Often when travelling, you arrive in a new place to be told “it’s a shame you’re here now and not last week/next month for the best festival/parade/show/season”. So it’s rather pleasing when your stay somewhere serendipitously coincides with a special event.
Mark and I happened to be in Santiago during the annual Dia del Patrimonio, a day for Chileans to celebrate their country and show national pride. Here in the capital, many buildings which are usually kept private open their doors to the public for the special occasion, and all of the museums and galleries scrap their entry fees for the day. Score!
The city was festooned with traditional dancers in colourful dress, musicians, balloons and decorations.
The Presidential Palace drew the biggest crowds but the queue of thousands of people snaking down several blocks scared us off. Rather than spend the whole day shuffling forward in the world’s longest line, we popped into the Museo Historico Nacional on the city’s main square for a dose of Chile’s history, the art gallery Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and finally the excellent Museum of Memory and Human Rights (Museo de La Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos) which examines the brutal events during Pinochet’s military regime, 1973-1990.
All this sightseeing and culture made us hungry, so we popped into the Mercado Central for a traditional lunch of paila marina, a tasty soup of super fresh mussels and fish in broth.
This was actually our second time in Santiago; some weeks before we had just 24 hours in the city on the way from Patagonia to Mendoza. That time we discovered a couple of gems which we made sure to revisit, such as Bar Nacional.
If I lived in Santiago I would be a regular; it’s an honest, no frills place which feels like a proper “caff” of the kind which is becoming increasingly rare in London. Bar Nacional is a sound choice at any time of day – as well as fresh juices, coffee and hearty set menus, they have a fully stocked bar. This is a perfect place to enjoy Chilean classics like pastel de choclo and was our choice of venue to watch the Champions League final along with locals.
Emporio La Rosa has very good ice cream indeed, in many tempting flavours like raspberry & mint or bitter chocolate & orange or local honey.
Mark and I almost fell out after he thought it would be funny to snatch my ice cream and run away down the street with it. He knows that a surefire way to push my buttons is to get between me and food. This stunt still makes him chuckle; I am not amused. As revenge, I am posting a picture of Mark’s attempt to grow a “travelling beard”:
It was hot and sunny on our first visit to Santiago, so the views from the top of Cerro Santa Lucia were pretty good. Apparently the best time to climb up there is just after it has rained, as Santiago’s thick smog gets washed away and the Andes are more visible in the distance.
For us, the peaks were just about visible. I was keen to return to ground level so I could forget about how much pollution we were breathing in!
A drink enjoyed all over Santiago and throughout Chile is mote con huesillos, a combination of cracked wheat or maize kern and dried peaches cooked in sugared, spiced water until plump and rehydrated. Quite a pleasant thing for a light breakfast or quick snack.
Another stroke of luck was that our second visit to Santiago happened to coincide with the birthday of a new friend we had met months earlier in Buenos Aires. Toby is an Aussie living in Santiago and fittingly, he chose a proper pub serving fish & chips for his party. Many happy returns again Toby and thank you for showing us what a great, liveable city Santiago is!