trip report: santiago
Santiago! When we were deciding where we wanted to spend New Year's Eve this year, the only requirement was SUN. The original plan had us jetting to Hawaii, but, apparently, that week between Christmas and New Year's is the most busy of the year for the islands, so hotels were the GDP of a medium-sized country.
Since we're not really beach people (I get bored after about an hour in the sun and poke Mike in the side until he stops doing crosswords and entertains me), we thought our next best option was south of the Equator, where it would be summer. Plus, it was somewhere neither of us had ever been. Obviously, though, half of the Earth is a rather large area to narrow down. Patagonia was our first thought, but that flight is LONG, especially since we only had less than a week for vacaton. But, it turns out that a lot of hotels in Patagonia have sister properties in the Atacama desert, which is only a few hours' flight from Santiago and very incredible in its own right. More on that later.
We knew we were flying into Santiago to get to Atacama anyway, so we decided to spend a few days on the ground. We chose Lastarria for our hotel, a converted mansion located in the Lastarria neighborhood, more of a boho feel than other areas.
Since we only had about two days in the city, we dropped our stuff off in the room and set off for Pablo Neruda's home in the Bellavista area, just a quick walk over. But first, we had to snarf our very first mote con huesillo. What is that, you may ask? Well, it sounds pretty bizarre: rehydrated dried peaches in a sugary syrup with wheat kernels. It is a very popular Chilean drink in the summer and, as strange as the combination may be, it is extremely refreshing.
Pablo Neruda's home in Santiago, La Chascona, is named after his red-headed lover, Matilde (chascona means wild mane of hair), who eventually became his third wife. It's filled with crazy artwork, furniture, and a dining room that looks like the inside of a yacht. Unfortunately you can't take pictures inside, but I definitely recommend a visit if you're in Santiago.
For lunch we headed to the Patio Bellavista, which feels a bit like South Beach in Miami. There are a ton of buzzy restaurants and bars, as well as many vendors selling art, perfumes and clothing. We opted for some ceviche at Cebicheria Constitucion, which served some of the freshest, sweetest fish I've ever tasted. I think having ceviche in South America is kind of like when you eat sushi in Tokyo for the first time: sadly, you realize what you have been missing (cue the world's TINIEST violin).
Because we're us, we spent the rest of the afternoon looking at more food.
The fresh fruit was very beautiful.
Even the fish market (Mercado Central) was spectacular. The building was designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel, which makes sense when you see the wrought iron in the rafters.
Also in Lastarria, there is a thriving art scene; there were galleries on almost every block. One of the most disturbing pieces was an installation near our hotel that featured burnt baby dolls, clothing and other miscellany.
Ok, more food. Dinner that night was at a local favorite in Bellavista, Como Agua para Chocolate. This being South America, we didn't eat until probably 10:30, and even that was kind of on the early side. My favorite dish was melted cheese (with a little bit of shrimp on top).
The next morning, we opted for a half-day tour with a guide. I don't recommend this in every city I visit, but for a place as sprawling as Santiago, it was nice to hop from spot to spot with a local who knew the city very well. We got to see all the major monuments and historical sites within a short amount of time.
Especially in the city center of Santiago, the architecture is truly beautiful. Below is La Moneda, the parliament building.
This was one gorgeous, too.
Lunch that day was at a very popular spot, albeit one that you might not necessarily connect with Chilean food. That being said, Chile isn't particularly known for its native cuisine (many popular Chilean dishes have roots in other South American countries, like Peru). Hence, the most famous sandwich in the city was actually introduced by German immigrants. You can find it at Fuente Alemana and it's called a lomito. It's a mix of pork, sauerkraut, mayonnaise and tomato sauce that is so tall you have to eat it with a knife and fork. It is also damn good.
We also stopped for an ice cream after because, look at these flavors. I would hang that mirror in my house.
I know it seems all we do is eat, BUT our last meal was pretty special. We went to Borago, which uses only Chilean ingredients in all of their dishes. It actually reminded me a lot of Noma in Copenhagen: they used foraged herbs and greens and the presentations were very playful. Look at this dessert!
So, should Santiago be on your bucket list? Depends on what you look for in a city. Would I go here over Tokyo or Copenhagen? No. But, it was a wonderful introduction to South America and I'm glad we spent a few nights. It was worth it for the sandwich.