I’d like to pretend that I had a plan going in to the trip. And, at some level I did. I was on the inaugural United Airlines flight from Houston to Santiago and that was great. But I also planned this trip with a bit of time in Chile, hoping to actually explore Santiago and get a taste of what the city is all about. On that front I was woefully unprepared. Fortunately that rarely stops me from setting out to explore and have fun.
Day one of my visit happened to be a local holiday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Knowing only that a visit to the top of San Cristobal was a major tourist event I briefly considered heading that way. Fortunately I got hungry and turned around. The feast celebration is also a pilgrimage day to the top of San Cristobal which meant it was incredibly crowded atop the hill. Turns out that being hungry saved me a lot of trouble there. Plus I got to enjoy the local sandwich specialty, the lomito.
I had another lomito the following day at Fuente Alemana, a place which every single guide or webpage I looked at said was the absolute best in Chile. It was no better than the one I had the first day. It was a fun experience to be inside Fuente Alemana and to enjoy the old-school diner counter experience. But the food fell short to me. I got in early and avoided the line (I was hungry, not well coordinated) but I don’t know that waiting is really worth it given the many other options available.
Visiting San Cristobal was reasonably easy, especially since I waited until the day after the festival. From the Baquedano metro station to the park was about a 15 minute walk through a slightly off-beat but still very tourist-focused neighborhood.
Once at the park you choose your means of ascent. The funicular ride up to the top offers nice views and is much, much easier than the hike or bike ride (cash only for tickets!).
From the funicular station at the top there is still a tiny bit of hill to climb to reach the statue atop the hill. My main point of comparison for large religious statues looking over cities in South America comes in the form of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. I think that one is more impressive in many ways, though I appreciated that this one was a much calmer scene on an average tourist day versus my experiences in Rio.
And the fact that it was so recently a festival day meant that some of the infrastructure was still showing signs of the pilgrims the day before. Or no one ever cleans up the candles. I found this view quite beautiful.
And that’s really all I saw of Santiago. Well, that and a couple hours of pool time at the hotel to take advantage of the wifi and get some work done. Not my ideal way to spend time on a trip but if I’ve gotta be working this isn’t an awful way to make that happen.
I also spent a lot of time on the metro riding back and forth from downtown to the hotel. This was a cheap option (and saved me a bit of extra cash thanks to a credit card “hack” I never would have considered) and a nice upgrade in stay quality but not worth the commute (which is typically how I feel about such things). Live and learn, of course, but I definitely recommend staying in the city center area, even if the points are better elsewhere.
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