So, I came back to Santiago after 18 yrs. That was 3 weeks ago. I went to the US and then I turned right around to come down to Chile! Crazy? Heck, no. I don’t mind coming to this town and country! I am traveling here for business but seldom is business travel the vehicle to get back to a place I want to keep coming back to…
On the first trip, I traveled 3 hours south of Santiago to an area right outside of the town of Curicó. Why Curicó? Well, my friend’s son was competing in the national championship of Chilean motocross, of course! I have never been to a motocross race before and it was definitely a fun event to be at. But the best part was the drive down there with the Andes to my left and the lesser range of mountains to my right. The views were great. However, though I stayed in the shade most of the time, I got quite sunburnt unintentionally. One has to remember that the sun here hits harder!
That first week, most of my free time was spent with fellow co-workers on the same trip as me. But I did get to sample two great local restaurants, one in Bellavista and the other, well, in a part of town whose name I can’t remember. The former was a seafood place in a very artsy-bohemian part of town named Bellavista. Pablo Neruda’s (former!) home is located there. Also, that is the place where you go to go up Cerro Santa Lucía for great city views (on the less-smoggy days…). Bellavista is practically littered with cheap bars and eateries where lots of young people hang out as well as better dineries and an area called Patio Bellavista with good shopping and more places to eat and have a drink. Azul Profundo, the name of the restaurant on Constitución 111, was simply outstanding. The seafood, as pretty much anywhere here, is quite fresh. http://www.flip360.cl/ver_local.php?id=1035&ver=panorama&idPanorama=1035&categoria=51
I then was taken another night to a Peruvian restaurant called La Mar (actually, a ¨cevichería”) on Nueva Costanera (http://www.biggi.cl/4DCGI/Noticia466). It seems Peruvian restaurants are the bomb these days not sure if because more Peruvians live here or just because. This was a classy place with very cleverly designed indoor and outdoor seating areas. You can go there for sure and sit outside and people-watch (both in the restaurant and also those who walk down the streets). It is located in a very nice residential neighborhood and I highly recommend their food!
I am staying at the local Marriott (OK, this is not a backpacking it kind of trip! it is a beautiful building! As I was looking for a pic of the 40-story hotel, I found a Spanish wikipedia entry that says the building can stand an 8.0 earthquake – I will sleep well tonight!) where 3 weeks before I came, a small bomb was found and detonated outside. It is a little weird because I don’t associate Chile with crime like that. So, I remain undisturbed about it. The hotel has a good sitting area downstairs where in the evening between 7 and 9 PM they have happy hour with free hors d’oeuvres. I have once or twice opted to go for pisco sours (yes, more than 1!!) and these hors d’oeuvres for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, there is FINE dining in this city for sure. But after nights of going out, it is nice to just camp. The added bonus is that it seems that locals like to come to this happy hour so you get to be with locals though you are at the hotel. I have noticed that every night there are several groups of local women who apparently choose to meet here to have a night out at one of the nice hotels in town. I do not exaggerate, these women look like upper class folks who meet here for kicks (it isn’t a cheap place so my observation is likely not off the mark).
Next to the hotel there is a very nice mall called Parque Arauco. It has the usual types of stores but also a great outdoor area with many restaurants. El Otro Sitio, a Peruvian (!) restaurant, was quite good and reasonable in terms of price. In these Peruvian restaurants, ceviche is typically the draw, as only Peruvians can make it – phenomenal stuff!
Alright, I intend to think about what these two quick back-to-back trips have meant to me and I have to say that the main conclusion is how awesome it is that today I feel as strongly as I did 18 yrs ago that I love this city and this country.