In the way of romantic outings, Ivo has been regularly knocking them out of the park. I’m attributing the past few weeks of fairy tale evenings to a combination of Ivo being a suave, dapper gentleman and Lima, Peru just plain being a beautiful city.
One of my favorite things about Lima so far is how it presents sudden pockets of magical views and experiences if you can just wander down the correct pattern of winding streets. Along the main road there is more than enough to prevent me from doing so—without Ivo as my guide, I would never make it off the central street of bars and restaurants. However, the Lima natives seem to have an innate ability to turn around the right corners. For me, half the joy of finding these places is just watching Ivo navigate his city.
The destination for this evening included a highlight of the Barranco district, which is where we are currently living. For anybody wondering (and as a stereotypical United Statesian with no geographical knowledge, I will never judge), Peru is highlighted in green on the world map below; Lima, with its massive population of over 9 million, is right on the coast.
There are three points of interest that contribute to my understanding of Barranco thus far: First, despite its tiny size though, Barranco is always recognized; it seems to be well known as the most artistic district of Peru’s 43 in a very bohemian sense. Second, its name literally translates to “ravine”, which is quite appropriate: If you follow just about any of the beautiful walkways that wind through much of Barranco, you will find yourself at one of several stunning overlooks, salty ocean wind in your face and the steep, rocky walls of the mountainside stretching out in either direction. Third, much of Barranco was constructed during the 19th century by the Limeño Aristocracy (read: people with tons of money wanting a beach house); as a result, the architecture is both aged and timeless.
The combination of these three aspects makes for a decidedly romantic district; it is within that district, on a calm pre-winter evening, that Ivo walked me down an crumbling set of stone stairs to the “Puente de Suspiros.”
The name translates to “The Bridge of Sighs.” It has been in place (or at least parts of it have been in place) since 1876. From it, you can glimpse the ocean and the Hermita Church, another iconic image for the area. Yes, it does lack the grandeur of the bridges in Paris–it’s just a simple wooden bridge. Yes, it is also unfortunately crawling with vendors desperate to sell roses, photos, and candies. However, if you make it across the bridge and then keep going, if you do not turn back to the flashy new glass restaurant set up on the edge of the hubub, and instead follow a Peruvian down the hill and around a few turns, you hit a small stretch of more traditional restaurants. Here, the music tends to be live, the restaurants tend to be old, and the food (in Ivo’s opinion) tends to be better.
After we made the hike down to the seaside itself and back up (and up, and up), Ivo pulled us into a restaurant. Rather than stopping in the main eating area though, he pointed upstairs, to the balcony. After climbing several sets of regular stairs and an unnerving, winding set of metal steps, we arrived on the restaurant’s top floor, which was deserted except for us. Ivo pulled out a chair at a table right at the edge of the empty balcony, and asked me what I thought of the ocean view.
I can’t suspect our waiter was thrilled with our decision, but having a private outdoor dinner while you watch the massive Peruvian waves roll in… that’s an experience worth having. Ivo ordered what I will loosely explain as “cow.” The feature of the dish was “anticucho,” which is–brace yourselves–cow heart. Anticuchos are popular here more as street food, usually served on a stick, than as restaurant food, but the place we were at evidently had made its name selling these. It essentially tastes like a thick, very juicy steak (go figure), and yes, as such, they are delicious. The additional “cow” was composed of grilled kidney, stomach, and intestine strips… admittedly, I was less excited to try these. However, again, the spices were full of flavor, and when combined with the aji sauce (a popular dip made of a hot yellow pepper), it was the perfect meal for a cool, outdoor evening.
We returned to the Puente de Suspiros later in the week for a few day time photos, but the real magic here seems to happen in the evening; when the globes of the street lamps and the restaurant windows are the only sources of light, that’s when the couple-laden Bridge of Sighs really earns its name.