Sorry for the writing lag! So. Many. Activities! Here’s the quick list:
- I took a hop-on, hop-off bus tour with some friends
- Explored a new neighborhood–Barrio Brasil–and caught a local fútbol game
- Explored a little bit more of Ñuñoa (another neighborhood)
- Started the Intensive Language Program (ILP) aka school!
On Sunday morning, I went with Ellre and Eliza to tour Santiago on a hop-on, hop-off bus. Chances are you’ve seen these bright red double-deckers if you’ve been to a major city. San Francisco, for example, is teeming with them every summer. The tours usually start around 9:30 every morning and end around 6. In that time you can “hop-on and hop-off” the bus as many times as you like. If you were to sit through the entire loop it would take about two hours to return to where you started. And this only takes you around Santiago’s center/downtown area. Insane!
But before we got on the bus, we had something else to check out: the changing of the guards ceremony outside el Palacio de la Moneda (Moneda Palace)! We were able to talk to one of the guards on shift about the history; turns out the ceremony has been practiced ever since the creation of the Palace Guard in 1851, and currently takes place every other day at 10 AM.
El Palacio de la Moneda used to be the President’s residence (until 1952) and is the official seat of the president and a few other cabinet members. Part of the Palacio was destroyed on September 11, 1973 during the military coup d’état by the Chilean Air Force during President Salvador Allende’s presidency, but all damanges have since been repaired. Although the ceremony takes place every 48 hours, the Guards have 12-hour shifts. They used to be in charge of protecting the president (since it was his home), but now are in charge of “servicing” the Palace (the guard we spoke to didn’t have time to elaborate, so I guess what they actually do will remain a mystery for the time being).
It was cold and drizzling, so I’m looking forward to coming back to see it when it’s warmer outside. It was pretty impressive, though; the guards, along with a band (a band!) marched from a nearby plaza to La Plaza de la Constitución (where El Palacio de la Moneda is situated) with a police escort. Every step, every movement was excruciatingly synchronized; such attention to detail! It was a really cool experience :)
Back to the tour: there was a stop right next to the La Plaza de la Constitución so we caught the bus from there. The route has a total of 13 stops; since we had already seen some of the sights during our first week in Santiago, there were only a couple of places we wanted to get off at. We decided to stop in Providencia first (yes, another Santiago neighborhood). While we had a nice walk, it was really really uneventful: it was a Sunday morning and, though it wasn’t that early (it was around 11), everything (and I mean everything), was closed. So that ended that part of the tour…
We got back on again and took the bus through the more “ritzy” part of Santiago. Called “Sanhattan”–a blend of “Santiago” and “Manhattan”–by locals and foreigners alike, this part of the city houses the financial district and the more upscale restaurants, hotels, bars, and shopping places. I can’t wait for my parents to come visit so we can go check this area out!! Haha :)
Our next hop-off point was Barrio Bellavista. If you saw my last post, I had already been there before but it was definitely worth seeing again. The three of us decided to have lunch here and also had our first taste of Pisco Sours! This drink is seriously a matter of national pride: Chileans and Peruvians (and to a lesser extent Bolivians) all assert that the Pisco Sour is their national drink. This can make for some awkward dinner conversations. Anyway, Pisco Sour consists of pisco, a grape brandy, lime juice, and sugar.
While in Bellavista, we decided to go see one of Pablo Neruda’s homes: La Chascona. Built in 1953 for his lover at the time, its named after her unruly red hair. We didn’t realize that you had to take guided tours, and as I didn’t have my camera with me that day we decided to come back another time. A side note: I love the idea of exploring every day, but I have to remember to pace myself–I’m here for six months after all! Luckily for me, though, there’s a ton of stuff to see, and a lot of places that deserve multiple visits. Anyway, there is also some bombass mural artwork, so it was awesome walking around the barrio.
We walked to the bus stop after taking a few more pictures and headed to our next stop: La Plaza de Armas (literally “Weapons Square”). There are about four or five different museums in this area, and all of them are free on Sundays. It was already around 5 PM, though, so we knew we would only have time to go see one or two of them since they all closed around 6. We made it in good time to check out El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (the National Museum of Fine Arts). My favorite exposition was one featuring paintings by Chilean artist Andrés Gana–some wacky, others unusual, all visually striking. The theme for this particular expo was “lugares comunes“, or “common places”. While leaving we realized there wasn’t any time to go to the other museums, not if we really wanted to enjoy them anyway, so we decided to end the tour here.
Eliza headed home while Ellre and I had dinner before going back. There were a lot of stalls and small restaurants surrounding La Plaza de Armas so we decided to try something there. Almost all of them were selling “completos“, or Chilean version of hot dogs, so we each ordered one. We were quickly made aware of the Chilean fondness (though I maintain it’s a borderline obsession) for mayonnaise…The basic completo comes with avocado, tomatoes, and mayo. This combination of ingredients is also called italiano. For example, you can order a hamburguesa italiana and that’d just be a burger with avocado, tomatoes, and mayo. We didn’t really enjoy the completos as much as the locals seemed to, mostly because the mayo was really really gross. Both of us took all of it off before eating it, but it still wasn’t appetizing :(
We kinda ended our Sunday on a not-so-high note, but on the plus side, we had no school the next day because it was El día de San Pedro y San Pablo (Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s Day) so we planned some new adventures :)
Monday we went to explore Barrio Brasil, popular with foreigners because of the recent emergence of hip bars, restaurants, and hostels. After sightseeing a bit, we found an “Irish pub” and walked in to discover that there was a fútbol championship game on (please don’t ask me which one; I’m still not an expert lol). The two teams that were playing were Universidad de Chile (Uch) and O’Higgins Fútbol Club (Ohi). Despite their names, these aren’t affiliated with the schools; well, they were at one point, but now are private teams. Being a future U-Chile student, I knew which team I was rooting for. And they won! It was so much fun watching it with all these fútbol fanatics! Now I understand why people like this sport so much haha.
Tuesday was the first day of the Intensive Language Program! I was so happy to start classes (go ahead, insert your nerd joke here lol). But seriously, I like having a schedule: knowing what I’m going to do throughout the day keeps me focused and active. Classes are four hours a day. This week they’re from 2-6 but starting next Monday they’ll be from 9-1. I won’t go into details about our class discussions here, just because I’m going to make another section on the home page about Chilenismos and Chilean customs; I’m going to need the space! But we talk a lot about local slang and vocabulary, as well as go over common mistakes that non-natives make :P
More about Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday later! Time to sleep :)