Part I of III
To get to Chile we chose to go with a South American airline – “Latam airlines” instead of booking with an American airline. Latam airlines had a nonstop flight and a much better price compared to other airlines which included several stops and cost more.
We were very happy with the service on board, liked the food and even got thick large blankets for sleeping. Shows again, it pays to compare.
One thing one needs to know when going to Chile – the country is HUGE!
In one week you can do EITHER the desert in the north, Santiago in the center, Patagonia in the south OR the Easter island out in the Pacific, which requires another five hour flight.
We chose to spend one week in Chiles captial – Santiago and used it as our base to discover surrounding areas as well.
To get a good feel for the city we took part in the “free 4 hour walking tour” (based on tips) which really showed you a lot in the city center.
Every other day one can see the “changing of the guards” at the “La Moneda Palace” and we made it. Quite impressive with a military marching band playing music.
During our entire stay we kept recognizing landmarks from the tour and found our way around much better.
Another lesson was, March equals September in Chile and the sun is still VERY STRONG, even at 70 degrees Fahrenheit! Cover up and wear sunlotion!
Santiago itself is much bigger than I thought and more modern but not quite westernized yet. English for example is not spoken very often. We used our hands and feet quite a bit, but people were patient and most of the times we got what we wanted.
To me it was almost like the “little sister” of Buenos Aires. It is a city that has to grow on you over time. Once you discover the trendy little neighborhoods it gets more charming.
Here, the “Bellavista” quarters.
But it also is a very busy, crowded and noisy city.
The pedestrian zones are hopping and there is nothing that is “not” being sold or done on the very crowded sidewalks.
People are selling their goods on blankets on the ground and often I wondered, who would really stop and buy their stuff. It seemed so random. From Toblerone chocolate to hairbrushes, belts and locks, to crocheted “cactusses” (?) and earrings.
Every few meters you have a person either make fresh juice with a tiny blender, grill meat kebabs on a miniature grill or fry you up some “empanadas”.
And if you NOW imagine stray dogs wandering around or just taking a nap in the middle of everything, and women having their pedicure done, right there on the sidewalk… then you are in the heart of Santiago!
We were okay for the most parts but I must admit, I felt uncomfortable at times with my camera and just standing out as a tourist. We stayed in crowded and busy areas and avoided being out at night.
We also saw beautiful old buildings in between the more modern looking buildings and Santiago also has Latin Americas highest skyscraper.
We went up there and one has pretty good views of the city from it. I imagine it to be stunning around dusk or at night. Next time…
TIP: If you go on Wednesdays, it will be cheaper.
Image courtesy of my husband
Within the historic center distances were very walkable and for bigger distances we used local taxis. Taxis were super easy to get and very affordable. Be ready for some small talk though. We found the taxi drivers to be very nosy, in a nice way though.
“Where are you from?” “Are you single?” ” Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” “For how long are you here?”
For me it was just ooookay. It was mostly international, nothing too authentic or local and it did not particularely stand out like Argentinian or Peruvian food. That was exquisite in comparison.
Two things I really liked were fresh juices, like raspberry, mango or pineapple, being offered in restaurants and the empanadas. But they also varied in quality, fried ones I liked better than baked ones. We had the very best with a crackling good crust and the very worst all in one week.
The lesson we learnt very fast was, order HALF of what you usually would at home. Portions in Chile make portions in America look whimpy! “Appetizers for one” in Chile qualify as “entree for two” elsewhere.
My personal favorite sight of the city. It is the main cemetery of the city, still in use and an explorers dream!
I always thought “Pere-Lachaise” in Paris (see my “Paris” post) was my favorite but this one shares No. 1 from now on. The cemetery got called “one of the 10 most scenic cemeteries in the world” by CNN and I can see why.
It is divided in two parts and the contrast could not be bigger. The northern section is incredibly crowded and the graves are very small and tightly stacked on top of each other. It looked a bit spooky, like an “apartment building for the dead”.
This is where the ordinary and working class people find their last resting place.
Image courtesy of my husband
In the southern section of the cemetery, which is sprawling over 210 acres of land and has an estimated 2 million inhabitants and reminds more of an urban park, we found the burials of the rich.
A very clear class distinction of society.
Big mausoleums, often bigger than houses, in venetian, gothic or traditional french or italian styles stand side by side. Some were better taken care of than others and some were completely overgrown with flowering bushes, ivy or palms and gave it the feeling of being somewhere in the jungle and you are discovering forgotten temples aka Indiana Jones.
The cemetery is open to the public and it is so widely spread, we were often the only ones in that section. We did not really have a plan where to go, we just discovered things on our own, and walked around for hours in this incredible maze of graves.
If you are a lover for art, history and want to see a wide variety of architectural grand mausoleums, or just want a little peace and quiet from the hectic and buzz from the city, this is the place to go to. We actually went twice!
It really is very recommendable, and a FREE ACTIVITY.
TIP: Don’t stay there after nightfall. It is a maze, there are no lights and ground is uneven and for safety reasons – just don’t!
~ To be continued…~