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Patagonia state of mind – part 1. Santiago

It took me nearly two months to sort the photos that I made during my three weeks in Patagonia. Even with careful screening and editing, I don’t think it’s possible to post all of them here so I chose only the ones I thought would show the soul of each place I visited without much of an explanation. In my opinion, each of these photos has a story to tell. Patagonia is such an eclectic place, I cannot begin to tell how much I enjoyed being there. Before, I thought it was a place you can visit only once in your life. Now, I think it’s a place worth coming back to.

My journey started in Santiago, Chile. Back, when I was studying in London, I had a friend named Francesca. She was a daughter of Chilean ambassador in London and had a beautiful house in Kensington with servants and three course meal each day. I used to come over after my classes and her world to me – post Soviet child looked like something completely magical, straight out of movie. I’ve never met anyone from Chile before and I knew very little about the country.  For all the experience I had with Francesca, her country looked like a dream place to me. I would have never guessed that one day I will go there for my honeymoon trip.

We arrived to Santiago in the morning after a really exhausting 27 hour flight from Tokyo. It would have been much easier if we flew through LA but transit visa to the US was such a pain in the ass, I had to fly through Canada.

Thanks to tripadvisor and months of thorough research and review reading, I found the perfect place to stay in Santiago, a hotel called Meridiano Sur.  I hate huge corporate hotels. Whenever I go somewhere, I try to choose a small place, usually run by a family. It doubles the pleasure of your trip because the locals give you many useful advices and take care of everything you might need from the best place to eat to all the reservations and unconventional walking routes.

The relatively new and upscale Providencia neighborhood became our base camp in the city. The hotel looked more like a villa with only 5 or so rooms. It had Pablo Neruda poems on the walls and a nice patio in the garden where we had our breakfast each morning. The room was small but had more closet space than our entire apartment in Tokyo. Everything was spotlessly clean and smelled nice. The living room had a free library that we used to learn more about the city and its outskirts.

When we got to the hotel I was so exhausted I could barely stand on my feet. I went straight to bed and slept through the day. When I woke up it was 8 in the evening and pitch black outside. Although we lived on one of the most famous restaurant strips in the city called Avenida Providencia, almost everything was closed because it was Christmas.

We managed to find a small Italian restaurant with great ravioli and pizza. As always we ordered our food Tokyo style : salad and bread for the table and two main dishes. As always we didn’t think it through because when they brought us our food, we realized the salad alone can get us full. Tokyo servings and South American servings, let’s just say are quite different. We had to leave half of the food on the table.

The next day, after 10 more hours of sleep I was back to my normal self. We had a nice raspberry pie breakfast in our little garden. In summer it is extremely chilly in the morning and evening, but during the day you cannot escape the heat. So, we sat in the patio covered with blankets but came back in the evening with sunburns.

Santiago has a very convenient and safe Subway system. We used it to travel to various destinations. Our first stop was the Palacio de la Moneda.

From La Moneda station we walked towards the Presidential palace where we saw the change of guards ceremony with carabineros orchestra that performed a special Christmas concert in the square.

Then, we moved to the Plaza de Armas – heart of the city.

Catedral de Santiago is one of the oldest and most significant churches in the city. It is really huge and has constant services in its alcoves. There was a beautiful Christmas display of Nativity scene.

In Russia, orthodox churches use icons and paintings for decorations. In south American catholic churches, they use wooden statues of saints and angels.

After spending almost an hour within the walls of this beautiful church we visited Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. It had a nice collection of burial arts and textiles that used to belong to Maya tribes.

These statues were used as guards to the Maya graves.

For lunch, we went to El Mercado central – Santiago fish market.

Every shop owner was very friendly and talkative. We chose a nice place that served fish soup and grilled salmon. For some reason, each table had lemons on it.

You were supposed to cut it and use the whole thing on your dish to accentuate the taste of a fresh catch. I never cared for lemons on meat or fish so I had my soup  without it. ^-^

From the market we walked to Bellavista barrio that lays in the footsteps of San Cristobel hill. It is a new neighborhood that was recently re-developed into a stylish and upscale area full of restaurants and night clubs.

There, we took a cable car ride to the hilltop to Cerro San Cristobal parque metropolitano. The highest point was decorated with a marvelous statue of Virgen de la Inmaculada concepcion.

From the hill we could see the whole city and enjoy a nice breeze that made the afternoon heat more or less tolerable.

A little to the left, we discovered a small church that was used by Pope John Paul II for a mass in 1984. Again, wooden statues everywhere. ^-^

After the refreshing trip to the hill, we visited La Chascona – Pablo Neruda’s town house that was styled as a boat due to his neverending love for sea. I bought couple of poems there. I wish I spoke Spanish..The area around the house was very colorful – full of wall art and graffiti and artists workshops.

In the evening, we were lucky enough to get a table without reservations at Astrid y Gaston – one of Santiago’s most critically acclaimed restaurants. It’s famous for authentic Peruvian haute cuisine and complex cocktails.

This was the best Pina Colada I have ever tried.

The next day, we took a trip to Valparaiso – a colorful seaside village, 2 hours away from Santiago. More about it in the next Patagonia post. ^-^

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I have a secret…I want to live in Patagonia one day…and probably retire there. Thanks for posting this!

    January 27, 2012

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