Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Road to Santiago

I found this cool song by Heather Dale called The Road to Santiago while starting this blog, check it out here :)

I fell in love with Santiago the moment I met Santiago.

The first aspects that hooked me were the immense wall of Andes mountains surrounding the city and the beautiful, art-filled, and clean downtown Santiago. But what made me truly enamored with the city was the wonderfully sweet and charming people, consistently excellent food and drinks, and depth of expression of culture (impromptu opera in the main plaza and the wealth of free and immensely creative art museums, galleries, and markets only scratch the surface). I was consistently surprised by Santiago, as I feel like I've gotten to the point where going to new places just reminds me of places I have already been. Santiago was an amalgamation of it's own culture and that of others I had never encountered before, which was ineffably refreshing. 

Santiago is a city of many cultures through which the Chilean culture still finds room to shine brightly; it is a city of people who have immense strength from having endured a dictatorship and torture while still being among the warmest and welcoming I have ever met.

On top of all of this, I felt very at home here as a Coloradan, with the mountains close to the city, the chilly fall air, and people dressed in sporty outfits, looking ready take a stroll in the mountains at any time.

I only spent 1 week in Santiago, but I immediately ranked it near the top of places I want to live someday. 

Here are my photos from the week in Santiago and its surrounding areas, just so you can see how beautiful Santiago is:

The beautiful, forested walkway - Parque Forestal - next to the river. It was fall :)
The river Mapocho running through Santiago

Cerro San Lucia

Inside the main cathedral, in the main square

Beautiful architecture at the "Wall Street" of Santiago

Ceiling of the San Francisco church

Inside the Mercado Central

Our amazing airbnb host Luis (I definitely recommend his airbnb, the link is here) took us on a little tour of Santiago on our second day in. We walked to the Mercado La Vega, Mercado Central, Centro Cultural La Moneda, the Iglesia San Francisco, and Centre Gabriela Mistral. It's a pretty great loop to make when you first get to Santiago to see the main parts.

Trying on cute hats at Mercado La Vega. It didn't fit, so sad :( Mercado La Vega was a huge emporium of food, restaurants, and clothing, we went back twice just to explore and eat!
The Centro Cultural La Moneda, a cultural center next to Chile's governmental palace and mint. It's a beautiful space full of stunning art galleries and stores selling artisan goods. Definitely something to put on the top of your list of places to go in Santiago.

Inside the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda 

Crazy sea creatures being sold in the Mercado Central

Sea urchin being sold in the Mercado Central.

Seafood in the Mercado Central.
Inside the oldest church in Santiago, Iglesia San Francisco.

At the Centre Gabriela Mistral trying on hipster glasses - what do you think? It was probably one of my favorite places we visited that day. It's a cultural center with art galleries and stores inside and an antiques/flea market outside, located in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Barrio Lastarria. I found so many great, cheap books, beautiful handmade jewelry, and art supplies here! We also saw amazing photography and ceramics exhibits.

The streets were full of immense, masterful murals. Too many to photograph them all, but here are some of my favorites:

In Barrio Bellavista

Barrio Bellavista

Barrio Bellavista

Barrio Brasil, on the way to the Museo de la Memoria.

Barrio Brasil

Barrio Brasil

Barrio Brasil

Just outside metro station Bellas Artes, near Barrio Lastarria

Outside metro Bellas Artes
We went up Cerro San Cristóbal in the tram, it was a neat experience and you get to see a great view of Santiago. Definitely do this at sunset :)

Inside the Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción on top of Cerro San Cristóbal.

Statue of the Virgin Mary on top of Cerro San Cristóbal.

View from Cerro San Cristóbal

View from the tram on the way down.

View of Cerro San Cristóbal from our apartment window in Barrio Bellavista. I would definitely recommend staying in this neighborhood - it´s full of pretty art, good food, and is within walking distance of all the main attractions of downtown Santiago.
The third day we were there we took a tour to Valle Nevado and Farellones, two ski areas. For the life of me I can't remember the tour company's name, but we found the company at their booth in the Mercado Central for a pretty great price. Unfortunately there wasn't enough snow to ski or snowshoe :( But we went anyway to see the mountains! FYI - don't eat at the restaurant here, it was pricy and not tasty at all. Go to the pizzeria in Farellones.

It was interesting to see the types of tourists here & in Chile too - the majority came from Brazil, and we were often greeted by Chileans in touristy areas in Portuguese. Our trip to Valle Nevado was entirely in Portuguese. It seems that this is the vacation destination of choice for privileged Brazilians.

Valle Nevado

With some new friends at Valle Nevado

Valle Nevado

Valle Nevado

Zipliners at Farellones ski area.
The next day we went to the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights). The museum is dedicated to telling the truth and history of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile during the 70s and 80s. At the time we went, there was also a special exhibit on human rights & the drug war in Colombia. It was a poignant and powerful museum, and you cannot visit Santiago without going. Especially because the dictatorship was something many Chileans lived through, so in my opinion it's necessary to have that historical perspective while traveling there.

Before, during, and after my stay here I was reading Isabel Allende's The House of Spirits. It was, hauntingly, a coincidence that I was reading it during that time, as I was unaware until after returning from Chile it was constructed around true events and people in Chilean history. Finishing this book simply added another layer to the wonder of Chile, that such a brilliant author such as Allende would come from there. I strongly suggest reading this book, as it offers an insightful analysis of the realities we live in that allowed a dictatorship such as that of Pinochet's to occur through colorful and fascinating magical realism. I also strongly suggest reading it if you don't know what I mean by Pinochet, as it was a horrendous violation of human rights, one that in my opinion is an aspect of world history that is necessary to know.

Outside the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos. There were three flags: one bearing the museum's name, a Chilean flag, and the black flag that ends in a black pool of water.. It was hard to find information on what the black flag stands for, but I believe it represents the 1978 presidential vote that Pinochet held due to international pressure. The ballot had two options voters could mark: a pro-dictatorship vote represented by a Chilean flag, or a anti-dictatorship vote represented by a black flag. It was a threatening message from the dictatorship what the vote should be, and the dictatorship was re-elected after the election. 

On our final day in Chile, we visited the Concha y Toro Winery and San José de Maipo. Luis gave us directions on how to get to the winery by public transportation; it was very simple and definitely made us happy we didn't take a tour. You just take the green line south to the "Vicente Valdés" station, and transfer to the dark blue line going south, getting off at the "Las Mercedes" station (or depending on where you are, just take the dark blue line south to Las Mercedes). From there, you can take a taxi for 3,000 pesos or a 73, 80, or 81 bus for 500 pesos (get off at the the stop called "Pirque") to the winery.

Playing music, singing, and dancing in the courtyard of the Concha y Toro winery.

The manor of the winery's founder Don Melchor de Santiago Concha y Toro. 

The vineyards - unfortunately no grapes since it was winter.

Going to the famous "Casillero del Diablo" wine cellar.

Oak barrels with wine.

From the winery, we took busses to San José de Maipo - a town in the Cajón del Maipo river valley, a lovely mountainous area just outside of Santiago. Definitely worth visiting: it was rather cheap, had great food, and it was beautiful. There is hiking and hot springs in this area too if you come prepared :) You can either take a collectivo or the blue and white bus (I forget which number it it, but it states "Cajon del Maipo on it) from the Las Mercedes station. We kind of haphazardly found it from the winery, but I couldn't tell you how to repeat what we did cause it was just asking a lot of locals what corners to find the busses on, haha.

View of the mountains from San José de Maipo
But wait! I didn't tell you about the food! There was a lot of amazing food to eat, I'm very much in love with Chilean food now.

We started our trip at Boragó. I first read about this restaurant a year or two ago in an article about foraging for Sea Strawberries off the coast of Chile (you can read the article here: I was fascinated, and bookmarked the article in my travel folder of Evernote just in case. And look, I was able to go!

The concept of Boragó is reviving foraged Chilean foods in an effort to break from problems like overfishing (ahem, Chilean Sea Bass) and degradation of land via agriculture; almost all the items we ate I had never heard of before, as they are often only available in seasons a couple weeks long and are distinctly Chilean products. It was relatively expensive, but such an amazing experience to hear the stories of where each food came from and try things I'd never tasted before in my life and definitely something I recommend doing. Rather than fancy fish or fatty cows, the dinner was mostly foraged seaweeds, greens, mushrooms, berries, and the meat and cheeses from native animals.

It was served with some amazing Chilean wines - among my favorites were the Viña Ribera del Lago Cenizas del Laberinto Sauvingnon Blanc and a wine from the biodynamic Tipaume Grez winery called D.O. Alto Cachapoal.

The front of the restaurant.

Our first course - "galletas del mar" (bread dyed with squid ink made to look like sticks, covered in herbs), erizo (sea urchin), piure (the red-orange item, a type of Chilean sea tunicate), and loco (a type of rock snail that tastes like abalone)

Breads delivered in an adorable bag, served with pebre, a Chilean tomato salsa.

Patagonia deer tartare with foraged berries and greens.

"chupe de setas", a type of thick mushroom puree made with wild mushrooms from Quintay, topped with a something that resembled a friend bay leaf - not sure what it was, haha. 

Quail eggs in a tree! Kind of ridiculous, but the eggs were cooked so the yolk was completely runny and the outside was perfectly cooked, so good. There was also a random rock on the table to decorate it, Chris named it Piedro.

Seaweed (plantas de rocas) cream, topped with crackers.

Rocas puree (still not quite sure what rocas was, it tasted like beans), cooked over a rock in a seaweed root broth. That broth was probably my favorite thing all night - it was made with seaweed root and nothing else, but tasted like a well prepared Japanese soy broth.

Guanaco - a camelid (kinda like alpaca) cooked in lampaya (a medicinal desert herb from Northern Chile) topped with murtillas (a bush berry) from Patagonia.

Goat cheese bites topped with a bitter herb, made to look like the Atacama desert rocks.

Cuchuflís (a Chilean tube-shaped dessert usually filled with dulce de leche, though I think these were a type of soft cheese) covered in rose pedals.

Goat milk cheesecake from the Chilota goat with Maqui (a berry that tasted kind of like blackberries) and Arrayanes (berries from an Andian tree that grows at high altitude) from the Valdiviana forest.

A little ball of a sweet dessert made from mushrooms and juniper from the central coast - and ice cream!

"frío glacial" - our last dessert that caused white vapors to go through your nose and tasted like menthol - pretty shocking
We also spend the rest of the vacation eating lots of good diner, market, and street food :)

Probably one of my absolute top things I ate and something you have to try - the ostion queso empanada from Restaurante Alcobri in Barrio Bellavista.

Tried the empanadas and juice at the local institution Zunino, they were kinda meh, I don't recommend it.

Got some excellent Kross craft brew and a Churrasco chacarero sandwich at the Chinchinero. I'm just not a churrasco fan, but the beer was great and their menu (set meal) options looked pretty bomb.

Luis took us to get "completos" (hot dogs) at Dominó. I'm not the biggest hot dog fan, but they were pretty good. Most people who go to Chile rave about them, I guess it's one of those things you have to try. The chirimoya orange juice was amazing!

Lucuma (a type of fruit) and dulce de leche ice cream bars from Heladería Emporio La Rosa!

Luis made us an amazing homemade meal of Porotos con Rienda (chorizo, bean and pumpkin stew), pebre (chiean tomato salsa), and sopaipillas (fried pumpkin flat breads). Such a great cook!

Chile has some pretty fantastic microbrews. Try them out at José Ramón 277 Chopería Sanguichería - probably my favorite restaurant after Boragó

Got wine flights and a seafood platter at Bocanáriz. This is a great place to try Chilean wines. The food was good, but definitely not the best we had.

Inside Bocanáriz wine bar.

Got cake and hot chocolate at Caffe Vergnano. It was alright, but it would be better to fulfill your sweet tooth at the La Rosa's ice cream shop ;)

My favorite meal of the whole trip!! Cazuela con albondigas, salad, bread, and tea at La Tía Ruth in Mercado La Vega. Definitely go.

Again, good beer but the food was ok - Chris' porotos with sausage was definitely better than my chile shrimp. Craft beer at the Galindo Brewery.

Comfort food and cinnamon tea at Likan ( in San José de Maipo. Definitely recommend this restaurant.

Sopaipilla pasada at Likan - orange and cinnamon syrup over a pumpkin fry bread, what´s not to love?

In summary, I love Santiago. I really love Santiago. It was unexpected and wonderful, and it brought back a lot of the wonder of travel I haven't felt for a while. 

I'll end with a quote from Isabel Allende, whose book shed so much light on my trip. It's a quote that I feel resonates with me more and more as I travel more and immerse myself in the languages and cultures of my surroundings.

"The longer I live, the more uninformed I feel. Only the young have an explanation for everything."

No comments:

Post a Comment