This day was our first free day of the trip. We woke up in the morning and had breakfast in the hotel at around 8:30. Following that, we got a cab over to the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Antropologia E Historia Del Peru. This museum had the best chronology of all of the pre-Columbian history of Peru that we saw on the trip, though the English translations were spotty at best.
Leaving the museum, we saw a bunch of school kids who saw me and my camera and were just begging to have their picture taken, so I obliged on the walk over to the cab. The cab driver then took us over to the Plaza de Armas where we arrived just in time to catch the Changing of the Guard. The Changing of the Guard was a very impressive show. The soldiers did a high leg kick with each step, bringing their leg well up above their waist. We did get a laugh when Rich noticed that the band was playing an arrangement of a Simon and Garfunkel tune for the duration of most of the ceremony.
After the Changing of the Guard, we walked around to find lunch and ended up at L'Eau Vive around 1:30 pm. L'Eau Vive is a French restaurant run by a group of nuns where all of the profits go to the poor. I had Tournedos au berre Bercy et coeuro d'artichaut, and Andrea had Escalope de poulet a la Jurassienne before we shared Coupe Creole (a lucuma ice cream sundae with pineapple and kirsch) for dessert. One of many funny moments of the day came here where Rich was posing with the waffle cone tube like Winston Churchill with his cigar. The nuns pretty much thought this was the funniest thing they had ever seen and kept bringing the other nuns over to see the picture.
After lunch, at about 2:30 pm, we walked over to see San Pedro, home of La Abuelita. La Abuelita weighs about 500 tons and is the oldest church bell in the Western Hemisphere. The bell is also famous for ringing in Peru's independence from Spain.
We then walked over to La Merced. La Merced is the church dedicated to La Virgen de la Merced, the patron of Peru. The virgin is considered the protector of Peru and is symbolized in a white dress with a sash resembling Peru's flag around her waist. This was another beautiful church that was filled with many carved wood altars.
After leaving La Merced, we wandered around the area surrounding the Plaza de Armas for a while and then walked over to the Convento de Santo Domingo. A young seminary student, Alfredo Reinoso, showed us through the convent. Santo Domingo is home to the graves of two South American saints, San Martin de Porres and Santa Rosa de Lima. In addition to all of the relics of the saints that accompany their graves, Santo Domingo was the original home of the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere, San Marcos University. We got to stand in the pulpit where students had to deliver their exams and see the chair where the Spanish governor would watch. The convent was also visited by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Peru in 1985. While in the convent, we were also allowed to sit in the chair that John Paul II used during his visit.
When we left Santo Domingo, it was nearly 6 pm, so we called for our cab to take us back to the hotel in Miraflores so we could make our dinner reservation. They said they would be there in about 30 minutes, so Andrea and I walked over to the Plaza de Armas for some night photos while we waited. Unfortunately, due to Lima's ridiculous traffic, we waited for over an hour for the cab to show up. When it finally did show up, it took over an hour to get back to the hotel, ensuring we would miss our original dinner reservation. Fortunately the hotel had re-booked our reservation, so we left immediately for dinner.
We finally made it do dinner at La Rosa Nautica around 8:15 pm. Built on a pier out over the Pacific Ocean, La Rosa Nautica was truly the best meal we had in Peru, bar none. I had seabass Rosa Nautica, which was served in a large, real sea shell and topped with puff pastry which they cut open in front of me to reveal the rest of the dish. It was an incredible presentation. Andrea had saltado de camaron, which was a shrimp dished served in the Peruvian saltado style and topped with a fried egg. We shared "El alfajor Rosa Nautica" which is an alfajor cookie stuffed with manjar, and garnished with fior di panna ice cream.
The dinner was absolutely wonderful, but the unforgettable story of the evening came courtest of Greg once again. Greg had ordered the lamb ossobucco and was trying to suck the marrow out of the bone like you are supposed to do. It wasn't coming. So he sucked harder. Right in a lull in conversation at every table in the room, thunk. Greg's eyes get huge as the marrow pops out with a loud thunk and hits him in the back of the throat. Fortunately he didn't choke on it, but I don't think any of us have laughed that hard in a long time. And now Greg is forever known as "Thunk."
We finally left La Rosa Nautica about 11 pm and headed back to the hotel to pack for the flight to Cusco and head to bed.