Of Santiago de Chile

Oh my! A poor pseudo-porteña like myself (actually, a poor pseudo-porteña that was myself) is typically ill prepared for the cold that awaits her in Santiago de Chile at this time of year. The rain, luckily, had stopped for a bit when my plane landed a mere three hours late and so finding the subway and making my way to the hostel in the frigid night air was far easier than it might have been.

Santiago gets a bad wrap where the metropolises of the Southern hemisphere are concerned and, I feel, undeservedly so. There seems to me to be much to do and, more importantly, much to eat.

My first day in the city was spent roaming, hopping on the subway, roaming again. Much of said wandering was less aimless than fishwardly. The seafood market near the port is astounding and chaotic. As you move in crowds along the smelly, cold rows of freshly caught creatures the fishmongers compete, half-cat-calling, half-hard-selling, to get you to choose from their various and vast selections. I refrained from purchasing any of the tasty, if slimy, offerings in the knowledge that I was kitchenless and thus bound to eat out on the town.

From the fish market I made my way to two key hilltop views of the city. From Cerro Santa Lucía, the lower of the two, you get a fine panorama, not to mention a good look at some stunning fountains and what remains of the days when the hill served as the site of a military fort and lookout.

On your way to the second major hill you pass the hyper modern and exceptionally designed Centro Gabriela Mistral. A ministry during the dark years of the Pinochet regime, the building was later burned and recently revamped. There is no dearth of fantastic architecture in Santiago, but this building has got to be in the top ten. Well worth a visit (and a stop at its high end but wonderful café for a creamy cortado).

Cerro San Cristóbal offers the best view of the city and unlike Santa Lucía, you don’t have to hike the whole way up thanks to a rickety funicular. That and the presence of a large statue of Nuestra Virgin make the view all the more magical. Particularly nice if you can get there at dusk, as I did, to see the city begin to sparkle.

I closed the day off with a seafood feast at Azul Profundo in Barrio Bellavista and a few pisco sours at a bar in the nearby Patio Bellavista. Of the seafood, you will hear more. It was delicious–piles of squid, rock fish and scallops, oh my! Go. Eat. Walk. Eat. Drink. Eat. Be very, very merry.

For photographic documentation, go here.

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