San Salvador has a bit of a reputation. Perhaps for good reason. We walked from the bus stop a few blocks to our hotel, just as the sun was dipping below the horizon. We arrived at Hotel Villa Florencia on 3a Calle Poniente, a lovely, terracotta, antique-y hotel that offered us a private room with ensuite (cold shower, but you can’t have everything) for 15 USD per night. Not a bad deal, and we really didn’t want to be wandering around this city at dusk more than we needed to. We decided to stay for two nights, for the dual purpose of giving ourselves a day to explore the city and to time our arrival in Juayúa for the weekend.
El Salvador’s capital is exhilarating, hectic, manageable, and a bit frightening, all at the same time. Shortly after arriving, and dodging the insane bus drivers to make it to the hotel, we stepped out to grab some food. It was around 7:30 p.m. A woman quickly stopped us and asked us (in English) what we were doing and if we were after food. We nodded, and she informed us that it was safe only to go to the end of the block in search of dinner. With a quick glance at her watch, she assured us that “At this time, you’re still safe.” But it was apparent that the safe hours don’t extend too long after dark. We didn’t venture past the end of the block, as we ended up finding good cheap eats next door for about 2 USD a plate.
The next day, we ventured out to explore the city. In the daytime, San Salvador is surprisingly charming. Music seems to stream from all directions, and there is an energy to the air whether you’re in the bustling markets, on the busy streets, or in one of the many restaurants. We followed advice to make an effort to visit a very non-traditional church in the centre of the city. It’s a huge structure, and looks almost like an old train station from the outside. Inside, rows of coloured glass shine with the light of day and create a rainbow inside. At different times of day, the light is even more magnificent, and casts coloured patterns along the dark walls of the church’s interior. Throughout the cavernous inside, there are sculptures and statues, made of scrap metal, that contribute to the almost creepy, futuristic feeling of the old building.
From there, we endeavoured to head to the Zona Rosa area, which is well-known for its restaurants and museums. Easier said than done. After chasing up many a seemingly non-existent bus that was promised to take us there, we ended up taking one of many buses that heads to Metrocentro, a large shopping complex, and then headed on to Zona Rosa from there. We visited the lovely art museum and then, scrapping plans of visiting the anthropology museum, headed to dinner and then home.