It was Saturday morning.
So I've been in Chile for two weeks and haven't really seen anything but office and home. I was dying to see parts of the city. It was also a very sad situation because by design or by fate, I do not have a camera with me. I'd given the old one to my brother and I could not buy the new one in time for the trip. I've been damning myself for that mistake – this city is very nice and there are so many nice shots I could visualize. Okay – enough cribbing!
So on Saturday my classmate from GSB who also happens to intern in Santiago called up and we made plans to explore some part of the city. So we discussed and consulted people and numerous guides (we always make a fuss) and finally decided on Plaza de Armas in the center of Santiago.
Santiago has a decent metro system and we took the Red line to the la moneda stop, from where Plaza de Armas is a nice walk through an array of government buildings.
Right outside the station – we found a Burger King. Before we crossed two blocks – we saw three Burger King Outlets. This city is has SO much American fast food. You cannot walk 3 blocks without seeing a KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut or a McDonald. Even though I was hungry, we decide to skip the Amrican options and walked further.
The first building we saw was the presidential palace, El Palacio de la Moneda. This is a Chilean National Monument and historical building, closely tied to a lot of historical events in Chile. The President works here. It was surprisingly easy to get access to walk on the patios of the palace – ask one of the guards and you're all set to enter; with camera! To go inside the building, we need ID proof and have to go through a security check. Still, we were allowed to take cameras without any question. May be I am overreacting here. The palace has a gorgeous fountain inside and there are beautiful cast metal structures to capture your imagination. But the best part of entering into the building was the Orange trees. I've never seen one in my life – and these trees were loaded with ripe oranges!
In front of the presidential palace is a huge park and there are many government buildings around the palace. My friend and I walked through these buildings and reached one of those Chilean market places which was SO full of people, we were thrilled. The place had concrete roads, benches in the middle of these roads and all shops were very very colorful. My friend went crazy taking "I was here" pictures :) We then grabbed a quick bite at a nearby café (which surprisingly had an English menu, but less than average food) and walked further. On the way, we also purchased the biggest and the tastiest dark grapes I've ever seen. Delicious!!!
Plaza de Armas is quite a phenomenon. It is like an open fair – and there was so much cheap (I mean really cheap) artwork you could buy here, we were really amazed. This is like the everyday or weekend carnival of Santiago. We enjoyed every moment we spent there. The place also has a huge park with a lot of trees (imagine a concrete square, with concrete roads, having a thick bunch of trees – an oasis of sorts really) and there were small shops under these trees selling all sorts of stuff. Heck, there was a small hall where people were busy playing Chess! We spent almost 30 – 45 minutes just gaping at the buzzing energy and diversity of the place.
Our last stop for the day was the Mercado Central, a huge and busy market place (lots of seafood and meat being sold here). Just an old school market place that amazed me with its scale. We ended the evening by walking into one of the many tiny little restaurants in this place and tasting Ceviche. It was the best thing I'd eaten since I'd set my foot on Chilean soil. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes sea food – it was the best closure to the evening.
More about Santiago and Chile, as and when more weekend tours happen :)
PS: Check this page for a virtual tour of central Santiago. This is a HUGE place and will probably take like a day to explore. We only explored parts of it.
PPS: A lot of things are inferred, given my poor Spanish skills. If something needs correction, please let me know and I'll change it.