Award Trips

Mendoza Trip Report #11: A Day in Santiago

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The next morning we breakfasted in the Grand Hyatt Santiago Club Lounge and made our plans for the day, deciding on a stroll through the historic district and the local churches. I’d read about the risk of being swindled by local taxis, so either wanted to take the hotel car or the metro.

The concierge assured us the metro was close and a straight shot, so we opted for that. It wasn’t far, necessarily, but a good 20 min brisk walk. He had neglected to tell us that extremely pale US citizens aren’t common on the streets in May and that we would get lots of catcalls and whistles from random vans and trucks. We decided on a cab for the way back

The Escuela Militar metro entrance wasn’t easy to find. It was “under the overpass and over the underground shopping.” Tickets were really easy to purchase though and only 1,000 pesos for two tickets ($2). The maps were well marked, the stations and cars were really clean, and everything felt similar to the DC metro system,  except the top windows were kept open which made it fairly breezy.

Santiago Metro

We got off at La Moneda on the far southwestern corner of the historic district and promptly lost our bearings. The street maps near the stations were too far away to see cross streets too, which made it even more difficult to figure out where we were. But we did eventually and headed into the older part of the city.

The first thing that struck us was the stray dogs. The stray dogs that could new pedestrian rules and waited for traffic lights to change?


The stray dogs that formed a pack and started attacking a small truck at a stop light…which eventually limped to a stop half a block later, one tire completely flattened. They seemed like a group of teenage hoodlums, running up and down the blocks with an air of looking for trouble (or vehicular victims).

Eventually we made it to the Cathedral de Santiago and took in its beautiful interior, before heading down the Plaza de Armas.

Cathedral de Santiago

Interior of Cathedral de Santiago

The Plaza de Armas, a pedestrian street primarily boasted shoe stores and hot dog stands. Lots and lots of hot dog stands.

We walked through the meat and produce markets and then went east a few blocks to check out the Belles Artes area. That featured some beautiful, ornate buildings, but only lasted a few blocks, and after walking for 45 minutes, we had basically covered all of the historic district.

At that point it was almost lunch time so we headed to the Mercado Central, home of the famed fish market, to eat lunch. Incidentally the month after we got back, National Geographic named it one of the Top 10 Food Markets in the World.

Mercado Central Santiago Fish Market

Mercado Central Santiago Fish Market

After wandering past many claustrophobic restaurants tucked in among the fish stalls, we settled on La Joya del Pacifico in the center of the market.

la joya del pacifico

Excited, we sat down, took the menu, and realized my ability to translate “pescado” was not going to help us in a fish restaurant. It’s not like Chilean Sea Bass was going to be appear as pescado de chile…Our poor waiter hailed an English speaking person who came over and helped us figure out the various types of fish.

We ordered, enjoying the fresh bread and amazing salsa while awaiting our dishes.

While we were waiting another waiter saw us pondering our map and came over to chat. Mario spoke decent English and had soon possessed himself of our map, marking places we should go. He also possessed himself of much of our attention throughout the meal, stopping by to show off seafood, offer complimentary crème de menthe apertifs (because we said we liked wine!?), and eventually his number.

We’d each tried a new type. Amy liked her fish, I liked mine but wished I hadn’t gotten the white sauce with mealy shrimp on top. Still, we were full and happy and appreciated Mario’s kind attention and help translating.

There weren’t any English speaking tourists while we were there, few tourists at all actually, and we didn’t realize we had attracted more than just Mario’s attention. On the way out the fish stall tenders were quite aggressive with their compliments and offers.

Practically running out at the end, we decided to walk to the Funicular which didn’t look very far on the map. Again, it wasn’t far, or it wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t missed our turn a ½ mile back, but we hadn’t counted on the sidewalk running out. At times we were scootching along the narrow edge of curb bordering a very busy road. To make it even better, we’d stopped at a grocery store along the way to pick up souvenier snack foods and a bottle of bubbly, so we were burdened with some heavy bags.

We did make it to San Cristobal Hill, and took the quaint conveyance up to the top. It was beautiful, but the smog, obscured most of the view. The area around San Cristobal was inviting, lots of pretty cafes with tempting menus. If we go back we’ll definitely spend time there over the historic district. On the way down we decided to grab a cab, which made for a funny ride.Funicular to San Cristobel Hill

Our driver spoke no English, but after hearing I spoke “un poco” (yes, I now know it should have been “un poquito”) he proceeded to fire non-stop questions for the rest of the ride. My high school level Spanish was holding up ok, although about 1/3 of his questions had me shrugging sheepishly. Then he started asking what the weather was like where we were from. “DC es muy caliente ahora.” Judging from him laugh and “Hace mucho calor” I realized I probably said something like “DC is so sexy right now.” Something my merciless friends later confirmed.

We arrived at the hotel quickly, the cab had a meter, and the driver was great, dispelling my fear that they’re all out to rip off US tourists.

Previous Posts:

Mendoza Trip Report #1 — IAD-MIA
Mendoza Trip Report #2 — Element by Westin Miami Airport

Mendoza Trip Report #3 –MIA -(Caracas?)- SCL
Mendoza Trip Report #4 — Holiday Inn Santiago Airport

Mendoza Trip Report #5 — SCL-MDZ

Mendoza Trip Report #6: Day 1 of Wine Tasting
Mendoza Trip Report #7: Park Hyatt Mendoza

Mendoza Trip Report #8:Day 2 of Wine Tasting

Mendoza Trip Report #9: CarinaE, the Vines, and Amazing Food
Mendoza Trip Report #10: Arriving Santiago

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