We have such a busy itinerary that we often don´t have nearly enough time to visit any one place thoroughly, so we see what we can and then we move on. Sometimes though, I get to a place and within minutes wish we could stay a month. Santiago made just that impression on me.
We arrived late Thursday evening with just enough time to take in the stunning view of the Plaza de Armas, Santiago´s central square. Our hostel was located right along the Plaza, offering stunning views from its 6th floor balcony.
(Ravi -- Tim forgot to mention one of our favorite things upon arriving, Santiago´s modern metro underground train system, the first we´ve encountered since leaving Europe, and much nicer than Chicago´s own CTA!)
The next morning, we took a walking tour of Santiago´s pedestrian streets, business district, and government buildings. The architecture was truly impressive, and the life on the streets at all hours of the morning added a lot of fun to our day.
Soon enough, though, Ravi´s wanderlust to seek out high places overtook him. He hiked up to the top of Cerro Santa Lucia which is one of Santiago´s many city parks, and returned by way of the Modern Art Museum.
(Ravi -- the Modern Art Museum was quite blah, the annoying ¨art¨ design exhibits that have to be explained for ever for anyone to understand what they were looking at. The nearby Fine Arts Museum, however, was great, and actually had mostly contemporary art, and an awesome exhibit of photos from 1920s Arequipa, Peru. Amazing how life there looked just like life in photos from the same time period in the US.)
I, however, took my book to a coffee shop, ordered a gargantuan cappucino, and dazzled the world with my coffee sipping, book reading, and people watching. Sometimes, that´s the best way to enjoy one´s afternoon!
That night we went to dinner with a delightful Chilean geophysicist named Cindy. Cindy is a friend of one of our Chicago friends who studies earthquakes. In addition to teaching me more than I expected to learn about fault-lines and tectonic stress over dinner in a wonderful Indian restaurant, Cindy shared with us much about Chilean family life, how the universities work, and her up-coming research in Germany. I must say, I was proud of Ravi and I for being able to carry conversations with Chilean geophysicists in Spanish!
We parted with Cindy after dinner, and then decided to check out Santiago´s nightlife. A word about clubs in Latin America: Most everyone here goes out to dinner when I´d normally consider going to bed, and most nightclubs don´t really get going until well after midnight. Ravi and I never seem to remember this, so we ended up sipping a beer for a couple hours across the street from the place we wanted to go to until about 1am when it finally opened! People finally started filling in about 2am, and Ravi and I enjoyed a night of good dance music, mostly acceptable drag performances, and great company.
We were in no hurry the next morning, so we made breakfast, hung out past lunch time, and then walked around in the Bellavista neighborhood some more during the daylight hours. Bellavista seems a lot like Chicago´s Lincoln Park area: young, fun-seeking, and a bit over-caffeinated. Therefore, we enjoyed ourselves immensely, walking around and sitting outside in a cheap burger joint along Pio Nono street, sipping some local beer.
As much as we enjoyed Santiago, we still were leaving too much of the continent unexplored to linger long! That night, we left Santiago on an overnight bus to Pukon.