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Santiago

Neptune's Terraces at the Cerro Santa Lucia
Securing a room in downtown Santiago along Paseo Huerfanos, we were within walking distance to many of the city's historic sites and museums, and the subway was only a few blocks away for any other travel.  With a population of somewhere around 6.3 million, this is obviously not a walkable city, but being in the downtown area made it seem that way.  An extensive pedestrian walkway started just outside our hotel and led to Plaza de Armas, the main square in the city, surrounded by the stately architecture of the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Central Post Office Building, and the Royal Court Palace.

Within a few hundred steps from the Plaza, we found the Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art.  Starting with a "Chile before Chile" exhibit which examines the indigenous people, there are displays of ceramics, jewelry and weapons, but we also learned that mummification was practiced here 2000 years before the Egyptians and the rite was performed on all the deceased, not just highest dignitaries, as in Egypt.

Wandering a few blocks beyond the museum, we found the Central Market.  Known for their seafood markets and seafood restaurants, we were blown away by the extensive variety available; scallops, abalone, sea urchins, mussels, shrimp, and numerous fish we had never seen before.   With a north-south length of about 2672 miles (it's average width is only 112 miles), the country is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean (and to the east by the Andes), so it follows that seafood is a big deal here.  Lured into the first restaurant we passed, by Chilean king crab in a display cabinet and a enthusiastic greeter, we feasted on one of the wonderful crustaceans, along with the nation's favorite drink, pisco sours.  Doesn't get much better than this!
Looking up to the fort

Half a block from our hotel, Cerro Santa Lucia, provided a pleasant afternoon outing.  With fountains, a small fort, a castle and the ornate Neptune's Terraces at the main entrance, it was a lovely respite on the warm day.  It also offers one of the best overviews of the city.  Unfortunately, smog hides the mountains that surround much of the city.  Santiago is located in a valley between the coastal mountain range and the Andes and many still use wood for heating, which aggravates the problem.  The government has been actively trying to remedy the situation for decades, with minimal success so far.

Escalators in the mall
Venturing onto the
subway system, we traveled to the opposite side of the city, to a mall which would rival anything in the U.S.  Finding some Chilean wine to bring home was the mission.  An extensively stocked wine shop made the journey a success.  Traveling around the city (and country), we always felt safe.  Locals we interacted with were always friendly and helpful, even when the language barrier was sometimes an issue.  Chile has a lower violent crime rate than the U.S., unlike many other Central or South American countries.

On our final day in Santiago, and in Chile, we took time to visit the Museum of Fine Art, which offers, primarily, modern art.  Barrio Lastarria, a historical neighborhood near the center of the city, is known for their many fine eateries.  This area is also home to the GAM, Center for Arts, Culture and People, a modern and growing facility which offers theater, dance, music and special exhibitions.  But most of the day was spent restaurant hopping.  It turned out to be a perfect way to close our visit to this wonderful country.

Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago
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At the Pre-Columbian Museum
Central Post Office
GAM facility offering free art exhibits


Musicians play in the streets for tips, but this is the largest group we listened to.



Some of the options at the Central Market
Overview of Santiago from Cerro Santa Lucia
Climbing up to the fort
One of the many parks in the city
Museo de  Bellas  Artes
Along the pedestrian walkway on Paseo Huerfanos
Plaza de Armas with Metropolitan Cathedral in the background

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