It had been 19 years since I had set foot in Santiago, I came once to celebrate my birthday with my friend Pilar, and it was time to go back. After enriching myself with my visit to the north we finally met, and as if it were yesterday, we didn’t stop talking for more than 12 hours straight.
It’s Sunday and some places are closed, such as Cerro de Santa Lucia. But that doesn’t demoralise us, the beautiful library is right next door and we visit it. An exhibition is held on the 1945 Nobel laureate Gabriela Mistral.
There is a curious street nearby, they call it “the street of spare parts” so if any appliance breaks, here you will find what you need. I think this street is very appropriate in an era where everything is to be used and thrown away, let’s repair & re-use.
We arrive at the Municipal Theater of Santiago, to do a tour it has to be booked and it won’t be for several days (I will no longer be there), but we believe that my Spanish accent encourages the kind officials to invite us to join one that is scheduled and private, of course when one comes from the other side of the world… I’m so happy!
The tour is wonderful, with many historical references, curious anecdotes such as the one about the back door, which is where the ladies usually entered from the carriage, who arrived with their dress wrinkled, yes wrinkled, because that indicated that they came from a great trip overseas, probably from Europe, and that gave them prestige.
And on the next street is the “Clinton’s Picá”, where the former President Bill Clinton stopped to eat a completo, which consists of a sandwich and a drink.
We found a small market in front of a beautiful church, Santa Rita de Cassia.
And we arrive at one of the most popular squares in Santiago, the Plaza de la Moneda, where the Palacio de la Moneda, headquarters of the President of the Republic and the State Bank are located. The other side of the palace is surrounded by the Plaza de la Constitución, and in it I see a statue of assassinated President Salvador Allende, a relative of the writer Isabel Allende.
Nearby is the Union Club, a meeting place for high society.
The Stock Exchange is next to Bandera Street, a street strewn with murals and colours.
Continuing walking we see the Supreme Court and the Courts of Justice, where Congress used to be located.
We feel like having a bite to eat and in front of us is the Bar Nacional, traditional and we enjoy some typical empanadas.
The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art looks imposing and closed. I make a mental note to visit it because I think it might be very interesting.
The Plaza de Armas is the centre and the life of Santiago, there is the Cathedral, Post Office, the Municipality building, a small market and many passers-by, bikes and skates interwoven in it.
Santiago’s Central Market has a wide range of restaurants. All around I find charming streets and corners. The Museum of Fine Arts is located in front of the Forest Park. For ice cream lovers, a stone’s throw away is the “Emporio la Rosa”.
The French Embassy gives us access to the neighbourhood of Lastarria which I can describe as bohemian, hipster and colourful, with good vibes. I like it a lot, so we stop at Brussels Chocolate for a hot one.
Walking at night we find street vendors selling vegan food, I like it. We arrive at the Patio Bellavista, where there are different cafes, bars and restaurants. We chose La Casa en el Aire for dinner and have empanadas with cochayuyo, (a very Chilean word, it is a seaweed), potatoes with guacamole and all enlivened with live music by Joaquín Sabina and Silvio Rodríguez.
We go home but not before passing by La Chascona, the house where Pablo Neruda lived.
Neruda takes us to Isabel Allende, probably the most famous writer this land has. I have chosen “The Long Petal of the Sea” alias that the poet uses to give name to his long and narrow country and name the author used to designate this novel that begins in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, its two main characters flee through France and embark on the Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the poet Neruda, that will take them to the distant lands of Chile where they will start a new life. A journey through the recent history of the country and uprooting.
Photo by @bostonbookfanatic