Today the plan was to change hostels (which I try to avoid doing but it’s a long and boring story as to why I’m doing it) and then to get out and about around Santiago. Annoyingly, as has been the case for much of my time in South America, I’ve managed to avoid any football fixtures to attend. Due to it being international week, there’s only one Chilean domestic top flight game today. I thought I might be in business when I spotted that Santiago Wanderers were playing at home but when I looked into it they turn out in Valparaiso rather than Santiago. What’s even more irritating is that Chile are playing Uruguay in Santiago on Tuesday night almost at the exact time as I’ll be flying out of the country!
During the planning for this trip I’d read that Santiago was perhaps not the most exciting city to visit. The phrase “a boring version of Buenos Aries” was used more than once. From what I’ve seen, that’s extremely harsh. Granted, a fair bit of the city centre is made up of breeze block tower blocks and a tired, generic-looking pedestrianised shopping area that’s not dissimilar from some of the new towns in the UK. I’d imagine that a lot of this was constructed during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 80s. However there’s also a lot of pretty plazas and iconic architecture, both modern and old. Right in the middle of Santiago is Castillo Hidalgo, a castle atop a hill that’s set in some nice grounds. The top of the hill provides great views of the city. The classic photos of Santiago have the snow-capped Andes in the background but with it being summer and reasonably hot I couldn’t see any snow. After a couple of hours wandering around the Centro Historico, I headed up one of the Santiago’s main thoroughfares, Avenida Liberator Bernardo O’Higgins. This wide boulevard was named in honour of the Chilean independence leader whose Latin-Irish name always makes me smile for some reason!
Santiago has the tallest building in South America, the Gran Torre Santiago. It was possible to go to the top for a view although today this wouldn’t have been particularly far due to the mist, so I didn’t bother. Underneath the Gran Torre was a huge modern shopping mall. In many ways Santiago resembled a city in somewhere like central Europe. There were fancy shops and convenience stores aplenty, an excellent subway system and those city bike rental stands. It’s reasonably clean, the driving was fairly civilised and you can walk down the pavement reasonably confident of not breaking your leg in a pot hole. The abundance of stray dogs reminded you that you are still in South America though. Today I encountered my first aggressive street dog. For some reason it took a dislike to me, barking its head off. Luckily a nearby workman chased it away.