Celebrating my birthday in Lima, Peru
I have an ongoing joke with Melissa about how we often celebrate her birthday in exotic destinations. She has ushered in a new age in classic spots like London, Kyoto in Japan, Greece’s Santorini Island, and the Garden State’s pharmato-polis New Brunswick, New Jersey. This is due to the fact that her day usually syncs up with a prolonged Easter vacation. When you have a ten day holiday it is easy to find the time to travel to distant spots.
This is why on December 14, 2011 I gathered scores of strangers from over a dozen nations and threw myself a private party in Lima, Peru. No, I didn’t actually bribe or coerce an international delegation to convince them to party with me. The South American Explorer Club in Lima happened to be hosting their Christmas party at their clubhouse on the night of my birthday. So I decided to reverse the script and opted to steal St. Nick’s thunder. Supposedly he’s good at sharing anyway.
Changing accommodations in Lima
For our first few days in Lima we stayed in a comfortable furnished apartment on the property of a family. Kelly from Florida is a writer and homestay hostess who has been living in Peru for awhile. Besides setting us up in her clean two room apartment, Kelly provided advice, and offered amenities like a kitchen and use of a washer. Her husband, children, dogs, and pet rabbit made us feel at home, but someone new was due to move in that day. So we stripped our clothes from the line, packed in the monkey themed bedroom, scarfed down our leftovers and, headed out to seize my birthday.
Normally we’d flag down a combi to head into the city. Combis are vans that pull up to you on the street with a driver and another worker who shouts out the route and collects fares. Although it probably goes against everything you’ve been taught since you were a toddler, as a budget traveler you may find yourself leaping into these economical, shared vans. However, combi rides are often short on space and unforgiving for backpacks. So we hailed a cab and headed to the Inka Frog for our final nights in Lima. When checking in we were happy to see that our room adjoined an outdoor patio the size of a tennis court. Melissa gave me a quick tutorial on troubleshooting with our SLR and I practiced taking shots on the balcony.
A walk through Miraflores and lunch at Punta Sal
Our new lodging placed us at closer proximity to Lima’s Miraflores district famed for shopping, nightlife, and diverse entertainment options close to the Pacific Ocean. The staff at Inka Frog directed us to lunch at a ceviche restaurant called Punta Sal. We ordered Peruvian style ceviche and a seafood paella plate. Then I headed down and out to a nearby park as Melissa waited for our dishes.
The park was covered in a dense fog and led to the ocean. I heard whistles and tiny feet running as a few 6-year-olds practiced soccer with an intense coach. Nearby, couples spooned on benches as skateboarders rehearsed tricks close to thick, soft grass. Returning to lunch, we dined on tender morsels of calamari, shrimp, and octopus resting along large kernels of choclo and sweet camote The ceviche was the highlight, but the paella was packed with flavor and had generous chunks of sea creatures in each bite.
Event at the South American Explorers Club Lima
Next we headed to the clubhouse of South American Explorers Club Lima, so I could commandeer their Christmas party. We had spent a few full days working in their common rooms and were glad to be socializing there for a change. We quickly made new friends by bonding over travel stories and sharing hot pots of Glühwein. Glühwein also known as mulled wine is a popular holiday drink in German and Dutch speaking regions and certain parts of France. It usually consists of red wine infused with spices while heated on a stove.
The SAE was also serving foods cooked on an outdoor grill and assorted sweet treats including panettone cakes. Advertisements for panettone fill every planed surface in Peru around the Christmas and New Year season and I had a colorful slice topped with a matchstick substituted as a birthday candle.
The tone of the party became more serious as games began. We played pass the present which looks similar to Musical Chairs but with a gift wrapped in numerous layers of paper. Instead of people revolving around chairs until a song stops, you pass the gift around the party until the tune quits. Whoever is holding the present peels off a layer of wrapping paper. Then the song and game continues. The person possessing the regalo (present) when there are no more layers of wrapping gets the prize. Melissa was the victor and won a coffee mug full of candy. Next we played a competitive game of pictionary/charades. This is always a treat when you play with people from many countries.
Second party back at Inka Frog
Kim, a friend we’d met in Ecuador and later at Oceano Hospedaje in Huanchaco, had joined us at the SAE Lima Christmas party. We also re-connected with Belgian-travel buddies Anouk and Hans with whom we’ve explored four parts of Peru. When the Christmas party ended we hit Miraflores and headed to a karaoke and sushi restaurant that was too rich for our backpacking budgets. So we said sayonara and adios and decided to close my birthday out with a house party on the common patio of our new hotel.
Passing by a Vivanda supermarket, the Peruvian equivalent to Whole Foods, we snagged some supplies. I was shooed away from the bakery counter by the Belgians and instead picked up some deli meats, bread, and boxed wine (gotta splurge on your birthday). Once we got back to Hotel Inka Frog, the night staff provided us with glasses even though it was already getting late. We promised that we would keep the noise down and headed to the balcony. Dining on our meager provisions we shared more laughs, and the Belgians broke out the best brownie I have encountered in South America. It had a real candle on top with the number 4 to represent my 34th birthday.
I wonder where I will celebrate next year. Anyone else have a memorable travel birthday?