Monday, August 10, 2009


If Cusco represented Peru's past, Lima certainly embodied its present and future. Like many a capital in the developing world, it seems to have expanded without the auspices of urban planners. The population has grown significantly in recent years as the result of guerrilla violence in the countryside. We passed a few shanty towns en route from the airport, but otherwise our exposure to this side of Lima's history was limited.

Instead we headed to Mira Flores, a stylish neighborhood on a coastal bluff with spectacular views of the Pacific. We came to visit Enrique, a friend of mine from business school and a member of Peru's haut monde. Usually when I peruse the Sunday Styles section of the Times, I can at least take comfort in recognizing a name or two among society's notables. In the Peruvian equivalent, Enrique knew half of them personally. He lived in a penthouse apartment, tastefully decorated in a pastiche of antiques and Philippe Starck furniture.

We first went out to Panachita, a restaurant around the corner. It was a place where Peru's moneyed elite came to see and be seen. Interestingly, its clientele shared many features with the denizens of Manhattan's upper east side, including perma-tans, botox, and excessively blonde hair.

For better or worse, there were no available tables for the next hour, so we headed to La Mar, a contemporary seafood restaurant in Lima's equivalent to the East Village (presumably, this is where the children of Panachita's customer's ate). The ceviche was second to none, and we also got to sample several varieties of potato. Given how close potatoes are linked to brand Ireland, I was surprised to learn that their roots trace back to Peru, where thousands of varieties abound.

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