Valpo to Santiago
I really had wanted to do the “alternative” tours4tips walking tour in Santiago, however the 10 am start time was a bit problematic as I was waking up in Valpo. Thanks to the fact I had gone to bed at 7 pm the night before after my day of wine tasting in Casablanca (oops), I woke up at 7 am feeling well rested. Even still, getting packed, taking a bus to the bus terminal, busing to Santiago, and taking the metro to Devin’s apartment got me in around 11. There was another “classic highlight” tour4tips walking tour at 3, so I settled for that.
Santiago Markets – Mercado Central
In the mean time I decided to check out the famous Mercado Central and La Vega market that Santiago is known for. With a map in hand I set out, quickly making it to Mercado Central (thanks to Devin’s apartment being in a killer location). Mercado Central was not quite as exciting as I had expected. It was definitely interesting located in a beautiful historic building with an overwhelming fish market and somewhat charming restaurants, but it felt less like an actual market than I was expecting. After walking the whole thing I bought a pino empanada (this one quite different from the one in Valpo, but just as tasty!) and headed out to La Vega market.
La Vega Market
La Vega is enormous, I spent over an hour just wandering through and am convinced that I still didn’t see it all. It has EVERYTHING, mountains of fruits and veggies, meat, vitamins, sauces, dog food, artesian shops… You name it. Agriculture in Chile is a very important industry, especially as they are separated from most major communities by the Andes. Therefore when coming into Chile they are incredibly strict about making sure you are not carrying any fruit or veggies, as a bad bacteria could potentially wipe out their agriculture and they would be somewhat stranded. Therefore the quantity and quality of the produce was amazing. Beautiful colors, incredible sizes, and fun booths make it impossible to not start shopping for dinner. After seeing an artichoke (which I haven’t seen in South America yet) I was hooked. I got veggies, ginger, garlic, and chicken to make a stir fry and of course, a giant artichoke.
Classic Santiago Walking Tour with Tours4Tips
I dropped off my goodies back at the apartment, joined Devin and his coworkers for a quick lunch at Hog, a gourmet hot dog place, and made my way to the Museo de Bellas Artes to meet my tour. I was starting to get a little tired and made the bad decision to do my tour in Spanish. In Valpo the Spanish tour was great, I was wide awake and there was more walking and a little less talking. Although with the Spanish tour I was rewarded by being a part of a group of 5 (the English group was about 25) and getting to chat with 3 Argentine girls (yay Argentina castellano!), a two Peruvians.
Santiago Street Art – Ekekos
We started off by making our way down to the Bella’s Artes Metro station where there are 2 incredible murals of ekekos, good luck dolls from Northern Chile, that depicted important aspect of Chilean culture.
Plaza de Armas + the Presidential Palace
We then continued to Plaza de Armas and learned the importance of each building surrounding the plaza and walked through a spectacular church. At the presidential palace Max, our guide, then gave a brief history lesson focused around Salvador Allende, the first elected Socialist president whose term preceded the Pinochet dictatorship. I was bummed that I didn’t have the mental capacity to try to understand Spanish, as I find that history fascinating.
Cafe con Piernas
We learned about “café con piernas,” cafes where the waitresses wear tight short dresses with stilettos and the windows to the outside are blurred out around the middle section so you can only see legs from the outside.
The tour finished off by walking by Cerro Santa Lucia and exploring the Santiago cultural center. By the time the tour ended I was cold and exhausted, looked like Cerro San Cristobal was going to have to wait until my next trip to Santiago. I headed back to the apartment to cook up all my goodies from the La Vega market, the artichoke was a wonderful taste of home. 🙂 The night was relaxing and I took a bath, which was a definite highlight of my time in the city.
The next morning I headed up North to the desert to explore the mysterious San Pedro de Atacama!