I’m not in love with every single place I visit, which I think is pretty normal (and it also makes life easier because I’m already addicted to too many cities).
I wasn’t in love with Concepción, even before what happened at the hotel.
“It feels a bit like… La Plata without the diagonals—it’s actually a sister city of Concepción!—, or Rennes without the crêpes and the drinking problem,” I told Feng. “There’s a big university with an open campus and tons of pizza and sushi joints. Probably a good place to be if you’re a student… but I’m not.”
“It was struck by earthquakes a bunch of times, wasn’t it?”
“Yep. It was rebuilt quickly after the 2010 earthquake, but I can’t say it’s a pretty city. It’s… functional, I suppose.”
Downtown Concepción was pleasant enough with a few pedestrian streets, but nothing special. I explored the big Universidad de Concepción campus with its campanile and long streets—it reminded me of the University of Toronto. I took a break a Plaza Perú, the local gathering spot where you can buy weed, queques mágicos, second-hand clothes and handrolls (i.e. a massive sushi roll)—15-year-old me would have spent the day here, but 36 year-old-me didn’t feel like tripping on a brownie made in a dorm’s kitchen between classes.
The Centro turned out to be pretty small and I quickly found myself walking on streets that reminded me of Merivale Road or any soulless semi-suburban Canadian road. Indeed, I didn’t see much life in the streets—people were simply going places, either boarding a microbus, either getting off a microbus.
I feel I’m being unfair with Concepción. It’s probably an okay place to live if you like mild weather since it’s cooler than Santiago but still warmer than most southern Chile cities. The microbus system is pretty awesome—rides are cheap (530 pesos, about $1)—and it makes it easy to get around. Apparently, Concepción is also the capital of Chilean rock… bands weren’t rehearsing at night though, it was pretty damn quiet.
The actual centre of Concepción sits back from the water on the Bío Bío River but the coast seemed to be more interesting. So basically, to appreciate the city as a tourist, you have to leave it and explore its surroundings where there are several beaches and attractions.
Other than that, Concepción is worth a stop but you probably can’t appreciate it until you truly immerse yourself in campus life or academia.