Dry air. The Andes. Dust. Hills. Heart-attack inducing prices in the thousands until you realize 5,000 Chilean Pesos are US$10. The red colour on a flag, again.
I fell in love with the city last year. It wasn’t love at first sight: we had been to Chile twice before and I used to favour Argentina. I found Santiago a bit bland, I found the desert a bit boring, Patagonia a bit cold.
I’m one picky bitch.
But last year, Santiago finally made sense to me. The country changed too over the past decade. It seems like it is trying to face its past, the bloody coup in 1973 and the dictatorship that followed. It’s a political place, for sure. Santiago has art, culture, universities, people and interesting barrios. Everything I like conveniently gathered in one city. I felt comfortable there, last year. Would I like Santiago this time again?
Appreciation of a city, a country even, is very subjective. I noticed that I feel best in places that have some kind of physical border, as if I needed “my places” to be cozy, like a bed made up nicely, sheets tucked in. I like Sydney, Buenos Aires or Shanghai because there is water nearby. I like Antigua and Lago de Atitlán, bordered by volcanoes. I like Toronto, bordered by a lake. I like islands, although I can feel trapped. I don’t like cities like Paris, Montreal or Melbourne that are too spread out and never seem to end with their many suburbs. Following this logic, Chile is perfect, a thin strip of land bordered by the Andes and the sea.
Of course, like I say, everything is subjective. For instance, I have a great memory of Rosario because we found a very nice hotel on Expedia—sometime you get lucky. I liked Malaysia because it felt like the best of both worlds between Singapore and Thailand. I have a soft spot for Beijing because it’s where I met Feng and where I was introduced to the art of traveling. I don’t have a great memory of Noosa because it rained and I always feel a bit unsafe in Panama because this is where we got mugged (despite the fact we’ve been to more dangerous places afterwards!).
Santiago has this awesome hotel concept where you can rent a small condo apartment on Expedia for about $65. We were very doubtful last year when we booked it but it turned out to be just as advertised, even better. We booked the same place this year: we are in a big tower in Bella Artes, close to the Cerro Santa Lucía. The apartment is very small but clean and functional.
After a stressful week in Argentina with two very early morning departures, a heat wave and so-so hotel rooms, I was ready to relax.
That Sunday, Santiago felt chilly (pun totally intended) but it was mostly because of the temperature difference with Argentina. The boards on the pedestrian streets said 26°C, which is hot, but not 40°C hot.
Most businesses were closed but I didn’t care because I knew exactly where to go and what time the supermarket closed on Sunday. The perks of having been there before.
Let’s Chile begin…