Flew into Santiago, Chile arriving early morning after a 10hr flight. For a taxi into the centro, prices started at about 30k pesos (~$40+) just past the customs area; went outside the terminal and haggled with a few taxi drivers and got the fare down to 15k pesos; much more reasonable. I like this place already 🙂
Taxi dropped us in the busy centro area and we checked into the hotel; this part of the city is older and more historic; rooms are generally smaller and older. The small B&B we had booked turned out not to be satisfactory (smelt dingy, damp), so we told the owner, Sebastian, in our broken Spanish, that we were not happy, He was obliging and told us to check out a couple of nearby hotels, which we did.
Found a better 3 star hotel nearby, and moved there and got settled. The front staff also spoke some English, so got directions and started the sightseeing. Since we were in the old town center, we were able to walk around most of the historic areas like the Plaza Des Armes, the San Francisco Cathedral, the National Congress, National Library, the Judiciary etc.
All these were majestic Colonial buildings and squares, all built in the Spanish colonial styles. All were in good shape and well maintained. The Plaza Des Armes was particularly busy with lots of people walking, chilling, kids playing around the fountain, tours going thru; in general a good place to people watch. Locals were quite friendly and were curious where we came from and what we thought of Chile.
Chile got independence from Spain over 200yrs ago (1810), so it not a 3rd world country but more like a 1.5 world country. There were lots of well dressed people in the streets going about their daily business like in any European city. So felt very much like a European city. Seemed safe, though I did get warned by a coupe of friendly locals to wear my camera around my neck and shoulders to prevent snatching.
There were lots of restaurants and outdoor cafés everywhere (weather was a perfect 75F, so lots of people on outdoor patios). Many of the small cafés had good looking women waitresses wearing very short, tight dresses, to attract customers. I am getting to like this place even more 🙂
Had a quick a la carte lunch in an outdoor patio, as Almuerzo time was almost over. The cost for sit-down lunch was approx. $7 per person; not bad. Walked around some more, and found some pedestrian only streets which were even busier with people, shopping, cafes etc. Very nice.
Went back to the hotel to relax, and then decide to go to a recommended hole in the wall fish restaurant for dinner, as it was dark by now. Since this place was a little far, decide to check out the subway system. The subway station (Univ of Chile) was closest to us, so went there. It was very clean, well organized and efficient. Purchased tickets (600 Pesos to go anywhere the subway went; less than $1), and got on the subway. Got off at our station, and walked to where the restaurant was.
Got there, and found that the address was actually a fish shop, with a closed (cerrado) sign on the door. Just our luck. Dilshad spotted saw someone inside working, so knocked on the door & the man came and opened the door. Asked him about the restaurant and he invited us inside, and showed us to a trapdoor with a ladder for stairs leading down to the basement; where there were a number of locals dining away. We had found the restaurant . Ordered some cerveza, ceviche and grilled salmon which came in short order. Very fresh seafood which was delicious. The seafood entrees ran about $9 each, which was a great price for fresh seafood.
After this feast, we climbed back out, paid at the fish store entrance (cash only, no CC’s) and made our way back to the subway. Got to the subway at 11PM, and found all the cashiers for purchasing tickets had closed down. Last train was at 11:18PM, but there was no way to buy tickets from the machines, as the machines only refilled plastic cards which we did not have.
Fortunately for us, there was a man behind us who spoke good English (was an English teacher) that Dilshad had been chatting up; who was in line to refill his card. He recognized our dilemma and he offered to refill his card with our fares on his card in exchange for our cash, and then let us into the subway train with his card. Very nice and fortunate for us. Mental note to be better informed/prepared about public transportation.
Got the last subway back and hit the sack.
More on Santiago next