“Exploring the historic district and making chocolate in Lima…”
Emma & Nathan’s Travels
So as you know, we had a looooong journey from Quito to Lima. Our hostel host didn’t speak English but we still managed to communicate anyhow. Sunday evening saw us catch a cab to KFC which was horrendously busy with lots of screaming children and Nathan tried a bright yellow drink called Inca Kola. He had first tried it at the Coca Cola factory back in Georgia and this was the first time we’d seen it. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Nor was the fact we had to wear trousers and a jumper. A jumper!! We had gone from it being thirty degrees, to a freezing cold seventeen degrees. Ok admittedly it may not have been freezing but it was a temperature we weren’t used to. It was about two miles back to the hostel and I didn’t even work up a sweat. That’s how you know it was cold!
Stomachs full, we headed back to the hostel to research flights for the remainder our our trip through South America. Every time I searched the cost kept going up and up until I was told to clear cookies?? Then the prices reset with each search. I hate smart arses. We had no luck finding anything so would resume our research Monday morning. This turned out to be much more successful and we managed to book all our remaining flights. Satisfied, we eventually left the hostel and caught an uber for a few soles down to Lima Cathedral. The square was beautiful. We first went, as always to fill our stomachs.There was this beautiful pink church with intricate decor around the door. Known as the Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Merced, was built in 1535 and is dedicated to the patron of the Armed Forces of Peru. The facade was stunning and looked similar to that of the Basilica and Convent of St Agustín. Then we headed back to the square which featured the cathedral and the Presidential Palace.It was stunning. The construction of the cathedral began in 1535 but it has had many facelifts since then, whilst still retaining its colonial facade. The main gateway is known as the doorway of freedom and features three doors. It is dedicated to St John and was first completed in 1538. The plaza also housed a fountain in the centre and it was insanely clean. They had guards patrolling and even told one guy to get his feet of the bench. The greenery was well kept and the flowers were abundant and bright. The yellow buildings opposite the cathedral and the palace provided a slightly more modern feel to that corner of the square.First constructed in 1535 also, with the final restoration in 1937, the official home of the President of Peru was another beautiful structure situated on the outer rim of the plaza. There were riot police outside and guards out the front. Not one to pass up any opportunities to see beautiful architecture, we continued wandering around this beautiful part of this huge city.The Basilica y Convento de Santo Domingo was a short walk from the main square. En route, we indulged in a Dunkin’ Donut and then stumbled across this pastel pink church. It was built in the 18th century and was another wonderful piece of architecture on display here.Last but not least was the Convento de San Francisco which also contains a library and catacombs. Surviving several earthquakes, it was completed in 1774. The library holds tens of thousands of ancient texts and the catacombs, which were only discovered in 1943, holds thousands of bones and skulls. Sadly, we didn’t get to go inside which was gutting as that library sounds unequivocally phenomenal.
Between these churches are hundreds of souvenir shops, and I mean hundreds. Every shop in the historic district, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, was a souvenir shop, or a quaint little cafe or restaurant. The further you walked from the historic district, the more upmarket shops and fast food chains you found. Nathan and I could happily wander in and out of souvenir shops all day. We found our collectibles, purchased some water as we’d forgot to bring some with us and then stumbled across a chocolate museum. We had seen one in León but didn’t actually make any chocolate. This time was different! For $5 more than the price of one of the artisan made chocolate bars, we could make a bar ourselves and make 250g more. It was a no brainer.
We started with how chocolate is made. Our guide, Kiki was great and patient as she talked to us in English. She started off telling us about where the cacao tree grows and how much is harvested per country compared to how much chocolate is eaten per European country. It made for interesting reading, Switzerland came in top, closely followed by us Brits.Next she explained they take the cacao beans and break them out of their big shell and leave the, for seven days to absorb the tasty white pulp. If it rains, they cover them.They roast the beans as they can then easily separate the bean from the shell. We tasted a bean and it was incredibly bitter, not too bad to begin with but then it left a horrible taste in our mouths. The next set of process involve a machine that works 22 hours a day. We were fascinated to learn that as it all gets made into a paste, the oil drained from it makes a butter-like mixture which is how they make white chocolate, and the powder is left on the machine which is what they make the milk chocolate from. It was now our turn to indulge.
Ok ok, we weren’t going from bean to bar as that tour was more expensive, but we were able to choose toppings, a mould and then pour chocolate into it. After that it was just 10 minutes in the freezer and tah-dah, we had created 100g of organic milk chocolate.Who doesn’t lick the bowl clean after baking a cake? If you say you don’t, you’re clearly lying. Here was no different…It was so much fun. Whilst our chocolate was cooling, we were shown round the museum and got to taste many different things. My favourite, something which I later actually purchased was cacao tea. It was incredibly tasty and also healthy. I did check that I’d be able to take it back through customs too, just incase. It was too delicious to have it confiscated. We also tried Pisco, the Peruvian equivalent of Tequila. The passion fruit one was nice, except for the nib at the bottom. Nathan went on to try the mint one and cinnamon one whilst I tried the macchiato which was like drinking chocolate with a kick of alcohol. Yummy.We also tried the chocolate jams before wandering round the shop for a few minutes until Kiki brought our chocolate out. They had everything from chocolate, to jams, to liqueurs, and even numerous beauty products. Our chocolate was ready and it was put in bags and tied up for us to take with us. The tour was really good fun and something different. We left feeling creative and had one more look around the town before heading back to the hostel, which took two and a half hours in our über.That brought our time in Lima to an end for now. I’ll leave you with a few facts. Lima was founded in 1535, has a population of over 10 million and is the third largest city in the Americas. Lima has an elevation of only 1550m, nearly half of that of Cusco, our next destination…