Saturday, Sept. 13
San Francisco, USA to Lima, Peru
The 6am American Airlines flight from SFO is delayed two hours, gobbling up my layover and forcing me to trot a mile, lugging luggage, through the diabolical labyrinth that is Miami Airport. I huff sweatily up to the gate at 5:04pm for a 5:15pm departure. Incredibly, they let me board.
LAN Peru's service trumps that of any domestic flight I've taken since 9/11: hot dinner, coffee and wine, warm wool blankets, ample leg room, and personal TV screens with two dozen movie choices. All free, in coach.
Arriving in Lima after more than 16 hours of travel, I learn that American Air failed to transfer my checked bag. But immigration goes smoothly, and a half-hour cab ride through the streets takes me to a hotel in Miraflores.
The streets at midnight are bumpin'. On Saturday nights, the cab driver explains, Lima's jóvenes keep the bars going until sunrise. I ponder bed, but a posse of pigeons is cooing up a racket outside the hotel window, and a second wind blows me outside.
I grab a sidewalk table at a bar called Corleone, order a pisco sour and a plate of tart ceviche, and read a few chapters in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, glancing up occasionally at the buzzing stream of scruffy dudes in black leather jackets and fly girls with blond streaks in their straight brown hair. Shakira keeps the rhythm.
Sorry, Montereyans. Beats Alvarado Street, manos down.