This article has three alternative titles.
1. The spontaneity of travel has such a different flavor.
2. BA in January, get wet or get out.
3. Chilen in Santiago.
20 days ago I had no idea I'd be sitting here in Santiago
. But when a friend of a friend told me he wanted to take some pictures with me, I thought of our artists in Mendoza who we'll be taking on tour in April. I thought how gorgeous Mendoza must be in the summer. I thought how much I really needed a break from Buenos Aires, to get far far away from the office for a while. When this same friend mentioned he had a car, I thought about the closeness of the Pacific Beach
and how beautiful it must be in the summer. I remembered my friends in Chile, who both work in music and culture, and thought how cool it would be to go ahead and cross over the Andes with a Zizek crew and play
Let me clarify also that I didn't come to Santiago expecting to end up writing about it. But I've had way too good a time, met too many great people and been to too many great places not to.
Now I certainly don't expect to understand a scene in just a week's time (clearing throat) but what I can say is that Santiago is alive and kicking. From the first day I could feel the energy, good peoples, good places, good vibrations. They say that the energy one gives off is the energy one receives, and I'm a firm believer in that, but it also helps when the people you come in contact with in a foreign land are open and ready for the visitor.
Some highlights of my week in Santiago were:
The Sunday night Zizek party at Papagayo's Club. Just the right blend of tropical cheesy kitsch with good soundsystem and helpful sound technicians and people who run the club who actually enjoy the music and the business they've chosen. The guacharaca jam with the owner at 3am was priceless. (Alameda 240)
Mercado Central (Central Market)
Farewell Fauna lunch, one more go at the ZZK Gastronomy tour before they drove back over the mountains to get back to work! Lunch destination, central fish market. Instead of paying double the price in the touristy section, if you're up for some adventure, we recommend hitting one of the places on the periphery, La Julita II (Local 62, with a color TV!) did us good with another chupe de mariscos (basically a bowl of bread and cheese with various sea creatures), pastel de choclo (corn pie with various meats and veggies), and a succulent salmon a la mantequilla (salmon cooked in butter). (Ismael Valdes Vergara 900)
Café con Piernas
When in Rome, or in this case Santiago, do as the Santiaguinos do, no? Why not check out a Café con piernas, a concept invented to supposedly attract people to the habit of expresso coffee. How to get people to switch? With mini skirt wearing flirtatious waitresses of course!
The pisco sour experience
We went to Don Rodrigo (Victoria Subercaseaux 355, Bellas Artes) on a Monday night where a tuxedo wearing waiter serves late night business men, tables of friends and bohemians from the neighborhood at oak tables with low lighting. Santiago classy meets late night cocktails. Superb.
Como de Hacer de Algo Otra Cosa (how to do something with something else) was the name of the inaugurating art event for this multi-espacio arts and culture space where the wine, music, art and company flowed quite nicely. Kicking it again with Pipou aka Harmony while admiring the pretty Santiago art girls was absolute perfection. (Matucana 100, Quinta Normal)
Café & WiFi & Tranquility
After traveling all over North America and Europe last year, I must say that Santiago is one of the most WIFI friendly cities around. It seemed like every café I walked into had an open WIFI connection, for free. What better way for freelancers and travelers to get some work done and communicate with the rest of the world than at a great coffee shop like these:
Mosqueta Café & Libros – On a quite street in the semi-bustling downtown neighborhood of Bellas Artes. Grab an outside table in the shade, the food, coffee and fresh juices were all fantastic. The service was impeccable and they even run a flower market. (Mosqueto 440, Bellas Artes)
Café Bistro de la Barra - Tostadas Franceses con jarabe de papaya (French toast with Papaya syrup (Chilean papaya is different than other papayas) is what we were recommended for this quaint and comfortable Bellas Artes café, and it did not disappoint. The coffee to go is also an added bonus for those needing to wake up on the run. (José Miguel de la Barra 455, Bellas Artes)
Café Literario – Not the best coffee but an amazing location. In a tranquil city park overlooking a manmade pond with outside seating and an ample yet minimalist library inside. (Bustamante 335, Parque Bustamante)
Take 2 open minded DIY street culture kids, the city´s craziest and most exciting young artists, put them next to a granny who for a pretty penny will lets them do whatever they want, ie throw wild parties and paint her house, and what do you get? Check it out. (San Isidro 512)
Its mad sunny in Chile. Sorry all you winter goers, but it rules down here right now. Who better to protect your eyes with style than a bunch of old doods who run an eyeglasses store. The trick that these guys have learned is to never throw anything out. Who knew that all the boxes of original French, German and American sunglasses sitting in the backroom would be so relevant and unique 20 years later. These guys did. (Merced 374, Bellas Artes)
Mercado Vega Central
Looking for some obscure herbs and spices, cheap fruits and veggies, serious and fast authentic eats, amazing dried fruits and nuts, fresh exotic juices…. Not to mention a ton of stands selling tapes of music, old watches, cheap sunglasses and more. What better place than the Central Vega Market.
Antilen Pool (On San Cristobal mountain)
Taking a ski-lift up the mountain to get into a mini-van to take you higher to go to a massive pool overlooking the city… yeah, count me in. If you don't want to deal with going to the beach (bad move) or only have a couple days to hang out in the city, this pool is highly recommended. Get there early for a shady spot under a tree and bring plenty of sun block, the sun is hotter as you move closer to it.
Patronato Neighborhood (Barrio Patronato)
For those of you who know Buenos Aires, this is the Once of Buenos Aires, only smaller and much more manageable (like the Santiago experience in general compared to BA!). Get towels like this:
Fresh fruit juices, plenty of cheap clothes and most importantly, Food from the East, Asian and Arab in particular. Check Sukine (Antonio Lopez de Bello 244) for a serious Korean experience, spicy Kimchi and all.
An escape to the Mountains
El Cajon de Maipo is accessed by a bus terminal at the second to last stop of the 5 line on the cities fantastic subway system (Bella Vista de Florida to be exact). There, like in many other spots in Chile, a helpful government worker is there to help those who want to explore the natural beauties of the country. There are buses that take you to particular destinations at early hours. But if you miss those, you can always take the bus to the last stop on the route (San Gabriel or El Volcan) and hitchhike with truck drivers headed to the mines. Get to Termas de Colina, some amazing hot springs in the middle of the Andes with a huge snow covered volcano in the background. The whole Cajon de Maipo experience in general is amazing, a river runs through a canyon with the Andes as large as giants on both sides. We stayed in El Volcan for a night, found a cheap room and a delicious meal by 2 families and marveled at the starry sky. Nothing like the universe and its infiniteness to relax a city kid on his last night of vacation.
*Big ups and eternal thanks to Mauro and Elisa for putting me up and showing me what's up. Without them this article (and my vacations!) wouldn't be half of what it is. Apart from thanking Mauro we also want to commend his work, creating dialogues between Chile and Argentina, two amazing countries with amazing people, art, culture, music and so much more. We did meet some other expat run projects, Revolver Magazine for example, in Santiago, we also want to see them grow and see more people from other parts of the world making Santiago a more international city. This article and inevitably this spontaneous trip is an attempt to strengthen the communication, collaboration, exploration and fun waiting to be had in Santiago Chile.