Day 1 – 24 Nov 2016
We landed to Santiago around 20:00. We were really tired, so we decided to try the Uber again. It was a bit confusing to figure out where we were supposed to wait for the Uber at the airport, but once we were in the car, everything was smooth. M chatted with the driver in a mix of English and Spanish. We stayed with couchsurfing in Santiago. We like using this site, because you can meet with locals and have a better idea about the culture and country we are visiting. We have chatted with our host, Sebastian, all night and he was a very fun person.
This morning, we were up a bit late, resting from all the traveling we had done in la Patagonia. We also needed to do some planning for the rest of the trip. We left home a bit late, but we were really lucky, because Sebastian’s house was really central. We left and we were within few minutes walking distance from the Cerro Santa Lucia (Santa Lucia Hill). We have realized that there were a lot of vendors selling all sorts of things. It seems like these sellers are not bothered by police as they are in France. We bought a cup of watermelon and have been eating this while walking around. We passed by a cultural center and decided to eat something, and randomly walked into a restaurant that makes sandwiches. We were advised to try the burgers with eggs, so we had one of those to share.
Then we have rushed to the Plaza de Armas (Santiago`s main square) to get to the meeting point of the free walking tour: http://freetoursantiago.cl/tour.html This tour goes through the main sites of the city and also gives a brief history class for the town and the country. We were there a bit before 15:00, so we had some time to visit the Catedral (Cathedral). The interior decoration, especially the ceiling paintings were really impressive. We realized its architecture resembled those of European churches. Then we have started our tour, where we have learned about the Mapucho people and how the Spanish started to settle in Santiago. In Plaza de Armas, there is also Municipalidad (City Hall) and Correos (Post Office). From here, we have walked to Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, behind which there is the Corte Suprema (Supreme Court) and Antiguo Congreso (Old Congress Building).
On our way, we passed by some cafes, and our guide explained to us that Café con Piernas (Coffee with legs) is becoming very popular, where sexy waitresses are serving you coffee. She told us that there are even places where there are girls with bikinis and dancing. We sneak peaked into one of them, where there were waitresses with short dresses walking around. We kept on with our tour, and we came to Palacio La Moneda (The Government House) where all the presidents of Chile has worked from. We passed by Allende’s statue that was in front of La Moneda. On the other side of La Moneda there is a large square which used to open to public. But due to various different protest happening in this area, government decided to close it. Also, in this square you will see the massive Chilean flag. Actually you will see Chilean flag in a lot of places, Chileans are patriotic people. An interesting trivia our guide gave us was apparently, there is a fee if you do not hang a flag during the independence day of Chile. That is the day where biggest party in the country happens and everyone hangs Chilean flag on their balconies or put them on the windows.
Then we walked passed Club de la Union and Bar Union. Walking by the New York street, we saw Bolsa de Comercio (Santiago Stock Exchange). We then passed by a street vendor who sells a very typical drink, Copihue-Rico Mote. We couldn’t try it at the time, but decided to try it when we get a chance. We walked by Teatro Municipal (The Opera House) and she told us that to improve public attention to the opera and ballet, the tickets are very cheap for the Opera House, you can even get tickets for 3000 pesos (only ballet was available at that time). Then we walked by Cerro Santa Lucía again, and saw the main statue by the stairs. She told us that this hill was completely arid before, and one day they have decided to make it beautiful. They have built terraces with fresh soil and brought different types of tress, and also sculptures, and they even built a small fortress at the top of the hill, but never has been used for defense purposes. Then we walked by Barrio Lastarria (Lastarria Neighborhood) where we gave a small break to eat. We have tried the empanada de pino (a mixture of meat, olives and some herbs) and drank pisco sour (one of the most popular drink after the wine). From here, we walked to Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts), walked through the Parque Forestal and reached Plaza Italia. On one side of the square there are two big universities, a private one, and a public one, and right next to these two universities, there is the Barrio Bellavista (Bellavista Neighborhood) with one street dedicated to food and the other dedicated to drinking, with Patio Bellavista in between the two streets. We finished our tour at the Casa de Pablo Neruda (La Chascona).
The “quest of bulgur” started after the walking tour. We have promised to cook a mix of Turkish Chilean food for tonight with Sebastian. He was supposed to take care of the meat, while we take care of the sides, and we told him about the bulgur rice, and he has never heard of it, so we decided to cook some for him. First B found an Arabic store online thinking that we could find some there. In Europe and the US, that is usually the case. However, by the time we got to the address, we saw that it was just past 19:00 and it was closed. Then, B come up with this perfect idea to stop by a Turkish restaurant to grab some to go. However, we did not know that (besides shawarma places) there is only one Turkish restaurant in the town. Well, we walked there and tried to explain the situation and waiter told us the chef and the owner is Turkish and we can meet with them to chat. We met with the owner (Onur), apparently he was a backpacker like us and met with a girl in Chile and decided to settle here. They did not have bulgur as a side, so we bought some salad and eggplant meze. The cook said that we can find some bulgur in a big supermarket. We walked another 40 minutes to that place. However, we could not find it there either! Instead we cheated and bought some couscous (not Turkish at all). After making sure that bulgur does not exist in Santiago (based on our best knowledge) we took a cab back to home. When we got back home, we learned from Sebastian that the tall building, where the big supermarket was, was the tallest building in South America, so after all, we had a nice walk by the river to a cool sightseeing place =P We had another great night with our host where we cooked, ate and drank while talking on various topics like politics in Chile, Turkey, our stories etc.
Day 2 – 25 Nov 2016
Our second day also started a little bit late due to some planning items. We made our way to Cerro Santa Lucia park. We wanted to spend a little bit more time here as during the tour we could not go up. It is a beautiful park and you can get to the top to see downtown from above. Honestly, the downtown itself does not have a pretty view as we knew much more about the city we were able to spot buildings and had fun there.
We had to deal with some errands today which included sending a box to the US so we needed to go to the post office. We decided to go to the one which is at the Plaza de Armas. On our way there, we found the Chile’s national drink, Copihue-Rico Mote. We got one and seller told us that we were the first Turkish customer he ever had =). When we get to the square there was a band playing salsa music and some couple was dancing to it. We had our drink there and made our way to the post office.
We needed to make a box to ship. We are both hoarders and we accumulate a lot of maps, flyers and other things on our way. Also M’s headphones got broken so we put that in the box as well. The lady at the counter was very friendly and helpful. We were able to complete all paper work without any English with a mixture of M’s broken Spanish, sign language and writing things down. However, the whole process took some time and we were hungry again.
So, we made our way to the Mercado Central (the central market, aka fish market). It is a victorian style old building. We were advised by our tour guide to try two dishes, Caldillo de Congrio (Pablo Naruda’s favorite soup) and Paila Marina. First soup is a creamy soup with a type of eel fish which has carrots, potatoes as well. It was very delicious. Then, the other soup has around 10 different sea food, mussels, scallops, octopus, shrimp and bunch of other things that we couldn’t even name. One little tip that we can give is when you get into the market you will be introduced to some restaurants. We did not go for them as they are usually more touristy and expensive. We chose Tio Willy and it was good choice in the end. By the way, they serve pisco sour, some salsa, bread and butter as a started. We always like these markets as you can observe various different personalities, the way they work, joke around and interact.
After having this great late lunch/early dinner, we made our way to Cerro (hill) San Cristóbal. You can take the old funicular to get to the top of this hill where there was a large virgin Marry? statue. The ride up cost 2000 pesos round trip per person. We always liked taking these old funiculars, they crack, made weird noises and brings back old memories too. The view from the top was interesting. We did not realize how big the city was before. Santiago covers all the flat land between the tall mountains where they did not prefer (or was not practical) to have any construction on the hills. As a side note, since the city is flat, you will also realize a lot of people uses bikes there. We spent around an hour at the top watching the view of the city and finally we got one of the last funicular back, they stop at 19:45.
We walked through the Bellavista neighborhood again. It was Friday evening and all the bars and restaurants were already full with a lot of young people. Instead of having a drink, we decided to have a dessert =) B had a note about an ice cream chain called Emporio la Rosa. B decided to try the lúcuma ice cream. Lúcuma is a fruit that you can find in Chile and Peru but we never had it before. It has a hint of mango and we really liked it. M got a vanilla ice cream between two biscuit with some honey, almonds and peeled orange topping. We totally recommend this place.
Finally, we had back to home a little bit early to do laundry. M’s grandma was right we actually ran out of clean clothes and we were almost in a desperate situation =). We also took care of some plan tickets that we needed for Bolivia. For the rest of the night, we chatted with Sebastian on Chilean laws, philosophy and our future plans.