My Short Life in Santiago, Chile

Getting to live in a country other than your own is always a great learning experience and a great way to expand how we understand how different and how similar human being can be.  This entry is more of a trip down memory lane than a travel journal:  talking about my 3 short months living in Santiago, Chile while on assignment for work there.  It was a prolonged visit that made me feel I was a true resident of the city.

Santiago in 1991 was not as developed as it is now; or as I heard it was developed even 10 years ago for that matter.  But it was a city that was bustling with business and construction back then as it re-entered into full-fledged democracy.

I lived in a nice area of town called Providencia where we had been found accommodations for our stay in an “apart-hotel” near Las Condes.  It was a good part of town for us as it had many conveniences nearby and we could walk to work (a 15 minute walk).

Traveling before Cell Phones Were Common…

In 1991, some things about living abroad were not as easy as they are today.  For instance, we had no cell phones (we had one in the office but it was one of those you installed in a car except we had it on top of a table in our conference room; our client was one of the two mobile phone companies in town).  ATMs were not in use back then there (at least those connected to the international networks) so we had to trek to el Centro to go to the local Amex office to have them withdraw money from our bank accounts back in the U.S. and then exchange it for us into local currency.  I remember the lunch hour treks downtown and all that time spent.  One forgets how convenient ATMs are since we are used to them!  Keeping up with family and friends back home meant regular mail (now we call it “snail mail” but back then there was nothing to compare it to) or $2+ per minute phone calls.

OK, Now to Food…

In Santiago, I had fantastic meals.  It has been too long and 1. memory fails and 2. places may no longer exist or be as good.  I clearly recall enjoying a restaurant called El Tallarin Gordo [good eats] in Bellavista (a bohemian type of neighborhood)  (Spanish link:  Another one, called Pollo al Cognac [good eats], served a dish of the same name that was fantastic (it was located in Lo Barnechea).  Finally, a more elegant one we enjoyed (on account only!) was Chez Louis.  We also used to go for drinks and lesser meals near the Calle Suecia.  I don’t recall if all the places we went for dancing and hanging out were there but Calle Suecia was at least a frequent place for happy hours.  Back then, salsa was becoming in vogue and I remember being in demand for being Caribbean and able to fake my way through a salsa song… (I really don’t dance it well at all!)

Things We Did…  Besides Work, That Is

As far as sightseeing and the like, the downtown area had very interesting architecture.  The Cerro Santa Lucia also merited a visit.  View from the CerroWe did trek beyond to the Maipo Canyon for a picnic and good food.  Further afield, Viña del Mar was close enough to Santiago for day visits during the weekend, choosing a seaside restaurant to sit in for a few hours while enjoying the food, the people, the view, and perhaps a good book (and a glass of beer or two or three).  Also, wine country is not far from Santiago and is certainly an enjoyable activity (at least for me!).  Unfortunately, back then I was too young and not too savvy about my wine tastes.  There were also a nice beach we liked south of Valparaíso, called Algarrobos, except that the water was FRIGID.  Finally, skiing is only 2 hours away from the city.  I arrived in Chile just as the ski slopes closed but still got to visit Portillo which had an excellent setting up in the Andes.

Being that we were residents for 3 months (I was there with another colleague from the US and a few Argentinians colleagues), we also took to more routine activities like playing racquetball at the local, public “clubs” where you paid a nominal fee for a booked court; or mountain biking in nearby parks.

I would not call Santiago a place one goes for tourism as a destination like Paris, London, etc. (though it can be part of a bigger trip and is, certainly, a great starting point for exploring the wonderful country that is Chile) but it is one of those places where I would enjoying living in again.

Anyone out there have ideas on what is more current in Santiago than my comments dating from 1991?


  1. Laura Hawkins says:

    My husband and I visited Santiago (as tourists!) for a long weekend in 2002. We loved it. It is very cosmopolitan, the people are friendly, and it is one of the cleanest cities that we’ve ever been to. The subway system is clean, well marked and useful, the bus system is nuts, and the cab drivers are among the sanest we’ve ever seen.

    Some of the sites that we found interesting were:

    – The Plaza des Armas has some intersting architecture and sculpture. We saw a dance exhibition the day that we were there.

    – The cathedral is definitely worth a visit.

    – Cerro Santa Lucia, which you mention, is a lovely, large park. It’s on a tall hill, and you can see quite a bit of the city from the top.

    – The Mercado Central (fish market) is interesting, but intimidating when you don’t know what you are doing.

    – Los Dominicos is an artist community outside of Santiago. It is within walking distance of a subway station on the outskirts of Santiago… but barely.

  2. Thanks, Laura. I don’t think I ever saw the Mercado Central. When it comes to fish, all I think I know how to do is swim… I totally had forgotten about the Los Dominicos! Thanks for bringing up. I don’t recall there being a subway station there back in 1991. Great place to buy some arts and crafts.

  3. Raulito,

    Muy interesante tu blog o como se llame. Leí sobre tu viaje en 1991. Yo estuve solamente una vez en Santiago como por 4 días, y lo que ví me gustó.
    No sé si sabes que hay Andracas en Chile. Esa generación que fué a Chile fué también a Cuba. Yo hablé por teléfono con Don Arturo de Andraca cuando fuí(1978 ó 1979)que estaba muy viejo ya, y con su hija Ana María de Andraca. Si estuviera en Erie, te mandaría el telófono de ella por si regresas a Sgo., pero estoy por el invierno en Houston, lejos del frío y de la nieve.
    Seguiré leyendo tus comentarios sobre tus viajes.
    Un abrazo,

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