Saturday, June 21, 2008

El Mercado Central

Today we hit the mother load for seafood. And also for finding great deals on meats, beans and any produce item that you could think of.

These pictures were taken standing just outside the market.

I have no idea what this statue is for, or about, we didn't get close enough to it to read the plaque. There were some bums or the like standing nearby pan handling. Or maybe providing entertainment while you watched. Some looked like they were passed out, or dead. Others were at least attempting to dance.

The aroma of fish of all sorts was ever present as you walked into the market. The crowds were so thick that you had to wait your turn just to pass by the open cases that held the fish. They had items laying out on the ice that I had never even seen before. Many of the shellfish were still moving. Eddie really enjoyed looking at everything. I almost couldn't pass through the walk ways there were crowds jammed into every nook and corner. I waited patiently as people passed and I too was able to navigate my stroller.

At every new fish case, there were 2 or 3 men trying to encourage you to buy "their" fish. The selection was endless and the prices were cheap. If you are in to seafood, then this is surely the place to be. In the center of the mercado there were restaurants of all kinds. Seafood that is, but everything seemed so enticing. Amazing and colorful plates of freshly prepared fish, clams and shrimp were wisked by you as you would walk near them. There too, they had people trying to seat you at their tables. I told a man near me who attempted to talk to me that, "Yo no hablo espanol." He quickly tuned in to english and promised me that if I ate here, and was dissatisfied that he would buy our lunch. I was intrigued and impressed all at the same time. So I told my dh, that we needed to eat there.

Before we ate, we went to the mall that was located nearby. That was nice, yet interesting just the same. We found out that you had to pay to use the toilet. 150 pesos (about 30 cents) and they had a metal turnstyle type thing you had to pass through just to get in. Don't ask me how a single mom with a stroller could get through, as I don't know. I left the stroller out with dh, and we took turns each taking a kid inside. Luckily though, we didn't have to pay for them. Just for us. Upon entering the restrooms I found that each of the stalls does not have their own toilet paper, instead one roll is situated in the middle of the bathroom and you unroll what you need prior to going inside. Bizarre.

We survived that and pressed on. We browsed through a store called "Ripley" and it seemed to have some really good prices on clothes. I was able to pick up a scarf for right around $4.00. I might have liked to shop some more, but the kids were extremely agitated at this point. So we walked on with only the scarf. Oh yes, and I bought 2 pair of mittens for the kids as well for 500 pesos. (a little over a buck)

We headed back to the mercado to eat. We went to find the place where the little man had promised to buy our lunch if we didn't like it. I had a sneaky suspicion that we would though.

We ate here And although the little place was full, they seemed to pull a table out of thin air. And we were seated. The service and the food were impeccable. The wide variety of options available was purely delightful. Dh was worrried about what we could feed the kids. And simple enough it was, they had 1/4 Pollo asado con arroz. Upon it's speedy arrival, I had a taste. Delicious.

And then we couldn't resist the temptation to order the Paella. (pronounced Pie-ay-yuh) I wasn't at all hesitant to order this from the seemingly professional appearance of every single dish that was walked past our table and placed in front of the other excited and mouth watering patrons. I also ordered a camaron y queso empanada. Or more basically put, a shrimp and cheese empanada. It was just yummy.

And this was our main course, Paella. If you've never had it, and you enjoy seafood, it is an absolute MUST TRY! It is overflowing with a variety of seafood and rice. All I can say is flavorful! They bring it to the table still sizzling as the steam rises from the cast iron pan they serve it in. It was enough to choke a horse. We ate until our stomachs were content, and then had 2 containers of leftovers. A treat I look forward to for dinner!

Here is the view up from where I sat.

After we were done gorging ourselves with seafood, we headed across the street. There was a flea market that held everything from grapes to pantyhose and bandaids. You could find anything that you needed there in that less than stellar atmosphere. Crowds jammed into the hallways and bought produce at ridiculous prices. For example, we bought 1 kilo of apples for 250 pesos. ( 1 kilo is 2.2 lbs and it cost .51 cents) We also got a kilo of grapes for the same. That's crazy, right? But awesome.

We also took the metro, which was modern and efficient. It zipped us from the ritzy side of town to "central" Santiago in a matter of minutes. The kids were free and the cost too was cheap (about $1.50 for two adults). The only drawback was that it isn't stroller friendly. Dh and I had to carry Alexa and her stroller down the stairs and back up more than one time. We absolutely got our workout today I can assure you.

I enjoyed the trip today, and I can honestly say, I can't wait to go back. After traveling with such ease on the metro, I think I would like to live somewhere with easy access to it. But that's just me.

OK, so this post has gone on long enough, so I must say goodbye! Mom, hope you enjoy the pics, I wish you were here!


Rachael said...

Wow! Sounds like vacation! The culture you're all getting is fabulous (and the food looks mouth-watering). The bathroom thing reminds me of years ago when we were on a cruise that landed us in Venezuela. We had to pay for the toilet paper, and I didn't have any money on me (DH did, outside). Luckily they took pity on me as a tourist, but I learned quickly that things really are different in some areas of the world! You're supposed to leave a tip for the attendant after you pay to use the potty!

Anonymous said...

I know how you must have liked 1 roll of tp for all to share!!!!

But the food looks DELICIOUS!! YUMMY!!!!! You know that we ALL want some!! cool prices! It looks like you guys had fun!! So glad to hear it!

Love ya!

Tracy Ross said...

Les, it looks like you guys are really enjoying it there so far. I'm a bit jealous! hehe!! The food looks yummy and sounds like you get some great deals on produce! SO GLAD you are able to keep in touch with us!