10 days with Captain Latin America in Santiago

Some good friends from London recently moved back to South America and settled in Santiago, so as we arrived into Santiago bus station we were so excited to see some familiar faces. The endless generosity of Teresa and Tomas made it so hard for us to eventually leave Santiago and ensured we saw all the best bits of the capital city. Thank you both again if you are reading!

Their six year old son, Matias, kept us constantly entertained throughout our stay. He had a fancy dress outfit for every occasion, from Batman to pro-footballer, and for the duration of our stay his outfit of choice was Captain (Latin!) America.

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With a superhero by our side we were invincible…even when we were all squished into the back of a Taxi…

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Half way through our stay in Santiago another familiar face made a surprise appearance. You’ll notice Iain is absent from the picture above and instead Sam a good friend from London is trapped in the middle of the pile. For the next few weeks or possibly the near future Sam will be joining us on our South American adventure. He quit his job and like us booked himself a one-way flight…and people, travel really is as simple as that…well once you’ve read our blog on financing your travel of course.

Naturally with good friends in tow much of our time was spent exchanging stories and generally catching up but here are a few of the other highlights from Santiago that we haven’t already blogged about. Valparaiso and Concha Y Toro are not to be missed but here are a few other suggestions for your stay in Santiago…

Visit La Moneda and Plaza de la Libertad

Our first foray into Santiago saw us getting off the Metro at La Moneda, the presidential palace. Unplanned by us we had arrived just in time to catch a flag raising and military ceremony.

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Also a popular protest spot, there were many groups at La Moneda protesting everything from water conservation, to students and native rights…as far as our limited Spanish could tell. We had no idea what their chants were, but they were incredibly catchy. The side effect of the chanting was that all the stray dogs were drawn from miles around. Upon reaching the picket lines each dog picked a side, some fancy themselves as fellow protesters or others as police backup.

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Plaza de Armas vs. Plaza de la Constitucion

The guidebook had promised Plaza de Armas to be a great place to relax, drink coffee and people watch. This might be true, however, if visiting any time soon unfortunately all you will see is corrugated iron. When all but a thin sliver of it is closed for renovation all you can really do is try and push through the bottleneck.

However the Cathedral (also under renovation) was still open so we crept inside for a quick look.

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Wanting to bask in the sun, drink a coffee and people watch we instead headed for Plaza de la Constitucion and admired the Palace, the guards and the people.

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Mercado Central and La Vega

Having explored Mercado Central and its fish market only briefly, our friends insisted we revisited and tried the produce, and so grabbed us all a table at “Donde Augusto”. If you go, make sure you try the ceviche, as it is amazing!

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On our first visit we experienced a slight sense of De-ja-vu as the markets metalwork roof is almost an exact replica of Spitalfields market in London. Be prepared the restaurateurs will gleefully tell you again and again that the metalwork was in fact made and assembled in Birmingham, whilst not so subtly dropping in an invitation to sit down it their restaurant. Nevertheless it’s worth a visit.

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Across the river is La Vega Mercado, which is the best place to buy your fruit and vegetables in Santiago. Also a great place to people watch…I picked up a friend who wouldn’t look out of place in the East End of London.

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If you fancy some authentic street food then the bridge between the two markets is covered in locals selling ceviche and noodles out of supermarket trolleys.

On the subject of food…

Have a Sandwich at Tip y Tap

After picking Sam up from the airport our friends Tomas and Teresa took us to a restaurant that sold traditional Chilean sandwiches.  Sam doesn’t like excess sauces or greenery in his sandwich and was pleased to find many are just meat and cheese. What arrived was a mountain of meat between two pieces of thin bread…apparently a traditional Chilean sandwich should collapse under it’s own weight whilst you’re trying to eat it. This annoys Mati who likes his sandwiches to do as they’re told. So be warned if you’re expecting it to be a light snack!

Los Dominicos and the Costanera Center

When it comes to shopping, with these two destinations Santiago has it covered. Los Dominicos, on the end of Line 1, is one of the best Artisan Markets in South America.

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And if you’re lucky during your visit you may even catch a glimpse of Captain Latin America wrestling a fierce cat.

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And if you’re hankering for all the modern comforts and purchases of say Westfields then look no further than the Costanera Center. This, the largest shopping center in South America is easily found by heading towards the tallest building in the city…seriously you cant miss it. We stopped in at H&M followed by Lush to resupply on socks and soap…very exciting.

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Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

One of our highlights was the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, so if you have some time then we’d thoroughly recommend a visit. Covering many of the different South American civilisations it’s a real eye opener as to the level of craftsmanship that existed on the continent for thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived.

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“Coffee with Legs”

If you fancy some more modern Santiago then head for some “coffee with legs.” Iain entirely missed the point with this the first time we passed a coffee shop. Assuming the “legs” referred to the fact that you had to stand up to drink your coffee, I surprisingly had to point out that the “legs” might in fact refer to the waitresses in the heels and very short skirts. Sorry no pictures.

Santa Lucia and Cerro San Cristobal

In the center of the city is the Santa Lucia Hill which is somewhere between a park, castle and stately home. Climbing to the top of the tallest tower will give some nice views of the city and a pleasant wander through the gardens. Beware it’s a bit of a hike up but worth it.

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If you fancy a more panoramic view of the city then taking the funicular up Cerro San Cristobal gives the best views of the city and the Andes behind. Be aware though that due to the low rainfall and light wind, Santiago often suffers from smog that hangs above the city, so try and pick a clear day.

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Final Thanks and Advice

Santiago is a brilliant city so all that is left for us to say is thanks again to Tomas, Teresa and Mati and leave you with a final piece of advice…

Get a BIP card! This little piece of plastic will make travel around the city much easier and can be purchased and topped up in any metro station. Best of all multiple people can use the same card.

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