Our first full day in San Salvador was jam-packed, but well worth it! Coco arranged for a driver to take us around from eight in the morning until five in the evening. We got to see quite a few of the sites here in the capital city as well as some hidden gems suggested by Oscar, our lovely driver. For the day, it cost only $70 US dollars to have Oscar show us around. In top of that, the only other costs were very inexpensive entrance fees to a few of the sites (such as the Ruins of San Andrés and the Palacio Nacional), plus our own personal shopping.
Oscar suggested to us that we make a stop at a towel warehouse. Trinh and I were a bit confused; the language barrier was a bit rough so we weren’t quite sure what Oscar was trying to describe. We agreed to a quick stop, mostly out of curiosity; we truly didn’t think it would be all that interesting. Oh my goodness, were we ever mistaken! This might be the most brilliant of hidden gems in all of El Salvador. Have you ever wanted a bright pink towel with image of a fluffy white kitten? You can buy one at Hilasal. Or any other random image on a towel you can think of. Needless to say, the two of us went a bit nuts and left with three towels each!
Almost right next door to Hilasal are the Archeological Ruins of San Andrés. This was certainly a highlight of our day, even if it was swelteringly hot outside for my precious Canadian self. Trinh, Oscar and I were the only people there, aside from those who work at the site. We had the entire place to ourselves which made for a great experience. Plus, our photos are unencumbered by the usual hoards of tourists.
Back into town, we made a stop at the church of Iglesia Don Rúa. It’s a beautiful building and still quite new. Inside is stunning with intricate stained glass windows, detailed sculptures along the walls and a ceiling that was clearly created with a lot of care.
Our next stop was the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Savior, where Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero was shot during a political demonstration. This is an extremely important place in the history of El Salvador and that significance is something you can feel throughout the entire building. I only have a photo of the outside as it would have been disrespectful to take photos inside of the cathedral. Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero was killed outside this cathedral back in the 1980’s during the civil war here in El Salvador. Before arriving in El Salvador, I read a book titled “The Weight of all Things” by Sandra Benitez, in which the opening scene tells of Monseñor’s death. Having read a little bit about the history, I felt it was a real privilege for me to be able to visit this cathedral and witness the love and devotion that Salvadorans have for this man.
Before walking through the market for some souvenir shopping, we visited the Palacia Nacional, which is old and beautiful and intricate and again…uncrowded.
For lunch, we met Coco and Renata at her mom’s house, where we met Renata’s parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephew…I think that’s everyone from lunch. The most delicious carrot soup I have ever tasted, potatoes, another dish “like lasagna but with tortillas and chicken”. To top it all off, homemade zapote ice cream made using the fruit from the zapote tree that grows in their backyard.
Next stop, the National Museum of Anthropology or MUNA (Museo Nacional de Anthropologia). This was fascinating! The museum is quite large and it covers the entire history of El Salvador, touching on politics, pre & post-Hispanic times, religion, ancient Mayan rituals and deities and so much more. I found it fascinating and I was once again impressed with what El Salvador has to offer, being that it’s a country not many people consider visiting.
A quick stop for some delicious coffee at Viva Espresso and then with thirty minutes to spare, we went to a shop that Renata recommended to us, which to be honest, deserves its own post all together.