Postcards from Santiago de Chile & Valparaiso

Belated photos again from my trip last year.

Thought that Santiago de Chile is worth mentioning even though some guidebooks say it is “not a destination by itself”. Well, it is an airport hub so if ever you travel to Chile (yes, that long thin-strip country on the map), and want to save time from travelling on land, you would inevitably fly through Santiago. It was also my first destination in South America. And on landing in this place, I was greeted by the Andes!

The city of Santiago, capital of Chile and site of many political upheavals in the past. To think that up to just a recent 20 odd years ago, this country was ruled by military dictatorship. You wouldn’t be able to tell from today’s Santiago.

Checked out the Mercado Central and the fish market. While unextraordinary, it’s worth considering if you are looking for something to do on a late morning.

Stayed in a hostal that was on a lane called Claudio Arrau, a famous Chilean pianist (streets here are usually named after famous people). Instantly, I recall this memorable recording of Chopin’s Etudes by Arrau who achieves legato (fluid) playing without using the pedal – no mean feat! Certainly one of those recordings worth keeping.

Poet Pablo Neruda is another famous Chilean figure. Presently, 3 of his homes are opened to the public. Checked out the one in Santiago, called La Chascona – what does it mean? Details of this visit was documented here.

The home is littered with medals (Neruda was the 1971 Nobel Literature prize winner), paintings given by artist friends (who included Picasso and Diego Riveria) and odd-sized bric-à-brac. The poet was quite the hoarder.

What else is interesting in Santiago? After garnering some courage, I decided to pop by for cafe con piernas or coffee with legs. I leave you to decipher what “legs” refer to. Let’s just say it was a most unusual cappuccino experience for me.

Other than that, you can walk up these steps up to Cerro Santa Lucia for a birds-eye view of Santiago city.

About an hour’s journey from Santiago is Valparaiso which translates to “Valley of Paradise”. It’s the seat of Chile’s National Congress and an important vibrant sea port. This port city is literally a breath of fresh air – and no pun intended! Don’t get what I mean? Check out the colourful houses on the slopes of Valparaiso (photo taken from La Sebastiana, another of Pablo Neruda’s quirky homes).

I wished I had stayed here longer, and spent more time walking up and down the slopes of this city that is so full of character.

Old trolley buses still run through the city of Valparaiso.

Valparaiso – a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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