We stayed in Santiago for a couple of days before heading up to Ecuador, and then again just before our flight back to Sydney.
We did walk around Santiago, but found it to be quite a bland city. There are museums and sights to see, however, all the information displayed at those places are in Spanish! It is quite inaccessible to the English speaking tourist. Given this state of affairs, we decided to focus on an amazing experience, which is why we did a Chilean Cooking class tour with Uncorked.
We met our host and chef, Francisco, and our fellow tour mates Amanda and Andy, from Colorado, in front of the Mercado Central, which is the fish market. It was really exciting to see the fishmongers, they had so many different types of seafood, like Pippin, Hake, Conger (eel), salmon, abalone, mussels, sea urchin, purie (which was described as a condensed seafood flavour). Apparently South American people don’t eat much fish, as it is quite expensive for the average family.
We stopped by the flower market, the flowers were so fresh and smelled lovely, plenty of roses in preparation for Valentine’s Day. Francisco explained that you can buy a bunch of lovely roses for AUD$1 – I wish I had that life. In Australia, a bunch of roses on Valentine’s Day can cost about AUD$100, and that’s on the cheap side!
Then we headed to the meat market, where I saw people outside the market selling organic chickens, these chickens looked a lot leaner and yellower than the commercial grade chickens, and still had all of their innards. They also sell a lot of charcuterie meats, a skill which they learned from the Germans. After that, we headed to the dry market, where you can find any number of pickles, dried chillies, nuts and cereals.
We went to the vege and fruit market, I couldn’t believe how fresh, pristine and cheap the strawberries were! There are hundreds of varieties of corn, and some of the corn ears are as big as my arm. Massive squash and pumpkin. The fruit and veg here are fresh, but I found a lot of the vendors let bad fruit/veg sit with the good.
Once we had finished shopping, we headed to the Uncorked headquarters to prepare our dishes. First Francisco showed us how he made Sopiapillas, which are a type of fried bread. We made a salsa to go with it (simple but delicious!). I got chilli in my eye, it had a really mean burn. We made Pisco Sours, which were so tasty! Francisco used a not simple syrup, which was an infusion of ginger, cinnamon and pineapple skin, it tasted fantastic in the pisco sour. We made ceviche for the entree, which was really so tasty, and quite easy to put together – Francisco used the pippin fish, I have no idea what the Australian-equivalent name is, but apparently kingfish, salmon, and any firm meat fish will work. Then we made the dessert – red wine poached pears with creme anglaise, and the main, pastel de choclo, which I am obsessed about. Pastel de choclo is similar to a shepherds pie, it just has a corn mash instead of potato mash. Francisco’s version is really savoury, which I prefer, and he used a really awesome part of the beef, the sirloin tip, which really made the dish. Francisco also provided matched Chilean wines with all of the dishes, so we were feeling quite buzzed! I would highly recommend this tour, it was a really fun experience.
After the cooking class, we decided to take in the sights of Santiago. We walked to Cerro San Cristobal. We took the funicular up to the top, took in the panoramic view and the Virgin statue, and then headed back down. It was a really hot day, and we were stuffed full of food, so we headed back to the apartment to rest.
We visited the Cerro Central which is the old post office. I couldn’t believe they had stamps from all over the world dating back as far as the 1800s. There were leaves and leaves of stamps organised by country, it was really amazing.
I really wanted to have some South American helado (gelato), and one of the recommendations was Emporio La Rosa – it was so tasty! Highly recommend. It was a little difficult to find, so if you are ever hunting around for it, just remember that it is on the most pointy end of the corner. It is not very clearly marked on Google maps, so you’ll have to be persistent.
As we had some time to kill in Santiago, Ben and I joined a bachata class at Club Orixas. The lady instructor spoke only in Spanish, she was terrifying but really funny. She yelled a lot – “Cambio!” she yells in Spanish, she is telling us to change partners. This bachata class was packed to the rafters, there was hardly any room to complete my turns! Then there was social dancing, and man it was so happening. These dancers are so talented and they’re all just having a great time. It was such a pleasure to watch. Ben and I did do a little bit of dancing, and we did dance with other people. I find the people of Santiago to be a lot more instinctive with their bachata and salsa, and they don’t really prescribe to a turn pattern per se, they just feel the music and do what feels right to them. It looked so natural. When I danced with guys who were not Ben, I felt that I was too rigid for them. We all had really good fun though, and the guys that I danced with were lovely.
As Santiago had been a fairly grey city, Ben and I booked a tour through Viator to see Valparaíso and Vina Del Mar – it was USD$95 per person. The tour group picked us up at our Airbnb, and we spent most of the day in the tour bus. We drove past a lot of the sights, the bus would slow down and we could take pictures. We visited the Valparaíso fish market, and then we walked just behind the market where there was a small colony of sea lions, pelicans and sea gulls. I was quite shocked to see these sea lions (especially after the Galápagos) as they were huge (as in obese!). Apparently the fish market feeds them everyday. They feed them the off cuts of the fish that they sell. We saw the feeding frenzy, and to be honest, I was quite upset. These sea lions have completely changed their hunting habits. They have no natural instinct for hunting, they only fight with each other for the off cuts, and they are just lazily waiting for someone to feed them. Furthermore, as I said, they are being fed the off cuts, not the whole fish. Think about if a human were to eat only the fatty and grisly bits of a steak or just the innards of a cow. It’s not right.
We walked the streets of Valparaíso, there is so much street art here! I won’t say much more – the pictures speak a thousand words 🙂
At the end of the Valparaiso trip, we stopped by Veramonte winery in Casablanca Valley where we tried their Carmenere and their Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was quite good, but I was rather surprised that they only offered us 2 wines to taste. Quite a different experience to what you might find at a cellar door in Australia.
Santiago food recommendation:
El Ancla Providencia – this was a fantastic meal, Ben had a huge salmon with garlic, coriander and soy sauce, I had a massive portion of pomfret with a seafood margarita sauce. These dishes also had accompaniments of spicy mashed potato and sautéed vegetables. For entree, we tried the Mejillas de congrio (pil pil) which is eel cheeks cooked in butter, chilli, coriander and garlic – it was fantastic! This meal was really tasty, but there was so much food. We ended up packing most of my dish, and we ate it all for dinner the next day. CLP 54,800