Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Santiago - gateway to adventure in Chile - part two

What to do, where to go, where to eat and where to sleep in Santiago, Chile

Art & museum tours in Santiago:

Presidential Palace is the heart of the Santiago Government
If you enjoy museums and/or art, Santiago will surely keep you busy for days.  You can take a Santiago tour that hits many of the highlights, or many are close enough that you can walk or take public transportation. Two of the most popular destinations are La Chascona (home of Chile’s Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda) and the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights just opened in 2010 and recounts in compelling fashion the troubles of the Pinochet regime. If you like your art outside, there is Sculpture Park and if you brought the kids, be sure to check out Museo  Interactivo  Mirador.

Walking tours to see architecture:

Plaza de Armas
Within minutes of the center of Santiago, you can see dozens of interesting significant architectural styles. The start of any walking tour will probably be Plaza de Armas, the proverbial heart of Santiago. With cathedrals, post office, museum, as well as the animated street performers and impromptu art shows, there’s always something to see here.

The Presidential Palace is quite impressive, as is the Municipal Theatre. Slightly further out, the fish market and the old train station are another pair of interesting structures. Wander in any direction and you’re sure to find an impressive older building or a few of Latin America’s tallest modern skyscrapers.

Bicycle tours of Santiago:

For my money, the best way to see a lot of any city in a short amount of time is by bike. You can stop wherever you want, you’re not waiting for erratic bus schedules and the breeze generated is always more refreshing than walking.

Plaza Libertad de Prensa
It was my last day in Santiago and there were so many places I hadn’t seen yet, so a bike tour seemed like an ideal way to go. After meeting Andres and Carolita from Paseos en Bicicleta in the park, we took a couple minutes to get our helmet and seat fitted and then we were off. Pedaling through one of many Santiago parks, I was amazed at the length of Parque de Los Reyes, their shaded, wide, urban park system.

Having seen a number of sites already in Santiago, Andres graciously agreed to change his intended route to show us some areas we hadn’t seen before. Being on a bike, it is so easy to see one site, jump back on and in two minutes be somewhere quite different. We enjoyed hearing about the river one minute, watching  skateboarders perform in Barrio Cummings the next , and just minutes later, being in a perfectly quiet, historic residential area of Old Santiago, Plaza Libertad de Prensa, complete with fountain, park benches and gentrified century homes. Places like these would have never been discovered if we had been traveling by bus or our own car.

The people of Santiago were so accommodating, not seeming to mind sharing their sidewalks with bikers. At lunchtime, we even rode down alongside a sidewalk art exhibit and enjoyed a marvelous home-made lunch, packed by Andres’ wife. Paseos en Bicicleta offers partial day, full day and multi-day excursions. See a slide show of images from my bike tour.

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