I have met someone that reminds me of you. Its name is Santiago.
Or rather, I should say that Santiago reminded me of you at first sight. Since I spent a long time there, I got to know it better and I could see the differences.
How long was I there, you ask? 28 days, the longest I have ever been in a city where I did not live! But it was not 28 consecutive days, no. I came and went several times. Santiago was my base during the first months in South America. It went like this:
Santiago > Viña del Mar and Valparaiso for 5 days > Santiago > South of Chile for 1 month and a half > Santiago > Canada for 2 weeks > Santiago > leaving to the north of Chile.
And why did I chose Santiago? You seem surprised, Barcelona, but you are right, Santiago is not exactly my kind of place. It is a very big city! Of course there was a strong reason: my good friends from Toulouse! One of them lives there, and the other is currently living in Patagonia but she has an empty flat in Santiago and goes there from time to time. So that is why!
Feeling at home
The first time I arrived I was completely jet lagged. Do not laugh, there are 9 hours of time difference between New Zealand and Chile! So the first week I was a bit zombie, and while my friend was telling me a lot of things, I could barely remember any!
There is one thing I remember well, though: feeling at home. For the first time in the trip, I truly felt at home. Which is kind of strange because I had never been there, but there was something, as I said before, that reminded me of you.
It might be its appearance, its old buildings, the trees on the sidewalk, the small shops, the kiosks.
It might be the banks and telephone companies that you have in common.
It might be the weather. May here is autumn, and it is similar to your October-November.
It might be the language, or the lively people.
It might be… well, you might have realized that my mind makes strange connections, right? One person reminds me of another who looks physically different, but there is that look, that smile, that way of moving, that attitude, that something intangible I cannot really explain…
The same must have happened with Santiago, because, actually, you do not look so similar!
Andes and hills
Once I was more awake, the first thing I noticed were the Andes, at the east. Some mountains are up to 6000m high! In addition to this, there are some small hills in the city that offer a break in between high buildings, busy streets and noisy cars.
I visited two of them: Cerro San Cristobal and Cerro Santa Lucia. Cerro San Cristobal is the one with a big white statue of Mary on the top, it is quite high so there is a funicular. From the top, there are nice views… of the pollution. Until that moment I had not realized how polluted is Santiago, but sadly it is. On pollution peak days the traffic is restricted and the cars that have a license plate finished in certain digits cannot circulate.
Cerro Santa Lucia is not so high and there are beautifully decorated stairs to reach the top, and a nice fountain with a statue about half way.
A lively center
I enjoyed the center of Santiago because it is so lively!
There are beautiful old buildings, of course, but it was the atmosphere what I liked the most. There are plenty of shops but also small kiosks and street vendors on the sidewalks, there is plenty of people walking, talking, sitting, eating or shopping, and best of all… live music! How could I possibly not think about you?
There are also a lot of interesting museums but… ehem… I did not go. After several months traveling I am kind of tired and I find it more difficult to absorb information. So I was happy to walk around and see the nice buildings from the outside.
You might have noticed that I was in Chile during the Copa America! Usually I am not a huge fan of football but it added to the experience! I watched the first match with some friends of my friends. Later on, during my days in the South, I watched some games in restaurants or hostels. And finally, I was in Santiago the day of the final!
The match was on Saturday evening, and by 14:00 there was no one in the streets. Nor an open place to buy some food. Well, yes, I did find a shop that sold me the last two empanadas before closing. When Chile won, I could hear the people celebrating for a long, long time. On Sunday morning it was still visible in the streets that there had been a huge celebration, and people were happy and wore hats and scarfs with the Chilean colors. So cool!
In Chile I discovered a new passion: street art. I had been interested since Cambodia, where I made a friend who liked it, and I had searched and enjoyed the street art in Penang, Malaysia. But in Chile I saw so many, and so cool! In Santiago I found a lot in Bellavista neighborhood.
There were two reasons why I was looking for South America: my friends, and the food! Do not get me wrong, I did like the food in Asia, but I do not usually eat spicy food so sometimes it was a bit hard. Then in New Zealand I could not afford going to restaurants so I ate whatever I could cook in the hostels.
So I was looking forward to good, cheap food. Actually it was not so cheap (Chile is more expensive than I thought!) but the food was good, very good. I ate all kinds of empanadas and I liked the huge sandwiches with tomato and avocado, and of course meat cooked in different ways. And that was only the beginning!
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