Friday, December 2, 2011
Getting settled in Santiago
GAM Building (Edificio Diego Portales) on the Alameda
Santiago is a fantastic city! In fact, it was just voted fifth in South America for its quality of life. I can see why. It's a nice blend of old colonial-style buildings in the historic centre, groovy arts and cafe precincts, and a very modern infrastructure. Apparently it's all been paid for by copper. I've spent the last week getting my bearings and learning about my neighbourhood, which stretches about an hour from home in any direction on foot or a few subway stops.
The apartment I'm renting from Paulina, whose mum Maria and dad Lalo befriended me in Valparaiso, is right on the Mapocho River, which is the colour of chocolate milk. It's runoff from the foothills of the Andes, which loom over the city. At night when the traffic has stilled I can hear the water rushing by.
It's late spring but already hot. There are gelaterias and ice creameries everywhere. I've even seen vendors on buses selling ice creams out of a portable cooler. I'm doing my bit for the economy and having gelato most days.
Maria has taken over from Lalo in watching out for me. She looks after the apartment, and we've been out for coffee. There is a standing invitation to go out dancing with her (tango, marenge, salsa...), which I've promised I will do.
I had an hour's run one morning this week along the river to Los Leones and back. Opposite me is Parque Forestale, a narrow park that lines the river. It's intersected by roads and interrupted by some highways, so running along the river involves quite a bit of criss-crossing the bridges.
I have met a photographer, Leo, whose studio and home are very near the amazing Cerro Santa Lucia. This steep hill with various folly-type ramparts is right in the middle of an arty precinct. There are great views from the top across to Cerro San Cristobal, where there is a statue of the Virgin Mary on the hilltop. I took the funicular to the top last Friday when I was exploring the Bellavista neighbourhood, which is on my side of the river and a 10-minute walk from home. Just over the park is Barrio Lastarria, which is very groovy and has some fabulous (and cheap) clothing boutiques. Leo showed me through it on Saturday evening, and we had lunch nearby the other day.
Museo de Bellas Artes, two blocks from me, includes a contemporary art gallery, which I looked through on the weekend. Another gallery of visual arts is attached to the fabulous GAM building, which also has theatres. I've found two art cinemas and saw the new Juliette Binoche film, "Certified Copy", which had French, Italian and only a little English dialogue, with Spanish subtitles, so it felt like total submersion for me. Cinema tickets are very cheap: around US$/A$6! I've also seen an exhibition of Andy Warhol's works on loan from a museum for children in the States. There was lots of stuff there I hadn't seen before.
I've been into a couple of the huge cathedrals near Plaza de Armas, which is the cultural centre of the city and only a short walk from me. I now want to start visiting the various historical and other museums, including the Fundacion Museo de la Mode, which just bought at auction in London one of Amy Winehouse's iconic dresses.