We’ve had a few sunny days since winter started, but now it looks like the eternal fog and mist are here to stay. Yes, this may sound depressing, but as I look out at the Pacific Ocean, I’m happy.
Even though today is definitely a winter day, I get lost in the immensity of the ocean, the charcoal horizon, the energy of the waves. I watch people walking, jogging, and biking along the Malecón path in Miraflores, which borders the coast high above the ocean shore. The surfers are always in the water, looking for that wave. Paragliders are here, too – waiting for the wind to shift their way. I am having flashbacks of memorable childhood moments along this coastline.
The Malecón is a six-mile stretch of eternally green (read: constant and heavy watering – as the coastline of Peru is a desert) parks and walking paths situated along the cliffs. It starts as Malecón de la Marina, just north of Miraflores, it then becomes Malecón Cisneros, and ends as Malecón de la Reserva towards the south, where you’ll find Larcomar, an ocean-front shopping center that is built into the cliff side.
As a child, I used to play in the parks above the hills. Back then, many moons ago, things were simpler. There were no cliff side malls, no paragliders, no Nike-attired Limeños working out.
The Malecón is a must-see for visitors and locals alike for the spectacular ocean views and sunsets, especially in the summer months – but you can also enjoy it during the winter (June through September). Walk or bike along the path, or take a drive (or hire a taxi) along the Costa Verde route (below the cliffs and along the coast) and end in La Herradura beach to watch the surfers do their thing.
There are a few restaurants along the coast – but a couple of old-timers are La Costa Verde and La Rosa Nautica, which have existed and been successful for a few decades.
If you drive along the coast, going south, you’ll hit the district of Chorrillos, and after making a u-turn, you’ll start heading uphill.
I’d suggest a stop at the Salto del Fraile (rough translation – the monk or friar’s jump). Basically, this is a guy dressed in monk’s clothing who jumps off of the cliff to his supposed death. I’ve seen him do this many times. His jump is nothing short of terrifying. The make-believe man of the cloth jumps off the cliff almost every day, although his schedule is unclear. Today, he is apparently taking a break.
What is known about this crazy diver is that he is reenacting the tale of a doomed, young, and prohibited love. According to legend, around the mid-1800s, there was a girl in Lima, with a very protective, rich, and titled father. She, of course, fell in love with a nobody. Dad sends his little girl away on a big ship to save her from supposed disgrace. The young man, naturally, is beset with grief. He becomes a monk. And one day, he thinks he spots a large boat approaching the shore, carrying his beloved. As the ship gets closer and knowing they can never be together again, he jumps from the cliffs above down to the murderous sea. The crazy diver does this several times a day – for… tips!?
El Salto del Fraile is the name of the restaurant upon the cliffs from where the monk takes his daily leap. (The diver does not work for the restaurant). It has amazing views – a great spot to catch the sunset with a Pisco Sour or a hot mate de coca (coca leaf tea, good for digestion). I have not eaten here in years, so I cannot comment on the food.
You can also continue driving a short distance to La Herradura. I used to swim at this beach as a kid. I remember my uncle pulling man-of-wars (malaguas) out of the sea, which we would bury in the sand to save other swimmers from being stung.
My uncle taught me how to dive under the waves here. I can still see us swimming out – to my mom’s horror – towards the big breakers.
Today, there is also a path to walk or bike along the beach, and there are a few restaurants and bars facing the ocean. On this visit, I was with my youngest aunt and my cousin, and we stopped at Café El Suizo, a legendary spot that’s been around for over 78 years. It was founded by a Swiss couple who went into business with an English lady and a man from Ancash, Peru. This joint was the place to hang out back then – it has seen presidents, congressmen, and celebrities walk through its doors and enjoy the Swiss-Peruvian fusion cuisine that was offered for dozens of years.
On this foggy winter day, the only people at the café are a group of well-dressed gentlemen – discussing politics – and probably reminiscing about the good old days. My cousin and I had to have the historic panqueques con marjarblanco (crepes with an addicting soft caramel sauce) that have been on the menu for ages and a double Pisco Sour – good and strong – to end a perfect day.
As I drank my frothy Pisco Sour (Peru’s national drink, by the way), I thought about those moments that become ingrained in our minds as kids – the places and the people with whom we connect. I left Lima to live abroad almost 30 years ago, but my family stayed behind – and with them, many of my childhood memories. My family seems to remember things more clearly, things of the past that I’d long forgotten. And I think that when you stay connected to a place, it is easier to hold on to those memories. Every time I come back to Peru, especially Lima, and I visit the places of my childhood and spend time with my family, I seem to open a trunk full of new memories – and I feel like I get to know myself a bit better.
I’ll leave you with a some pics I took that day of people enjoying the ocean side – even in the winter.