01 March – 03 March, 2018
The first stop on our way to the southern tip of Chile was to her capital city, Santiago. A large sprawling metropolis, Santiago proper is home to 6 million people (more than one-third of all Chileans) and has one of the worst smog problems in the world, with more than one million automobiles clogging her narrow colonial streets, certainly not the kind of record a city hopes to garner. We had read that the months of autumn, especially March and April, are typically the worst as they are the most wind-free. Except for a little eye irritation and the perpetual brown haze blanketing the city, which often cloaked views of the Andes, it wasn’t as bad as we expected for a city its size.
With only a couple of days to explore before heading to Patagonia, we decided to rest from our jet-lag, decompress, and see some street art above all else, as we are planning to fly back out of Santiago when we return to the states. What we didn’t see this time around we could tack onto the back-end of our trip.
I positively love street art and had read much about Valparaiso’s infamous embellished walls, which we will be seeing later on this trip. Until Nicole of Third-Eye Mom posted her wonderful photos of Santiago’s street art, I wasn’t expecting much. But after reading her post, I was on a quest through the streets of Barrio Bellavista, where some of the best Santiago street art can be found. It is also where our hotel was located. 🙂
Beyond the street art, we were anxious to taste some of the local fare and one restaurant in our neighborhood that had been recommended was Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). It is considered one of Bellavista’s “smartest” restaurants, serving creative Chilean cuisine. The food was delicious and the Chilean beer, Kunstmann Torobayo, was tasty.
As we sat outside enjoying the warm day, an interesting situation unfolded. A bedraggled, weather-worn woman approached, making eye contact with me. I immediately shook my head no, I suppose to discourage her. Before we could blink, she grabbed Terry’s glass of beer. Trying to rescue the glass, a tug-of-war was set in motion. Never get between a man and his beer. 🙂 He released his hold in order to not create a scene and she proceeded to shriek, slamming the glass into the street, without tasting a drop, then stormed off with her naked backside on display. The waiter was so apologetic, moved us farther from the street, and gave us another beer. Welcome to Santiago! We took to the streets with a story to tell.
Comprising only a few blocks, bohemian Bellavista is adorned with eye-popping street art and is a walker’s paradise. In trying to revitalize the barrios, local artists took to the streets to add some color. Many businesses pay these artists to adorn their walls, windows, and doors to draw tourists into their establishments. The results are spectacular!
During our search for street art we once again saw our partially clad friend, sporting a beer. She was once again shrieking and hitting herself in the head. Obviously the poor woman has some mental challenges and we wisely decided to steer clear of her.
A walk up Cerro Santa Lucía for views of the city was on our agenda, as was a walk through Plaza de Armas, the city’s historic center, and the Catedral Metropolitana, where mass was in service. The Plaza was packed with locals and tourists alike. During our wanderings in Santiago Central we saw the Palacio de la Moneda, the presidential palace, which made international headlines in 1973 when the air force bombed it during General Pinochet’s coup against President Salvador Allende. President Allende claimed his own life before being taken prisoner.
Our final destination in Santiago took us to Cerro San Cristóbal, where we rode the funicular to the top. What awaited us was a lovely little chapel, beautifully adorned crosses along the pathway, soothing music wafting into the air, and the statue of the Virgin Mary with open arms, standing watch over the city.
Obviously a city the size of Santiago has so much more to offer but our time was limited. We had clocked over 20 miles of walking during our short time here. Some of the other sights we hope to visit on our return are the landmark Mercado Central, known for its impressive array of fruits, vegetables, and seafood, Museo de Bellas Artes, Cementerio General, and La Chascona, author Pablo Neruda’s hillside home, which now houses the Museo Neruda.
For now, the wilds of Patagonia are calling!