Personal Journey: Lima, Peru: Parent tested, parent approved

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Street art in the bohemian neighbrohood of Barranco in Lima, Peru. Credit: Diana Bauza

After six months in Lima, the oddities of the Peruvian capital no longer fazed me: the cacophony of the car horns and alarms, the colorful micros teetering maddeningly along the congested streets, the persistence of the gray skies and misty mornings. I invited my parents to visit because I wanted them to experience firsthand the Lima I had come to love and hoped they would approve of my decision to live there.

They came in late March, at the end of summer, when Lima is bathed in generous hours of sunshine. While I swooned over the air-conditioning in their room at the Hilton in Miraflores, mom went straight for the rooftop pool that offered a modest glimpse of the Pacific dotted by paragliders drifting in midair. Dad relaxed upon discovering that Lima is an honest-to-God modern city with art museums, highways, and universities - not some backward South American crime den with donkeys pulling fruit carts through dirt streets, as he likely had imagined.

As any Limeño will tell you, the best thing to do in Lima is eat. My parents are typically not adventurous eaters, but they went along for the ride. They raved over the artistically arranged, tapas-style Peruvian dishes at the gourmet restaurant IK and looked a bit overwhelmed by the huge portions of lomo saltado and ceviche apaltado at the Canta Rana, whose plastic tablecloths and surly servers made mom even more wary of trying the raw, cured fish of the ceviche.

When we weren't eating, I showed off Lima's many angles: I snapped a picture of my parents dwarfed by the giant doors of the San Francisco convent in the historic center, I pointed furtively to the whole chickens dangling with their innards exposed at the Surquillo market, I watched them "ooh and ahh" over alpaca textiles and Shipibo prints at the museumlike boutique Las Pallas, and I coaxed them along the picturesque streets of Barranco, with its walls painted in brilliant fuchsia bougainvillea.

On their last evening in Lima, we were returning from a jaunt in Cusco, mountain biking in the Sacred Valley and touring Machu Picchu. We hailed a haggard-looking taxi to go to their hotel. My parents - alarmed by the taxi's dented doors, lack of seat belts, and droopy bumper - were not happy stagnating in the characteristic Lima traffic. "All part of the experience!" I offered in an attempt to assuage them.

We finally arrived at the Plaza del Bosque in the ritzy neighborhood of San Isidro, which is closer to the airport. After checking in, we strolled down the Avenida Conquistadores, where the glow of luxe storefronts illuminated the street on our way to the trendy Japanese-fusion restaurant Osaka. Over seared tuna medallions with savory mashed lúcuma, a starchy jungle fruit, and Peruvian-style sushi, my parents agreed Lima had far exceeded their expectations. Maybe the Pisco in their cocktails had softened them, but I felt a swell of pride. Lima is an underrated gem - parent-tested, parent-approved.

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