South America Diary: Day 19


Santiago Subway
We’re resting again after spending the morning out in the suburb of Los Dominicos, checking out the artisan community and market there. We rose late and showered before breakfast at the hotel buffet, then left to catch a metro train from Santa Luciá station, right in front of the hotel, to Los Dominicos at the eastern end of the line, some 13 stops away. The tickets cost 560 pesos each, just over one Australia dollar. The trains run frequently and quickly, and the one we caught was standing room only. It terminated two stops before Los Dominicos, and everyone got off, but another train appeared a minute later to take us the rest of the way.


Los Dominicos Artisan ComunityThe station exited on to the edge of a large grassy park with trees in autumn foliage colouring it shades of green and yellow. To the east lay the Dominican monastery after which the area was presumably named – a Spanish colonial edifice with two symmetrical square bell towers, topped by small domes. We walked towards it and next to it found the artisan community market that the lady at our hotel reception told us about yesterday. This was an enclosed area containing hacienda-style buildings of adobe with tile rooves, divided into about 150 small workshops and shops, plus a couple of small cafes. There were leatherworkers, woodworkers, copper and silversmiths, sculptors, painters in both oils and watercolours, weavers, knitters, basketworkers, glassblowers, jewellers, and lapidarists, potters and more.

We walked around browsing the shops. In many of them there was a workshop with the owner working on making new items. M. bought a clay bowl with stylistic designs on it for her brother, and then a shawl made of alpaca wool for herself. It took some time to check all the shops, and we needed a snack as the afternoon began. We stopped in the largest cafe, where M. tried a cortado coffee (coffee with a little milk) and a cheese empanada, while I had a beef empanada, which also had onions, olives, boiled egg, and a grape in it. They were good and kept us going for a while.

PottyThen we left Los Dominicos and got a train back to Santa Luciá and our hotel. We rested until 17:00, watching Law and Order SVU on TV. Then we left to walk up the hill of Santa Luciá near the hotel to see the view and get a closer look at the small castle built on it. This hill is where the city of Santiago was proclaimed. On entering the gates we had to record names and nationalities in a visitor book attended by security people. After doing this, we walked up the elegant but decaying neo-classical staircase to a terrazzo containing a large fountain in Italianate style, with a bronze statue of Neptune in prime position. It could have been truly beautiful if it had been in good repair, but the neglect unfortunately showed.

Terraza NeptunoSteps behind the fountain led to a path winding further up the hill. This in turn led to a series of steps which took us up to another level where a terraced area overlooked the city below. But this was not the end; another set of stairs led up to another terrace, this one named the Jardin Darwin after Charles Darwin’s visit to Santiago in the 19th century. From here, still more stairs led up to a crenellated lookout tower at the very top of the hill. By this time, we’d climbed maybe 150 metres and had a good view of downtown Santiago, suburbs stretching in all directions, the larger, taller Cerro San Cristóbal hill north of the river from which an even better view could no doubt be achieved via the cablecar system that ran to its summit, and the huge Andean mountains looming over the city to the east. These, and much of the city, were partly obscured by the thick smoggy haze that clung over the city. Although it looked bad, the air still smelt cleaner and less grimy than the dust of Cusco.

Cerro Santa LucíaAfter taking some photos, we slowly wended our way back down the beautiful multi-level park that was the hill, taking a different route down to how we had come up. In several places we saw or passed young couples engaged in romantic trysts. It seemed to be the place to be for that! There were a few other people in the park, but the majority were young couples ensconced in nooks and crannies everywhere.

Back at the bottom of the hill, we went in search of a mini-market to get some water for overnight use, plus some chocolate as a snack to tide us over until dinner. We walked around the back of the National Library building and found the eyeglass district, literally 15 shops or more in a row all doing eye tests and selling glasses. They even had a woman out front spruiking for customers. One tried to get me to come in and buy glasses. Apparently I look like someone who needs to get prescription glasses. The streets were crowded with commuters heading home from work, and it was tricky going walking along, looking for a mini-market. I spotted one across the main road, so we headed over, spending one cycle of traffic lights on the large island in the middle of the road. It was more like a micro-market, and when I asked the woman if she had a large bottle of water, she had a quick rummage around before declaring “No”. We walked back towards the hotel and simply got two small bottles of water from a street stall, plus a block of chocolate. That should do us until tomorrow when we leave Santiago.

Mountain City21:31

We just had dinner in the hotel restaurant again. We asked at reception this morning for any good restaurants near the hotel. The guy looked at us and said essentially any decent restaurant was at least a ten minute taxi ride from the hotel. We said we wanted one within walking distance and he looked at us like we were strange, and then said there was one, an Italian place, two blocks to the south. But he didn’t sound very happy about it. When looking for water earlier, we’d walked a bit in that direction and the neighbourhood didn’t look the best, so we didn’t risk it tonight.

Instead, in the hotel M. had spaghetti pesto and I had the pizza del mare, with salmon and prawns. Then for dessert I had the flan de coco y jengibre, a Chilean crème brûlée with coconut and ginger, served with blueberries. It was much better than last night’s pumpkin brownie. M. got a coffle. She thought she was ordering a cappuccino, but must have got confused with the waitress’s Spanish, and ended up with an extra strong demitasse cup of coffee with a bit of milk in it.

Dinner done, it’s time to repack our bags for tomorrow’s checkout and flight home.

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