Friday, January 1, 2010

Chile, Day 5

Happy New Year!

Last night I opted to await the New Year on the rooftop of the building adjoining my hotel. (Because of the rooftop pool, the hotel’s guests have access to the area.) Although only about 10 other people were there when I arrived at 11:30, by the time midnight rolled around and the fireworks show started there were well over 100 people. The main fireworks show was far from grand, but the nice thing was that there were four other fireworks shows going on simultaneously on the outer edges of Santiago, and from the rooftop, if you were sitting on, say, a rotating platter, or a Sit-N-Spin, you could have seen a new explosion of color in the sky with every 90 degrees that you turned. It ended after 20 minutes and I returned to my room and went to bed.

At around 10 in the morning, when I finally managed to leave the hotel, I found a city without people. All the shops and restaurants were closed, no one was on the sidewalks, and not a car could be seen or heard in the streets. It was a little eerie. But I figured there’d be people in the Plaza de Armas, so I walked there, stepping gingerly over a scattered army of sleeping drunks, and decided I’d enter the one place that happened to be open to the public: the Catedral Metropolitana. I’m not religious or anything, but on New Year’s morning it felt kind of nice to enter a huge cathedral in Santiago’s main plaza and be greeted with an overwhelming silence. Since I was wearing shorts I didn’t venture too far inside, but it was enough to hang out in the back and just observe people’s goings-on.

Inside of the Catedral Metropolitana on the Plaza de Armas.

From there, I eventually found myself back at El Mercado Central, mostly because I thought it, too, would be open on New Year’s morning. It turned out that it was, and I wandered once more through the seafood department, which was much better stocked this time around. It even had fresh sea squirt, though I didn’t pull an Andrew Zimmern – who was shocked when he saw what it looked like here – and eat a piece of it raw. Since I wasn’t hungry yet, I kept wandering around and people-watched until I was hungry. Then I came back to have my first real meal of the New Year. (My free hotel breakfast didn’t count – I was served toast, coffee, peach nectar, and a chocolate Ding Dong.)

That giant log of ocean grit and shell is actually a colony of sea squirts.

I came across this place near the Central Market. Those are the worst depictions of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley I've ever seen. Surprisingly, the place appeared to be a cultural center.

I chose a restaurant near the back entrance called Marisqueria Clarita, in part because the people working there didn’t aggressively try to herd me inside, which is what so many of the restaurants here do. I ordered fried salmon with potato salad and mixed greens (4500 pesos/US$8.87), and while waiting in my seat was approached by a drunk man trying to sell me his old bus pass; had a dog unsuccessfully attack a cat beneath the table next to mine; and was watched intensely for about five minutes by another drunk man teetering against a wall opposite me.

From my table I could see all the action, which tended to center on drunk people.

In any case, my food arrived, the drunks were chased off, and I dug in. My salmon actually came deep-fried, I think, and yes, it was good. It was almost like biting into salmon cake, but that description will probably leave you with the wrong impression. The portion they served was enormous, and by the time I’d finished I wasn’t sure I could walk all the way home. But walk home I did, first stepping over more drunk revelers from last night by the market's exit. Marisqueria Y Restaurante Clarita is at Mercado Central, Local 97. Tel: 687-3975. I highly recommend it for the quality of the food, the good prices, and the friendly people who run it.

Fried salmon with lots of extras.

Later in the afternoon, still with hardly anything open, I decided to climb to the top of Cerro Santa Lucia, which is in Santiago Centro – only about a five-minute walk from my hotel. There were quite a few people already here, picnicking and canoodling, and the climb to the top was fairly crowded. I’m not sure why this park is here, other than because a Santiago mayor in the 19th century decided to make one out of this giant mound in the middle of the city. But whoever designed the park did a great job.

I snapped this photo about two-thirds of the way up the hill. The mountain in the background is the one I climbed over yesterday.

It’s a wonderful oasis filled with all kinds of shady vegetation, sculptures, fountains, cannons, brick edifices that resemble fortresses, and areas for viewing the city and the surrounding Andes.

I have no idea what this building is, or was, for. But it's kind of charming standing high above the city.

When dinnertime rolled around, my options were limited. I actually went with pizza – Amasanderia “Papy’ Pizza” – mostly because it was virtually the only thing open and because it was right across the street from my hotel.

Get on Juan Carlos's good side -- he may give you free pizza.

It was my first South American pizza, and I have to say, it was pretty darned good: a somewhat thick crust, very little tomato sauce, a generous sprinkling of oregano, and cheese, mushrooms, pepperoni, ham, and sausage. Not exceptional, but for less than $1 a slice (500 pesos), combined with a super-friendly owner named Juan Carlos who rewarded me with a free slice for engaging with him in what was ultimately pretty ridiculous Spanglish, it was definitely worth it. Juan Carlos serves handmade pizzas and also empanadas, as well as some desserts.

Papy Pizza can be found on Monjitas, on the corner of an alley between Mosqueto and Miraflores. I don’t know their hours, but I know they open early and close late.

A bad photo, but the grease was quickly soaking through my takeaway paper bag...

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  1. You are really travelling well & you see a lot!! I like travelling like that too!!

    Lovely pictures & thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Sapuche!

  2. Sophie: Yes, and now I'm exhausted! Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to see where I traveled. Suerte, Sophia!