Expectations have an exaggerated influence on our experiences in all areas of our lives and travel is no exception. I try my best to travel with a completely open-mind, no expectations or biases. Of course, this is nearly impossible to do; how can you read about or talk to people about a place and not have those facts/ideas influence you? And so we arrived in Santiago with thoroughly low expectations. Several travelers had told us to avoid it if possible, while our guidebook even said that it can take awhile to appreciate the city.
Perhaps it was only due to my über-low expectations, but I actually liked Santiago. It’s a pretty modern city with (and very key) a good availability of snacks and street food. Like BA, the only other SA capitol we’ve been to so far, Santiago has a third of the country’s population. Luckily, Chile only has a third of Argentina’s population, so Santiago is not too crowded. Unlike BA, Santiago is relatively clean, has good public transportation (good metro, no black-exhaust-spewing buses), and lacks the incessant littering of the Argentine capitol. On our first day, we explored the city center with the highlight being Santa Lucia. Santa Lucia is a hill in the middle of the otherwise flat city (although it is surrounded by snow-capped mountains), with numerous gardens, a cathedral, and the ruins of an old fortress and its ramparts. It was a cool place because old architecture was either built into or cut out of the rock. From the peak were awesome views of the sprawling city, although heavy smog/haze rendered the surrounding mountains nearly invisible.
We spent much of today scouring the city for an English-language bookstore to buy a Bolivia guidebook, but our search turned up empty. At least we got to see a lot more of the city though. Santiago doesn’t have a whole lot of appealing sights to see, but we did check out the uninteresting National History Museum as well as the equally uninteresting (and now-electronic) trading floor of the Bolsa de Comercio (Santiago’s stock exchange). To kill the rest of the time until our bus tonight, we caught an afternoon showing of “Quantum de Solace,” the newest 007 flick. Luckily it was in English, although the Spanish dialogue wasn’t subtitled. It was interesting though, as much of the movie was filmed in Chile’s Atacama Desert. In fact, I read that there was big fiasco and filming was interrupted because some Chilean politicians objected to Chilean land being depicted in the film as Bolivia (Chile invaded and acquired the disputed land in the 1830’s, although Bolivia still does not recognize it and has some holiday regarding the stolen land). Despite the bad reviews, I thought it was a good film. Sure there’s not as much plot as the first Daniel Craig one, but it had good action and fight scenes. Plus, I like that there’s not all the gadgets and stuff from the old Bond movies. Anyways, I was entertained and it was more interesting given that we were in Chile and headed to Bolivia (although the desert scenes were shot in Chile and the La Paz scenes were shot in Panama City, the plot focused on the water shortage in Bolivia and the battle against privatization of water utilities, which is grounded in recent history; if you’re interested, Google some combo of Bolivia, water wars, and Bechtel).
We didn’t do too much- hung out at some parks/plazas, people-watched, and visited a few sights- but it doesn’t seem like there is a lot to do in Santiago. In total, we were only in Santiago for two full days. Just long enough to acquire a good first impression and probably just short enough to not have it spoiled.