You are reading the first of what will be many, many blog posts about the Wayfaring Seels! We are currently relaxing on the rooftop terrace of our hotel in Valparaiso and catching up on our frenetic 96 hours of travel so far.
Our flight arrived in Santiago very late at night, and between changing money and trying to find my bag, our arrival at the hotel was delayed until 2:30 AM.
After sleeping in a generous amount, we explored Santaigo's central core. A short walk led us to Cerro Santa Lucia, one of the two main hills in the valley that encompasses the city. Take the time to meander through the park's many pathways. You'll find a wide variety of flora, from succulents, jacaranda, and geraniums to cacti and aloe plants. The park contains colonial arches, gardens, rocky outcrops and a lookout perch at the summit. The 360-degree views of skyscrapers and mountains make the climb worth it.
For lunch, we had the obligatory "Italiano" and "Completa" hot dogs - riddled with avocado, tomato, and mayonnaise (the Completa adds sauerkraut). The restaurant Elkika has great German-style beer and decor to match. If it weren't for the flurry of Spanish conversation, you might think you were in Düsseldorf.
In the late afternoon we wandered over to the Mercado Central, which stupefied us with their collection of odorous fish. I expected the market to have a spectrum of produce and products, but it is primarily a fish market. The stalls displayed many species of indigenous fish with nary a bed of ice to be seen. By the time we arrived around 5 PM, I'd doubt the freshness of that stuff.
I'd heard of a lively bar caddy-corner from the Mercado called La Piojera. As per my typical ways, I forgot to write down the name of the bar, so I was unable to remember anything other than the color of the building - orange - and that the name started with a "P". Luckily, Lindsay kept pushing forward when I was about to give up after nearly walking the whole neighborhood, and we found the place. I'm darn glad we did.
La Piojera was the highlight of Santiago. The joint was packed with locals slugging down a drink called El Terremoto (the earthquake). Composed of pineapple sorbet, chicha, and fernet branca or grenadine, it'll knock you over for sure. With very little convincing, I got the manager to let me behind the bar to try my hand at making some. I wasn't nearly quick enough, but the crowd ate it up. (Especially when I knocked one over!)
With a solid buzz and tired legs, we grabbed dinner at the Liguria restaurant next to our hotel. The food was decent, especially my conger eel stew (paila de congria). Thus ended our 24 hour breeze through Santiago.
For a city about which I'd heard mixed reviews, I found it to be safe, welcoming, and lots of fun.