Piscos and Guinea Pigs
ACCELERATE! BRAKES SCREECHING! THUMP (as my nose hits the seat in front of me)!! Accelerate to the next speed bump, BRAKE, thump and start over again. The green taxi ride from Peru’s Jorge Chavez airport in Lima, Peru involves my skull smacking into the driver’s headrest. I’ve never been car sick. But the lurching traffic and repeated blows introduces me to the concept. Honking horns, the national anthem for rush hour traffic everywhere, serenade a captive audience.
It’s a 35 minute drive from the Lima airport to my hotel. For some reason, probably not good, the city’s graffiti and drab buildings remind me of Milan. We pass a Vidreira faucet store, followed by a Lads car dealership. A white Subaru pulls up to our right at a stoplight . His speakers are blasting C.C.R. in Spanish with a romantic Latin sound. This is weird. A Mississippi catfish dinner followed by an alligator getting shagged out back is the closest swamp rock gets to romance.
My driver keeps saying mucho quidado I really need to learn some Spanish. I have no idea what that means. Leaning out the open window, stores covered in dark metal bars scroll by. We pass a very classy looking two story KFC. This is followed by a Burger King, a seedy karaoke bar and a casino. At the next light, my driver worriedly mimes rolling up the window. Ahhh, luxurious KFC aside, mucho quidadois a polite version of “roll up the window in the bad part of town you fucking tourist.”
We arrive in downtown Miraflores (a fancy Lima suburb). The Royal Park is a boutique hotel covered in emerald marble. No one asks me during check in if I’m off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz. A 2ndfloor loft hovers over the 1st floor lobby. The young male staff behind the counter are in black suits, tan and not so much on the tall side.
In Peru, dollars and the native Soles are used everywhere. U.S. bills though are definitely more popular. Like most countries using foreign money, crappy rates apply when paying with dead American Presidents. And you still get your change at said rate in dead stars or “Soles”. The name is a tribute to the Incan sun god Inti, a being capable of great generosity in all things except currency exchange.
Exhausted from my flight, I grab a quick bite at the hotel lounge. My bartender Mr. Pedro Mendoza is a young, quiet man. He recommends a complimentary Pisco Sour. This drink is made from an amber colored brandy crafted by local winemakers. Pedro adds lemon juice, egg whites and a dash of simple sugar. Peru is a land of extremes and Piscos are its liquid form poured into a tall glass. I get a club sandwich native to chez moito go with it.