The first thing I noticed about Santiago as we were in our cab on the way to our apartment is the high mountains of the Andes that surrounds it. Some werestill snow capped but unfortunately most of the time we were there, it’s been cloudy or hazy so my pictures didn’t do justice in showing how commanding these mountains are.
On our first day, we went to see the historic part of the city which of course is centered at Plaza de Armas. Around the plaza is the neoclassical Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, the Edificio del Correo Central (Central Post Office) which is adjacent to the Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago.
We meandered along the pedestrian-only streets familiarizing ourselves with the city by turning to this street and that, allowing ourselves to get lost and find our way again. We then headed to the Palacio de la Moneda, where we caught ourselves in the middle of some protest. We sat from a distance and watched as people went on with their protest, with some news crew hanging around. It was quite a big turnout for the protest but it was relatively peaceful.
Our next stop was the Museo de Bellas Artes. My favorite inside the museo was an exhibit by a Chilean artist, Cecilia Avendano, who had several digital montage which appears as a very interesting mix of painting + photograph. Later that night, we checked out a jazz club at the La Reina neighborhood of Santiago, called Club de Jazz. It was quite far and the jazz club was a bit of a letdown because it just turned out to be a restaurant that’s part of a big mall.
You can see a bit of a trend here with music, which we were excited about. As it turns out, there’s a bit of a thriving jazz scene in Santiago and we were all over that. Through facebook events, we found this ‘Jazz y Vino’ event at the up-and-coming neighborhood of Barrio Italia. We decided to check it out, how can you go wrong with jazz and wine, and in a local neighborhood ? Sign me up! The main street for the event was blocked for pedestrians only. There were wines (of course), food stalls, food trucks, and the barrio’s local businesses set up along the street. There were several stores selling old miscellaneous stuff, some antiques, some just plain old – books, knick knacks, old cameras, old chairs, some are interesting, some just looks , well, old. It was a fun event and we enjoyed hanging out in the neighborhood and listening to the music.
As we spent days walking around neighborhoods in Santiago, one interesting thing we noticed is this mini-performances on main streets while traffic is stopped. We’ve seen couples doing some traditional folk dance, or someone on stilts, or a couple of guys break dancing, or a lady with a rather unimpressive ribbon twirling act. They had perfected the timing of their act such that they can do their entire routine plus go around cars for money just in time before the traffic light turns green. It’s a very common sight in Santiago and is pretty entertaining to watch.
Santiago has varying and interesting neighborhoods. One of our favorites is the very colorful Bellavista, the Bohemian neighborhood of Santiago. It is a big party place, bars, pubs, dance halls line the streets and all restaurants have sidewalk tables and chairs. We went on a Friday and when afternoon came, there’s loud music from all the dance halls, and the streets got crowded. It seems that all the young people of Santiago comes here to party.
But we werent there to party obviously 😃 (a little too old for that). Bellavista is also a treat to wanna-be-photography-hobbyists like me! With its brightly colored buildings and walls painted with street art, we spent hours wandering the streets of the barrio until our feet hurt. Actually that didn’t really stop us, but we did have to leave before dark since we wanted to go to a jazz show later that night.
The evening brought us to a jazz club back at Barrio Italia called The Jazz Corner. This time this jazz club did not disappoint. Small and cozy and more intimate. Barrio Italia is not frequented by tourists so it was fun to walk around the neighborhood and just seeing the daily life of Chileans in this part of Santiago. This neighborhood was one of our cool finds in the city.
Barrio las Condes/El Golf is another neighborhood in Santiago. This is where all the new and modern buildings are. Sidewalks are wide and sparkly clean, avenidas are lined with shady trees, nice restaurants abound and it seems to me this is where you’d find the well-heeled of Santiago. We also noticed a lot of brightly painted benches along the streets of this neighborhood. We walked around the streets, stopped by a church and watched a wedding party have their photo shoot after the mass, and walked around the quiet leafy streets of Providencia neighborhood where we ended up having our lunch. (went to the Gran Torre Santiago, checked out a grocery store to look at the wines and bought a couple of bottles of Carmenere to bring home)
Our apartment in Santiago ( Apart Hotel Lastarria 43-61 ) was in the neighborhood of Lastarria, just steps away from a metro station and several restaurants. It’s a great location, convenient and a fun neighborhood to stay in. From our window we could see a lively pedestrian-only street below that is frequented by buskers and vendors selling books and arts and miscellaneous stuff. We were also able to just walk to Cerro Sta. Lucia which is right next door.
On our last full day in Santiago, we went on a tour of the Concha Y Torro Winery. We are normally that big on joining tours because we take too much time walking on our own pace and taking photos that we’d just get left behind by a group all the time but this was highly recommended to us and we sure are happy we did. While in the bus on the way to the winery we learned the fun history behind Chile’s flagship wine, the Carmenere, which deserves a blog of it’s own. We went through the beautifully maintained grounds of the winery, of course with wine tasting at each stop, going through some vineyards and lots of grapes varieties I didn’t even know of until that day. The tour ended at the cellar of C&T’s flagship brand, the Casillero del Diablo. We were back in Santiago center in the early afternoon, and so we spent the rest of the day in a beautiful sculpture park in Barrio Providencia and stopped by a supermarket to get ourselves a couple of bottles of Carmenere to bring home.