Santiago ́s downtown like Toronto

Biblioteca Nacional

Biblioteca Nacional

The strangest thing about Santiago for me was that it felt very much like my hometown of Toronto, Canada, in a good way. The streets were very organized and clean, the people were friendly, it was a very comforting experience. Even walking around felt more like home, where pedestrians are generally given the right of way, which is not the case in some of the other places I’ve visited, especially having just come from Argentina where it definitely isn’t. It felt like one of those classic Canadian moments on the streets of Chile where I was expecting the driver to go first, yet he was waiting for me to go first, and no one wanted to be the one to not let the other go first. Like a stare down in diplomacy.

I was in Santiago for 3 days, staying at the Torremayor Hotel in one nice semiresidential area of the city called Providencia . This was a good hotel in a cozy location, with a good buffet breakfast, and most important of all, they gave me a pico sour welcome drink…mmm

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

Being a bit of an adventurous sort, I’ve never really been one for structured tour guide type trips. I prefer to do the exploring on my own. I think if you’re going to be in a foreign country, the possibility of the unknown occurring is one of the great thinks about it. So out I headed into the streets, with my comfortable running shoes on, ready for a day for pavement pounding. I first went to the Biblioteca Nacional, an old building with a real old-world exterior, but given a modern facelift on the inside. There were walls and walls, and shelves and shelves of documents, archives and books, and plenty of large rooms conducive for studying or reading. As a lover of books and history, I could easily have lost myself for a day in here, but I had plenty I wanted to do, so I forced myself to depart after a quick tour.

I next headed for Cerro Santa Lucia for a change of pace. This is a tiny mountain jutting up in the downtown area, with winding stairways and gardens encircling it all the way to its peak. After soaking in the view for a bit, I headed across the river splitting the area and to the Parque Metropolitano, one of the biggest parks in the city. This region is also fairly high up with a great view over much of the city. These elevation changes are awesome, and it’s something we have very little of in Toronto. If you want to get a view, you’re stuck doing so inside a skyscraper or the CN Tower.

Hotel Torremayor

Hotel Torremayor

I next went to the central market to see what was on offer, and while I could’ve spent a good deal of time there searching through the many vendors, I felt I stuck out like a sore thumb there. This was not a tourist hotspot by any means and I felt a little out of place. I wanted to visit the Mapocho next, one of Santiago’s old train stations, but it was closed.

Deciding to take my chances on another market, I went to the Mercado de Flores, and this one wasn’t quite as bad as the last, as there were a few more tourists out and about. I stopped here to enjoy a meal and chat with a few people while I ate.

The Cathedral at Plaza de Armas was my final stop of the day, and by far the most impressive. I’ve been inside many churches all around the world, and this one was right up there as one of the most impressive I’ve yet seen.

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

After a long day of walking, I went to a theatre to watch a movie and unwind. I wanted to see an American comedy movie and see how the Chilean crowd reacted to it, and what kind of sense of humour they had. This was a fun little social experiment, and while I’m not entirely sure what the results indicated, it was a fun experience (although the movie itself admittedly wasn’t very good).
My short stop in Santiago was a great time, and I’ll surely recommend it to friends back in T.O. Next stop for me is Brazil, and from there Mexico, as I work my way slowly North and back towards home.