Cuatro días en Chile
While I couldn’t be happier having BA as my home for the upcoming year, after two months discovering this incredible city I thought it might be a good time to explore somewhere new. With a friend in Santiago and an expiring visa, my bags were packed. On reflecting upon my time there, I can conclude it is no Buenos Aires – but as a city, for its harrowing history, breathtaking landscapes and Pisco Sour treats – it is certainly worth a trip.
Day 1: Bellas Vistas – Literally
Juliet, a wonderful pal from University, kindly let me stay with her in her house in Bella Vista – the bohemian quarter of Santiago. Her neighbour in a past century was Pablo Neruda, filling the barrio with poetry, politics and a vanguardista edge. The day began with a trip up Cerro Santa Lucía, where once reaching the top you can see some incredible views of the city and its skyline, tucked into the backdrop of the Andes Mountains.
A short walk away from this cerro sits La Moneda Palace, a neoclassical dream which serves as the seat of the President, Sebastián Piñera, as well as the functional headquarters of several of the government’s ministries. Just opposite is El Centro Cultural de La Moneda , a contemporary arts museum with a particularly funky exhibition called Asia, Australia y El Pacīfico, which is running until the 16th December. It’s an exploration of culture by artists from indigenous backgrounds, and I would 10/10 recommend.
Day 2: Valparaíso dreaming
Just an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Santiago sits Valparaíso, a coastal town which spreads across many a cerro, and known for its amazing street art and hipster atmosphere. I was happy to be told, after a slightly breathless venture up Santiago’s Cerro Santa Lucia the day before, Valparaíso is funicular-central, meaning you can see the panoramic maze of colourful houses sat on hills without fear of an imminent heart attack.
Lunch at Al Alba is a must, with tasty delicacies almost as good as the views that surround you from the rooftop. It’s a heavenly place for strolling and admiring and dreaming, even sunbathing on the beaches (!!!) in the warmer months.
Day 3: Sights, sights and more sights
Our day began the best way it possibly could – an unimaginably tasty brunch at Holm. For about £11, you get actual courses of brunch – as well as a delightful little coffee and juice. I still find myself daydreaming days later about the lentil humous, and pretty much everything else on that plate too.
With our energies boosted to full capacity, we headed to Museo de la Memoría y Derechos Humanos. The Pinochet Regime, having only ended officially in 1990, has undoubtedly left its mark on the city. The museum is as harrowing as it is informative, with its contents staying with you long after you leave the entrance gates. I think those visiting Santiago and Chile have a certain responsibility to find out about its past, for those it was taken away from and those working to leave it firmly there.
My final evening in Santiago included a trip to the Centre Gabriela Mistral, GAM to the locals. It is far more than your average cultural centre, with incredible exhibitions, live music and theatre galore. We caught a performance of La pérgola de las flores, one of Chile’s most renowned pieces of musical theatre and simply put, an absolute delight. I think I’ll be humming the tune to the opening lines ‘Quieres flores, señorita, quieres flores el señor?’ for many weeks to come. It’s playing until the 15th December and is only $3000 chilean pesos for students. Why the hell not!
I say goodbye to Chile with a heavy heart, feeling a little bit more knowledgable about Latin America. As I write this in Santiago airport, gazing over all the destinations this continent has to offer on the departure board, I fear I might have ever-so-slightly caught the travelling bug.