There are many compelling reasons to visit Peru, famed for its sky high ruins, ancient cultural traditions, and for bringing the world the potato, but our 25-hour Lima layover leaves scant opportunity to venture beyond the teeming seaside capital. Mind you, with 43 distinct districts and a population of 7.6 million, and a history stretching back to the sixteenth century, there’s still plenty to see and do in the world’s 40th-largest city. All of which any guide book from your local library can fill you in on. If it’s info on sights, tours, and local currency that you seek, get thee to Lonely Planet.com.
When I’m at work, cities where people live, work, and frolic on vacation are reduced to a series of three-letter codes in the computer that are paired up to tell us where we’re going, what time we’re supposed to get there, and nothing else. And often that’s all we care about — Tokyo and Toronto are strikingly similar cities when seen from inside an airport hotel room. Here, in a new Mister Stewardess Feature, City Code Snapshots will occasionally give you a quick glimpse of what stands out to me as the highlight of a given destination when seen through the eyes of working crew, just passing through with little time and even less money. And since I hardly ever fly international any more, and will probably talk a lot about Iowa in this space, we’ll start big with last week’s trip to Lima.
The first order of business on Friday morning was Manolo, a landmark cafe with offshoots all over Latin America, and insanely fresh and delicious churros. I stumbled upon Manolo, drawn in by their (now-retired) mascot/logo depicting a sporty cartoon churro riding a bike, on my first trip to Lima as a tourist in 1997, and it continues to stand out as a highlight of the city’s Miraflores district. In today’s City Code Snapshot, you can admire the lovely layering of the cafe cortado I am preparing to enjoy, and the little churritos that came with it to the table. Obviously I went on to order one of the giant churros filled with manjar blanco (a thick and delicious dulce de leche), but I love the thought behind these complimentary dunkables, and the ritual around them as the waitress sets them on the table and gives the sugar shaker a practiced flick of the wrist before presenting them; a small, classic touch of the kind that has gone missing from the art of serving and, when espied, makes me feel better about the state of the world in general.
As I said, there’s lots to see and do in Lima — cathedrals to visit, craft markets to ransack — but nothing to me is quite so rewarding as to amble up the boulevard to Manolo and insert myself into the neighborhood goings on. From business meetings to corner-table assignations to little old ladies telling each other how it is, it all goes on at Manolo. And if Peru seems like a long way to go for a cup of coffee, well, at least it’s strong enough to rev me up for the long flight home.