Sadly vacation is over and I’m back home doing everyday things. But my trip to Chile was fantastic. It was a great experience, both culturally and linguistically as obviously I got to practice my Spanish quite a bit. I have a few posts up my sleeve about my trip, but to start off here’s an overview of my favorite things about my trip – a sort of “best of” list.
Best view: As most guidebooks will tell you, while in Santiago you have to go to the top of Cerro San Cristobal as it provides a remarkable view of the city. I got lucky as I went there on a smog-free day so I had a clear view of the entire capital. Honorable mentions: Cerro Santa Lucia and the Costanera Center. Santa Lucia isn’t as high as San Cristobal, but it still has a nice view of the city. Unfortunately I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have, because I made the mistake of walking up it the first day I got in before I was able to check into the hotel. There were more stairs than I expected but I was determined to make it. By the time I got the top I was so sweaty and tired I didn’t really care too much about the view. Finally, the Costanera Center is a mall in the neighborhood of Providencia that is now the largest mall in South America. So where does the view come in, you ask? If you go up to the top floor, the food court has outdoor seating that overlooks the city. While it may sound a little dull to keep seeing the city from above rather than wandering in its depths, you really should check out each view because they overlook different neighborhoods in the city, and put together give you a panoramic idea of what the city looks like.
Best way to get around: The metro in Santiago is amazing. From what I saw, it’s cleaner and more reliable than the metro in DC, and it’s easy and cheap to travel on. I did avoid it during rush hour and at other times it wasn’t overly crowded. Honorable mention: The bus. I only had to take the bus once to get to Museo de la Moda (the fashion museum), but it was easy, quick, and clean.
Best experience: Sitting in Plaza de Armas. There is always something going on in Santiago’s main square. I saw singers and dance performances, artists selling their wares, and people with stuffed ponies charging people to take pictures of their children sitting on the pony. But the best time I had there was sitting there in the shade one afternoon around 2pm, eating some honey roasted peanuts I bought from a vendor. It was a Tuesday, but the plaza was packed with people hurrying places, eating lunch, selling ice cream, and many people, like me, just sitting there. That amazed me. In DC, nobody ever takes the time to just sit, but here were all of these Chileans just relaxing and enjoying the afternoon. It was a great break for me.
Best foods: Mote con huesillos. Bought from a vendor, this traditional treat is a refreshing beverage and a snack all in one. The drink is almost syrupy, but much lighter and not too sweet. Floating in it are slices of canned peaches and barley wheat. Very nice on a hot day. Also, manjar (like dulce de leche) and manjar ice cream. Yum.
Best thing found in a museum: The main historical museum in Plaza de Armas has the first Chilean flag from 1810. I thought it was interesting that the flag was almost identical to today’s flag except that the star was outlined in sequins. Now, I admit that in the early 19th century sequins were likely a luxury item, but it looks a little silly today, like they decided to bedazzle their flag. I’m thinking they should bring that back.
Best thing found in the grocery store: Everything is better in a bag. I thought it was funny that in addition to mayonnaise, olives, and pickles in jars, they also sold them in bags. I’m not sure why that’s a better option, but who am I to judge.
Best vegetarian experience: Since it’s a modern metropolis, I wasn’t surprised that there are actually several vegetarian restaurants in Santiago. I was surprised though at how popular they are. I had to wait for a table for lunch at La Naturista downtown, and with good reason – the food was delicious and I wish I’d had more time to sit and savor it rather than being rushed out.
Strangest vegetarian experience: I had a confusing exchange with a waiter in Vina del Mar as he tried to explain to me that the entree I had chosen would not have any meat in it, as if this was problematic. Eventually he understood that I knew, and I would in fact like it that way.