Colaboración de Javier
WHAT would Pablo Neruda say? The Chilean Nobel-prize-winning poet and devoted Communist had a love-hate relationship with his hometown of Santiago, Chile, which he once described as “asleep for eternity.” A few years ago, many travelers would have agreed, stopping just long enough to change planes for more promising adventures in Patagonia, on Easter Island or in the Andes.
But now, after a decade as the powerhouse of the Chilean “economic miracle,” Santiago, wedged between the snowy Andes and the sea, has become an electrifying place of vibrant contrasts, with lush new parks, renovated Beaux-Arts neighborhoods and blocks of glamazon-thronged galleries and cafes clustered around “Sanhattan,” the soaring financial district. With Chile celebrating its bicentennial next year, Santiago, its capital, is rushing through an urban master plan of new museums, a stylishly renovated riverfront and other inducements for visitors to stick around and play for a couple of days before heading into the wild.
A visit to Santiago might, naturally enough, start off at the birthplace of the city itself: the Plaza de Armas, founded in 1541 by the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, who still keeps watch over this square from his equestrian statue. A virtual opera of preachers, performers, pigeons, pedestrians and palm trees throngs the plaza with the neo-Renaissance government buildings and colonial-era cathedral as dramatic backdrops. Get into the rhythm of the city with a pisco sour — the house cocktail for seemingly the entire country — and a front-row seat to the action on the pleasant terrace of the Marco Polo Café.
Later, sample the city’s increasingly sophisticated culinary scene. Several outstanding restaurants have opened in Bellavista, a colorful bohemian warren of galleries, shops and bars where students, fashionistas and media types relax in the evenings (one of Neruda’s homes, La Chascona, is also there and open as a museum).
A popular dinner spot is Astrid & Gastón, across the Mapocho River. Chile continues to have border disputes with its northern rival, Peru, but well-heeled locals rave about the Peruvian chef Oscar Gómez, who has made a big splash in town by applying traditional Andean preparation techniques and ingredients to local produce like Chilean sea bass and Patagonian lamb at this restaurant. It is named after the owners, Astrid and Gastón Acurio, the latter a towering culinary figure who is known for his pioneering novo-Andino cuisine.
This airy dining palace is overseen by an enthusiastic wine steward, Manuel Valenzuela, who when asked about a carmenère — one of Chile’s signature reds — set up an impromptu wine tasting from the restaurant’s ethereal cellar.
But no matter where you have dinner, and no matter what time you finish up, the night’s still young and the party scene beckons. Santiago is bursting with boisterous bars and discos, but the city’s ubiquitous salsotecas seem to attract just about everyone. Rule of thumb: the darker and danker the dance hall, the better.
Don’t worry if you can’t salsa: many places have nightly lessons (and if not, other patrons are not shy about giving them). Besides, the Chilean version of salsa is pretty forgiving, and you can get away with just stepping in place at popular night spots like Maestra Vida (Pio Nono 380; 56-2-777-5325; www.maestravida.cl). If you’re yearning for old school moves, cross the River to the Ilé Habana (Bucarest 95; 56-2-231-5711; www.ilehabana.cl), which has a cavernous dance floor that is a riot of hot dancing and cool Cuba libres.
Not all of Santiago’s charms are found in its restaurants and dance halls, however. The city’s long boulevards, hillside lanes and leafy parks are a bicyclist’s paradise, especially during the weekends when the streets are thronged by spandexed bikers. The city is in the midst of a master plan to add 400 miles of bike lanes for them.
Go along for the ride with a rental bike from La Bicicleta Verde (Avenida Santa María 227; 56-2-570-9338; www.labicicletaverde.com; from 9,000 Chilean pesos a day, about $15.70 at 574 pesos to the dollar). Or better yet, take one of their daily three-hour biking tours (starting at 15,000 pesos) juxtaposing the chic new suburbs with the inner city while narrating the stormy history that played out on these streets during the Allende-Pinochet years.
Or head up to the park on top of Cerro San Cristóbal, the big mountain overlooking town, where families and romantic couples head to enjoy the epic view. Grab the Funicular San Cristóbal at the edge of Bellavista (Pio Nono 445; 562-737-6669; www.funicular.cl; 1,600 pesos round trip) for the 10-minute tram ride to the top, where a few last steps lead up to the 72-foot statue of the Virgin Mary who keeps an eye over the cityscape as it slams into the Andes mountains to the northeast.
Look out for one of the carts selling cups of mote con huesillo, a concoction of wheat and peaches (around 400 pesos), which makes for a delicious syrupy sunset cocktail.
A CITY OF HISTORY, GOOD DINING AND SALSA
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel del Patio (Pio Nono 61; 56-2-732-7571; www.hoteldelpatio.cl), a creaky 1920s mansion redone with stripped-down adobe walls and modernistic furniture, overlooks the newly developed Patio market square in Bellavista. Doubles with breakfast start at $120.
A former banker, Carolina Yávar, found a semiderelict stucco house on a quiet street in the heart of the Providencia district and turned it into a modern, jazzy hotel, the Meridiano Sur (Santa Beatriz 256; 56-2-235-3659; www.meridianosur.cl). Doubles with breakfast start at $100.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Marco Polo Café (Calle Plaza de Armas 416; 56-2-671-8484) sells a pisco sour for 1,500 pesos, about $2.60 at 574 Chilean pesos to the dollar.
At Astrid and Gastón (Antonio Bellet 201; 56-2-650-9125; www.astridygaston.com), dinner for two with wine is around 115,000 pesos.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE
The Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda might have considered himself a Stalinist firebrand, but he certainly knew how to have fun, as evidenced in his marvelously eccentric home La Chascona (Fernando Marquez de La Plata 192; 56-2-737-8712; www.fundacionneruda.org). Call in advance for an English tour (with entry, 3,500 pesos) of this panoramic compound clinging to the slope of San Cristóbal mountain, where the poet lived, loved and conspired with his fiery third wife, Matilde Urrutia. Neruda’s meandering home was built to resemble both a ship and a lighthouse incorporating a secret passageway behind his dinner table to escape dull guests, a bewildering collection of knickknacks gathered from extensive travels as a diplomat, and paintings done by his famous friends. Look for the two-faced portrait of Ms. Urrutia by Diego Rivera, with Neruda’s profile hidden in her hair.
The former Royal Customs House next to Plaza de Armas houses the small but outstanding Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (Bandera 361; 56-2-688-7348; www.precolobino.cl; entry 3,000 pesos, free on Sunday).
Touristy crafts stalls are as ubiquitous in Santiago as hot dog stands are in New York, but more substantial one-of-a-kind treasures can be found at the antiquarian mall at 2348 Providencia, on one of the city’s grandest avenues. The two dozen antiques stores lining this modern atrium sell everything from pre-Columbian art to Catholic altarpieces. Two particularly interesting stores are Silvia Obilinovic (Stall 2; 56-2-231-7006), brimming with ancient figures of Andean gods and Mesoamerican jewelry, and Bruce (Stall 17; 56-2-234-3732), a virtual pirate’s cave of antique South American silverware.
ACLARACION: Este blog no es antiperuano ni nacionalista chileno. Este blog simplemente recopila y (a veces) comenta sobre artículos recopilados en la prensa nacional y mundial y que involucran a Chile. Si parece "cargado" hacia Perú, simplemente, es resultado de la publicación constante -y obsesiva- en ese país de artículos en que se relaciona a Chile. Así también, como ejemplo opuesto, no aparecen articulos argentinos, simplemente, porque en ese país no se publican notas frecuentes respecto Chile. Este blog también publica -de vez en cuando- artículos (peruanos o de medios internacionales) para desmitificar ciertas creencias peruanas -promovidas por medios de comunicación y políticos populistas de ese país- sobre que Perú ha superado el desarrollo chileno, lo que es usado en ese país para asegurar que Chile envidia a Perú y que por eso buscaría perjudicarlo. Es decir, se usa el mito de la superación peruana y la envidia, para incitar el odio antichileno en Perú.