LIMA is a boisterous, macho sprawl of a city, full of beaten-up cars chasing Mercedes and 4WDs: this is a place where money rules, with an irresistible, underlying energy. Somehow, though, it still manages to appear relaxed and laid-back in the barrios and off the beaten track, and the noisy, frenetic craziness of it all is mellowed somewhat by the presence of the sea and beaches. Even if you choose not to spend much time seeking out the delights and agonies of Lima, it's possible to get a good sense of it all in a few days. As anyone who stays more than a week or so finds, Limeño hospitality and kindness are almost boundless once you've established an initial rapport.
Lima brims with culture and history, though it's not obvious at first. There are some excellent museums, the Spanish churches in the centre, and some distinguished mansions in the wealthy suburbs of Barranco and Miraflores, and many of the city centre's surviving colonial streets – set in large regular blocks – are overhung by ornate wooden balconies.