Santiago – 'Chile's Intriguing Capital'

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Santiago was an unscheduled stop on our South American trip and due to a delay we landed up stranded at the airport in the early hours of the morning, our interconnecting flight well and truly missed. Our carrier put us up at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and this was when the surprises began. The concierge had kindly offered to have the kitchen knock up some fish and chips which turned out to be perfectly prepared salmon and chips. Replenished we retired to bed.

 

On opening the curtains a couple of hours later we could not have dreamed of witnessing such a magnificent winter wonderland scene. The combination of snow capped mountains with the fabulous city nestled below was sensational. 

 

The breakfast buffet was excellent so after devouring it with much gusto we headed out to explore this captivating capital city.

 

San Cristobal Hill is quite deceptive from below. It doesn't appear to be as high as it actually is! The walk to the Funicular (cable car) along a jacaranda lined street was very picturesque. Having got there we decided to take the ride to the top. What a wonderful surprise! The 360 degree views of Santiago, surrounded by its snow-capped mountains, were positively breathtaking.

 

 

The imposing statue of the Virgin Mary with the amphitheatre below, the stone chapel and beautiful gardens makes this a fabulous place to take in the surrounding beauty and reflect. 

 

                            

 

Santiago is a city of surprises; I never imagined that I would see locals get out of taxis with an Alpaca in tow or walk their Alpaca as one would walk their dog! The outfits and finery worn by these cute animals is definitely head turning. 

 

 

The architecture in this Andean city is a mixture of old and new, from modern skyscrapers like the Crowne Plaza Hotel to the neoclassical architecture like the Courts of Justice Palace of Santiago where Chile's Supreme Court is housed. 

 

 

One finds something different and decidedly quirky around almost every corner. I was totally fascinated with the plaza with giant pots towering above. The visual effect was amazing but one would ponder how anything was going to be re-potted or, for that matter, watered! 

 

 

While walking around places of tourist attraction one stumbles upon lovely little kiosks with handcrafted local wares. The knitwear with Alpaca wool is so soft and the handwork of excellent quality. In addition there are exquisite woven fabrics in both muted and vibrant colours which can be purchased by seamstresses or that have been crafted into ready to wear garments and accessories. 

 

 

 

Not to be missed is the large Santiago Heritage Artisan's Market with over 200 shops comprising an array of curios and souvenirs, Chilean lapis lazuli jewellery (Chile has the world's largest natural deposit of this semi-precious stone), pottery, leatherwork, woven clothing, stone carvings, wood carvings, Chilean copper goods and much more.

 

The market houses a number of restaurants for those requiring refreshment or an empanada (Chilean pie with various fillings) or pastel de choclo (corn cake) and where they can rest their weary limbs while people watching. 

 

 

Other services offered in and around the market are an old-fashioned shoe polish, manicure, pedicure or massage.

 

 

Santiago is an intriguing city of contrast. It has a calm to it while still being able to buzz. My only regret is that we did not have more time to further discover its hidden treasures.

 

Text and Photography by Adelia Cook for MyKerkyra.com

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