Karencita de Perú

Archive for the ‘Dancing’ Category

This is a continuation of my recent post https://karencitadeperu.wordpress.com/2011/04/02/the-life-of-the-rich-and-not-famous/.   The first part explained why I had the good fortune to live the “life of the rich” for a weekend and focused on the Miraflores Park Hotel.  However, also included in my prize from Groupon were 2 dinners and a lunch in some of Lima’s finest restaurants.

The first night we went to La Rosa Nautica.   This restaurant is consistently ranked among the top choices for fine dining in Lima and I have wanted to go there since my first visit to Peru.  I have heard many differing opinions about the place from people who have been there, but I wanted to form my own opinion.

The evening started with getting picked up at the hotel and being driven to the restaurant, along with our personal photographer.  Before we even entered the restaurant there were a ton of great photo opportunities.  The location and architecture of La Rosa Nautica is one of the most charming things about it.  It is a Victorian-style building located at the end of a pier above the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.   To get to the entrance of the restaurant you walk along a lovely pier, which is adorned with gazebos and shops.

When we arrived at the restaurant, to my surprise, we were ushered to a private room, with a single table just for us!  The room was nicely decorated with windows that open to the ocean below.  We had two waiters just to serve us.  If we even looked in their direction they asked us if there was something we needed.  Needless to say, the service was outstanding; however, my experience doesn’t really allow me to judge the service under normal circumstance, when we aren’t being treated like “VIPs”.

Of course, the most important thing about a restaurant is the food.   To start, we had a seafood platter that included parmesan scallops and ceviche – two of my favorite seafood dishes in Peru.  It was delicious.  For the main course, I had chicken in an ‘agridulce salsa de sauco‘ (sweet & sour elderberry sauce) served with puré (mashed potatoes).  Luis had a white fish (can’t remember the name) served with roasted baby potatoes and vegetables.  For dessert we tried the creme bruleé and lucuma-mousse filled crepe with chocolate sauce.  The food was nicely presented and pleasing, although I have to honestly say it was not the best meal I have had in my life.

What made La Rosa Nautica special for me was the ambiance and the service and that alone is enough to go back for.

The next day, after our private half-day city tour, we were taken to Brujas de Cachiche for lunch.  This was my second visit to this restaurant.  The restaurant is located in Miraflores on the Ovalo Bolognesi in an interesting, old wooden building.  What’s interesting about the architecture of the building is that it has a peaked roof, something that is very rare in Lima, where the majority of roof-tops are flat.  We didn’t have a private room this time and were seated in the main dining area, which is glassed-in patio that has been added to the main structure.  It is bright and airy, with an elegant yet casual feel.  Apart from the main dining area where we ate, there are other rooms for private parties and the AQUELARRE Bar.  Attached to Brujas de Cachiche is the popular Bar Huaringas.

The service in Brujas de Cachiche is very good, but it couldn’t compare to our personalized service the night before.   However, where Brujas stands out is in its food.  The menu is vast and offers an abundance of typical dishes from all regions of Peru.   I started with Tuna Causa and Luis had Anticuchos.  For the main course, I had one of my favorite Peruvian dishes, Ají de Gallina.  However, my favorite part of the meal was the dessert… Suspiro a la Limeña.   This is a traditional Peruvian dessert which is basically a base of manjar blanco (otherwise known as dulce de leche) topped with meringue.    Warning:  this dessert is extremely sweet and rich, so it may not be to ‘ taste, but I love it!!

Our last meal was a dinner show at Junius in the Double Tree Hotel in Miraflores.  The dinner consisted of a buffet of typical Peruvian dishes.   The food was good and there was a nice selection of cold dishes, hot dishes and desserts.  However, the real reason to go to Junius is for the live folklore dance show.  The show begins at 8pm, and features traditional dances from all regions of Peru, the Coast, the Sierra and the Selva.  The costumes are colorful, the music is excellent and the dancing is fantastic.  The show demonstrates the profound depth of Peruvian culture with its Incan, Spanish and African influences.

For me, the outstanding performance of the night was the Scissor Dance.    This dance comes from the South Andes region of Peru.  It features male dancers who hold two loose scissor shears in their hands which clash together in a hypnotic rhythm while they are dancing.  The dancers, accompanied by melodies of violin and harp, dance in turns in a sort of competition.  When it is the turn of the dancer, he tries to outdo the steps of the previous dancer.  As the dance progresses, the difficulty increases with each “round” as the dancers display their strength, acrobatics, flexibility and imagination.   It is definitely something that all visitors to Peru should see.

Last night we went to a birthday party for Luis’ sister.   Well, as Luis kept telling me it wasn’t una fiesta (party) it was una reunion (gathering or get together).  Whatever you want to call it, there are some differences here in how birthdays are celebrated.

Like with weddings, things get started rather late.  The party, I mean gathering, was at Luis’ parent’s house where Kelly (his sister) and her husband live on the second floor.  The guests, Kelly’s friends, started arriving about 9:00pm.

Everyone was seated around the living room drinking Gran Borgoña, a type of sweet wine that is produced here in Peru, and eating piqueos (appetizers).  Music was playing and people were chatting.  As time went on and more wine was consumed the conversations became louder, along with the music.  Eventually, a few people started to dance.  Dancing at home during social gatherings is very common here.  It is a big part of the culture.

Eventually, at midnight dinner was served.  We ate pollo a la brasa (roasted chicken), arroz a la jardin (rice with little bits of carrots, corn and peas) and ensalada (salad).   Something I have noticed here is that people often don’t use knives when they eat, just forks.  For me, this makes things, like a chicken breast, somewhat difficult to eat… especially with my plate on my lap instead on a table.  People here are used to it and have developed refined skills in eating without  a knife.   I need more practice!

After eating a round of Pisco Sours was served and finally the cake arrived!  As in Canada, the tradition is to light the candles on the cake, dim the lights and sing happy birthday to the birthday person.  Interestingly, they always start by singing Happy Birthday in English (even if a person doesn’t speak English they seem to know the words to Happy Birthday) followed by a version in Spanish.  The Spanish version is to the same tune and goes like this…

Feliz Cumpleaños a ti, Feliz Cumpleaños a ti, Feliz Cumpleaños (name of birthday person), Feliz Cumpleaños a ti.

Cumpleaños feliz, te deseamos a tí, Cumpleaños felices, te deseamos a tí

After the candles were blown out, the birthday girl gave a little speech thanking everyone for attending and sharing this special day with here.  Then there was more drinking, chatting and dancing until about 3:30am when things finally wind down and people head home.

One other different thing is how gifts are handled.  In Canada people normally open their presents with all the guests there so that everyone can see what the birthday person got and the birthday person can thank the guests for the gifts.  Here presents never seem to get opened.  For me it is kind of strange.


I had heard about el horario latino before moving here and had experienced it a little bit when Luis would often arrive late when we had arranged a time to talk on Skype, but now that I am living here I am really beginning to understand it better.  Things just don’t happen on time here!  For me, being a person that is generally quite punctual and gets stressed out if I am going to be late for something, it is a challenge to adapt to this new concept of time.

As an example, I will tell you about my Saturday night.  We decided we would go out dancing with Angel and his girlfriend Fiorella.  They were supposed to arrive at our place at 7pm.  We were going to go for dinner, come back to the apartment for a few drinks and then go out dancing.  Well, 8pm arrives but they haven’t so Luis calls Angel, who says they’ll be there in half an hour.  It’s 9pm now and still no sign of them.  We are both getting very hungry so he calls again and now Angel says they’ll arrive in 5 minutes.  At 9:45pm we decide we can’t wait any longer and we are going to go eat without them.  As we exit our building, there they are walking down the street with shopping bags full of stuff to make peach daiquiris.  So, we put the bags in the apartment and go for dinner at 10pm!!  This is probably the 4th time since being here for 3 weeks that I have eaten at 10pm at night.  For me, this is not normal but for many people here it is no big deal.

We went to a restaurant that serves Pollo a la Brasa (rotisserie chicken).  It is usually served with fries and these yummy dipping sauces.  This is a very popular meal here and there are lots of chain restaurants called Pollerías that serve this type of food.

Here is a picture of Luis and I at the restaurant.

Anyway, after dinner we went back to the apartment and had some drinks and played an interesting drinking game called “I’ve Never…”.  The idea is that one person says a statement like “I’ve never stolen anything” or “I’ve never done drugs” or “I’ve never said anything bad about my boss”, etc. and truthfully, if the other people have done that thing they have to drink.  Anyway, it was an interesting challenge to try to play a game like this in a different language while drinking.  They used a lot of slang or words that I hadn’t yet learned but despite having to seek clarification on what had been said many times, it was fun.

This is Angel, his girlfriend Fiorella, Luis and me having some drinks at the apartment before going dancing.

At 2am, it was finally time to go out.  We actually didn’t leave to go to the bar until 2am!  That is the time clubs close in Vancouver.  The places were packed at that hour.  I had been very hesitant to go dancing as I don’t know how to dance like they do here.  Fiorella showed me a few steps before we left and thankfully the club was very dark and crowded.  There wasn’t really enough room to do any fancy dance moves nor enough light for anyone to really see me.  I think I did pretty well for my first time and it was great just to go out dancing.

So, back to the time thing.  If I try to look at it objectively and think about the reasons that people arrive late or things don’t happen on time I would have to say that part of it is definitely cultural.  It just doesn’t seem as important for people here to be on a schedule.  Things are much more relaxed and “play-it-by-ear”.  Plans are flexible and are very apt to change.  Another reason is that things in general just take longer to do here.  One day I will write about buying something in a store here but for now, let me just say that it takes a lot longer than in Canada.  It is quite a process.  Also, the transportation is very unpredictable and can cause big delays.   I have learned that if I expect something to happen at the time it is supposed to, I will just get frustrated waiting.  I basically have to add 30 minutes to an hour to the stated time depending on the person.  Hopefully, when I come to Canada I won’t bring this bad habit back with me!

In contrast to the similarities that I wrote about last time, there are many things that are definitely different here.

Something very interesting  is that you can exchange money on the street.  There are “currency exchangers” all over the place.  They always wear a green vest with a dollar sign on it and you can exchange US dollars for peruvian soles and vice versa.  I am not sure if they exchange other currencies or not as I have not tried it.  They tell me that the rate you can get on the street is better than at the bank.   The current rate is 282 nuevo soles for $100 USD.  I think this rate might actually be a bit better than what you can get at Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange.  It feels a little strange exchanging money on the street, but it is actually quite convenient.

One of the most noticeable differences is that they sell a lot things on the street here… much more than in Vancouver.   On almost every block you can find either a fruit cart, a magazine stand or a little booth where they sell snacks and drinks like water, pop, chips, candy, nuts, chocolate, gum, etc.

There is one other very common type of street vendor here which is the heladero (the ice-cream man or woman).  Unlike in Canada, where the ice-cream man often drives a truck, here they are always on bicycle.  There are two main brands of ice cream… D’onofrio – the yellow one (which is actually made by Nestle) and Lamborgini – the red one.  Apparently, in 2004 Lamborgini made a big push to try to gain a greater market share.  At that time they had only 7% compared to D’onofrio which had 75%.  I am not sure what the statistics are today, but D’onofrio definitely still has a much bigger presence here, not only in the street but also in the supermarket and in restaurants.

If you think that North Americans are the only people that drink a lot of soft drinks you would be wrong.  Gaseosa (pop) is extremely popular here, so much so that it comes in 3 and 3.3 liter bottles!!  Why haven’t the Americans caught onto this??  There is a type of Peruvian pop called Inca Kola which is bright yellow like in the photo.  I think these are just different brands of  the same thing.  This yellow pop tastes just like cream soda.  The other soft drink that is very popular here is Orange Fanta.  Thankfully, they have Coke Zero and Sprite Zero, so I am happy!

After drinking all that pop, it’s necessary to do a bit of exercise.  Last Sunday we went to Independencia to visit Luis’ family.  As we were walking through the parking lot of the local Plaza Vea (another big supermarket chain here) there was a big stage, loud music and a lot of people.  Apparently, they have aerobic dance classes every Sunday right there in the parking lot.  There were a bunch of young guys and girls up on the stage leading the way and encouraging the crowd,.  The most interesting thing is that everyone knows the steps, which look really complicated.  I asked Luis how they know what to do and he said it is because they come every Sunday and practice.  Interestingly, there were an equal number of men dancing as there were woman.  The culture around dancing here seems much different than at home.  Being a good dancer is something a man is very proud of here, not like in Canada where a lot of men think dancing is lame (at least that is my perception of what many Canadian guys think!).

Finally, el Menú Criollo is another common site around Lima.  I have mentioned before that you can get an entire meal including starter, entree, beverage and dessert for 7 or 8 soles (less than $3 CAD).   This is only served at lunch time and the available dishes are usually written on a white or black board.  If you don’t want the starter you can just get the main course for just 6 soles.  So inexpensive, but very tasty!


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