Friday, March 16, 2018

Anniversary Road Trip - Santiago

[Kyle]From Santa Cruz, we hit the road feeling like we really should have gone on foot to burn off our meal instead of lazily driving a car to Santiago.

Santiago is crazy. It's a real-live city with sky scrapers, a subway system, air pollution and rush-hour traffic filled with impatient drivers. It's the most populated place we have been since leaving San Francisco almost a year and a half earlier.

We managed to both of our surprise to find the high-rise apartment I’d booked on Airbnb. It was nice and it was right in the middle of everything, but it was also a reminder of why we don't want to live full-time in a big city. It was a two bedroom, two bath dwelling crammed into the confines of a concrete cube with a thousand others just like it. It's height made for some nice views but also made the twenty-four hour din of traffic impossible to ignore. The unit next door probably rented for more than we could've afforded when we both had real jobs. {Maryanne: The apartment was perfect for the two of us with the 'spare' bedroom used as our bag dumping ground. I don't think it would have worked for 6 people, but for 2 we had room to spread. There was even a community swimming pool (should we be so inclined)}.

With just the remainder of the day left for exploring, we decided to spend our time having an aimless wander around our neighborhood. My thought was that we would enjoy a walk in the adjacent park for the hour or so before darkness fell, then find a nice restaurant/bar where we could have a Pisco sour and a light dinner before returning to the apartment to see if one of the bottles of wine we bought the day before was any good.

Santiago scenes

It didn't work out that way. Our evening stroll through the park took us to the road that acts as the demarcation line between to good area and the bad area of town. There were no tracks, per se, but the right side of the road was definitely the wrong side of the tracks.

It seemed a safe enough area, but there were definitely not going to be any nice ferny restaurants with balconies overlooking the skyline. We found a few dodgy-looking pool halls and some dodgy-looking dive bars, but nothing that seemed to be a better deal than giving up and going home. One notable place we found was advertising empanadas on a sandwich board outside. As we passed the place, we were amused to see that it was a night business run out of a garage. If we were so inclined, we could go in and get microwaved empanadas served on a greasy table with a view of a rusted out Chevy and a shelf full of salvaged parts. No thanks.

{Maryanne: I'd dreamed of eating at the historic 'central market' but by the time we arrived it was all closed up so with no particular restaurant in mind, we just wandered about hoping to find something. We later found out that we missed LOADS of great restaurants by a single bad turn... Oh well.}

We ended up buying a couple of empanadas each from a bakery/mini-mart and taking them back to our apartment to add to the wine. It was okay. The label said, "Best paired with gas station hot pockets". It turns out we were tired enough that anything more fancy would have been lost on us.

Santiago Proper

With an eye toward being proper tourists, Maryanne booked us a walking tour of the city the next morning. Our guide for the day was a history teacher "between jobs" who was doing free tours for tips. We felt both guilty and pleased to not have to share him with anyone else. He was just wonderful. We were taken through some very nice neighborhoods in which we would have loved to linger had we had a few spare days, and given a very good history of the area. My favorite part of the whole to tour was when we stopped at the Presidential Palace.

Lots of Chilean churches have some remnants of pre-Christian-influence worship themes
(like the sun, and mountains found in most Mary statues)
It was great to have these pointed out to us

We took a bench with a view of the palace and had a long discussion about the Pinochet years. We have found most Chileans to be reticent about their years living under a dictator, but our guide was candid about it and made an effort to answer our questions honestly. He said it helped that we were speaking English, because a lot of the time, when speaking Spanish, he gets confronted by hecklers with a particular ideological axe to grind. Like many painful periods in history, change and acceptance may take generations before the pain and resentment recedes. {Maryanne: It's kind-a inappropriate to ask Chileans about Pinochet, in the same way it might be to ask Germans about Hitler, so we've avoided the topic to date. It was nice to be presented with the opportunity to chat openly about it and ask questions without fear of offending. Our guide also left us with a good tip for a place to get lunch, in particular the Pastel de choclo that I'd been keen to try - it is basically like a cottage pie but rather than mashed potatoes uses a thick layer of ground corn topping that has the texture of mashed potatoes}.

German influences and Chilean poets are key themes in Santiago

Once we bid our guide goodbye, and then had lunch, we decided to take in the city from the top of the biggest hill within the city limits. It was a good warm day for an uphill slog, but to save precious time, we elected instead to buy a combo ticket that would take us up by funicular and down via Poma lift (gondola). As tourist season was over, we had no waiting either way and could stroll to our heart's content along the paths and linger at various lookouts. Coming down, we found what has to be the most scenic public pool ever. It was eerily NOT mobbed with people beating the heat. We may just have joined them had they not been doing their post-season maintenance.

A trip to San Cristobal Hill for the views

At the bottom, we had some more strolling along the river before popping into the mall at South America's tallest building for some much needed outdoor wear. Malls. Fleh!

Two quick, jam-packed subway rides later and we were back at our apartment packing me up for my flights north. I have managed to avoid airports entirely since I retired and all of the intervening time has not softened my subconscious sense of dread when driving up the terminal road. I really hope that goes away someday, but it seems it's going to take a while.

Maryanne: Having dropped Kyle off at the airport (a short 15 minute drive if you don't get lost) I returned to the apartment and just chilled for the evening. The next day I took a walk about the streets headed specifically for the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. I took a stroll though the central market (finally) and just enjoyed soaking up the feel of the city before grabbing a snack and chilling back at the apartment - it was a long drive back the following day to Valdivia)

A final day of ambling about Santiago

1 comment:

Mommy Carla said...

This sounds like a lovely prelude to what became, for Kyle anyway, some high blood pressure days ahead. Santiago looks absolutely beautiful, rusted out Chevys aside.