First days are always a little hard. Our traveling on the official day one was long, but relatively uneventful. We had the luxury of driving to Florida the day before and staying at Wendy’s moms to celebrate her 92nd birthday with her. She’s doing well after being sick for over a month, so we were relieved.

We arrived at the Westin Lima Hotel after 11 pm and went to bed exhausted. Customs wait times were long and we had to wait an extra hour for the last two people on our plane. Although we didn’t come early this time, there is virtually no time difference (one hour since they don’t observe daylight time) so not a big adjustment there.

Another nice hotel with a wide varied and delicious breakfast. There’s a couple of fruits we have to yet to name that were good, and some wonderful and creative jams- banana plaintain marmelade, for one.

Our guide, Ernesto met with us and gave us a rundown on the next few days as well as the range of temperatures, altitudes and conditions we will experience over the next week. He has a heavy accent and drops the ends of some words, but I’m sure I will understand him better by the end of our week in Peru.

On to experience Lima - Our outstanding guide Shayla showed us the highlights of MALA, the major art museum of Lima. The highlight here was learning about the incredible civilizations that exist prior to the Incans. We got an overview of the three major achievements of the pre-Incan culture: ceramics, weaving and metalwork. There were beautifully preserved and restored pieces that go back as far in time as the ancient Egyptians. Where these people originated from is still an open question.

We also saw representative art of the Incan (13th through 15th centuries) and post-Incan periods. It was a great, if short introduction to all the history we will be learning this week. After a sandwich in the cafeteria there, we rode to the old town where we walked around viewing the presidential palace, many government buildings, some plazas, and a view of the foothills of the Andes. Here, the higher up you live (i.e. farther from Lima), the poorer you are. Although we passed several modern and very expensive houses, the ones here are like shanties.

We finished by exploring a beautiful Dominican monastery. In the Moorish style of Spain, it was very reminiscent of the Alcazar in Sevilla, or even parts of the Alhambra. Took many pictures here of tile, ceilings, three of their famous Saints, and the beautiful columns and gardens. Also got a beautiful view of the tower of the large Catholic Church nearby.

All in all, Lima struck us as a mixed bag - a very large city (population near 11 million) with some stately areas reminiscent of Europe, but also somewhat chaotic with horrendous traffic, little zoning or organization. However, from what we were told, life for the average Peruvian has improved greatly over the past 20 years and the trajectory is positive.

Tonight we had a delicious welcome dinner including ceviche, veal cheeks, and our first Pisco sour here. No dawdling among new friends tonight, we have a 4:45 wake up call to get to the airport by seven for flight to Cuzco in the morning. Yikes!