Santiago, Chile

January 4th – January 6th, 2020

Highlights:

After returning from the Patagonian wilderness, some of us didn’t fare so well. I think after a night out plus several more hours in Santiago, as a group, we were down two iPhones and a few dozen dollars. It didn’t help that in our entire group, only one of us spoke Spanish. You could easily say this about any city, but Santiago was different from any place I’ve ever been to. Being there – walking the streets, taking the subway, and seeing protests in the distance – helped me gain a glimpse of what this city was really like. It was beautiful, yet it was in a state of political unrest. National monuments are covered with graffiti and the air is sharp with remnants of tear gas. I couldn’t begin to understand the culture or experiences of the locals but spend a few days there and you will begin to realize how different others’ realities are from your own.

Santiago is lively and urban, and many areas are crowded with tourists. We stayed in the Lastarria neighborhood, which definitely attracted many tourists with its wine bars and bookshops and ice creams stores. In areas like this, it isn’t difficult to find restaurants that cater to foreign tastes with a mix of cuisines. On our first day, we visited Chipe Libre, which has a huge assortment of piscos and tourist-friendly dishes. Restaurants in the area (like Mulato) also serve typical South American dishes like empanadas along with offerings like Mediterranean seafood, Italian pastas, and American burgers. We also had a beautiful casual breakfast at Colmado Coffee.

If I were to return, I’d hope to try more local restaurants, though personally I cannot say I greatly enjoy traditional Chilean food or drink. On our last day, we visited El Hoyo, where meat-eaters can enjoy large plates of meat and fries, but vegetarians will pretty much subsist on lettuce, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, and fried eggs. The drinks are strange but worth a try! There’s one that’s reminiscent of eggnog and another that tastes sort of like a rum and coke.

Another highlight of our trip to Santiago was our visit to the Concha y Toro vineyard, home to the Casillero del Diablo (Devil’s Locker). This was definitely worth it, considering all of us were drunk and passed out by 11 in the morning. The tour takes you down to the original wine locker, complete with a fun light show that tells the story of its namesake. We also strolled through the vineyards and tasted the sour, unripe grapes before heading back to the city center.

Santiago has a lot to offer, but tourists should definitely be careful and try to brush up on their Spanish if possible. We also had a great time exploring the Nuñoa neighborhood, which has rows and rows of boutiques and restaurants that offer a consistent array of sex toys, hats, and chocolates. The National Museum of Fine Arts is also extremely interesting, with free admission and an eclectic collection of modern and classical art pieces. Santiago has character – it is colorful and unashamed to be itself. Spend more than a few days there and you’ll also have the opportunity to take a few day trips out of the city! More on Valparaiso, a nearby beach town soon.

An added note – thank you to three individuals especially (Dragon, Tammy, and Will) for making my time in Santiago unforgettable. Thank you for letting me open up to you and sharing parts of your life with me. There is no one I’d rather get tear-gassed and eat terrible (and good) empanadas with. Cheers to you, your kindness, and your adventurous spirit!

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