How many times have I stayed in Santiago? Five, ten times, maybe?
I know the city pretty well. Like, for instance, I can explain you that the main avenue is Avenida Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins, but that absolutely everyone refers to it as “La Alameda,” which can be confusing for tourists who are trying to say “General Bernardo O’Higgins” with a Spanish accent and are promptly directed to a street with a completely different name, as if it was a practical joke.
The 7.77-kilometre-long avenue runs east-west in the centre of Santiago, so chances are, you’re going to cross it a few times a day. It’s not the most picturesque street—although West of San Francisco Church, the median widens to accommodate a park—but it’s next to interesting landmarks like the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, Cerro Santa Lucía, the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile, many universities, the Palacio de la Moneda and the very unimpressive Torre Entel.
And of course, because it’s a busy five-lane thoroughfare, you have to wait for the green light for a few minutes every time, which is a pain in the ass, especially when you get stuck on the median.
“Funny thing is, there aren’t that many people waiting to cross,” I told myself the night I came back from La Serena. “Nothing like on 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, for instance.”
The fleeting thought bugged me for a few seconds, then the light turned green and I crossed La Alameda.
Wait. Could there be… another way to cross the avenue?
I stopped in front of the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile to observe people. Sure enough, most of them were taking the stairs down to the Santa Lucía subway station. There was also an access to the same station on the other side of La Alameda.
Sure enough, I could cross La Alameda through the subway station, which is easier, faster and safer. Duh.
And it’s not like it’s the only pathway underground—there are 13 subway stations along La Alameda, plus, as I discovered, several underground pathways connecting both sides of the avenue.
See, Mark, mommy doesn’t know everything.
There’s always something new to discover.
“I think I’m going to spend the week in Santiago,” I told Feng when I was in La Serena. “I’m kind of stuck. I can’t find a cheap plane ticket to the North and I’m not spending 20 hours in the bus. Apparently, it’s flooded and the roads are cut, anyway.”
“But that’s perfect, you love Santiago!”
“Oh yeah, definitely not a problem. I need a break, anyway, and I have a lot of work this week.”
And so, I arrived in Santiago with a long list of things I wanted to see and do, as well as several assignments to complete and a bag of dirty laundry.
At least, now, I can cross La Alameda faster.