Ponchos, Protests, and Architectural Plagiarism

So it’s my Friday off, and I’m back in Santiago.  First item of the day was to go to the office with my boss to sort out something.  We did nearly meet an early death as we crossed the road, as a bus decided that a banterous start to the day would be to attempt to run us over. Anyway, the office stuff only took about ten minutes, and then I was free to enjoy the city.

After topping up my phone and tarjeta bip!, I ventured over to Santa Lucía, which is one of the downtown areas of Santiago.  My colleagues had told me that there’s a market there that sells Chilean things. Along the way, I saw down the road there was a tower.  Maybe it’s just me, but it looked extremely familiar.  Yes everyone, it was a sort of replica of London’s iconic Post Office Tower.

Post Office Tower 2

Post Office Tower 2

After walking around for quite a while, I eventually found the place.  It was dull of small stalls with various wares.  Some bloke, spotting that I wasn’t local (those of Saxon heritage are as subtle as a punch in the face around here), tried to flog me some “silver” that he said was “very cheap”.  The words “seems legit” popped into my head at this point, and I politely went on my way.  Shops seem to open late here, and a lot of shops were still shut (it was gone 11 at this point). Anyway, after some perusing, I got talking to a very nice lady who ran a shop that sold ponchos.  I explained that I needed something warm for the desert, and she showed me the various types that she had.  I thanked her, and went to look at the other shops.  I came back to hers, as she had the best selection.  After asking which type she preferred (as they were all the same price), I bought one.

The market of Chilean stuff

The market of Chilean stuff

I looked around some more, and also popped into a copper shop, and bought a small jug.  I thought I had to buy some copper at some point, seeing as copper is sort of my job here.

I emerged from the market to come across a protest.  Quite what they were protesting about was unclear.  Only two people had signs, with the vast majority opting for Chilean flags and vuvuzelas instead.

After this unusual spectacle, it was almost lunchtime.  I’d been recommended a place near the hotel, but I decided to stick around the Santa Lucía area instead, as I wanted to explore some more.

Yes, people have vandalised that church.

Yes, people have vandalised that church! (Click to enlarge)

While walking around looking for somewhere to eat, I came across more themed shopping places.  The first one was a small centre for jewellers, while outside was what can be only described as the optician district.  Quite why you need 40+ (genuinely, there were this many) opticians in one block beats me, but there you go!

Anyway, the food I’d been told to try is called completo, which is a sort of Chilean hot dog.  I came across a place that was rather originally called El Completo, so there wasn’t much imagination required to work out what they served.  Admittedly, it looked a bit like the sort of place where food poisoning could come as a free side order, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained (and I decided its effects couldn’t be worse than those from a dodgy lunch I had in China once).

I went in and was utterly bewildered by the choices.  I had absolutely no idea what the different types were, so I took a punt, and opted for the italiana.  A few minutes later, it was brought to my table.  A large hot dog, with tomatoes, sour cream, and guacamole.  Not bad for £1.50!  A lucky gamble if I might say so myself!

Completa Italiana

Completa Italiana

After lunch, it was time for more walking.  Yes, I was a bit lost, but lost in a good way.  All sorts of shops are around here, from ships that sell posters, to shops that sell postres.  Not a couple of words you want to get mixed up, unless the idea of nailing cake to your wall is how you get your kicks (you sick people)!

Another interesting shopping centre loomed up, and I went in in order to cut through to the next street.  I passed a café called Café Matte, which I assumed meant they sold mate which is on my list of things to try.  “Ideal”, I thought, “I can try mate here!”.  That thought process was brought to an abrupt halt upon closer inspection.  Quite how the combination of a tea room, and what appeared to be a pole dancing venue would work eluded me, but I decided that it would have to remain one of life’s little mysteries.

Seedy tearoom, or just clever advertising? You decide!

Seedy tearoom, or just clever advertising? You decide! (Click to enlarge)

I continued through the shopping centre, and emerged in the midday sun, greeted by a powerful smell of urine, to Santiago’s answer to Covent Garden.

Live music, and about a million artists selling paintings were in the square.  On the other side, a few of the protesters from earlier were standing about.  Turns out it’s the postmen (presumably on strike).

Postman Pat's on strike again!

Postman Pat’s on strike again!

The square was called Plaza de Armas, and the Museum of National History was there.  However, so was a group of loud shouty people with drums and megaphones (accompanied by sirens).  I decided at this point that discretion was the best part of valour, and a hasty retreat at this point might be sensible, just in case, so I headed out of the square to the north.  The streets turned into high rise blocks of flats, with small (and very tired) shops hustling around at the bottom. It reminded me a bit of Croydon High Street the week before the riots (yes I was there looking for jobs, glad I didn’t find one, as half the area was razed to the ground the next week).  I ended up wandering for a while, hopelessly lost amongst the streets, before I stumbled back upon optician land.  From there, I headed back to the hotel, satisfied with the morning.

Me in my new woolly poncho

Me in my new woolly poncho

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