Yesterday, we got out and about for a look at downtown Santiago. The city name is a literal Spanish translation for ‘St John’ and it is one of the most modern metropolitan cities in South America.
It was about 20 degrees, cloudy and quite hazy. I was looking forward to catching big hill in the centre of town, but it was too hazy to really make it worth while. Instead, we settled for a walk through the downtown area. Most of the tour brochures that we could find, described tours to nearby wineries, valleys,mountains and ports. It seems that a half day city tour is enough to see most (if not all) of the cities local attractions.
It was Sunday and a lot of businesses were closed. I suspect that this city is a lot more vibrant than the shattered up state in which we saw it. When the shutters on buildings are rolled down, it seem to make a place look deserted and closed. It’s hard to imagine what might be seen behind them.
We started at La Monenda, the place of the Chilean Government. This was situated on a broad boulevard with the most unlikely non-Latin name – Avenue Liberatador Bernardo O’Higgins. Mr O’Higgins was one of the leaders of the revolutionary movement which in 1810 fought for, and won, independence from Spain. This was quite a grand building ans exceptionally well guarded by brown uniformed police with guns and big dogs. The surrounding financial district had some grand and ornate European style buildings that seemed to contrast nicely with some of the modern glass office structures.
It was only a walk of three of four blocks to the centra square, Plaza de Armas. On the way, we strolled through a pedestrain area which had been set up for a Sunday market. Stalls sold everything from jewellery to clothing and herbal viagra. (it seems that sexual performance here is just as important as it is in the spice market in Istanbul). There must have been an important football match happening somewhere in tow as kept coming across crowds of people with jumpers and carrying stuffed monkeys along with the Chilean flag. I assume that the monkey was a symbol of their favourite team, otherwise there are a lot of deprived children inn Santiago who are missing heir bedtime toy.
The Plaza de Armas is a popular sitting out place for local people. Artists had set up stands of paintings, people were sitting and talking and dozens of homeless people were harassing everyone else for money and cigarettes. Jill’s level of nervousness suddenly skyrocketed. Around the square are an historic cathedral, ornate post office, city hall and other impressive buildings.
Walking away from the square, we came across a shopping plaza. By now (lunchtime) the city had started to come to life and there were a lot more people strolling through the streets. By the river (a very unattractive fast flowing concreted drain) we found the central market. This was an interesting place. The central area was occupied by a number of restaurants (each with their own touts, trying to attract custom and the side alleys were full of stalls selling fish. It was very interesting to see a different variety of fish from that which we could normally see. Some as hard to recognise, but I could identify King Crabs, Yellow Fin Tuna, Morwong Eels and exceptionally large shellfish. We did stop at one of the restaurants for a lunch of fish and chips.
By then we had enough for the day. Tired from a bit of jet lag, we caught a taxi back to our hotel – about seven kilometres away in the modern and up-market El Bosque area. We were anxious to see our bags arrive although thy didn’t get delivered until after 7.00 pm and it was a great relief to have all our things again.
Today we have to fill in some time until our flight to Lima (Peru) leaves at 8.00 pm. We have now seen most of the city and the only tour that we could fit in before our transfer to the airport doesn’t operate on Mondays. I suppose it’s back to the nice shopping plaza to see if we can find Jill a nice birthday present and have a nice lunch somewhere.