A Rambler in Santiago de Chile

 

Every city I visit is full of museums, restaurants, monuments, palaces, and all the other categories of attraction that you can find in guidebooks. But some of my favorite time is spent rambling in the city, sometimes with no more purpose than to see what I see, and sometimes on the way to somewhere else.

DSCN3625I've posted blogs on Santiago's markets, and have others yet to come on specific topics, but this is my farewell to Santiago, a gallery of things that caught my eye and form a warm part of my memory of the city.

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There are landscapes and streetscapes, such as the two above. The first is a quiet street in the Bellavista neighborhood; we were on our way to the nearby La Chascona, one of Pablo Neruda's houses. The second is a pedestrian plaza that links the Plaza de Armas area with the area around the Presidential palace of La Moneda.

The view at the very top is one of the entrances to the Cerro Santa Lucia park, this one along the Alameda, the Boulevard that forms the city's spine. Oddly, although all the signs say it's the Boulevard of the Liberator General Bernardo O'Higgins, most people just call it the Alameda.

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On our way to the Pre-Colombian Museum, we encountered unusual buskers: Music students performing opera selections on the sidewalk. The two soloists had tremendous voice (quality and volume!) and we had a hard time leaving.

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Only one dog picture here, but in Santiago, they are everywhere, mostly resting in the cooler spots. Perhaps they're more active at night. At any rate, no one seems distressed by them, and they do nothing to bother passers by. Speaking of dogs: this figure outside the La Moneda cultural center inspired lively debate as to whether it is a dog or a cat. No official answer, either!

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Dogs are not the only animals to be found on the street; these pigs were for sale at a store near La Chascona; it might be described as a decor shop, an antique shop, a souvenir store, or all three. The pigs are about a foot tall.

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And we mustn't forget the birds, those ironic commentators on our human pride in ourselves. We take our heroes and statues seriously; they don't. And they're also good at finding creative uses for our other works.

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Speaking of signs...this one certainly caught our eye. She never seems to go out of style. And neither does good cheap food. Santiago, by the way, is a city of sandwiches, and there are carts all over selling a wide variety, nearly all with an insane and delicious amount of mayonnaise.

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I generally don't do a lot of just straight statue pictures, but this one really caught my eye; perhaps we should have a contest for the best story that explains what these two are really doing. Or perhaps we should just call for help before another blow is struck.

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Santiago has many interesting buildings reflecting the different eras of its growth. Not all, of course, are lovely or well-maintained but here are a few eye-catchers. In the Providencia neighborhood, east of the center, this mid 19th-century church is blocks away from Latin America's tallest building.

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There are some true uniques among the older buildings. The red house, we were told, was formerly a hotel catering to German visitors. No word on what it's being used for now. Below it, the spire and facade of the headquarters of the Cuerpo de Bomberos, Santiago's original volunteer fire department.

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Some more buildings, some for their architecture, and some for their lettering. Here are the State Bank building, College of Architecture and Museo de Santiago.

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Along the Mapocho river, which runs through the city center as a rapidly-moving flood-control channel, artists have taken advantage of low water levels to create murals reflecting different views of Chilean culture and history.

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And, since a river needs bridges, and lovers (or the padlock industry) need a place to hang a lock, Santiago suffers from the same plague as other cities.

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Time for a couple of splashes of color. At the Parque Metropolitano, near the funicular that goes up San Cristobal Hill, we saw this colorful collection of hats, toys, umbrellas and more. Below that, a brief visit to a yarn store in search of alpaca yarn (successful, and inexpensive!)

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In Parque Forestal, along the river, we spotted this 3-wheel mini-pickup, set up with a car seat and parasol in the back. Either a tiny family car, or a very big baby carriage...

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Also in Parque Forestal, this little gem, built to house the park's offices.

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More decor: stunning doors at a former Carmelite convent turned civic event center; coat of arms on a government building, and a rather flashy skybridge between two office towers near La Moneda.

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And, last but not least, the oldest church in Santiago. Not the first-founded, mind, but the oldest. The first church, built where the Cathedral stands today, was destroyed repeatedly by earthquakes and rebuilt, while this church of San Francisco has stood for over 400 years. That's largely due to a "floating foundation" under the load-bearing walls, a system invented by indigenous inhabitants of the area.

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Although the church has survived 15 major earthquakes, the system was not used for the tower, which has been destroyed three times. The present tower was built in the mid-1800s. The church's dark walls of rustic stone give it a feeling of both mystery and comfort. The ceiling...well, that's a matter of another color!

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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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