Santiago, Chile 🇨🇱 2020

Santiago, Chile 🇨🇱

What a pretty city! (Everyone says it’s flat and stinky, but I actually didn’t find that at all.)

I landed in the evening, took an Uber to my AirBNB and then went to get some food. I wasn’t able to get cash at the airport (the exchange rate was astronomical, so I decided to wait until I got to the ATMs in the city). I didn’t have any cash at all that first night, which was tough, because most non-touristy places only took cash or Chilean cards.

From what I could see (in the dark), the houses were bright and colorful and friendly. I had some yummy pizza on a cutting board plate, fresh squeezed strawberry juice and a Caesar salad with salty prosciutto and garlicky croutons.

The next morning, I passed by soOOoOoO many bright houses, lovely patios, swaying flower pots, crazy murals and a whole bunch of stuff that wasn’t there until recently: artwork from the protests.

This was back in 2020, but at that time, over 400 people had lost their eyes so far, due to the police misusing their rubber bullets and the overuse of tear gas. The students started making these beautiful pictures with just eyes on them. I thought they were just pretty until the free walking tour guide told our group about their significance 😭😱

Then I went to the downtown streets, just a few blocks away from my AirBNB, where there was a market, a live band and the pre-Colombian museum! There were adorable pots and really cool masks and rugs.

The market was soooOoOOoOoo fun! People sold everything from fresh fruit to handmade dresses, to books displayed in cardboard box structures to floppy hats, and the slinkiest and then the sturdiest undergarments. It was noisy, crowded, full of perfumes, fish and fruits, and all kinds of stray dogs hanging out and watching the strange hoo-mans do their strange hoo-man things. 😂❤️

And onto my Free Walking Tour! My tour guide was hilarious and also full of good advice: it’s not Friday, so it’s highly unlikely that you all will experience a protest, but if you see people running, it’s advisable to follow them.”

The protests happened about every Friday (or at least they did at the beginning of February), and it all started because of a $0.04 raise to the metro ticket price. The students were mainly the people protesting, because anyone with jobs would be fired for leaving work early to protest. (I’m just repeating what the walking tour guide told me, please feel free to add anything I missed.) He told our group all kinds of terrifying realities, such as how Chile has the highest suicide rate for older people, because they don’t have enough money to keep living after they reach a certain age :((( The city was/is already astronomically expensive, comparable to London in some areas, and this increase was just insult to injury. He said that, as the protest continued throughout the first day, people were at least primarily just upset about the increase, then – as the day went on – people were bringing up a wide range of issues that involved all aspects of society and how something needs to change, and how grateful most people were for the students willing to take a stand.

He pointed out all of the street art and graffiti that has popped up since the protests began.

I had made my flight reservations after the protests had begun, so I knew that they were happening. After some research, I concluded that the majority of the city was safe the majority of the time, and if something started happening, I would need to get inside/away from the area. And actually, if I hadn’t known that the protests were happening, nothing in my experience in Santiago would have told me otherwise (other than the graffiti, of course). I just thought that maybe street art wasn’t illegal. I only personally experienced the protests once, and that was leftover teargas in the nearby town of Valparaíso, when an entire section of the tourist area was saturated with it. It’s such a shame what was happening in Chile, because Chile is such a nice place. (Granted, the tear gas was only felt for a few minutes until the wind carried it away, and the tear gas only gave my throat a little tickle, but it still was alarming that the police didn’t even mind doing it in the main part of this touristy city.)

More walking through Santiago, seeing all of the amazing murals and street art, combined with the angst of all the societal issues going on around them. It was really humbling and sad and beautiful.

I hung out with this super cool Austrian gal during the walking tour in Santiago. She said Austria gets boring this time of year, so she leaves every winter to go someplace nicer haha. She said that the darkness just gets to be too much :((( (I’m like, BUT YOU LIVE IN THE HILLS THAT ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THO!!! 😂😂😂)

After, I had the best empanada I’ve ever had in my life – slow cooked beef and cheese wrapped in a delicious pastry shell – and then trotted over to my reservation at Restaurant 99. I hadn’t eaten in days, it seemed, so I was more than ready for two meals in a row haha.

I had a specific reservation time that I had to stick to, so I hung out by all the young people and fruit vendors, which happened to be right in front of the McDonald’s walk up drive-through 😂😂😂 So I watched as a person after person got their McFlurrys and McCafes…in the middle of Santiago. Lol.

I bought a massive thing of blackberries and blueberries, and then an entire bag of delicious avocados, all for $2. The avocados were a bit denser than I was used to, and very very very yellow, like the way that they look when they dry out in the sun, but they were still tasty with some salad dressing.

I also passed a lot of street vendors, selling oily, fragrant meats on sticks, a dog wearing a baseball cap asking for money, and a lot of beautiful clothing stores.

I had a “9” course tasting meal with some of the best food of my entire life. (“9” is in quotes, because I got so much more than 9 courses haha)

Course 1: two types of homemade bread with smoked mushroom butter. I had SO much of this, and could have eaten the butter right from the little copper serving dish lol.
Course 2: this was the tiniest empanada with some kind of Korean something inside with pickled onion and mustard. Yummm.
Course 3: watermelon gazpacho. I cook a lot, but this wasn’t something I’d ever considered. It was cold and sweet and salty with just the right balance of tomato and watermelon. It was a really interesting flavor. It had pineapple chunks and a yogurt sliver on the top. Actually very yummy!
Course 4: Cold tomato soup with fresh mozzarella cheese, a salty garlicky crouton, basil leaves and olive oil. It was a little more watery than I was expecting, and I was still surprised that it was cold even though it’s name was “cold tomato soup” lol, but still, this was so good!
Course 5: sea anemone, clams, crab and melon balls. This one wasn’t for me, but I’m not one for fish. And it was very fishy. (Pictured above)
Course 6: corn chowder with a white bean mash, peppers and a crunchy tortilla chip. Sort of bland but I was just glad that it wasn’t clams.
Course 7: breaded and fried white fish, with sautéed pickled veggies and cauliflower mash and dried olive crumbs. This was freaking AMAZING. It was salty and sweet and savory with hot oil everywhere. I didn’t even see the giant pile of fish on the plate bc the veggies were just that good, and then I found the fish and it was like warm heaven in my mouth. I wished I had saved some of the cauliflower mash to go with the fish haha but too late.
Course 8: pigs blood sausage with mashed potatoes and crispy potato balls (like the consistency of Kix cereal, no joke). Too much meat for me, but it was still really tasty. Had I liked blood sausage, I would have found this delicious.

Course 9: Raspberry sorbet, with pistachio cream, raspberry jam, crunchy pistachios, and crumbled short bread. yummmmmm
Course 10: Fun with a caramel crunch on top, super buttery cookies on top of that, a mango go chutney, and then a mango sorbet.
Course 11: So much chocolate! Small pieces of chocolate mousse, with raspberry sorbet, chocolate pieces, buttery chocolate cookie pieces, and more chocolate cream. This was so freaking delicious.
THEN! They saw that my birthday was coming up and gave me ANOTHER dessert for free!
Course 12: Raspberry sorbet with pistachio cream, chocolate cookies, raspberry jam, and decorative flowers.

To drink, I had apple juice mixed with lemon and celery. It was fresh and cleansing, and surprisingly went with every dish. They make one specific juice every day, and they also offer a whole bunch of wines. But those are (a lot) extra.

This meal was the most expensive set meal on the menu and, including tip, it was $66. (Obvi expensive, but I’d read all about this amazing place and when would I ever find something like this – for that price – in the States?!?#takemymoney)

What an amaaaazing place to eat. I would go over and over and over again. It was all decorated with candles and the servers amazingly spoke English. My Spanish was becoming…not good, by any means haha…but at least I was starting to be able to get around and ask questions. But when the server actually asked if I preferred English or Spanish, I almost hugged her haha.

I took the metro there and back to my AirBNB, and it came often, on time, clean, didn’t smell at all, and felt very secure. People had little dogs in little cages, short skirts and briefcases (not all at once, of course.) The women clearly felt comfortable wearing anything they wanted, and the men I encountered weren’t at all creepy. And the metro stations were SO pretty. Large, swirling murals all over the stairwells and ceilings. It felt like I was in the middle of that animated Monet movie. It was almost surreal.

The next day in Santiago, I took a bus and went to the Baha’i Temple – the only one in South America, and one of only 7 in the world (one on every continent). On the bus, I passed this bridge that was covered in drawings of eyes, in order to represent all the eyes that have been lost due to the protests and the police brutality.

The bus took almost 1.5hrs and then I had to either walk for 45 mins, straight uphill with absolutely no shade and beating-down sun, or take an Uber. (Annnnnd I had no service lol so that option was out) So I walked to the entrance and asked the guard, in my 3 1/2 words of Spanish, if this was the way to the temple. He said yes, but that it was on the other side of this giant hill, and it’s nearly impossible to walk. I asked if there was a taxi nearby, and he says no, but then asks the next family that pulls up in their car – complete with a little boy on the mom’s lap – if they can give me a ride to the temple. They accepted, no problem, but none of us spoke the same language, so we all had a good 5 minute laugh about the situation as they drove me up the hill. We parked, waved goodbye and that was it 😂😂😂.

The ceiling inside the temple was beauuuutiful! I was made with nine different “wings” to represent light and also the skirts of whirling Sufi dancers. It was soooo pretty!

I used the wifi there to call an Uber, and he was super nice and professional and I had him take me to the big mall, which I had high expectations for because of all the reviews for how amazing the architecture was, but the actual map wasn’t that high – I think that might have been the office building next door? The escalators were super cool, though.

Then I went to a pretty sculpture park across the little river, and then headed to Patio Bellavista, which is the colorful area that has all these bars and restaurants and umbrellas hanging from the ceiling and funny little sheep statues and incredibly colorful flowerpots haha.

Patio Bellavista is so colorful! There were paintings and murals and colorful orange chairs. I saw beautiful hand made shawls with baby alpaca fur, turquoise jewelry crafted into beautiful rings and incredible spinning globes, and rows and rows of moai statue replicas (like the ones on Easter Island…which belongs to Chile, but was a 450$ flight from Santiago, so too pricy for this trip).

Lots of families and tourists everywhere, a small but fun place to pop into. I even saw an ice cream shop that had edible cones shaped like big fish with their mouths open! So cute!

There were lots of cute souvenirs – jewelry, shawls and awesome T-shirts that had a bunch of hand drawn topless women with “Sororidad” splashed across the front 🤣👍🏻

Headed to my second tasting menu I had while in Santiago! It was so delicious, at this restaurant called Restaurant 040. The portions were much smaller than 99 Restaurant.

There were 12 portions – everything was very artisanal and beautiful and intricate. I asked that I wasn’t served any raw fish or meat, like sushi or beef tartar, and they were more than accommodating. The internet kept cutting out and I had to use three different internet networks before I could find one that worked, so that sucked because my phone was acting up, but at least I finally could send my hubby all my food pictures 😂😂😂

My favorite one was the very first course that had a deviled egg with mayo on top and it was propped up on this little spiral of noodles. Once you ate that, you poured the chicken and clam broth into the bowl and it became yummy ramen.

Another one I really liked was this chopped up cucumber with a vinaigrette dressing. It was so fresh and tangy! I liked another puff pastry dish topped with faux caviar. (Just for me, though – I’m sure for everyone else, it was real caviar. I wanted the caviar actually, but I guess the server gal was right, it’s raw fish haha).

Another amazing one a fried paddy of rice with a tiny wheel of beef stuffed with blue cheese. The oxtail with caramelized onions in a puff pastry ball with Parmesan shavings on top was also soooo good.

I really liked one dish that was a little anchovie sandwich with mayo and toasted (a lot better than it sounds) and it came with a mini drink. It came with a massive ice cube that took up almost the entire cup, so I took a little tinnny sip and it emptied half the glass 😂😂 it was a yummy dish, though, with a beautiful display.

Some other ones were squid ink ravioli, corn pastry pie something or other, and a super yummy slab of greasy and herby rice covered in mayo with the tiniest roll of beef on top filled with blue cheese.

The desserts were really tasty and not so focused on sorbet haha. The first one was vanilla and bourbon ice cream with caramel sauce and buttery crumbles. The other one was a chocolate mooncake completely filled with gooey chocolate fudge.

It was $54 including tip and my passion fruit juice drink, but I don’t think I’d go back. When I left, I was still hungry. The other place was more expensive, but I certainly left stuffed to the brim. Haha

I went on my walking tour of the market the next day – it was so fun!! I met so many nice people and ended up being lumped in with a group of traveling digital nomads, so I fit right in haha. Then a german couple joined with us at the last minute, so I translated a lot of what our guide was telling us in English into German for them. The man spoke English very well, but the woman was a little lost, and I could see her physical relief when I began telling her everything in German. I think she might have been embarrassed bc her hubby spoke the language so well, and she didn’t want to ask for help 😂😭 So we all had a very nice time and explored the fish market at the main market, all the fruit stands and had some delicious freshly squeezed juice.

Everyone in this group was about my age, maybe a little younger, and had never travelled outside the country before – or very few times if they had. They were all so nice, we had a really good time hanging out! They were from everywhere, too – the US, Canada, India, Korea, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, etc. They heard that I taught English from home, and they said that I would be perfect for their program where they all travel together, working remotely. It actually sounded really cool, but i thought it was a meetup or something – no! They had to pay thousands of dollars just to know the itinerary 🤣 Too much for me, but that sounds cool if you can afford it. Although, I really like traveling alone. I think it would feel a little stifling or like summer camp to me, so maybe I’ll leave the organized groups to the other digital nomads.

I got the craziest sunburn on my feet! I had these super cute sandals on, and I thought I had put sunscreen underneath them, but I guess there were a few spots that I consistently missed, because I looked like a tan Dalmatian at the end of my market tour.

The guide was very knowledgeable and very funny. He talked about earthquakes, as Chile is the most active country in the world in terms of earthquakes. He said that earthquakes shaped how the country was built in a lot of ways, as it made all the architects think about how to build so that it wouldn’t fall down during the next big quake. We tried a bunch of fruits, learned about the different types of arepas (❤️!!!!!!!) and other street foods, and which food to buy from which vendors. I had just searched “free walking tour santiago” and this was one of them that came up, and it was awesome!

The rest of my Market tour in Santiago. I saw cats eating tomatoes, watermelons as big as my belly, and necklaces of smoked chili peppers. I also saw a box of kittens that I wanted to take home with me, but the people there seemed to really like having the cats around so that they’d eat all the mice haha. The cats also took up residency among the melons, which I found hilarious.

I had the best time ever at lunch with my new friends and fellow tour-mates. They were all digital nomads – just like me! – so we had lots to talk about, mainly how we all managed to make money without ever going to an office building. I sat by my new German friends, Theda and Hans, and we chatted auf Deutsch about how their daughter was coming to visit and all of the fun things they wanted to show her from the tour. We had avocado with tomatoes and hearts of palm, a cheesy crab soup that could have easily been a hot, drippy dip instead of a soup, as it has the consistency of spinach/artichoke dip, and my tour mates got a king crab (the most expensive item on the menu) to split amongst them. The waiter was a hoot and posed for every picture even though we clearly didn’t mean for him to be in them lol he was so funny though that no one minded at all haha. What a fun day!!

We all hugged goodbye with promises of visits and sending pictures, and I went on my way back to the AirBNB.

While walking to the bus, I realized that I’d left my phone case at home. In my phone case? My bus pass and the rest of my cash. So, home I walked haha, all 29 minutes with my arms full of groceries and blisters forming from my adorable but impractical shoes with every step. It actually wasn’t too bad, though, because I walked through all these beautiful neighborhoods, full of street art! My camera was so happy 🤣 Wine glasses painted on corners, scenes with naked alien women sprawled all across a block-long fence, and an entire universe, complete with suns, moons and stars. The artists there are so impressive, I almost was sad to get home haha.

I did manage to do one more thing that night, though – I went to explore the London/Paris intersection in Santiago, which was a tiny area of town that looked just like Europe. It really did look like my favorite places in the world – Germany and France and England – and all the Insta-models knew it. There was some competition getting to take pictures on the fancy streets, but I waited my turn and everyone was patient and waited their turns. A beautiful woman was flouncing around in beautiful clothes, and her photographer full on ignored her as he sneakily took photographs of me with his camera from across the street. I laughed, as I was posing for my own camera and definitely felt awkward with this random dude photographing me, but I was highly amused watching this whole scene unfold: her fluffing her skirts, her friends touching up her makeup, and her photographer not paying one ounce of attention to the wind as it sparkled through her hair. Her anger was tangible. I complimented her on her dress as I was leaving, and she seemed confused. Lol I still wonder if he was her boyfriend, friend or a hired photographer.

Bought a red pepper as big as my face on the way home and took selfies with the lion statues outside one of the hotels.

Goodbye Chile! 🇨🇱 I felt like I really got to know Santiago. I know I wasn’t there too long, but 6 days is actually very long for me. I had two tours, a day trip to Valparaíso, a visit to the European part of Santiago, a visit to all the museums and two tasting menu meals. I made 3 new friends from Germany – a single gal from Köln and an older couple from Hamburg. I drank like 3 gallons of milk, hung out with my super cool host, and practiced a lot of Spanish. Haha. It was a good time. Chile was a lot of fun, even if I did feel a whoosh or two of old tear gas in Valparaíso. Ahhhhh! Would still 100% go back!!

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