What struck me as we went down the Costanera, Lima’s coastal highway, from the airport to Barranco, was the way the city hung to the cliffs that dominated the ocean. In Barranco, the ocean is ever-present: you can hear it, smell it, and almost touch it.
We made it to Lima after 6 days in Cusco, on an unexpectedly sunny Sunday afternoon in August. We arrived just in time to catch our lovely Airbnb host Claudia before she went to the beach to enjoy this unexpectedly warm day. She advised us to go just around the corner to El Muelle for lunch. We left behind our backpacks and hiking shoes and started our longed-for city-break with delicious fresh seafood. Starving, we ordered a piqueo – a huge sharing platter with causa, ceviche, arroz chaufan con mariscos and chicharrones – and a cold Peruvian beer.
We then walked down to see the ocean despite the cold wind brought by the evening and watched as surfers were packing up their gear and that first day in Barranco drew to a close. Before we headed back to our room, we went for a stroll around the neighbourhood, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in Lima. Crossing on the Puente de los Suspiros, we figured it was also one of the most appreciated by tourists and locals alike, but during weekdays it revealed to be quieter.
While in Cusco, we were spoilt with a great breakfast served in a sunny patio every day, and were therefore not keen to go back to making our own just yet. Claudia told us of two of her favourites nearby: Las Vecinas and La Panetteria. We first went to Las Vecinas, a very cool café/health food store/art space. The breakfast options were interesting, and I had a quinoa honey porridge, and my sister had chestnut pancakes, all with local fruits. It was nearly empty on a Monday morning, and we appreciated the relaxing vibe.
The following day, we gave La Panetteria a try. As it was a bank holiday commemorating Santa Rosa de Lima, it was much busier and we had to stand for a while before getting a table. However, the sight of the beautiful croissants, sweet pastries and cakes on the counter kept us from losing patience. When we were finally sat in a cosy corner, we’d already considered all our options and decided to keep it simple and ordered croissants, avocado, toasts, fruits and homemade granola, and homemade passion fruit juice. The croissants were absolutely amazing, as was the bread; and my sister is still gushing about the fruit salad. After investigating a bit, I found out that three friends, a Peruvian, an Italian, and an Argentine, owned La Panetteria, hence the mix of Latin American and European influences in their products and menu. My sister insisted we went back the following day, for another round of croissants and Peruvian fruit salad, to which we added apple/oat and chocolate chip cookies that were so good we got more for our flight back to Santiago the day after.
Walking around Barranco, we were struck by the colourful colonial-style houses, not unlike some we had seen in Santiago de Chile. Some of them house art galleries and local designer shops, as well as cafes like the ones previously mentioned. There are however newer buildings, some from the 1980s like the house we stayed at, and some probably even more recent, especially closer to the sea front. To a certain extent, they add to the eclectic charm of Barranco, despite hinting at a a certain degree of gentrification in this peripheral part of Lima. We took great pleasure out of exploring the streets of Barranco, sometimes catching a glimpse of the ocean, or hearing its soothing whisper.
Some parts of the neighbourhood also boast graffiti, some taking up whole façades, and I sometimes dream of going back, with the promise that although the colours will have changed, the free spirit of Barranco will remain.