We had effectively opted out of Santiago, having decided instead to go to Valparaiso and only stop 2 nights in Santiago on our way to Pucon, en route to the Navimag. We arrived on the easy 2 hour bus from Valpo, and after a fair amount of bad spanish and confusion managed to work out that our bus to Pucon 2 nights later was definitely going from an area of Santiago that was “mucho lejos de aqui” but without specifics… we eventually worked out that we could get the bus on its second stop much closer to town – so much for those spanish lessons – it seems to be getting worse…
We hopped on the tube and made our way to the Bellavista area of town, found our hostel and went for a wander. To our surprise the Bellavista area was fantastic – two parallel roads, one for students lined with pavement bars selling cheap litres of beer, and a second lined with lovely restaurants – within minutes of arriving we were elbow deep in a bowl of bbq meat, and a lovely bottle of Merlot! Happiness can be bought!
The two roads are joined by a complex called the Patio Bellavista, that is a sheltered little spot full of restaurants, bars and boutiques – just my kind of place!
The next day we met our guide from Spicy Chile a company that offers a tips only walking tour through the main sights of Santiago and spent a lovely 4 hours with the insanely knowledgable Dani seeing all the best bits and getting inside info on the arts, music and theatre scene. The city is stunning, with wide avenues full of trees and lots of parks – which gives it a stylish, relaxed feel – so much better than any other city we have seen so far.
We took our own walking tour later that afternoon to find the darn bus stop for the next night, and took a detour home via the Emporio La Rosa for an ice cream before spending the evening getting happily smashed on insanely strong pisco sours in the Patio Bellavista.
The next day we took a stroll down to the central market to look at the stalls of seafood – huge barnacles anyone? Then grabbed a seat in the middle of the market and enjoyed a prawn dish (3 prawns for CH9000 anyone?) and a huge paella (food for 4 for CH9000 anyone?) – random pricing but between us we ate well!
We pottered back though the park to the Museo de Bellas Arts to see a display of André Kertész photographs and the Degas exhibition – they even had a dancer doing ballet in the foyer! All of which was a bit too high brow so we took a stroll up the Pio Nono to see if we could see our pals from Mendoza who we knew were arriving that day (and who we knew would not be able to resist cheap beer!). We found them at a pavement bar (so easy to spot a gringo in SA!) and joined them for a couple of beers.
All in all – I think Santiago gets a bad press. It is a beautiful tree-lined city, 1 hour from skiing, 1.5 hours from the beach, with great restaurants, bar scene and the arts – almost my perfect city – if only I could understand the spanish they speak!