First on the itinerary: Santiago in Chile. I honestly did not know what to expect: it’s a running joke amongst my friends that all the stamps in my passport are to first world countries. So, what were my first impressions of Santiago? Only that three days in this city is not enough to get under its skin, but more than enough for me to know that I want to return to this country and to this city. It’s a tough place to take in: it’s one of the most cosmopolitan cities in South America, but it’s home to over half Chile’s population, and the poverty on the outskirts of the city is quite severe. In climate it’s Cape Town, in scenic backdrop (the Andes) it’s Zurich, looking at the city hall, it’s Madrid.
Until the 1950’s, many of the buildings around the commercial areas of Barrio El Golf were nothing more than country homes situated on large plots of land. Today, you see glitzy skyscrapers, posh shops and stylish restaurants and the area is now often referred to as Sanhatten, a play of words on Manhattan and Santiago. Lots of new building projects are underway and you can see why Chile is seen as the model of economic prosperity in South America.
However, a lot like Manhattan, this city also has its bohemian side, and it can be found in a few of the barrios of the city, but by far the best of them, or at least my favourite, is Bellavista, which is roughly the two square kilometres below the San Cristobal statue at the bottom of the hill.
So, if you ever find yourself in Santiago, I can recommend the following based on my experience:
Borago – for a gastronomic experience at one of the best restaurants in Santiago, we ate the tasting menu with a fantastic wine pairing, with all products locally sourced and presented in outlandishly artful ways. A truly remarkable night out. (http://www.borago.cl/en/)
Patio Bellavista – A collection of restaurants and shops are spread around interior squares in the bohemian area of Bellavista. It is café culture Chile style – plenty of pisco sour… (http://www.patiobellavista.cl/index.php)
Turistik – this company operates a hop-on-hop-off bus service in Santiago. I also used their daytrips to surrounding areas. (http://www.turistik.cl/?lang=en)
The Aubrey – it is an upmarket boutique hotel in the Bellavista area. We went for drinks at their poolside piano bar. Perfect place for late afternoon pisco sours and tapas. (http://www.theaubrey.com/main/index/)
Pueblo Los Dominicos – a rustic complex, resembling a Chilean Colonial village with white-washed, low-slung adobe buildings, provides a change to see a huge variety of local arts and crafts in one place sometimes with the artist workshop attached. (I saw where Zoro’s Victoria buys all her wonderful hats from :-)!) (http://www.pueblitolosdominicos.com/espanol/home_.html)
Peruvian food - Chilean cuisine, the wonders of Borago notwithstanding is known to be a little…perhaps ‘bland’ would be unkind. And so some of the best food in Santiago is actually found in Peruvian restaurants. Peruvian food has a couple of interesting staples: corn (it was first found here in the 1500’s by the Spanish), aji – a kind of pepper, and things we’ve never seen like palm heart salad. My recommendation is that (my ex-pat South African friend) Mia's Peruvian housekeeper makes supper for you :-), but if she is not available, go to Tanta at Parque Arauco. (http://www.parquearauco.cl/restaurantes-cafe/tanta-2.html)
Image credits: All photography by me