Talkin’ about Chile, Part Two.

Right, where were we?  Oh yeah. In the previous post I gave a bit of background on the history and geography of Chile, as well as our reasons for heading there. This time I’ll try and summarise what makes Santiago such a great city to pay a visit to.

My recollection of exactly what order we did everything in is starting to get a little mixed up, so I’ll just go with describing things as they come to me. First up, here is a map of the area the area we were staying/operating in. Give it a click for a closer look:

IMG_1890 (3)

If you spotted Parque Forestal, the glass-walled frontage of our hotel was across the road from it and made for a most welcome sight every time you set foot on the street:

parque forestal

You may be thinking ‘yeah, it’s a shot of a park’, but 1) it was quite an expansive park, running alongside the rio and 2) we have some pretty decent parks in Lima (particularly around Surco where you seemingly walk around a corner on every second block to be confronted with a new one), but they are wrested from the desert, and kept alive only by copious daily waterings from the local authorities. When you happen upon a park on your holidays which is at least semi-naturally watered, it’s quite an event (or it is for me, I dig a bit of nature). It’s one of the things that makes a neighbourhood worth living in, no?

So, the local area. Lastarria, where we were is a pretty hip neck of the woods, full of interesting eateries, book and record shops etc. The whole place felt bang up-to-date and there was a high (and visible presence) of alternative/hipster people going about their business and living their lives, as well as your more everyday folk. A good, peaceful mix of characters with a high degree of what you might call ‘cultural capital’-a not inaccurate comparison with places I know from back home might be with Manchester’s northern quarter.

The Colmado sandwich bar, where we ate breakfast on what El reliably informs me was our second full day in the city, was a case in point. Located just off a courtyard in turn just off La Merced, we stumbled in there for breakfast where the whole staff seemed to be in the same late twenties/early thirties age bracket as us, all the blokes sported some sort of decent facial hair growth (I’d trimmed my own beard just before coming out-and felt like a bit of a sell-out) and the girls all had some kind of tied-up rockabilly do, everyone in black t-shirts and maybe a flat cap as they efficiently and unostentatiously went about making you a great, unpretentious yet carefully considered and presented breakfast whilst playing 80s British alternative music to themselves/their clientele. I opted for a butifarra sandwich (another great culinary creation which Chile and Peru appear to share, but seem to do quite different versions of) which was incredible, along with a brew (that’s a tea to non-Brits, not a beer). A recommended spot for anyone in need of a morning pick-me-up before hitting the sights.

Two decent vantage points in our temporary little corner of Santiago were/are Cerro (that’s Spanish for ‘hill’) Santa Lucia and San Cristobal. Santa Lucia was a couple of blocks from us, and we accordingly hit it more than once. It’s probably got to the point in the blog where I should show another picture or two, so here is a couple from there:

santa lucia 1
The view from the top of Cerro Santa Lucia
santa lucia 2
The quite beautful parks clinging to the hillside on the way to the top.

Now, if Lastarria is hip then the area directly across the river, Bella Vista is even more so. We spent a day wandering around, taking in what it had to offer. Our first port of call was the other cerro, San Cristobal, even bigger, and with its own Christ-the-Redeemer statue looking out from the city’s highest point. Every Latin American city seems to have one of these, a symbol of catholic supremacy over the new world the Spanish had conquered, and being on the highest point, it almost becomes obligatory to visit them.

san cristobal 1

The views were worth writing home about, as well:

san cristobal 2san cristobal 3

We’d taken the funicular (sort of very vertical-tracked, open-sided train) to the summit, but decided to take the winding route downhill back to Bella Vista on foot. The place was extremely verdant and forested, with a real European vibe about it-you could almost have been outside the city itself. About halfway down we happened upon a cafe next to the zoo and decided to rest a while. Here’s a picture of Ellie, very much in her element, from that stop-off:

san cristobal 4

Once we finally reached the bottom of the hill, we went looking for the home of Pablo Neruda. In the interests of keeping this blog nice and readable, I’ve saved that for the third (and I promise final) instalment of this particular adventure!

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