Day 14: Santiago
Other than the Santiago airport Holiday Inn (and it’s not really fair), we have done quite well with views from our hotel rooms on this trip. Today we awoke to a nice and sunny view looking northwest from our top-floor corner suite at Solace “€ including a visual of our target destination for the day, San Cristobal Hill. But first, we had important things to do, such as catch up on more sleep.
When we finally woke for real, we went downstairs to grab the buffet breakfast (no pancake press, but the fresh mini-donuts were amazing), then back upstairs to check the views from the rooftop bar (empty). Finally, we returned to our room to watch the end of Stage 7 of Tour de France and prepare and our plan of attack for the day.
Setting off by foot toward San Cristobal Hill, we first passed through a public sculpture garden a few blocks from the hotel with a nice collection of large installations and a handful of locals enjoying the park (and dogs, of course).
There is a long gondola ride to the top of the hill, but we were happy to walk and enjoy the crisp sunny weather along the way. The path allows all modes of transportation – including pedestrians, cars and bikes. By walking, we were able to see a wide variety of activities, including a few guys with a death wish barreling down the hill at crazy speeds on skateboards and three-wheelers. There was also a playground with Inca-inspired climbing pyramids, giant xylophones, and a couple of jugglers who looked like they were ready for prime time.
After about 45 minutes, we made it to the top and found the statue of the Virgin Mary, inside the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception. We walked around the grounds for a while and enjoyed the views of Santiago with the Andes mountains in the background. We ate a sandwich (thanks, Explora!) and a handful of peanut M&Ms for lunch, before also trying a local Chilean drink, the mote con huesillo. Made of peach nectar, whole dried and rehydrated peaches, and cooked husked wheat, the drink looks quite interesting. But, as one might expect since nearly everybody else was drinking one, it is delicious and refreshing.
As we left, we chuckled at the length of the line to get on the funicular to go down the hill. Happy to continue the walk rather than stand and wait, we successfully found the trail that passed the Santiago zoo and deposited us into the Bellavista neighborhood.
Imagine an artsy Wrigleyville, and you’ll have a rough approximation of the Bellavista barrio “€ home to Pablo Neruda’s house as well as many cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, and street art. If you want to party until 4AM, this is the place for you. Since we don’t, we walked around the streets and admired the murals.
Pablo NerudaÃ¢â‚¬Ëœs house is a particular point of interest because it has been transformed into a museum and probably is very cool if you appreciate his poetry. However, with only an hour before it closed, we satisfied ourselves with viewing the portions of the house we could see from the streets. Turned out that was a great choice because we happened to pass by the Modern School for Music and Dance next door, where we saw a group of people practicing a dance in the street. They were so dedicated they didn’t even stop as cars passed through.
The intersections in Santiago have a couple of different walk signals. One model shows a green man walking, then walking faster and faster until he turns red, indicating you need to stop walking. The other type is not animated. The green walking man blinks faster until he turns red. In either case, red really means stop. There is no grace period where you can still run across the street with time before the light changes. When the walk signal turns red, the opposite light turns green.
After walking around and not getting hit by cars, we were hungry for a snack and found a bar with a great beer and “empanaditas” deal. The beer was delicious. The empanaditas were more like microwaved cheese ravioli. But they satisfied our hunger. As a result, we have a goal for tomorrow: find real empanadas (apparently, empanaDITas are NOT empanaDAs). Hanger averted, we took a pleasant stroll back to the hotel for the night. The night skies were clear and the city views from the rooftop were great.
Tomorrow, one last bit of Chile before flying back home. As well as our empanada quest and finding the burger place Roberto told us about.