Saturday, August 14, 2010

Piura…who are you?

From the largest cities to the smallest villages there is always at least one signature ‘something’ that establishes a town’s identity/character in my memory. After several visits I still haven’t found Piura’s identity. It’s got a nice enough principal park, with probably the most butt-friendly benches I’ve sat on. Yes…I pay attention to that sort of thing. The pace is noticeably slower and more relaxed including the taxi drivers who, contrary to Chiclayo drivers seem not interested in terrorizing pedestrians. But there are still too many people and cars competing for limited space. It is only in the very small towns and villages that the ratio of people to space becomes acceptable, at least for me.

I’m not saying there is nothing of interest or worth seeing. In my experience Piura’s Tourist Information Office is exceptional. A uniformed staff member escorted us to a desk where we sat in comfortable chairs as she dispensed maps, brochures and information in an obviously well scripted presentation, and upon completion was adept at answering questions and offering advice in both Spanish and English. It’s a very good thing we had those maps.

Maybe that’s the problem with Piura – everything blends into everything else. The Admiral Grau Museum and Mansion blends into the adjoining buildings with only the lettering to identify it. The Vicûs Museum featuring displays of art, gold and history is so invisible to passersby that it appears to have been intentionally designed to keep its identity secret. We walked past it twice, thinking it was one apartment building among others. The Ignacio Merino Central Bank’s Gallery is equally invisible. If it had not been for the maps given to us at the tourist office, I don’t think we would have found any of the attractions, which would have been a shame because though small, they are well worth seeing. The modest Plaza del Sol shopping mall anchored by Saga Falabella sits inside a block of office and retail buildings. Here again there is nothing to call attention to it. We discovered it accidently while eating at a restaurant across the street. Incidentally, four out of seven stalls in the mall’s food court are unoccupied…usually an indication that a mall is in decline.

Anyway, back to the Grau Museum. Exploring the house and its exhibits would be interesting enough, but we had the added attraction of Maribel’s connection to the family. An inner courtyard contains a larger than life statue of Grau, and Maribel took the opportunity to commune with her famous ancestor.

If there is a uniqueness about Piura it is probably the three bridges spanning the Piura River. It is my understanding that the Sânchez Cerro bridge and Bolognesi bridge (pictured here) both collapsed during the El Niño flooding in 1998.

The San Miguel pedestrian bridge survived El Niño intact. Beyond its practical use it seems to also serve as a promenade/boardwalk, though the mostly dry river course doesn’t fall into the eye pleasing category.

Piura has the distinction of being known as the "Ciudad del eterno calor" meaning "The city of the eternal heat." That proved to be the case when we were there. August is the middle of winter in Peru. In Chiclayo, only 125 miles south of Piura, cold drinks and ice cream have mostly been abandoned during the winter as days are cool (low 70s) and nights with a stiff wind can border on cold (mid 50s). During our visit to Piura the literally frozen Inca Kola served at a restaurant (we were initially unable to pour it from the bottle to glass) and double scoop of goat milk ice cream were a welcome refreshment. It was hot!


No comments:

Post a Comment