Because the previous day’s walking tour did not go into depth that I wanted to, I decided to do a little experiment and see if I could re-trace some of the steps of the day tour. I scanned the map and looked for anything that stood out in terms of tourist sites, landmarks, or famous/popular buildings and there was one that stood out which was the “Plaza de Armas.” I had already seen it, been on it, but it was a stepping stone for me as it was close to Mercado Central where I previously made a mental note about it. Instead of taking the subway to get there, I wanted to get some fresh air and see the city of Santiago from a non-tour guided, foreigner’s perspective. It took at least 30-40 minutes of walking to get to the main plaza, but it also helped build up my appetite for a big lunch that was expected out of me!
As soon as I got to the Mercado, I quickly walked around looking at the day’s catch as well as tried to memorize some of the words that they had signs up for since I was not sure what the seafood words were in Spanish. Afterwards, I walked into the restaurant section and sat down at one place to commence my eating. After the waiter passed me a menu of seafood, I wasn’t sure what to go for first so I selected the Marsical. Knowing nothing about it, I decided to take a stab at it. After several minutes, out came the dish in a metallic bowl filled with what looked like a mix of seafood, served fresh and cold (raw if possible).
I could easily observe that this was a mixture of shrimp, mussels, clams, some onions, some green stuff called utile, and some reddish stuff as well. This reddish stuff was called piure and had this sandy-like taste to it since I could tell that it was raw. I asked around what it looked like and everyone kept telling me that it was like a stone or a rock and people ate the inside of it. I saw a picture of it later on and I was shocked. What? How in the world can that rock-like thing be edible? Just cut it out and take the meat out? I guess that’s what they do in Chile.
I wanted to go elsewhere and try some of other foods that the restaurant area had and chose another place. I sat down at this café-looking place and ordered up some Picorocos al vapor. I didn’t know what the word meant but after looking at the seafood marketplace again, I found out that they were these barnacles. And yes, people do eat them. In my case, it came out in a metallic bowl served hot with the shell cracked for easy consumption.
From this, I figured if this was what people ate, I can eat it too. I can tell from eating it, the taste was like dry chicken and yet it had this seafood-like feeling to it. Once I got to the inside of it, it tasted more like soft, sandy mussel. The soup itself was not at all tasty like the juice you get from steaming clams, but it was seafoody.
The next item I had on my list to eat was sea urchin.
Yes, I have eaten it before at a sushi bar but this time was different as in Spanish it’s called “erizo,” and it would be served without rice and in a such a big quantity – all for myself to eat up. After ordering it, it came out like this, raw.
Well, bottoms up to me! After getting a couple bites in it, I could tell from the texture of its egg-yolk-like feeling, it gave away this slightly, salty jelly flavor. Initially, it was okay eating it but after awhile, I felt disgusted eating it and I wanted to puke after every bite even though I used soy sauce to cover some of its nastiness. But realizing that I bought it and didn’t want to waste money, I decided to finish it all which I somewhat slowly managed to do so. It got so bad that while I walking after lunch, I thought about vomiting it out just to get it out of my body.
Hoping that I could keep holding all that food down especially with the sea urchin, I walked around a bit hoping that by moving a bit would ease my digestion pains. So the next intended location after looking around the shops and stores and seeing what the street vendors were selling was Cerro San Cristobal, part of the big Parque Metropolitano, which would help me get my mind off of my ailing stomach. It was quite a walk away but to me it was worth doing so. It got me going to where I didn’t want to stop and think about that sea urchin. I just kept rolling to where I found myself at the base of San Cristobal. Some of the interesting things about the mountain was that it was higher than the other mountain, Cerro Santa Lucia, and instead of walking up the mountain, people can take a cable car instead.
Probably the highlight about it was the view and the fact that a huge Virgin Mary statue was erected at the high point as a tribute with the surrounding area acting as a church or cathedral but the setting was outdoors on the mountain itself.
The scenery was excellent all over mountain. I wished it was clear of the pollution which would allow for a better view but it was good enough for me.
As I was going down on the cable car, I saw this funny sign that reminded me of an “Ice Scream” sign in the Galapagos.
After coming down from the mountain, I strolled around the main downtown area looking at all the people doing their daily business. I even saw this one guy slapping the hell out of another guy. It must have a business relationship gone sour or two brothers in their old ages getting in an argument of some kind. Oh well, I just walked on until I saw something that caught my eye. It was this darkened place where the windows and door was tinted and I couldn’t see anything through it. That’s when I realized that I found a Café con Piernas. Hey, why not walk into one? And so I did with nothing to expect.
There were two things that I noticed right away which were how dark the place was and the women dressed in bikinis. And these girls were not the ugly ones. They were actually pretty decently good-looking. The first thing I did was order some juice which was obviously over-priced compared to some street vendor’s price. Once my juice was made, some girl in a bikini came up and talked to me, all in Spanish of course. I conversed with her for a while and even asked questions about how this place or places exist. And yup, they sure do. I asked where she was from and found out that she was from Cuba as was everyone else since this particular café was a Cuban-themed one. I talked and drank while some other guys walked in and afterwards, walked out. I didn’t see the big deal about these places that when I saw another one while walking back to the hostel I went in and it was same deal. Over-priced drinks served by a girl in a bikini. Hey, like I learned in economics class that if the business model works then keep doing it!
After seeing the sights and walking around, I had my sights going back to the hostel as there was going to be a special BBQ since the hostel owners’ specialty was asado just like the horse ranchers in Salta, Argentina. All I can say was wow. Asado, no matter where, is always good.