BY JANET STEINBERG
are said to be only three places in the world with a Mediterranean
climate: The actual Mediterranean
coast…Catalina Island, California…and the coast of Chile around
Santiago. And, if you work it right, you could enjoy the
best of The Med’s climate 12 months of the year.
During spring, summer, and fall, that glorious Mediterranean
climate is yours for the asking on the Mediterranean coast or
on Catalina Island. However, when winter’s chilling
blasts blow in, enjoying a Mediterranean climate takes a little
WELCOME TO SANTIAGO
the dead of our winter…when it is mid-summer in the
Southern Hemisphere. Silver Sea’s Silver Whisper afforded
me that opportunity when she sailed me from Buenos Aires to
Valparaiso, the port for Santiago.
SILVERSEA’S SILVER WHISPER SAILED ME FROM ARGENTINA TO CHILE
Once a city little known to North Americans, in the last few
years Santiago has become one of the great places to visit in
South America. Back-dropped by the majestic Andes
Mountains, this capital of the Republic of Chile is a bustling, vibrant metropolis
of 6-million people.
An interesting bit of trivia about the country of Chile itself is the
fact that it is the longest, slimmest, country in
the world. Stretching 2604-miles from north to south, it
is only 150-miles wide at its widest point. It has been said that if
Chile were a man, he would definitely be a star basketball player.
In Santiago, Colonial structures abut
soaring skyscrapers. Tangled electric
lines, resembling those seen in third-world countries, are reflected
in the facades of sleek glass skyscrapers. Horse-drawn wooden
carts click-clack along the same tourist routes as Mercedes limos.
|TANGLED ELECTRIC LINES REFLECTED IN SLEEK GLASS SKYSCRAPERS|
In recent years, visitors to Santiago have been impressed with its smartly
designed hotels, sophisticated shops, contemporary restaurants, stunning
street sculptures, and modern museums.
For those whose taste in hotels runs to elegant old-world decor,
the Ritz Carlton should be your hotel of choice. Located in one
of Santiago’s most exclusive neighborhoods, El Golf, the hotel
boasts of a huge fitness center and stunning swimming pool area
beneath a glass-enclosed rooftop. Whether you are overlooking
the mountains in the afternoon, or the dazzling city lights in the
evening, it is the perfect place to relax after a hectic day in the
fascinating city of Santiago.
If a drop-dead, contemporary, avant garde lifestyle is your
choice, head for the W Hotel. A sushi lunch in W Hotel’s Osaka
Sushi Bar was the best sushi I’ve ever eaten. Be sure to
check out the gift shops in both hotels. The only purchases I
made in all of Chili were in the gift shops of the Ritz Carlton and W
hotels. Both hotels are located in the upscale El Golf neighborhood.
CARPASSION IN THE OSAKA SUSHI BAR IN THE W HOTEL
Once a traditional neighborhood, El Golf is now the most
luxurious area of the city. It is resplendent with its
displays of street sculptures and decorated park-like benches
scattered along the avenues.
The vibrant metropolis of Santiago, a geographically gifted city,
is easily accessible to sandy beaches, the Pacific Ocean,
ski resorts, vineyards, and snow-capped mountains. It also
offers a plethora of attractions within the city itself. Downtown
Santiago is the city’s center of government. In the blink
of an eye, the historic Plaza de Armas will transport
you from Colonial times to the present. The Plaza de
Armas is framed by the National History Museum, the Cathedral
of Santiago, the main Correos de Chile (Chilean Post
Office) and the Presidential Palace.
Carbineros (policemen on horseback) sit at attention on well-groomed
horses; children jump over silvery rain puddles; and dogs splash in
the circular granite fountain. Devotees of Cincinnati
Chili and chili-dogs please pardon my pun…but these are the
|CARBINEROS SIT AT ATTENTION ON WELL-GROOMED HORSES|
Approximately 30 museums in Santiago exhibit
a faithful representation of its cultural wealth. There is
something for everyone…everything from Chilean pre-Columbian Art
Museum, to the Sephardic Jewish Museum, to the Museo de la
Moda, a museum devoted to fashion.
The latter is housed in a1960’s Modernist glass building, once
the family mansion of textile merchants. It
showcases approximately10,000 garments including a black strapless
gown worn by Princess Diana, a conical bra designed for Madonna and
a tutu that belonged to Margot Fonteyn.
San Cristobal Hill (Cerro San Cristobal) offers a spectacular view of the
city. At the bottom of the hill is the
Metropolitan Zoo. You can walk, run, bike, or
drive to the hilltop Metropolitan
Park. If those options don’t work for you, there are
always the telefericos (aerial cable cars) that will zip you up
ATOP SAN CRISTOBAL HILL
The Central Market (Mercado Central), founded in 1872, is a most popular
attraction in Santiago. Evoking the spirit,
warmth, and hospitality of Chile, it is surrounded by fish markets
and restaurants. The Central Market is a must for those
who crave a fresh seafood meal cooked according to ancestral recipes.
Time permitting, if you are a lover of good Chilean wine, you
might enjoy a day trip to visit one of the Chilean vineyards in
the valleys surrounding Santiago. Or, if you’re into
seeing the all the superlatives the world has to offer, you can drive
60 miles west of Santiago to Chile’s San Alfonso del Mar resort
that boast the world’s largest swimming pool. This “Big
Dipper” covers 10 acres and stretches half a mile long. A sandy
shore and an ocean dotted with sailboats surrounds swimmers in the
gargantuan pool. The pool was built in 2007 at a cost of
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer, International Travel
Consultant, and winner of 40 national Travel Writing Awards