On March 1st, I will be celebrating my one month-iversary of arriving in Chile! However, between going to Punta Arenas, having the run at Paranal, and now having a run at La Silla, I’m yet to have done any major exploration of Santiago itself during the weekends since I got here… I did manage to see quite a few of the main “touristy” attractions when I was here last May, but, you know, that doesn’t count. So here’s a little brief on the couple of places I have managed to go to so far…
Cerro San Cristóbal
Cerro San Cristóbal is the second highest point in Santiago, after Cerro Renca towards the outskirts of the city. Within its immediate surroundings is the “Parque Metropolitano“, a massive urban park – the biggest in Chile – touching four different regions (Providencia, Recoleta, Huechuraba and Vitacura) that consists of: botanical gardens (where you can take part in organised activities at the weekend such as yoga, pilates, aerobics…), a funicular, a cable car (when it’s working), two enormous outdoor pools, a zoo (containing some sorry-looking animals that frequently escape, I’ve heard), a giant statue of the virgin Mary, lots of mental cyclists, all the stray dogs you could ever want, and a cracking view over Santiago. So I went here both when I came in May (although due to smog and clouds the Andes disappeared into a sheet of white), and on my first weekend this time around, where I went walking up to watch the sunset with the other ESO students.
Los Dominicos is a small part of the bigger region of Las Condes found at the end of the main metro line that has a brilliant market contained within a funky little outdoor complex (although I do think it’ll start getting more touristy as time goes on) where you can buy all sorts of art and crafts made on site, including metal work, woodwork, ceramics, jewellery, rugs, clothes, etc. to name a few. If you so desire, you can also buy a peacock.
There is also an awesome Farmer’s market just outside of the main market complex every Saturday morning that sells the biggest fruit and veg I have ever seen in my life! I’m talking about peaches the size of softballs and honeydew melons the size of my head, it’s quite spectacular. And obviously cheaper than the supermarket! But they also sell fresh seafood and other little bits like chutneys and jams. Think I’ll have to make that a regular trip…
Cerro Santa Lucia
The remnant of a 15 million year old volcano in the middle of Santiago, this is another higgldy-piggldy hill where you’ll probably find something different to look at every time. And given that it’s surrounded by very busy roads and high-rise buildings, it looks completely out of place! First used as a look-out point in the 1500s, a fort subsequently appeared in 1820, and in 1872 some dude named Benjamin Vicuna Mackenna decided to completely change the look of the entire thing as part of a regeneration program across the city. A surrounding park was added, as well as a small hermitage chapel at the top with look-out points on the way. At the bottom you are greeted with statues, fountains, and a yellow and white facade that gives the impression of a slightly abandoned Hungarian bath house. But I like it, the whole half-park, half-fort thing it is. Although it does tend to fill up with amorous young Chileans, so as long as you can cope with bumping into couples sucking on each others faces around every corner, I think it’s worth a visit!
I’m sure I’ll get to do a lot more exploring as time goes on and I get more free weekends (indeed, I intend to before it a) starts getting colder, and b) starts getting smoggy!). The beauty of Santiago being so big is that I can go and do something different every time… But until then, there’s science to be done at La Silla! 😉
Hasta la proxima,