Hotel Crashing: Westin, Marriott in Lima

I love, love, love hotels.

I love the sometimes modern, sometimes classical, sometimes retro, but always sweeping and grand front desk areas.

I love the smiling friendly people who work at the front desk area and the way they focus so intently on their little screen while trying to find you the absolute best room upgrade.  I love the concept of a concierge to help you with every single little request, no matter how weird of small.

I love the music they play in the lobby and all the lovely flower arrangements. I love the free coffee in the lobby in the morning or the free wine in the evening and the chance to make small talk with fellow guests.

Lilies in Lima
Lilies (my favorite) in one of our rooms.

I love the huge, luxurious beds with the fresh clean sheets and towels every single day (and sometimes in the evening, if you’d like) and the pillow menus that let you pick the firmness and composition of your pillow. I love room service and I definitely love the toiletries.  Oh, and the turndown chocolates.

Basically, I wish I was Eloise (especially since she lived at the Plaza. Can you just imagine what the robes must be like?? I. Die.)

One of the best compliments my co-decorator XFE and I ever got was, “You’re house looks like a W Hotel.”

To me, walking into a hotel is kinda like opening a present. And then opening the door to the room is like opening a present inside a present. There have been many a time when we’ve opened the door to our room and I’ve looked back and thought, “Is this all for us? All of it? We don’t have to share it with anybody?”

Which is all to say: We stayed in some pretty freaking great places in Peru.

Lobby at the Westin Lima Peru
Like this one.

We stayed at two hotels in Lima. Because, really, why wouldn’t you hotel hop when you get the chance? Actually, our Lima hotels bookcased our trip down to Paracas, so we chose the second hotel based on its proximity to the car rental drop off. I mean, that wasn’t the only reason we picked it, but it did make it an attractive option.

First we spent two nights at the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center in the San Isidro neighborhood. It’s the newest major hotel in Lima and was the tallest building in the country when it opened in May 2011. The lobby was gorgeous with lots of dark wood, and low couches and open-sided fire pits in the lobby bar area.

Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center in the San Isidro neighborhood.
Fire pits!

We were immediately upgraded to an amazing executive suite on the 19th floor. This suite had a living room, eat-in dining area, powder room and master bath; and a humongous bedroom with panoramic views of the financial district. In total, it was 700 square feet. Basically, a little more than half our house. Yeah. It was basically, slightly bigger than the lower half of our house.

Bedroom, Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center in the San Isidro neighborhood.

 

Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center bathroom

They had the most amazing lilies in vases throughout. Our “room” smelled like a really upscale florists’ shop.

Living room at the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center
Our living room. For two nights.

We also got access to the Westin Executive Club Lounge a couple of floors up (home of the legendary best pisco sour we had the entire trip). Poor people: listen up. There’s this big secret amongst the rich people out there, which is: They get to eat for free! Like, every meal. And sometimes even drink for free! And it’s pretty good stuff! I mean, it’s not like a full menu or anything, but there are usually meats and cheeses and salads and sandwiches. In the morning, there are even free mimosas to go with your pastries, sausages and eggs (although, if I do have one complaint, it’s that the scrambled eggs are always a bit runny for my taste at these executive lounge places. But the same could be said at any breakfast buffet, really. Blech.)

westin lima welcome
Free food! In our room! Thanking us for staying with them. KRAY-KRAY.

I swear, if I’d known all of this free food stuff was going on when I was a poor college student, I would have spent all my time lurking outside hotel executive clubs. It’s insane.

Between the amazing room and the free food and wine, I really didn’t even want to leave the hotel. Ever. And we didn’t even have time to check out the other amenities, (although I hear they had a fantastic heated indoor pool.)

Closet at the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center
Oh, did I mention the walk in closet?

Eventually, we did have to leave, and it was a very sad day indeed when XFE had to pry my claws off the door frame so we could check out.

The JW Marriott in Miraflores was our next hotel in Lima, and while not quite as amazing as the Westin, it was still pretty damn nice.  Or, actually, I should say that the room itself wasn’t as luxurious, but I actually preferred the executive club at the Marriott better. It’s true I liked the Marriott club food slightly better, but primarily it was because our fellow club attendees were vastly more entertaining (there was a fighting couple sitting nearby who it turns out weren’t a couple, but were actually work colleagues who were quite fed up with each other. Also: an exceedingly large man explaining a diet that he was on, and a bunch of other personal things, all very loudly).

It’s been a long time since I stayed at a Marriott. I guess I thought they were a bit dated and appealed more towards and older clientele. Our room basically enhanced my pre-conceived impressions. There was nothing wrong with the room per se (in fact, the ocean view was very nice), but after the grandeur of the Westin, it seemed kinda basic.

JW Marriott in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

However, it did the trick and provided a good home base for our last, short evening in Lima. Also, the front desk staff was great and we were particularly grateful they remembered our 2 am wakeup call so we could catch our 5:30 flight to Cusco.

View from the JW Marriott in Miraflores, Lima, Peru

Couple of other notes about the Marriott: the location is great. You’re right across the street from the Larcomar mall, and there’s a casino next to the hotel. In case you’re feeling lucky. In fact, we saw quite a few people straggling in as we were leaving for the airport at 3 am, including a proud Longhorn dad explaining craps to his two young UT-togs-wearing sons as they waited for the elevator. If I hadn’t been so bleary-eyed, I might have grabbed a cup of free lobby coffee and made small talk with them. But I had other hotel rooms awaiting me in other parts of Peru.

 

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Listless in Lima

OK, I’m sufficiently recovered to talk about Peru. A couple of days of antibiotics has put me on the road to normality and I’m all caught up on laundry. Yep, vacation is definitely over.

But let’s jump in the way-back machine and start with the chaotic and intriguing city of Lima.

Sunset in Lima

We got there at around 10:30 pm, after an 8 hour flight, arriving at the busy airport bleary-eyed and confused. My adorable travel buddy XFE (sorta) quickly located our driver and we were off on a terrifying, death-defying ride through Lima.

It was supposed to be about a 40 minute ride to our hotel, the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center, but the Lima traffic and a slight miscommunication that took us to the entirely wrong part of town meant we didn’t get to our room until after well after midnight.

Quick discussion about Lima traffic: it’s kray-kray. It was just unbelievable. The only thing I can compare it to was Thailand, but it was actually even more undisciplined. The painted lanes meant absolutely nothing. The shoulders of the road were just considered another driving lane. I rode the entire time with my eyes cast down and my hands clenched.

Our driver explained that the population of the entire country of Peru was around 30 million and Lima’s population was 10 million. This is because in the 1980s and 1990s, there were two major domestic terrorist organizations in Peru that wreaked havoc out in the countryside, causing a large influx of country people into the city of Lima, which was perceived as slightly safer since it was the capital.  This was a false sense of security. In 1992, there was a bombing in Lima that killed 25 and wounded 200.

Pretty crazy recent history. I’m sorta embarrassed to say I had no idea that all of this had gone down. Also: Peru’s recent presidential history, which includes not one, but TWO exiled presidents who were totally corrupt and stole money from aid organizations, like the World Bank. And they keep trying to sneak back into the country and run for president again! It’s madness, I tell you. Madness.

All of this goes to explain the other main observation I had about Lima: there are gun-toting, bulletproof vest-wearing security guards EVERYWHERE. Especially, obviously, at the banks. But lots of other places today, including the main square, the Plaza de Armas, which we visited on our first full day there.

Police in Peru
Yep, those are police. In riot gear. On a normal Friday afternoon.

The Plaza has been used for everything from a market to a bullfighting ring to a place for public executions. The Spanish Inquisition was quite active here in Peru, a Spanish colony, and the square was used to burn heretics.

the Plaza de Armas, Lima, Peru
I think heretics were burned on the opposite side of the square. Not by the fountain.

Lima’s historic center is beautiful, surrounded by bright mustard yellow Colonial buildings with arches and wooden balconies. The Government Palace is also located here, and a very fancy Changing of the Guard occurs at noon every day. There’s also the Cathedral of Lima, which we did not go in.

Cathedral of Lima
This is the cathedral.

Instead, we went to the Monastery of St. Dominic, which houses two of Peru’s three saints, including Saint Rose of Lima. She was a pretty extreme chick who cut her hair and smeared pepper on her face to make herself less attractive to potential suitors. Ironically, we were on a tour of the monastery with an entourage of three men, including one young gentleman who was wearing a Mr. Teen Peru sash. He posed for many, many pictures throughout the monastery and did not smear his face with pepper at all.

Mr. Teen Peru
Mr. Teen Peru and his guardian.

The other really beautiful part of Lima is Miraflores, which is an upscale neighborhood overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s full of parks and shopping and restaurants and is quite chi-chi. It’s also very safe and full of tourists.

Love Park Miraflores Lima

The Larcomar shopping mall has a lot of great shops and restaurants, including a place we stopped for our first lunch in Peru, Mangos. It was a great place that was full of locals, and had a pretty damn good buffet, plenty of ice cold Pilsens and Cuzquenos, and ocean breezes. Service was indeed slow, but who’s in a rush when the view is that great?

We spent our final day in Lima walking around Miraflores. About 10 blocks north of Larcomar and the JW Marriott are a bunch of artisan malls/shops up near Kennedy Park. There is also a food market, Mercado Surquillo, that’s fun to walk around, and has a huge variety of fruits and vegetables. Fresh juice places were also pretty popular in there. I guess I should have had one of those instead of the coconut paletta of death I had later on.fruits at Lima mercado

As we picked up our rental car for the next leg of our journey, I wrestled with my feelings about Lima. It seemed like an incredibly vibrant city with lots to offer. I even felt a twinge of regret when I saw a poster advertising an art exhibit featuring Picasso and Banksy.

But while I felt like I had barely scratched the surface, I wasn’t really sure I wanted to know more. We had driven past so many rundown neighborhoods and seen so much poverty in a city that was obviously still struggling to absorb its massive population influx and recent violent history.

Lima definitely piqued my interest to learn more.

Peru in 16 Pictures

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In a complete departure from my usual blogging style, this post is going to be light on text and heavy on visuals. This is because I’m currently in the ongoing throws of a “food bourne illness” to put it delicately. Day seven of the ancient Incan stomach bacteria that I’m lovingly calling WuaynaKihlPhoe (sound it out).

So….yeah. I have an appointment tomorrow morning with le doctor.

BUT, even with all that, Peru was amazing. It’s beautiful, diverse and enigmatic. You’ll hear all about it in additional posts, I promise. In the meantime, here’s a taste:

Other Category on incoming customs form
The incoming customs form. We, of course, filled in the “other” bubble.

The marital status question on the incoming customs form. We, of course, filled in the “other” bubble.

guinea pig pottery at Gastronomy Museum Lima, Peru

Guinea pig pottery at the Gastronomy Museum in Lima. They love their guinea pigs there. Especially around dinner time.

Brass band in Lima, Peru

A brass band serenades us at the Governor’s Palace.

Dinner at Astrid & Gaston, Lima Peru

17 course tasting menu at Astrid & Gaston in Lima. Including cuy. (I swear, I only had one tiny bite)

protest in Peru
That would be a highway closed by protesting fishermen on our trip to Peru.

While on our way down to Paracas on the Panamerican Sur highway, we got caught in a protest involving 200 fishermen. We were stuck for two hours and according to this story, the line of cars stretched back 5 miles. Listen, I’m all about civil unrest and all that jazz, but it seriously cut into my pool time and I was not amused.

tuk tuk in Peru

One of the most popular forms of transportation are these super flashy little three-wheeled cabs. I totally want one. I’m looking into it. I plan to decorate it pretty obnoxiously, of course. Lots of fringe and stickers.

Classy in Paracas

In Paracas, we stayed at this super fancy resort full of overpriced beer and snacks. So, we walked 5 minutes down the road to the small seaside town of El Chaco, where even with gringo prices, we paid a lot less for beer, sodas and snacks. Here’s me on the way back with my Cusquenos (Listen, it was hot and I was thirsty after watching all those protestors.)

Sand duning in Paracas

Action shot: We went sand buggying in the deserts outside of Paracas. We even gave sandsurfing a shot. I sucked at it. XFE was actually pretty good.

fruits at Lima mercado

Back in Lima before we traveled to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, we swung by the Surgillo Food Market. Not pictured: the innocent looking and 0h-so-tasty coconut palleta that started all of my stomach problems.

sunset in Lima, Peru

Last night in Lima. This was the sunset from our room at the JW Marriott in Miraflores. Pretty stunning. The calm before the stomach storm.

Birthday cake at Tambo del Inka in Peru

Birthday cake number one (oh yes, there were two) from the wonderfully nice people at Tambo del Inka resort in Urubamba. Amazing, amazing resort. (the cake, ironically, was coconut, but no hard feelings. Can’t hate on a cake).

Peru Rail

The slowest train in the whole damn world. That’s because everybody — people, cows, sheep, backpackers — use the railroad tracks as a road for walking on and blocking.

Llama at Machu Pichu

What’s that? Oh, yeah, no biggie, just a freaking LLAMA hanging out at Machu Picchu. There were like, 5 of them up there. CRAY-CRAY.

Me at Machu Picchu
You can’t tell, but this not-so-young lady is wondering where the nearest bathroom is.

Not to be outdone: Poe at Machu Picchu. I look like a giant looming over the ruins in this picture. Hilarious. Machu Picchu looks like a tiny little board game that I’m about to smash with my giant-ness.

Birthday cake at the Sanctuary, Machu Picchu Peru

Cake TWO: this time, from the staff at the Sanctuary at Machu Picchu. And it was chocolate. And it was delicious.

Peru procession

I’m not sure what this was. As we were driving back to Cusco for the start of our very long flight home (about 24 hours of travel, including a looooong layover in Lima), we came upon this procession. I thought it was some sort of parade for like, a saint’s day or something, but it actually might have been a funeral. Yikes. Awkward. I would never knowingly photograph a funeral. But all of these guys seemed so happy! I was confused.

Poe Poll: Is This Funny?

Just a quick post. We have returned from Paracas for one last night in Lima before we head up to Urubamba and Machu Picchu. Our wake-up call tonight? 2 am for a 5 am flight. Not. Pumped.

Right now, we’re sitting in the executive lounge of the JW Marriott in Miraflores, having a glass of wine before we go to bed at around 7 pm. I’m listening to an incredibly large man (seriously, he’s hit the free buffet at least 4 times so far) on a cell phone talking about how he lost his computer charger (and apparently, is unfamiliar with the concept of buying a new one or asking concierge to direct him to a Radio Shack). He also lost out on buying an apartment today. Oh, and he’s been talking about some diet he’s on where fruit isn’t allowed “in this phase.” Also: there’s a young couple nearby who JUST got here and are already fighting. I can’t tell exactly what about, but she just loudly declared, “ok, you’re right, I know nothing about anything.”

Gurl, I know how you feel. According to XFE, I don’t know much about humor.

Settle me this:  I cracked myself up for literally half the day with this pun: Here I am, eating Lima beans in Lima.

XFE thought it was a meager showing at best.

IMG_0152

That’s funny, right? Take this poll and settle our tiff.