Monday, February 6, 2017

A Lazy Day in Punta Arenas. Cemeterio and Mercado.

Buying fish at the Mercado Municipal.

When I plan our trip itineraries, I try to have a down day every few days so we're not constantly on the move.  Typically, I also don't plan an agenda for our down day.  Its  on Bro's shoulders to bring along a guidebook and read up on suggestions of places we can go to and things we should see and do.

Today was our down day and there was literally nothing on the itinerary but to wander about Punta Arenas.  We took our time getting up, having breakfast and making the way out the door of our apartment.

Bro had read up on a cemetery that was recommended for seeing.  It just so happens that the Cemetery of Punta Arenas is located just about a 10 minute walk from our apartment.  Who knew the place was also listed in Travel + Leisure as one of the world's most beautiful cemeteries!

We stepped out into a dreary day.  It was cool, cloudy and misty rain kissing my cheeks.  My cheap blue plastic poncho was tucked inside my backpack and so I was good to go.  I just hoped the mist would not turn into a downpour.

It was a short walk to the cemetery but it was not exactly a scenic walk.  This part of town is not attractive.  We happened on a tall cement wall that was my sign that this was the Cementerio Municipal de Punta Arenas.


The cemetery is quite large and I was worried we would be walking around in a circle trying to find the entrance (it has happened to us before) but luck was on our side today.  The entrance was open and although there was a sign that seemed to indicate that a fee was required for visitors, we just walked on in; nobody stopped us.

Inside, we saw a large collection of tombs, mausoleums and chapels - some lined small avenues and others were situated around well tended to garden spaces.  It very much reminded me of Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

When we were wandering about the cemetery, I didn't know who Sara Braun was but she's buried here.




Some of the tombstones were very sad....like the one below that obviously belongs to a little boy.  Someone left behind some toys for him.





The names, imprinted on some of the tombstones, recall the region's Eastern European heritage.  Hundreds of immigrants from Europe poured into the region from Britain, Germany, Yugoslavia, Russia, Spain, and Italy in the 1890's. In fact, our apartment is located on Croacia aka Croatia.








The rain started to really fall as we made our way through the cemetery and we hustled our way along though Bro did slow us down at times.  Workmen were out trimming the garden, removing dead flowers, and Bro decided to check the discards for seed heads.  He had already spotted some lupine seed heads on our walk here and well, he just cannot help himself.


This mausoleum pays tribute to the Chilean police.


Our next destination would take us through the center of town.  On the way, we decided to stop at the bus station to make sure this was where we had to be to catch the Bus-Sur bus to Puerto Natales tomorrow.  Having purchased the tickets on line, I was certain this was the place and was even more convinced once I saw the Bus-Sur parked out front.


But Bro wanted there to be no doubt so no harm stopping and checking.  He asked, they said, "yes", we left.  We'll be right back here tomorrow for the 8:30a bus to Puerto Natales.


From the bus station, we meandered our way down towards the water.  The rain picked up momentarily and we had to dart for shelter under a store entrance to wait for the rain to lighten up.  A few short blocks later and it had stopped.

We were headed to Mercado Municipal which is part seafood market and part artisan market.  There were some signs pointing us in the right direction but those were not as good as the yellow footprints which led us right to the front door.


I was expecting to see a large open space filled with seafood vendors but instead we entered in a relatively small space.  The first floor was occupied by maybe 10 seafood vendors.  The second floor had a few artisan and souvenir shops as well as about a handful of very small eateries aka cocinerías.  The top floor was one large restaurant.  In a separate wing, there were maybe a dozen or so small artisan shops.  That was it.   A tad disappointing.


We checked out the seafood for sale.  Bro was on the hunt for the elusive merluzza negra.  He really wants his Chilean sea bass and while no one had merluzza negra for sale, one vendor did have merluzza austral (Southern hake; Merluccius australis) and while it's not the same fish, it looked really good - the filet was very thick and it looked very fresh.  I typically don't like to buy filets but when you're talking a big fish along the size of hake, you really have no choice.  I left it up to Bro to decide whether or not to get any as I know he was disappointed in what we had bought yesterday from Unimarc.

Somewhere in my pre-trip reading, I had come across mention that the eateries in the mercado are  reasonably priced places to have a seafood meal. Not that we were hungry or anything but it was around noon and well, not knowing if we would be back here or not, I talked Bro into having a bite here.  All the places are really tiny..... maybe 6 or 8 tables at most.  We just picked the one place that had diners already eating.


We looked over the menu, which was not in English but thanks to Google Translate, we could figure out what to order.  We opted to just share something to just have a taste of the food.  So, we settled on *ensalada de centolla* which is King Crab salad.  If there is a place on earth to eat fresh King Crab, this would be one of them. 


I don't consider Chileans to be good cooks so I was a bit curious how they would serve up the salad.  This dish arrived.  It was a giant mound of King Crab meat simply placed atop shredded iceberg lettuce with a wedge of lemon the side.  You can't go wrong.  The lettuce did nothing more than to support the sweet meat of the fresh crab.  It was simply but so very delicious!  Bro and I pretty much devoured the salad in a matter of minutes. 


All through lunch, Bro must have been thinking about that filet of merluzza austral because as soon as we paid for our meal and headed back down to the first floor, he made a bee line for the seafood vendor.  He patiently waited his turn.


He pointed to the filet he wanted and found out it would cost him 7000 CLP for a kilo and I did a quick conversion in my head. That would be about $5 USD a pound.  Dirt cheap for such good quality fish so I egged him on to buy it.  Bro doesn't do small portions so he got a sizable filet.  We had planned to go out for dinner tonight but change in plans....and I was good with that.  It's not often we get to savor such nice seafood so we have to take full advantage of it when we can!


With fish in hand, we decided to head back to the apartment to put it away in the fridge.  This time, our walk took us past the town's main square - Plaza Muñoz Gamero.  We would be back later.


We also passed a street vendor selling veggies.  I spotted the knobs of ginger and thought it would be good to go with fish but it was pricey but more importantly much more than what we would be needing so I decided to not buy any.  No point spending a lot of money to then also waste what we cannot eat.


My eyes did fall on some small berry like fruit. Bro asked what it was and of course, the Spanish named was meaningless to us.  One look and I was pretty certain they were gooseberries.  I didn't realize they grow this far south but apparently they do.   They are really, really, really tart!


After putting our food purchases away in the refrigerator and using the facilities, we headed back out.  Time to check out Plaza Muñoz Gamero!