May 24, 2011
Today was a busy day of touring. We only had one hour of Spanish class today at El Sol before departing for the center of Lima to visit the government palace, the catacombs of San Francisco church, and congress. After stopping for some photos in the Plaza de Armas, we made our way into the government palace, which was recently constructed in the 20th century following storms that ruined the original palace, to take a tour. Our guide took us through all the rooms of the palace, explaining their significance and telling us what the president does in each room. I really enjoyed the room used for addresses and reception that was made to replicate the Hall of Mirrors from the Palace of Versailles in France. Before our guide had even said anything I was thinking to myself, wow this looks like the Hall of Mirrors, which I knew of because I had previously visited it in France a few years back. And I was right! The room was made to resemble the famous hall in the Palace of Versailles design style because the architects were trying to mimic the French design style. My other favorite part of the tour was when we saw the painting of Tupac Amaru. I enjoy symbolism in paintings and this one had a lot that our guide discussed with us. For example, the chunk missing from under the neck of the portrait, symbolizing that he was beheaded. After we toured the building, we headed outside and watched the changing of the guard ceremony. I have seen a few changing of the guard type ceremonies throughout my travels, but this was by far the most elaborate. It was neat to hear the full band play and see all the guards in their elaborate uniforms marching perfectly in unison.
After the government palace we went to see the catacombs in the San Francisco monastery. This was my favorite part of the day. This monastery and church is among the oldest in South America, and beneath it lays hundreds of skulls and bones, arranged and ordered in an eerie fashion in the catacombs underneath the church. It was definitely chilling to be walking by piles of skulls that are centuries old, all while navigating through the dark, claustrophobic chambers. We even saw a whole body, which was a crazy sight. While the bones were the highlight of the tour, I found the majority of the monastery to be very beautiful. One of the first things we saw was the mind blowing library, home to some books brought by the Spanish when they first came to Peru.
After the San Francisco church we went to visit the congress. It was a bit of a problem at first because we did not realize we would not be allowed in if people were wearing shorts, which the majority of the boys and a few of the girls were. But, as usual, Monica was able to work her magic and we were allowed to visit the congress building. After Congress Syeda, Natalie, and I took a cab back to our host family to rest for a bit. We have such action packed days so we needed to rest for a bit!