I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.
~Mary Anne Radmacher
Purple Trees to Painted Walls
Vibrant outdoor café in the heart of Santiago
SANTAIGO, CHILE - Don’t you love it when you have a selected the perfect location to stay when visiting a new city? That’s exactly what happened when I went to Santiago, Chile with my friend, Pam. Santiago is a large city, the largest in the entire country, and so finding the right neighborhood to use as your base can be iffy at best. This was one of those times when we hit it on the head.
Whenever my friend and I travel we like to find a place in or within walking distance to the historical center of the city where we are going, so we are close to all the sights, including cathedrals, museums, parks and restaurants. It’s the history of the city, the starting int, the core or heart of the city. The location of our small boutique hotel in Santiago was close to almost everything, so we were able to walk versus trying to figure out public transportation.
Santiago de Chile, surrounded by the snow-capped Andes and the Chilean coast, is located in the country’s central valley and is the largest city in Chile. It was founded in 1541 by Pedro de Valivi, a Spanish conquistador. It is the cultural, political and financial center of Chile. The downtown core displays a variety of architecture from neoclassical, art deco to neogothic. The climate tends toward being cool and semi-arid, so it is very comfortable for walking tour of the city.
When planning our trip to Santiago we looked at the main neighborhoods near the center to see which one had the most interest and we settled on Bellavista that sits along the Mapocho River that runs through the city. We weren’t more than a few blocks away from the University San Sebastian, so we knew there would be a lot of activity in the area. Bellavista is also known for the street art and funky paintings on the buildings throughout the area. The building owners hire street artists to paint murals on their exterior walls and the result is a colorful neighborhood presentation.
Bellavista is a bohemian district of the city with funky cafes, galleries and boutique shops and after nightfall the bars and dance clubs come to life. It is also the location of one of Pablo Neruda’s three homes. A famous Chilean poet and Nobel Peace Prize winner, he purchased the house in Bellavista, La Chascona, where he lived with his wife. One of his other two homes is located in Valparaiso and the third sits along the ocean cliffs on Chiloe Island.
Across the Mapocho River, whose retaining walls are also adorned with street art, is Parque Forestal, a lovely tree lined park within the city. The really interesting thing about this particular park was that we noticed dog houses sitting in the grassy areas with bowls of water nearby. It was a curious sight. Dogs were all over the park running free and at one point a woman pulled a small plastic bag out of her pocket and fed one of the dogs nearby.
These street dogs, called ‘quiltros’ which means, no one’s dog, but everyone’s dog, are cared for by the community. They are provided dog houses in the park and water and I suspect they receive lots of attention and scratches by those who spend the afternoon relaxing there. This is a cultural commitment by the community that I think the world could do well to learn from and it says a lot about the people of the city and their values.
Wanderers when traveling, we first made our way past the river and through the park until we came across the Fine Arts Museum that was officially founded in 1880 with the building dating to 1910. Beautiful artwork was displayed throughout and the entry, with an arched glass ceiling and sculptures throughout, was quite impressive.
We continued on the winding streets to the Plaza de Armas where the impressive cathedral stands. There was a puppet show on one corner of the plaza where a crowd had assembled. (Reminder: Watch your backpack and other bags when in crowds.) After walking away from the puppet show, a local woman on the street told me in Spanish that my pack was opened. Fortunately, nothing was missing, but better to be aware and cautious when in a crowds, regardless of the country you are visiting.
We stopped at the Mercado Central, an indoor fish market, and after looking around we headed up to the second level to enjoy lunch and watch the merchants selling their products on the main floor. At the beginning of each meal while in Santiago several things were put on the table. There were balls of butter, a small bowl of salsa, slices of lemon, and flat round biscuits with pinpoint holes poked in the top.
Barrio Lastarria was another bohemian neighborhood with lots of cafes, galleries, shops and gorgeous purple jacaranda flowering trees lining the streets. Sidewalk cafes and restaurants were filled and energy was high.
We took the metro to Santa Lucia Hill a hilltop park on the eastern edge of downtown that provides a panoramic view of the city and is a perfect location for those with camera in hand ready to grab some stunning shots of the city. Neptune Fountain, constructed from 1897 to 1903 sits at the park entrance building.
The Chilean National Library and the Santa Lucia Arts and Craft Market are near the park on Santa Lucia Hill. We headed for the market for our requisite travel shopping and found the market to be small, quiet and welcoming. A very low key market, filled with individual stalls, each offering an abundance of quality handicrafts and souvenirs ranging from leather goods to silver and copper jewelry and lapis lazuli.
Chile is South America’s most prosperous country with high living standards and from the time we spent in Santiago, I would have to agree that is so. Santiago, a vibrant city, is culturally rich with diverse architecture and abundant sightseeing and all within easy access to the best that nature has to offer.
Read about Valparaiso, Chile, a city of colorful street art and rich culture.
Read about Chiloe Island, the Penguin Colony, and Osorno Volcano in Southern Chile.
Small neighborhood market stands throughout the city
stayed open well into the evening.
Ever try something you have never had before and your taste
buds danced a happy dance? Such it was with the Lucuma
ice cream, made from a fruit of the same name.
Most of our meals started with this round, flat bread, butter,
lemons and salsa.