“Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.” -Bruce Lee
On Monday morning, I was picked up at 9:30am again for another tour with Viator. We started the morning visiting a local market in Villa El Salvador, a district of Lima that is considered to be one of the city’s shanty towns. The tour guide and I picked up some breakfast food, as we were invited by a local community leader to have breakfast at her home.
Once we purchased bread, meat, cheese, and palta (avocado), we made our way further into Villa El Salvador, specifically to Bello Horizonte. Our host had a warm, delicious quinoa drink prepared for us upon our arrival, and we spent the morning discussing local “scary” stories or childhood fables, as well as difficulties that this individual faces when advocating for members of her community and ways to improve her community as a whole.
Viator provides Villa El Salvador with funding that helps support community projects, in addition to completing community service within the town, as well as other towns without sufficient resources. We walked around the district and continued talking about some of the dire needs that the community faces. In some of the pictures below, you will notice yellow stairs that lead to most of the houses within the town. Years ago, locals had to walk up sharp rocks (that often ended up cutting through their shoes) in order to get to their houses, as their were no stairs or set paths.
Many women fell on their way up the rocks, and sadly enough, many of these women were pregnant and ended up losing their babies. When a local political candidate stopped by the town a few years ago, he asked what the locals needed most. They responded by saying a better way to get to their homes. Once elected, the official made sure that stairs (known as the famous “yellow stairs”) were provided throughout the town. While the situation has improved significantly from what it once was, there are still areas in the town without stairs, leaving many locals continuing to walk up dangerous, sharp rocks. The town continues to have needs that are not being met, especially ever since the devastating huayco ( mflood) hit Peru in March, which has left many other cities in need of government resources as well.
After the tour concluded, I stopped by Parque Kennedy in Miraflores, a beautiful park named in honor of President John F. Kennedy. From there, I walked over to El Mercado Indios, a local artisan market. Keeping in mind my flight tonight was scheduled to leave at midnight, I had plenty of time to make my way through the city. Following El Mercado Indios, I took a tour of Huaca Pucllana—impressive ancient ruins from the Wari culture, which was built around 500 A.D.
After the tour, I returned to Barrancos to take in the artistic sites, and then returned to my hotel, where I enjoyed dinner before finally making my way over to the airport for my (delayed) flight. Touring the different districts of Lima these past few days was truly enjoyable, especially since each district offers something unique and exciting. However, regardless of where you go, the locals continue to remain humble, kind, warm, and extremely welcoming, which is always incredible to experience.
As I get ready to make my way to the airport now (even though by the time I publish this, it will likely be a few days from now), my experience in Peru is one that I will definitely cherish for years to come. But over the next few days, I’ll be sure to write about my “closing remarks” and highlights of the trip. So for now, it’s not goodbye. It’s more of I need to make my flight, so I’ll pick back up with where I left off tomorrow.
Be true to yourself, and never be afraid to let your individuality shine. There is no one else in the world like you—embrace that and showcase your uniqueness for all to enjoy.
Often times, we may feel as though the world around us seems dark, drab, and even gloomy. Regardless of the surrounding environment, it is up to us to shine brightly and embrace our uniqueness, originality, and individuality.
The hop-on/hop-off bus dropped us off in the Barrio Gótico, also known as the Gothic Quarter. I’ll describe the Gothic Quarter more in depth in a later post, but as we walked around the area, we spotted the Catedral de Barcelona, also known as the Cathedral of Barcelona.
After waiting in line, we finally entered the Cathedral, which was absolutely stunning. Construction for the Cathedral began during the 11th Century, but whatever had been built was destroyed by the Moors in 985. Construction began once again a little later on and the central part of the building was completed in the mid 1400’s. However, the building’s facade was not completed until the late 1800’s.
There are twenty nine side chapels within the church, one of which is said to contain a “miraculous crucifix,” which supposedly helped defeat the Turks during the Battle of Lepanto (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).
Some other interesting facts about the Cathedral include the fact that the Cathedral is dedicated to Santa Eulàlia, the patron saint of Barcelona. During the Roman period, Santa Eulàlia was tortured to death, and her body lies buried underneath the high altar. February 12th is dedicated to her, as locals celebrate a day of feasting in her memory.
On the side of the Cathedral, there is a beautiful Cloister with additional chapels, tranquil fountains, and beautiful landscaping. It has been said that from this area, you can hear nearby geese. Years ago, the geese supposedly “warned against intruders and thieves” (http://barcelona.de/en/barcelona-cathedral-la-seu.html).
There is a small elevator inside the Cathedral that takes visitors up to the rooftop. From there, we saw incredible views of the city from such a unique and special vantage point.
Once we left La Sagrada Familia, my sister and I decided to stop at a local restaurant for traditional tapas. Tapas are small appetizers or snacks that serve the purpose of helping one get through the difficult time before or in between meals (or at least that’s what I view their purpose as).
As we sat down outside—only a few blocks away from La Sagrada Familia—we couldn’t help but enjoy the beautiful weather and take in the incredible sights around us. It also didn’t hurt that we had delicious snacks in front of us to feast on.
Throughout our time in Spain, I found that sitting down to enjoy tapas allows you to put your busy life on hold and take a few moments for yourself. You aren’t necessarily stuffing your face (unless you order multiple items like we did), but you’re stopping the needless worries around you and putting all of that on hold for just a short while. That is exactly what we did, and it helped us better appreciate the fact that you don’t have to be somewhere unique or special to take some time for yourself to unwind. (But then again, this realization was much better seeing as we were in Barcelona).
After our mid-day snack, we walked back to our hotel to get dressed for our evening activities, but on our way, we came across some more fascinating sights. Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition in 1888, and the Arc de Triomf (pictured below), was built as the main entryway to enter the fair.
Upon waking up in the morning, my sister and I boarded a hop-on/hop-off bus, and set out for Park Güell. Park Güell, located in the northern part of the city is one of the many iconic sites designed by Antoni Gaudí—a significant name in Barcelona. Construction for the park began in 1900 and was completed by 1914. The original goal was to build a housing development on site, so one of the main features here is a beautifully designed house, which was intended to be the first of many.
Unfortunately, the plan did not work out, but Gaudí moved into the house with his family, and the building is currently home to the Casa Museo Gaudí (Gaudí House Museum). Besides the museum, there is a beautiful municipal garden, an exquisite terrace overlooking the city, and an overall sense of serenity throughout the park. It has been said that nature was Gaudí’s greatest source of inspiration, and this is evident since so much of his work revolves around or includes various aspects of nature.
Seeing Park Güell was a wonderful experience because for the remainder of our trip to Barcelona, we would soon come across plenty of Gaudí’s other notable buildings—each unique in its own way. After exploring the park, my sister found a great vegetarian restaurant called Teresa Carles on a side street close to Plaça de Catalunya (the city’s main plaza). The food was delicious, and it was just what we needed before continuing with our tour of the city.