2014 in Chile, in the Central Area

National Museum in Santiago

National Museum in Santiago

Our plane brought us into Santiago on New Year’s Day, with New Year’s rolling in just after we boarded. We had a nice little celebration aboard the plane, though naturally tempered by the situation. You don’t want people getting too crazy on a plane, least of all the pilots! New Year’s Day in Chile isn’t quite like most places in the world. Not a snowman in sight, and a balmy 30C, 85F temperature greeted us as we took our first steps into the city.

The celebrations of the night before had given the town a unique look, with party decorations all over the place. People were out valiantly trying to clean up some of this mess (although I wouldn’t call it mess, I thought it was wonderful), though the high winds that day were giving them some difficulties. Of course being New Year’s Day, most places were closed, and the streets were relatively quiet, most folk surely recovering from the night before.

One place that was open was the Central Market, and this was where we headed. Fish stalls were everywhere, and to my surprise, not all of it was cooked. I’m not a terribly adventurous eater by nature, but I tried my hand at some raw prawns and mussels, as well as some unique local delicacy of which the name escapes me. All I remember is that the waiter said it’s scraped off thCentral market in Santiago IIe bottom of the ocean. Normally that would’ve sent me scurrying away, but I gave it a shot and it was quite good, and very filling.
The next few days were spent wandering around Santiago, and I really grew to love the city. It has a great mix of old and new structures, and the thing that amazed me the most was that whether old or new, the architecture was always interesting and unique. Their architects really go above and beyond the call of duty here, and it’s a shame many of the other places I’ve visited don’t share this same aesthetic. We visited the National Museum, which was fascinating, and kept me enthralled for hours, then headed to Cerro San Cristobal, a large hill in the central part of the city, with a zoo along the way if you can believe it.

Central market in SantiagoWe passed through there on foot, then took a cable car the rest of the way up. From the terrace at the top we got a great 360 degree view of the entire city, and further up is the Statue of the Virgin. We also visited the home of Pablo Neruda, a famous Chilean poet. His home was filled with an eccentric mix of items that really made it feel like a museum of its own.
Yesterday we hit Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, a pair of coastal cities. These two cities are quaint, with a real tourist vibe going through them. The beach was packed with both locals and tourists, and fun was had by all. You really can’t go wrong with a day at the beach, no matter where you are in the world. We also visited beautiful Zapallar, like 40 minutes north of Vina del Mar, and spent much of our day on the beach and eating wonderful chilean seafood with wine.
We’ve had a great time thus far in Chile, and have been touched by the kindness and hospitality of the people here. Having fun in ZapallarThere’s always someone willing to give you a hand with whatever questions you have, and we’ve found that even opening up our maps draws helpful people to us like magnets, without even having to ask. The people of Chile have made this trip even better, and we’re looking forward to much more.