At "Home" in Lima

February 17, 2010
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IE Creative Services Editor Emily Harley spent Thanksgiving on our Amazon River tour! Now she shares thoughts on this unique small-ship adventure. The small town where I grew up from in Kentucky and even Birmingham, where I now live, have history. But they ain't got nothing on Lima, Peru! Our Amazon tour officially kicks off after a drool-inducing breakfast at the Swissotel with a tour of Lima's most historic sites. While visitors to Peru often think about the Plaza de Armas and Spanish colonial history, Lima is dripping with archeological gems and monuments, scattered throughout the city and tucked into its many parks. Our guide Jose, points out the Museum of Italian Art and Museum of Art - designed by Gustav Eiffel - as we circle the Park of the Exposition. A now defunct airplane and statue stand guard over a large park in San Isidro, marking the site of Lima's first airport. Ominous, empty guard towers mark the four corners of a factory, remnants of the Shining Path's terrorism of decades past. Francisco Pizarro founded the "City of Kings" as the capital of Spain's colonial empire in 1535, and his body is still entombed at the Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas. From this grand central square, our group explored the Cathedral, gilded Jesuit monastery, Iglesia de San Francisco and Casa Aliaga. Most travelers who have researched Lima are familiar with the monastery, cathedral and catacombs of San Francisco, but far fewer have heard of the Casa Aliaga. Sitting to the right of the viceroy's palace, Casa Aliaga dates back to 1535, when Pizarro granted the land to Jeronimo de Aliaga. But what sets this mansion apart from the many historic homes you can explore in South America Courtyard at Casa Aliaga(or the Old South for that matter), is that it remains a family home - held by 15 generations of Aliagas. But far from having thousands of tourists trooping through their home, we are part of a privileged group that gets to walk across the marble staircase and halls to eye-ball the family's priceless antiques. The current Aliaga daughter married the son of our in-country partner. Ornate carvings, art, stained glass windows and centuries-old imported tiles reflect the changing tastes and style of both the family and society. The entire home is clustered around a striking center courtyard, with wide, open breezeways circling the yard. How can valuable paintings and furniture be left covered but essentially open to the elements? Hernando, our Expedition Leader, assures me, "It NEVER rains in Lima." As we prepare to leave the home, there is a stark reminder that this window into the growth of Lima - from colonial capital to thriving, independent city ñ is in fact a home. Our group entered the home through a small wooden door in a large wall. Like many homes in Lima, Case Aliaga has a front square, tucked behind a protective privacy wall, before leading to the front door. In order to walk across the front square and back into the bustling streets of central Lima, we must skirt a brand new Land Rover.