Sunday, February 5

In the footsteps of Paddington Bear

Every morning I pass through Paddington station on my way to the office. The station's name recalls childhood memories of my favourite Michael Bond books; the life and adventures of Paddington Bear. He was so named after being found huddled in a corner of Paddington Station, fresh off the boat from Lima, Peru. Garry and I can now claim to have retraced the steps of London's most famous bear as we spent two days in Lima while enroute to the UK.

We recommend the goat!
Our first day in Lima was spent walking around the old colonial part of town. It’s full of colourful plazas and ornate churches. Watching the changing of the guard outside the Presidential Palace was a spectacle that almost defies description. Try to imagine brilliant red, yellow and blue costumes, a jazzy brass band, plenty of goose-step marching and a ring of heavily armed police officers keeping the crowd at a distance. Picture this and you have sense of the drama that unfolds in central Lima every day.

While in town we were bold enough to try a few local delicacies including goat (delicious), alpaca (tough and tasteless) and ceviche, a marinated dish of raw fish that rapidly became our favourite meal (Garry says it's more my favourite than his). In keeping with our cultural theme, we also booked ourselves seats at the cabaret performed each Friday evening in our hotel. The show was a flurry of colourful costumes and amazing dance moves from almost every South American genre.

The artifacts aren't the only things that's fake
Sadly, our most definative memory of Lima was a classic tourist rip-off. For our last full day in town, we visited the infamous Gold Museum, home for one of Peru's most notorious scams. Several years ago, almost all of the musuems star attractions were found to be fake. They say the items now on display are the genuine thing. They certainly are beautiful pieces, but one still can't help wondering if the local artisans have simply been hard at work.

However, it appears that we were victims of the museum latest scam. After paying our admission fee, the cashier gave us change using fake currency. This was no accident as the man insisted on rounding up our change, thereby enabling him to hand over freah, clean notes. Afterwards, our taxi driver became most upset with us as we tried to pay our fare! We though he was trying to pull a scam by refusing our money until a shop assistant at Pizza Hut also rejected our money! A handy $20 lesson in local forgery printing skills.

Our final evening in Lima was spent watching hang-gliders soaring over the Pacific ocean, not far from El Parque del Amor (the Park of Love), complete with a statue of interwined lovers. We also met members of our tour group, including Gwen, our guide for the next two weeks. She was an English lass, full of beans, who took time to connect with everyone on the tour, making it a most memorable experience. Garry and I took her out for a night on the town the last night the group was together. As the evening wore on we soon discovered that Gwen loved to tear up the local dancefloor with some rather fancy moves.

Our adventure in Peru continues here.

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