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March 4, 2007

And Santiago continues to impress me…

I had an oh-so-wonderful day today just roaming around the streets of this city.

Considering it’s a Sunday, I was prepared for not much to be open. But that is the beauty of big cities…there is so much more to see
than just a few blocks of shops.

I headed out in a direction that I didn’t go on my first day in this city. It was time to do some exploring. As I made my way out of
Barrio Brasil I was already enjoying the architecture that surrounded me. Wonderful buildings, vibrant colors, cobblestone streets. I
ask you…what is there
not love about this? It was charming. It was quaint. It had a tinge of ‘Europe’ going on.

I stumbled upon the big buildings in Plaza Arenas. By ‘big buildings’ I don’t mean office buildings; I am talking about those grand
national buildings that every capital city has. These are the types of pictures that you snap loads of pictures of when you travel to
Europe for the first time and you go to a capital city. By the third city you have reached, you stop taking pictures because they all
look alike and you really don’t even know what the heck the building even is. But since it has felt like forever since I have seen such
buildings, I was acting like a traveling virgin as I snapped away. I haven’t seen buildings with that kind of beauty
since…well…maybe Budapest back in June. That was quite a while ago.  I guess big, pretty buildings were overdue.

Speaking of big, pretty buildings I saw a bunch of people walking in and out of one. I decided I would follow suit. I guess I was so
carried away by the grandeur of it that I failed to spot the huge crosses overhead. It was a Sunday mass at the main church in the
square. Not only was it beautiful listening to the singing, the architecture inside was striking as well. This is when you
know it has
been a long time since you have been in Europe…Catholic churches are once again fascinating (after swearing that you had seen
your maximum capacity of them). I decided to take a few minutes to sit down and take it all in (God, I felt like my mom…oops…I
Gosh, I felt like my mom as she would always do this when going to churches in Europe. What can I say? I come from an
open-minded Jewish family.).

From the Sunday mass, I continued on my merry little way. I started seeing darling little cafes which is always a good sign of
entering a great neighborhood. I was about to cross through a park but I saw a museum right in front of me. I wasn’t intending on
going to a museum. But at the same time, I really wasn’t intending on doing anything today. A museum seemed like a good Sunday
activity. It’s been a while since I’ve seen art (actually, now that I think about it…it has been a
long while…). It would be my lucky
day when I went in. I would find out that Sunday is the free day at the Museo de Bellas Artes. The art didn’t do too much to
impress me (much of it was modern/abstract);
however, I found the actual building wonderful. Totally ‘art nouveau’ (I love
bragging about my ability to point out styles of architecture).

Santa Lucia was the choice for where I would lunch. What wasn’t to love about the character of the narrow cobblestone streets lined
with colorful little restaurants all offering 3-course ‘menus’ for about $5???

All I could think for the duration of the day was ‘This city is great.’ I’ve never really heard anybody else say anything about it.
Maybe that’s part of the appeal for me. It is so underrated…

March 5, 2007

And Santiago failed to disappoint me yet again…

I started my day off by going to the Brazil Consulate (have to do
something that makes me feel useful, you know…) and then
headed off to undiscovered territory.

I should really thank my two buddies (Ignacio and Ivanka) that I met while I was in the Lake District for all of the tips they gave
me. Ignacio is from Santiago so I saw him as a valuable resource. The places/streets that he wrote down for me weren’t mentioned
in my Lonely Planet so I can be sure that I would have never found them.

That being said, I think the most incredible way to see a city like this is sans guidebook. I have been leaving it behind each day
instead carrying just a photocopy of a map from my hostel that shows streets and subway stations. I love not being at the mercy of
a map. I get to see so much more! Some people are so focused on always looking down at their book that they never see all of the
great stuff right in front of them. Lonely Planet is a great way to find names of places to stay and a small city map before you arrive
in a city…but as for the rest of the stuff, I have no problem just winging it. I love asking locals what they recommend. That is how
you truly know where to check out…

Ivanka had nothing but raves for Barrio Bellavista. When I described the type of neighborhoods that were my preference, she
immediately told me to go there. (The funny thing is that on Sunday I intended to go there…and I
thought I was there…but then
realized after lunch when trying to find any street on my map that I never actually crossed over the main street. Therefore, I spent
the day in Barrio Santa Lucia. Something I had no problem with as it ended up being as charming as could be.) The vibe in this
‘barrio’ was very Bohemian – colorful, loads of character, narrow streets, cafes, etc. I strolled and window-shopped at the many
jewelry boutiques selling funky versions of silver-and-lapis jewelry (I’m thinking a small splurge might be in order before leaving). I
am also going to take this opportunity to say that I have a whole new image in my mind now when I hear the word ‘barrio’.

I ran across a sign that said ‘funicular’. Wonderful! My friend had told me about this but I forgot to think about it. Now I followed
the sign to the end of the street where I would take a ride to the tippity-top of the hill known as Cerro San Cristobal. I paid a visit to
the Virgin Mary (who looks over the city) while I was up there. I wonder if she has ever noticed how smoggy this city is. The Andes
were directly in front of me…but were they? It was really,
really hard to tell. I think I managed to eventually see the outline.

Patio Bellavista – a small artsy open-air mall with jewelry shops, cafes and restaurants – was where I would head to for a mid-day
snack. And then it was off I went to the metro station. It was time to continue my day using Ignacio’s advice.

I hopped out without a clue of where I was. After asking a couple people, I was finally heading in the right direction. Within a few
minutes, I realized that I was in the business district of Santiago. The wide sidewalks were spic-and-span clean, the buildings were
all modern and unique from one another and, well, of course there was a Starbuck’s. Considering this is the most economically
advanced country in the continent, I guess it
would make sense that there business center would be nice. I just wasn’t expecting it
to be
this nice. As I continued on, I realized that I was passing the Ritz Carlton. Okay. Now it was confirmed that I was in a very
nice area.

It was at this area where I needed to turn to find the street that Ignacio recommended – Avenida Isidora Goyenechea. This was a
large tree-lined street that was sprinkled with cafes and restaurants. And then I saw another Starbuck’s. But wait! It wasn’t
Starbuck’s. It was Star
light Coffee. The lettering and colors made it a total impostor. I love it – a Starbuck’s knock-off in Chile! I
had to go. I just have to give props to them: lattes for half the price of Starbuck’s!

Nightfall was just around the corner so it was time to make my way back to Barrio Brasil (where I am staying). Apparently I didn’t
really think about timing when planning this outing. Even though it was 8pm, it was rush-hour. I have always known to avoid such
situations when in New York so I can say in all honesty that I have never been more packed like a sardine than I was in that train.
Not a good thing for a claustrophobic girl. Especially when the train stops in a tunnel (probably just because they were waiting for
another train to move from the upcoming station – but I couldn’t understand anything as all announcements were being made in
Spanish). I did a decent job of handling this for 11 stops. But then I saw a mass of people waiting at the next stop to squeeze their
way into the train. I hit my threshold. I ‘permiso’ed my way outta the train and opted to walk instead of being up close and personal
with the Santiaguinos for the next four metro stops. All I can say is that fresh air never felt better!

March 6, 2007

Incredible Restaurant Alert! Incredible Restaurant Alert!

After coming back from Valparaiso today I headed to a restaurant that Ivanka told me about called Como Agua Para Chocolate in
Barrio Bellavista. Oh my gosh – I couldn’t have picked a better place! The food was incredible, as was the atmosphere. The only
problem was that there were too many things on the menu that I wanted to try. I have come to the conclusion that I will have an
opportunity to try something else as I am going to go there for dinner on my last night in Santiago.
Back to Chile.
Big church in the center of the city.
Cute neighborhood near the business district.
The Virgin looking down on Santiago.