this flight”. It really is quite irritating that something that everyone can eat (non meat) is considered special but something only some can eat (meat) is considered regular. Wonder if United will see some sense someday? Won’t hold my breath. They also did not have any of the snacks for sale.
Regardless, we reached Lima on time. We had to fill out immigration and customs forms which were pretty straightforward. Interestingly, the same folks who had refused to exchange seats, asked our help to fill out their forms! Sabrina filled these out for them, and they thanked her, saying, “We did not know you 3 were together, otherwise we would have changed seats with you!” The world is indeed a strange place.
One quirky thing about Peru is the difficulty purchasing anything online. They require credit cards that are Verified by Visa or a similar MasterCard program. Some will not take a card that is also a debit card. So when I bought my Star Peru tickets from Lima to Cusco I could not pay for this. I had talked with the customer service department over the phone from the US and they would still not take the credit card over the phone. They were going to hold the confirmation but we needed to pay for it at the airport the evening of our arrival. So we tried to find a Star Peru representative. We were told their ticketing counter was closed and would not open till 3.00 AM. We were directed up to their office on the second floor. The office had a sign stating that it was closed but they could be found at the counter on the first floor (where we had just come from). Finally after a lot of searching we found a lady dozing at a small counter at the end of the lobby next to the rental car reps. She took my CC and we were set!
We had arranged for a cab to take us to our hotel in Miraflores and this was waiting for us. He had a sign with our name on it. He was extremely polite and even helped move our luggage to the parking lot. We got our first glimpse of Lima with billboards displaying Coca-Cola and Samsung Galaxy ads. All the cars in the lot were Japanese or Korean.
The cab ride reminded me of India. The first 15 minutes took us through a somewhat “shady” area with stop and go traffic, honking and swerving back and forth. Once we hit the freeway which runs along the Pacific coast, we moved fast. We could smell the ocean and in the distance we could see an illuminated cross on a mountain top. The ride took about 35 minutes and we paid 45 soles (15 dollars). This is good information to have since this is the fair fare to pay for this trip. It is OK to haggle a cab driver down to this rate if they ask for any more.
We reached our hotel quite famished. We stayed at a small hotel called Miraflores Centro Suites. As we approached the hotel we noted several chain restaurants like Pizza Hut, Papa Jones, Chilis, etc. We were too hungry and tired to experiment. We went to the Pappa Jones which was just across the street. They had a great deal going – a family style pizza with a 2L bottle of Coca-cola and a basket of garlic bread for 32 soles with a T-shirt thrown in for free. I think it was the T-shirt that clinched the deal. We had no idea what it was but the lady at the counter told us it was of the Peruvian soccer team and Sabrina was sold. Ordering the toppings on the pizza was a challenge. Not one person in the restaurant spoke English (which were to find out was par for the course). We pointed to the toppings in a picture of a pizza over the counter and finally got across that we wanted olives, mushrooms and peppers. Sabrina had the option of a T-shirt with a # 6 or a # 9. She could not get her favorite # which is 13. So she chose the # 6. The T-shirt was to make for a great story the next day!
We returned to the hotel, sent off a couple of e-mails and crashed! Oh, but first we put the iodine tablets in our water bottles so we would have them for the next day. The water was actually filtered and safe to drink but we did not want to trust this on the first day of the trip.
We had arranged for a walking tour of Lima with Peruvian Local friend at 9.00 AM. We called them and changed the time to 10.00 knowing we really needed a good night’s sleep.
There was no A/c but we got a nice cool breeze from the open window and soon fell asleep!