Started off with the obligatory visit to the Mercado. There are 2 main ones in Santiago; the Vega Mercado is huge, and had both wholesale and retail fruit and vegetable sellers. One one side, was the fish, seafood and meat market, with eateries in the center. Very busy place where we met some interesting people, including a chef who was buying for his catering business. Most interesting for me here was the hustle and bustle, and the size of the onions, local purple garlic (I was told this was their Viagra), & Purple Peppers were also different. Great place to walk around and watch life.
Next door was an area where fresh juices were being made, so had to try them (Nispero is like a Japanese plum; and Chirimoyo is a close cousin of the custard apple). Further down was a fresh flower market, so strolled thru that.
Crossed the River and ended up on the Mercado Central. This was disappointing as it was nothing more than upscale eateries trying to woo tourists; all the local fruit /vegetable sellers had migrated to Mercado Vega. Did not spend much time here.
Had lunch again in a nice outdoor patio café with scantily clad waitresses
Santiago is in a huge flat valley surrounded by mountains, some of them snow capped. Within Santaigo, there are 7 hills. The most famous ones are “Virgen Cumbre” and the Cerro Santa Lucia.
The Cerro Santa Lucia was used as a hilltop defence spot during some long ago war; but was converted into a nice hill garden for the city to enjoy. This is a nice area to visit and walk through the gardens, and has a nice bohemian type Barrio to one side of it.
The Virgen Cumber is the highest hill in Santiago, where a statue of the Virgin Mary was erected to solidify the catholic faith here. Pope John Paul II is supposed to have prayed at one of the churches here. To get up this hill, one can drive up, climb up, bike up, or take the funicular; we took this easy way up
The funicular cost about $1 per person, and took us up the steep incline to most of the way up. (There is supposed to be a zoo half way up the hill, but we did not go there). Once up, there are kiosks selling tourist trap stuff, and a couple of café’s. The views from here are quite spectacular as you can see the very large city of Santiago all around the hill. We got some great views as the day was totally clear. There were many mountain bikers here so this place is used recreationally. Had a café and relaxed, and then walked up more steps to a church, and a large open air auditorium where vents are held. Very nice location for an auditorium. Climbed up some more and came to the base of the Virgin Mary statue. The statue was nice, but only about one quarter the size of the Cristo Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro. Great views all around.
Beautiful views from the hilltop of the surrounding Andes
Walked down, and were relaxing in the café’s waiting for dusk so we could see the night lights of the city; when someone mentioned that the funicular was closing. Rushed over to the funicular only to be informed that it had closed for the night (it was 6:45PM and still quite light). No warning, and no heads up or advance notice when we came up.
So went to the parking lot to find a taxi or public transportation. There was no public transportation, and only 1 taxi that had just arrived. Tried to hire the taxi for the 7km drive to the bottom, when the taxi driver informed me that he had brought some people up here, and was hired to wait and take them down. He called his company, but for some reason, no taxi was going to come up here. So decide to start hiking and flag down a ride (the trail down was also closed). We waved down a private car that was going down, and he agreed to take us down for a fee. So we hopped in, drove down the steep and curvy roads to Barrio Bella Vista. He dropped us off and asked for 5,000 Pesos. The smallest note we had was a 10,000 Peso note, and he naturally did not have any change, so the ride cos us about $15; not well worth it. Note to keep small change with us always.
Bario Bella Vista is a university area, and very popular with upscale restaurants in an area called Patio Bella Vista; which were all advertising happy Hour. Since it was not yet dark, we decided to partake of Happy Hour and try some local cerveza. Then headed to the local restaurants that were packed with locals for some seafood. Nice evening in all.