Nadie habla ingles aqui!!! Other than our self-imposed language barrier, we loved our Santiago trip! There is so much to see and do!
On our first full day in town, we joined a walking tour to see landmarks and learn about Chile's history, including its relatively recent return to democracy after Pinochet abdicated. We didn't realize that September 11 was an historical date for Chile too: it was when former president Salvador Allende died during Pinochet's military coup. (There's still controversy over whether Allende was killed or committed suicide.)
Santiago is a very walkable city.
We also saw Santiago's Opera House, and our tour guide explained that opera, theater and dance tickets are very affordable here. Most amusing, we learned about a nearby restaurant that leveraged an impromptu visit from then-president Bill Clinton. Our guide said that President Clinton went into the restaurant trying to get a Diet Coke. Since then, the restaurant completely changed its name and focus.
Of course, this reminded us of Phil Hartman's hilarious SNL parody of Bill Clinton visiting McDonalds...
On the tour, we also visited the Lastarria neighborhood, known for its cafes, theaters and artists. That evening, we ate dinner in the Bellavista neighborhood, known for its hip bars and restaurants.
The next day we went to the Cultural Center to see their Andy Warhol exhibit. It was wonderful seeing a bit of Pittsburgh in Santiago!
Santiago on Sunday mornings is a ghost town. No one is around and no stores or restaurants are open until late afternoon. As we wandered town desperately seeking a place to eat, we stumbled across a parade. We never learned the reason but when there are horses and dogs, Darcie is transfixed. We especially love the distracted police dog in the lower right who reminded us of Darcie's German Shepherd, Hannah.
In the afternoon, we walked up Cerro San Cristobal, Santiago's most iconic site, to see the statue of Virgin Mary/The Immaculate Conception and the 360-degree views of Santiago. This statue is about 46 feet tall.
Except for the smog, the views are spectacular, and because it was a sunny, Sunday afternoon, the walk and the park was crowded with people. There are cable cars and a funicular climbing the hill, which we did by foot!
On another day, we strolled into an open marketplace. Although similar to those we saw in Asia, in Santiago, each stall seemed to have a feline guardian, which we assumed helped with rodent and bird control.
After several days in Santiago, we took a quick bus trip to Valparaiso, on the coast. More updates from there shortly.