On our second and last full day in Santiago we visited the centre of the city.
Our first stop was the Plaza de Armas where our first sight on ascending from the metro was a dead homeless man having prayers said over him by a city official with a bible. Not at all what I expected – the plaza I mean. Sure it was grand, but it was also incredibly dull. It could have been a plaza in any large city anywhere in the world, it has absolutely nothing distinctive. The cathedral too was nothing in comparison to the ones I had seen in Lima. There are dozens of cathedrals in Lima, all of which are better than Santiago´s grandest. Here in the plaza are dozens of Peruvians sitting in the shade hoping some form of work will magically come and find them.
Here though, in the Plaza was were Pedro de Valdivia marked out the new city streets with ropes in 1541 when Santiago was founded. All distances in Chile are measured from here.
Next we walked to the Mercado Central, a large market next to the river north of the plaza. Lots of fresh fruit , vegetables and fish on sale here, as well as a Peruvian selling Inca Kola.
We crossed the river into “the bad part of town” where things are cheaper before heading to La Moneda. Before arriving we passed the old Congress building which now meets in Valparaiso on the coast .
La Moneda was orriginally the palace and residence of Presidents and although not now, it is still the seat of Government. We were allowed to pass through into the central court yard where we happened to bump into the son of the ex president (the guy with the beard) who was murdered by Pinochet, along with thousands of others, when he seized power.