We’ve been living in Santiago since January–about three months now. E. and I moved here without expectations even though plenty of people in Buenos Aires had grim warnings about the quality of life and quality of the air. Santiago is often called a small town compared to Buenos Aires, and I can see why. The city isn’t as sprawling. The surrounding Andes trap a lot of pollution. We wanted to make our own decision on the city. Because our lifestyle makes a move possible, we decided to aprovechar (take advantage of) the opportunity.
Cerro San Cristobal stands in the center of the city–it’s the large hill pictured at top. A zoo sits at the foot of the cerro and a park and swimming pool are located on the top. San Cristobal is a popular weekend destination for picnics or drinking mote con huesillo. Tourists and locals take a rail car up the side. Then they take a funicular or walk across the top. It is a surprisingly long distance.
It’s difficult to get a good view at the top of the cerros because of the clouds and smog. The best day to take photos is supposedly after a rain.
We live close to the Cerro Santa Lucia. It used to be a monastary and still retains the feeling of a sweet garden-like refuge. I walked up to the top on one of my first days here.
My general feeling on Santiago is that it is OK. It is not very cosmopolitan. Chilenos as a rule are reserved and hogareños (homebodies). People are more guarded and less likely to invite a new person into their homes. They eat at home more than at restaurants. Twenty-somethings often live with their parents until marriage.
Even though the city isn’t as sprawling and busy, the traffic isn’t as insane as B.A. Cars generally brake for pedestrians. It’s possible to walk down the street without hearing the constant ring of taxi horns. The pace of life is more calm and understanding.
The food choices aren’t varied. Standard fare includes empanadas, humita (big corn tamales), completos (hot dogs with everything), and meat over french fries. Our choices are pretty limited, but I have found some vegetarian options including a mom-style food stand that sells decent soy meat empanadas made by Hare Krishnas. Avocados are cheap and easy to come by, so we have been making guacamole often. Freshly squeezed or mixed fruit drinks are common.
While Argentines boast their Malbec wine, the Chilean pride is called Carmenere. I find them very similar in taste, a slightly drier red but not as dry as Merlot. It’s grape harvest season now, and we are buying the sweetest grapes and making our own juice.
Here’s a bird’s eye view of Santiago that I’ve never seen.
Photo Credit: Patrick_Coe