26 June 2011

Santiago....4.5 great days!

I flew into Santiago just as the sun was coming up. The whole flight had been bumpy - but I had three seats to myself so I slept some. As we began to sink for landing, the Andés came into view. I looked out the window of the plane and saw what I thought was fog settling around the villages below. It was an amazing sight, the ground seemed to shimmer and sparkle as the sun poked it's head out over the clouds. I would later learn it was actually smog.....

Santiago is huge, but well connected. The central downtown area is easily walkable as are all the barrios around. Between the metro and my own two feet I covered ALOT of ground.
But my first task was finding the Brazilian consulate - so that I could get a visa for my trip to Brazil mid-July..... I found it on a map and went to the San Lucia metro station - I left the station and began walking. I couldn't find the right street, but I found a Chilean government office and asked security there. They pointed me in another direction.... And their directions took me to a police station.....the officers there gave me directions to a theater and at the theater a random woman outside gave me directions to a shopping area. Obviously no one knew. I looked on the map again, oriented myself and headed off in that direction. As it was well hidden, I actually walked past it several times - but now I know *exactly* where it is! Once that was taken care of, it was time to be a tourist...

There is so much to see and do in Santiago! On the first day I went to Plaza del Armas (central part of town), San Lucia hill - great lookout, and Las Monedas (governmental offices). I also walked across the Mapucho river to the San Francisco Cathedral and through the nearby barrios (neighborhoods). My couch-surfing host, Pato took me around his barrio. I loved the 1920's feel of the area and the graffiti murals around the area. Especially clever was the one of cats waiting to pounce on fish in the sea. Near and dear to my heart was the one for Guias and Scouts. It has the WAGGGS logo!

My second day I slept in a bit later than planned and missed the tour I was going to take - oh well! So instead I went back to Plaza del Armas and to the main post office. This was the fanciest post office I've ever seen! After getting some stamps for postcards, I realized it had a museum inside of it. I've been to the postal museum in Washington DC before and am just enough of a nerd to like it! So my first tourist attraction of the day was the postal museum. I mean it was interesting to look at, but only the first room was actually translated into English and I was just too lazy to spend time reading every Spanish caption. (Although it is worth mentioning that I have spoken very little English or German since landing in Santiago - I am doing a decent job of communicating in Spanish.) Then I met up with Pato and we went to eat - I had fish and my first pisco sour (yum!) He took me to the fish market, the fruits and vegetable market (my favorite) and a textile market. It was all really amazing to see!

My third day I finally made it on that tour! The tour guide was great (I think some of his comments are worthy of their own post) and I really learned a lot about Santiago. Plus in the middle of the tour, there was a stop - for pisco sours! That evening I switched to my new couch-surfing hosts, Mario and Jessica. They treated me to an amazing meal that Mario cooked: oysters with lemon juice, muscles with cheese baked over them, soup made of Congrio (a traditional fish) cooked in a clay pot and oh yes, more pisco sours..... Amazing!

My fourth and final day as a tourist in Santiago, Jessica and Connie showed me around to some of the places I'd not yet been. We started out at Los Dominicos church - but it was closed, however the market next to it was not... Lots of great craft items. Plus there I enjoyed the Chilean version of sopapillas. Whereas the ones we get in Texas are flour-based, pillow shaped and meant to be filled with honey; the Chilean ones are round, flat corn cakes. I ate mine bare, but they can be topped with cheese or beans. Loved em!

Then we went to the zoo. I've been to the world's highest zoo before - in the Alps in Austria, but as this one was up on a hillside within the Andés, it must be up there among the highest. It was a cool zoo with great views of the city.

After the zoo, we rode the funicular further up to San Cristobol. At the top is a statue of the virgin Mary. Think of the famous one in Rio - then reduce it in size.... We watched the sunset from the top and then rode the funicular back down. Before returning to their house, we walked through the artsy Bellavista Barrio. Un día perfecto!

Santiago has street dogs EVERYWHERE! Some of them are cute and small, others look mean and large. They live nowhere and everywhere. They belong to no one and everyone. Literally. The Santiagans feed the dogs and even provide some of them with jackets. But no one takes them in. The dogs know their place, they do not bark or attack. They follow runners, but only to join in the run. They do not beg, but they accept gratefully. When walking by, they pretty much ignore you. The dogs are everywhere - but cats are almost non-existent....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad.

Location:Santiago, Chile

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