Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Santiago de Chile, day 2 - Strikes, legs, and coffee

Today I was planning to walk all day long so I thought I'd better start with some breakfast.

I headed to Café Haiti in the financial district for a typical Santiago breakfast: café con piernas. Yes, you heard it right: coffee with legs. You pay for your coffee at the door (cappuccino for me) and then hand the receipt at the counter to one of the waitresses who will bring you your coffee. What about the legs, you ask? Well, the thing is all waitresses are wearing high heels and incredibly short skirts! The environment is surprisingly conservative though, and most customers are businessmen on the way to or on a break from work.

As I walked out of Café Haiti I heard a very loud protest not too far away. Sensing some good photo opportunities I decided to run after the mob but I was too late and I couldn't track them down. Oh yes, half the population of Santiago seems to be on strike. In my three days here I saw at least a dozen different strikes around the city. Strikes are such a South American thing, I had completely forgotten about them. You'd think we are descendants of the French.

I then moved on to some of the common tourist destinations of Santiago, all nice enough but nothing special: Palacio de la Moneda (the presidential palace, which is quite compact when compared to its Brazilian and Argentinean counterparts), the Museo Precolombiano de Arte Chileno for some history lessons on the pre-Colombian civilizations in America, and the Plaza de Armas, Santiago's central square where the city was founded.

I decided to go on a bit of a longer walk north as I was determined to visit the Mercado Central, where you can buy (very cheap) a wide variety of fish and all kinds of seafood imaginable. In the market there are also countless restaurants (not so cheap) where you can try some of the food. While Santiago's Mercado Central is very nice, it is getting a bit too touristy for my taste, and I think the central market in Florianópolis is nicer both inside and outside, and you can walk around without being hassled by waiters trying to get you to eat at their restaurant. Plus, the food in Florianópolis is better as well.

After lunch at the market I was so tired that I walked back to the hotel for a siesta. When in Rome...

Some sleep was all I needed to recharge the batteries as by 3 pm I was ready to head out to Cerro Santa Lucia, a park built on and around a small mount sprouting right in the middle of the city centre. This was the highlight of the day, maybe because I wasn't expecting much. But the park is definitely worth a visit. It is full of plazas, viewpoints, statues, love seats, narrow stairways, and hidden corners to explore. If you climb all the way to the top (quite a hike!) you get a 360 view of Santiago, and a nice view of the Andes as far as your eyesight will stretch (or as far as the smog will allow). You also get a privileged view of Cerro San Cristóbal, Cerro Santa Lucia's big brother where Santiago's Zoo is located. I walked about 25 minutes all the way to Cerro San Cristóbal but unfortunately it was closed due to a strike. Later when I got to the hotel I learned that the walk to San Cristóbal didn't have to be a complete waste as I was a short stroll from Pablo Neruda's house-turned-museum but missed it. Doh!

Then it was time for a quick dinner at the Barrio Bellavista with a couple of other tourists I met at random and take the subway back to the hotel for a good night sleep. Tomorrow I've got some wine tasting to do!

No comments: