Our journey started in Santiago, where we stayed for quite some time, but actually did not have that much time to enjoy it properly as a tourist. We were caught up in a hunt for a car, all the bureaucracy, preparation, getting things done and so on... But we have managed to find some time now and then and to walk around and enjoy the beauty of Santiago.
Let's bore you with some history. It was founded by Pedro de Valdivia in 1541, because of its moderate climate and strategic location for defense. It remained a small town until the nitrate boom in the 1880s. In 1985 an earthquake shook down some of downtown's classic architecture. The earthquake in February 2010 caused compartively minimal damage.
Now it is a busy town with more taxis then in New York, more people than our whole country.
What first amazes you is the spectacular view at Andes, which we admired from our apartment and from the city.
The center of the city is easy to walk around, all interesting parts are close to each other. There area around Plaza de Armas and Barrio Bellas Artes is a pedestrian zone, full of small shops and old historic buildings. And some occasional cars.
Plaza de Armas, the main square, btw all main squares in Chile are named Plaza de Armas, is full of tall palm trees and flowers. It is a busy place where people (and dogs) like to hang out around :). In the middle there is a fountain with Simón Bolívar. On one side there is a Catedral Metropolitana, neoclassical building from 18th century.
We really enjoyed Barrio Lastarria full of restaurants and coffee shops, where we finally found some truly wonderful coffee :)
(In B. Lastarria) There is also Cerro Santa Lucia, hill with a tower with a great view on the city. During the history it was once a hermitage, convent or a military bastion. At the southwest corner is the Terraza Neptuno with fountains and curving staircases that lead to the summit.
But we couldn't leave without visiting Bellavista first. This part of the city, known for its nightlife, colorful streets, cobbled squares and graffiti is a must-see. We were walking for hours and we always found something new and interesting.
Moving from Bellavista, we had a nice walk along the river Mapocho in Parque Forestal, where we arrived just in time to see (the beginning of) festival of Turkish culture.
To sum it up - it is a very busy city, full of contrasts: immense shopping centers like Costanera vs small specialized shops, shoe-cleaners on the street vs ferrari driver in Chicureo, historic vs modern buildings, mad bus/taxi drivers vs polite and helpful people all around us, that made our stay unforgettable.
Thank you for having us, Santiago.