Our journey from Los Angeles to Santiago hit a bit of a snag when our flight left Los Angeles an hour late. With the delay, came a misconnection in Peru. The end result was Tim and I sleeping (trying anyway) on a row of chairs at the Lima airport.
But after a quick email to our hotel, we rescheduled our airport pickup and yesterday afternoon eventually made it safe and sound to our small boutique hotel, Su Merced.
We managed to squeeze in a short nap, briefly explored the immediate neighborhood and had dinner at a local sandwich shop, Fuente Alemana Alameda. Listed as one of the top restaurants in the city, we found it authentic, flavorful and filling.
Word of warning: They serve their burgers/sandwiches with about an inch high pile of mayonnaise and an equally large stack of mashed up avocados if you want them. I love avocados, but the mayo looked horrible, although the locals raved about it.
An early bedtime, and other than one middle of the night session where we both were simultaneously wide awake, we slept like the dead.
This morning we scheduled our breakfast for 8:00 as per a “preorder card” that had been left hanging on our door the evening before. Marking off our selections, we were pleasantly pleased with the tasty, fresh and flavorful breakfast they prepared for us.
Starting with fresh raspberry juice (delicious!) and quality coffee that would make any barista proud. The main courses included scrambled eggs, muffins and toast, ham, cheese, yoghurt, fresh fruit, and granola. I proceeded to make each of us a ham and cheese sandwich which was stuck inside of a plastic bag and placed in my purse for our lunch.
We chose to take two walking tours today that were offered by a company called Tours 4 Tips. You can find more info on them at http://www.tours4tips.com.
While waiting for the tour to start, we met a couple from Atlanta, Mark and Terri who were also taking the same cruise that we are booked on. They had already booked a tour for the next day to Valparaiso that terminates at the pier in San Antonia. They graciously asked us to join them, and we plan on sharing the expenses. It seems like a great opportunity as I had been disappointed that our itinerary did not include Valparaiso.
The morning tour was guided by the charming Gabriella. This was more of an off-the-beaten path tour which included stops at four of the local markets including the fish market and the very large central market.
La Vega Central goes two blocks by four blocks, is clean and offers up a huge selection of local goods and produce. We found out that there is an even larger market that covers seven blocks by fourteen blocks outside of town.
Gabriella treated the group to handmade sopapilla made from flour and ground pumpkin, served with hot salsa, mustard or ketchup. Tim said the hot salsa was fabulous on it.
After a ride on the subway, we made one final stop on the morning tour at the cemetery.
This is one of the largest cemeteries in South America with over 2 million people interned. From paupers to the elite, including all but two of the former presidents are buried here. Because engraving the stones is expensive, most of the cubical style cubbyholes only contain a name and date of death.
Another very interesting thing about the cemetery, is that to save money, after a few years, space can be opened, the remains gathered and placed in a corner, then new remains can be added. It was not unusual to see two or three names on a face plate. The most buried in any one plot is twelve! When we spotted it, the picture I snapped there became my favorite of the day.
There is a section for infants.
I found it fascinating that there is a rental fee that is paid yearly, and if the payment stops, the remains are moved to a common burial site. The place is enormous with 85 hectares (210 acres).
We moved into the area where larger monuments were, including entire buildings that housed members from a group or organization.
And they became even more elaborate as during the time of Chile’s economic boom, it became common for the wealthy to compete for the most beautiful or unique structure in which to house their remains.
And the final resting place of President Salvador Allende Gossens who was ousted in 1973 by a coup when Pinochet took control.
One final treat was a local drink called Terremoto or Earthquake in English.
The recipe is very simple with no measuring required.
- Clump some pineapple ice-cream into a jug.
- Fill the remainder of the jug up with pipeño (or fermented white wine)
- Serve in a glass and drink.
Returning back to the museum, we greedily consumed our sandwiches and toyed with whether or not to skip the afternoon walking tour and cool off inside the museum. While still debating the decision, Mark and Terri, popped out of the museum and indicated that in their opinion the tour would be a better choice.
So, decision made, we headed off with our new guide, Nicole, who hails from Buenos Aires and spoke perfect English. The main items covered on the afternoon tour include La Moneda Palace, Plaza de Armas and Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM).
Walking through the Plaza de Armas we spotted a group of men who have daily chess tournaments, a fountain where children scampered through to cool off from the heat, and the Cathedral which was currently closed in preparation for Christmas and the Pope’s arrival in January.
We were also introduced to a famous artist who does enormous wall murals whose name is Inti. I will have to research him to learn more about his work.
Grabbing dinner at a nearby restaurant, Tim indulged in a big burger and I tried the lighter ceviche. Both meals were downed with an ample supply of sparking water trying to rehydrate ourselves after a full day in the sun.
The one thing I had wanted to see/do was to ride the funicular to the top of the mountain for the views. Unfortunately it is currently closed down for maintenance repairs.
Poor Tim got hit with another bought of MSG poisoning and is currently sound asleep trying to recover. I have my fingers crossed that this does not end up being a repeat of our experiences in Ecuador which forced us to cancel the land portion of our trip and come home early.
At least on the ship, it is easier for him to order specific things he knows are safe and he should be fine there for the first 14 days.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for the knowledgeable walking tour guides who work very hard for their tips.