I’m writing from one of the lobby/sala spots in the Gran Bolivar Hotel in Lima’s Centro. WiFi free throughout the public spaces, landings at each floor, and maybe in your room if you’re in the first room off the floor’s landing sala. Otherwise, no. Huge domed stain-glass lobby, a Model T Ford at the reception desk (real Model T, it probably still runs). Winding grand staircase. Plaza San Martin out the front door.
This Grande Dame of Lima, is $65/night US. From it, you can walk to all the main sites of the historic Centro: The Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Congress and across from it, the Museum of the Inquisition (no, not the “Comfy Chair” Inquisition; the one after the military rule ended.) Modern buses, or the packed fuming rickety collectivos nearby to get to anywhere. The permanent book fair a couple of kilometers stroll north towards the Rimac barrio, or the street of books just a block away from the hotel. I discovered that tonight when strolling back from the modern urban shopping plaza a few blocks away.
I spent a bit more than usual on lunch today. Have been craving Chinese after 2 weeks in Atlántida, Uruguay, and happened upon a cheap, tiny Chinese restaurant upon my stroll a few blocks up the pedestrianized Jiron del Union just to the left as exiting the hotel. Spent /. 17 (“/.” is the symbol for the currency Nuevo Soles, not a reference to Slashdot!) Seventeen Soles for a huge dish of fried noodles with Asado (grilled) chicken, lots of veggies, and an Inka Kola. That made it about $6.20 US. Much more than my adobo chicken with rice a couple of weeks ago up the block from here, for /.5, or about $1.75. Hitting that for a cheap pre-airport meal mañana.
Travel can be cheap. If you’re willing to give up living like an “American”. Or in the case of the Gran Bolivar, stay in the type of hotel you never could afford in “America.” Accepting that although the paint is fresh, the marble is polished, that the beds are hard, the bathroom tiles have some cracks, and the hotel is a beautiful aging woman who can’t quite keep her makeup on straight and even if she could, it doesn’t cover all the wrinkles. She’s still exquisitely beautiful, in a way that some young one could never be.