Monday, December 2, 2013

Chillin' in Santiago, Chile

Perhaps due to social media, it was a bit more difficult being away from home over Thanksgiving. Seeing all your friends posting pictures on Facebook with their families reminds me that you really need to appreciate the times you are together with your family. Scott has very good friends who live in Santiago, Chile and we were fortunate to take a long weekend, from Buenos Aires, to visit over Thanksgiving. Neither of us have been to Chile, which is rare to find a country Scott has not been, so we were looking forward to seeing some sights but mostly visiting friends. 

After some research, I decided we would stay in the Lastarria neighborhood. It seemed centrally located to most of the sites we wanted to see, close to the metro and lot of quaint cafes and restaurants. I booked us in an apart hotel called Lastarria Apartments 43-61. Turned out to be the perfect location and the apartment was fantastic. 

Friday we walked around to see some sites in our area. Just one block from our apartment is Santa Lucia Hill, a small hilltop park with lavish landscaping, water fountains, ornate sculptures and a castle. 
The Castle Hidalgo, located at the top of the hill, now operates as an event center.
At the very top of the hill there is a look-out area with 360-degree views.

Downtown Santiago is the Opera House, which is an exact replica of the Paris Opera House. In 1974 is was declared a national monument.
The former National Congress building. Congress met in this building until Salvador Allende's socialist government was overthrown by Augusto Pinochet's military coup d'état on September 11, 1973.
Santiago's main square is the Plaza de Armas. Located around the plaza is the Cathedral, City Hall and Post Office. This plaza really reminds me of the
Plaza Mayor in Lima, Peru. 
One of my Twitter friends told me to try the traditional Chilean summer drink called Mote con Huesillo. It tastes like sweet ice tea, VERY sweet. The liquid is a clear nectar made mostly with sugar. Then they use dried peaches (huesillo) and wheat (mote). The dried peaches are cooked in sugar, water and cinnamon and after it is cooled, it is mixed with fresh cooked husked wheat and the sweet liquid. The wheat (mote) looks like small round shaped noodles with a consistency of baby corn kernels. 

The El Mercado Central, Santiago's fish market. Around the inside perimeter are vendors selling a variety of seafood. 

In the center of the market is a food court area with restaurants. This is a main tourist spot so prices are much higher. Reminds me of the Mercado del Puerto in Montevideo, Uruguay only instead of fish they had meat. 
Friday evening we were invited to our friend Andy (nickname is Fish) and Anita's home outside of the city. They took such wonderful care of us during our stay in Santiago. They got us all BIP (metro) cards, SIM cards for our cell phones and hosted dinner Friday and Saturday.

From Left to Right
Mike, Scott with Renato, Veronica (their nanny/housekeeper/cook), me, Fish with Hopper, Rachelle, Anita and their son Frank, Daniel their other son and 
Domingo (Daniel's friend) 
Frank getting into the peanuts. 
Taking selfies with Daniel.
Saturday we planned on heading to Fish and Anita's home around 2pm so Scott and I had some time in the morning to head over to Sculpture Park and walk around the Providencia neighborhood.

The park opened in 1982 and was created to beautify an area of the city that was damaged by a flood of the Mapocho River. It was a nice walk through the park to see different sculptures by Chilean and international artists. The very tall building in the background is the tallest building in South America, called Gran Torre. It is also the second tallest in the Southern Hemisphere.
Thanksgiving at the Fischer's
Fish and Anita went above and beyond and prepared a lavish Thanksgiving dinner with appetizers, a smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, and cranberry sauce.
Chef Fish hard at work!
Wonderful hosts, beautiful couple!
The guys...
The girls....
Our flight Sunday was not until 6:30pm so we had time to visit San Cristóbal Hill. When we drove into the city on Thursday, you could not help but notice the huge hill with a large statue of the Virgin Mary perched on the hilltop. There are a few ways you can reach the top; walk/hike, bike or take the funicular. With limited time and 85 degrees outside we choose the funicular. 
Going up, up and up!
Truly amazing views of the city at the top of the hill. Of course, this being a tourist site, there are a few shops to buy souvenirs as well as food and drink.
At the very top is a sanctuary dedicated to the Immaculate Conception
70-foot statue of the Virgin Mary
One last quick visit with Fish, Anita and family and we headed to the airport.
I really enjoyed Santiago, more than I thought I would. It was never really on my radar of a place to visit but after this trip, I hope that we can go back to see more of the city, other parts of the country and our friends.
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