Our tour of the wonderful country of Peru began in Lima with a welcome breakfast where we met the 32 others we would be spending the next 10 days with. We had such a fun group and I really got to know everyone we traveled with, its fun to travel and meet people from all over the world. After our delightful breakfast we headed out to take a tour of the city. Our first stop was at the Monastery of San Francisco. The church and convent are part of the Historic Centre of Lima, which was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991.The Historic Centre of Lima, also known as, 'City of the Kings' was, until the middle of the 18th century, the capital and most important city of the Spanish dominions in South America. Many of its buildings, such as the Convent of San Francisco (the largest of its type in this part of the world), are the result of collaboration between local craftspeople and others from the Old World. Pictures weren't allowed inside the building because it is still a working Convent and is the private residence of many monks. I absolutely adored the library, I thought it was such a beautiful room with it's spiral staircases and illuminated manuscripts and floor to wall bookcases filled with old, history filled books. (I found this picture online)
Then we descended down, down, down into the catacombs below the monastery, it was by far one of the creepiest places I have ever been in my life, but I also found it fascinating. Bones line up along narrow hallways underneath the church, and one area contains several large, deep holes, filled with bones and skulls arranged above each other in circular patterns, pictured below. (again, no photos allowed down there so this is one I found on the internet)
After our unforgettable tour of the Monastery of San Francisco, we walked over to the gorgeous St. Peters church. Luckily, pictures were allowed inside!
After our tour of St. Peters it was time for our cooking class and lunch! To get back to our coach, we walked through the main square of the historic center of the city, known as Plaza Mayor. I would have loved to have spent more time here, soaking in the bustling atmosphere of the plaza and exploring the different historic buildings that border the plaza, but alas we were only there long enough to snap a few photos.
This fancy building with the ornamentally clad guards is the Government Palace of Peru
Next stop: Santo Pez. This is a beautiful, modern restaurant and was the location of our Peruvian cooking class. At breakfast we had signed up for which cooking station we wanted to participate in. The three different groups were, making the appetizer in the courtyard, heading back to the kitchen to create the main course, or relaxing at the bar to learn how to mix some traditional Peruvian drinks. My parents and I had signed up for the main course station and were sent back to the kitchen to get all dressed up to do some cooking over some huge flames!
This is what I made! A traditional sauce made out of yellow peppers that is used in several Peruvian dishes, today for lunch we would be having it with grilled shrimp.
After our culinary class it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy some delicious food! The presentation was glorious!
After lunch we had the rest of the afternoon free. Our family opted to go back to our wonderful hotel and take a much needed nap. We had arrived at the hotel at 3 am the night before and had only gotten a few short hours of sleep before it was time to wake up for our welcome breakfast.
After nap time we got dressed up for our official welcome dinner. On all Tauck Tours, you get to attend a fancy welcome dinner on your first evening of the tour where you get introduced to all of your fellow travelers and learn where everyone is from and a little bit about them. On this tour we met at the exquisite casa Luna, home of Javier Luna and his wife for our formal welcome dinner. Casa Luna is famous for it's unique collection of Nativity scenes from all over the world, in all the Luna family owns over 2,000 nativity scenes and has them displayed beautifully in their home. Javier Luna, the owner of this collection, grew up admiring the family Nativity scene, set up painstakingly every December with fervor, devotion, and the love that every family has for its own unique Nativity scene. Thus, on each of his trips within Peru and abroad, Javier would look for a Nativity scene portraying the birth of Jesus (or "niño Manuelito") to connect him with his childhood, with the warmth felt at home every December, with his own personal history.
I was amazed by how different and unique all the representations of Christ's birth were. Some were huge, some you could fit in the palm of your hand. Some were ornate with every detail dripping with elegance, others were simple and humble. It was such a fun experience to walk through the different rooms and see the different interpretations of that historical event.
After our tour of the house, we were lead out to the patio where the Luna's had prepared a beautiful meal for us.
There were like 10 different traditional desserts for us to choose from, luckily we had three in our party and could each pick up three and cover most of the different flavors without looking ridiculous. My favorite was a gelatin like pudding made from red corn. It tasted like Christmas! The flavor was similar to spiced cranberries, it was divine.
Get excited, there is much more to come ... there are going to be about 18 different posts on Peru! Yay! so stay tuned for the next post covering the rest of our time in Lima.