It’s full of beautiful buildings, leafy little streets, restaurants, bars, cafes, and even has its own little arthouse cinema. It’s close to Parque Forestal, and the metro, making it easy to get around. It’s popular amongst tourists and locals alike, and it’s one of the things I love most about living in Santiago.
When I first arrived in Santiago, it didn’t really seem to have a big culinary scene. Certainly, after the wide range of “puertas cerradas”, restaurants, parrillas and great bars in Buenos Aires, Santiago’s line up paled by comparison.
But, after much research, more time to get to know the city, and advise from people who had been around a lot longer, more options started to bubble to the surface. And not just the range of restaurants to try out, but in particular, those events that take place outside the standard confines of a restaurant.
The many different iterations of “cena escondida” (hidden dinner) events.
Creative chefs who either don’t have their own permanent space, or want to use it a little differently, and try something new, without a standard menu that only changes once every couple of months.
There are Chilean chefs who want to honour traditional recipes with quality produce, or take quality local and produce something creative, sometimes testing the boundaries, based on what’s fresh and in season. There are chefs that have come from abroad, putting their own creative spin on the wide range of available ingredients. The common underlying factor is that they want the freedom to express themselves through their food, and produce a quality product which, for the consumers, is great news.
Most of the events are based on shared tables, making it suitable for solo diners but, of course, it is always nice to go with someone with shared interests so finding some fellow foodie friends here was a big bonus!
It’s not as easy to keep up with what’s going on in these circles as it is to walk past your local restaurant and see if they’re open. Many a time a local has asked me “but, how do you know about these things?”. It’s really a case of keeping “an ear to the ground”, and social media and word-of-mouth goes a long way.
So, despite my initial reservations upon arriving in Santiago, I now find there is such a wide variety of events that it’s sometimes impossible to keep up and, for the budget and the waistline, I can’t get to all of them. Still, it’s great to seek out something new and interesting, and treat ourselves once in a while, definitely something I love about living in Chile!
Let’s get one thing straight, I will never “love” winter, but it’s a case of “grin and make the most of it”, at least until I’m rich enough to spend each southern winter in Europe.
Winter in Chile certainly seemed a lot shorter than I’m used to back home, maybe because it was SO different, that the novelty of it seemed to make it go faster.
Sure, the average “low” temperatures are lower, but the average “high” temperatures are higher, and the sun is so often out. Plus, unlike Melbourne, there’s no wind and hardly any rain so, yes, you have to rug up, but at least you don’t have to carry half your wardrobe and an umbrella.
The downside is that, with minimal wind and rain, but more cloud and moisture, the pollution is at its worst in the winter, and sometimes you can literally see the smog cloud at the end of your street.
But, there’s snow! Not like in England, where it falls on the ground in the cities and goes mushy, and gets slippery and dirty and, although it looks pretty for a while, it makes you want to stay indoors.
No, here, it snows in the surrounding mountains, while we carry on our normal daily routine in the city, enjoying the blue skies and sugar-coated view of the mountains.
I remember my excitement the first time I glanced out an office window and realised I could actually see the first big snow of the season falling on the distance peaks.
I must have looked like an excited little kid, and the receptionist was extremely amused.
And, snow brings skiing! We went for a day last year, and somehow managed to pick the worst weather day of the season, but still had a blast.
The ski fields are easily accessible on a day trip from the city. You can leave early in the morning, spend the day skiing, and be bathing in your own warm tub (with a glass of red) by 9pm.
I’ll be sure to take more opportunities to ski this year!
It only seemed to be really cold in July and August, and was then on the up-and-up. I hope my memory serves me correctly, and I can survive another Chilean winter.
It really is very pretty and, despite the cold and the pollution, it’s unlike any other winter I’ve experienced before, and something that I love about living in Chile.
Santiago possesses a large variety of interesting and beautiful architecture, as indeed, do other parts of Chile and South America. Big and beautiful, European influenced buildings that are a rarity in Australia.
In fact, there’s so many examples of beautiful old homes and buildings in Santiago, that many are left in ruin, from either earthquake damage or just old age and neglect, with owners who can’t afford their upkeep, let alone their restoration.
Barrios Yungay and Brazil, and the little sub-barrio of Concha y Toro, house some of the best examples of these aging beauties that have seen their hey-day and, like yesteryear’s Hollywood starlets, are now in decline.
Others have been restored and maintained, often converted into boutique hotels or businesses. It would be a dream to own one of these beauties and restore it to its former glory, but it would take a LOT of money, patience and dedication.
The historic downtown areas of Lastarria and Parque Forestal, and Bella Vista and its surrounds, provide many examples of the extremes between the renovated and the derelict.
And it’s not just the inner city. You’ll find many fine examples in other neighbourhoods including, but not limited to, parts of Providencia and Ñuñoa.
In addition to old dwellings, Santiago has many beautiful commercial and public buildings (including churches, of course!), such as Estación Mapocho, Museo de Bellas Artes, “La Moneda” governmental palace, and many, many others.
It’s a pity that modern design and architecture is so often focused on speed-to-market and cost, and not on form and beauty.
These old gems make it a joy just to walk around and take in the impressive man-made beauty of the past. Another thing I love about living in Chile.
Do you have a favourite building in Santiago?
And Chileans love their ice cream, in any form (even shoes?). I mean, who doesn’t? But, even in the heart of winter, you can often see people walking down the street with some form of ice cream.
I am fortunate (or unfortunate, depending from which perspective you look at it), to have three very good “heladerias” or ice cream parlours within a couple of blocks of my house.
The most famous is Emporio La Rosa, which boasts being voted in the World’s Top 25 ice cream parlours. Their original, corner location is opposite Parque Forestal, offering the perfect place to find a shady spot to enjoy your ice cream, or take a seat in their nice outdoor seating area.
There are now several locations around Santiago, and they offer some interesting flavours. My favourite for a refreshing lift on a hot day is “lemon, basil and mint”, or for a bigger flavour punch, “raspberry and mint”.
Just around the block is Café del Opera, also a popular spot with a good following. I haven’t tried it personally, but I’m told it’s faithful to its Italian heritage, with delicious gelato flavours in both traditional and localised flavours.
Another favourite is Mo, close by on the corner of Mosqueto and Monjitas, a good place to head when the line at Emporio La Rosa is too long (most hot weekends) or just for a change. My favourite flavour here is the “Passionfruit Pie”, for when I’m really looking to treat myself!
Yes, that’s a small size!
So, especially at this time of year, ice cream definitely makes my list of things to love about living in Chile.