More Lima

The next day, Jorge needed to excuse himself. He was a superb host, but did need to work for a living. I went back to downtown Lima. I spent most of the morning at the Church of San Francisco. The church was very impressive, had a beautiful courtyard, and had a tremendous collection of silver artifacts. There was a group of Italian tourists who apparently knew a huge amount about Catholicism, and could identify the smallest of these artifacts with an "Ahhh, that's a whoozemawhatsis!" or a "Right! What an exquisite thingmajiggie." Here I was clearly missing something. But downstairs they had something that I could relate to – an ossuary.

In the catacombs of the church they had a cemetary that they had used for hundreds of years. The catacombs had a limited amount of space, so what they did was to take all the bones and store them in big, open boxes. Rather than storing skeletons, they stored like with like, so there were boxes of femurs, boxes of tibias, and of course, skulls in various poses. There was a guided tour through the catacombs, and it was enjoyably macabre. Unfortunately, they banned the taking of pictures, because it was an interesting sight and I really would have wanted to have some photos of this. Even more unfortunately, not only did they ban photography, but they had no postcards or pictures on sale.

I met Germán again for lunch. We found a place nearby in central Lima where all the working people had lunch. It was a 2-storey restaurant, and we got a good seat near the balcony. I had a really nice seafood bisque called chupe; a cream and tomato base with fresh seafood of all types.

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking at things. Beside the tourist things, I found that books were hugely expensive. The bookstores didn't have that many books in them, and what they did have cost an arm and a leg. Now I understand why in Latin America people place greater stock on being intellectual. It's not something you come across in everyday life.

As it started getting later, I decided to hail a cab to go back to Miraflores where I was staying. I should explain that hailing a cab in Lima is more of an art form than in New York or London. In Lima, the price of the ride is negotiable. The cab stops, you say, "Miraflores" and he says "twelve soles". "Twelve soles……" you say, and he gets so tired of waiting for you to think of something to say that he says "OK, eight," and you get in.

Most of the time it's that smooth. Sometimes it's a bit more contentious, though, so it pays to be on your toes. "Twelve soles," you say, "I'm sorry, this morning I got the same ride for four." "Impossible, I can't give it to you for less than nine." And so it goes. There was only once that I couldn't reach an agreement. The universal thread behind all of this is that no matter how heated the negotiation, once the deal is done, you and the cab driver are friends. Most of the cab drivers were so surprised that they could talk to me that the rides were really pleasant, and the American habit of tipping didn't hurt either.

Today I had a nice ride home with a cab driver who was a great conversationalist. He wanted to know what I thought about Peru, and I told him that I was impressed by how hardworking and industrious all the people were. He told me that he, too, had a business, and with the business and the family he also drove a cab. Like all the cabbies I met, he was amused that "Alan" (García, ex-president, embezzler) was doing so well, wherever he was. At the time I was there it had come out in the newspapers that Mr. García might also have had a little something in common with Michael Jackson. Politics and entertainment are the same thing in Peru, so there's no reason why that shouldn't be. Mr. Fujimori is certainly a showman, and people were happy to give him a chance.

That evening we had an unbelievable meal at an Argentine restaurant. Argentine food is very heavy on meat, since that's what they raise in Argentina. I had tried Argentine food in New York (with Jorge), and here I found out why he had been so disappointed in New York. There was not only meat, but also anything in the world that you could make with parts. This is one of the few meals in my life where I finished less than 75%, but you've never seen someone try so hard.