We woke from our slumber to the sound of shrieks and squeals of delight piercing the usual quiet of the early morning. Outside our windows, children were jumping up with arms outstretched to catch the lightly falling snowflakes, touching down on hair that had never before felt its icy touch. The dark sky looked as though it had been painted, shafts of pink and white blurring together to create something that was at times beautiful but at other times surreal and eerie.
The snow that fell in the wee hours of the 15th July was something of a rare occurrence. It certainly had not snowed in recent memory here in Recoleta. According to the website Weather, snow is ¨slightly more common than snow in Los Angeles. The two cities are at similar latitudes, surrounded by mountains and bordered by water to the west¨. As a result (in typical Santiago fashion given it also can´t cope with rain) the city nearly fell apart. A worker died trying to clear ice, others were injured by a fallen power line while – mindbogglingly – 337,000 were hit by power cuts, lasting for days in some areas. My friend Yorka (with the mad photography skills) was at the Bahai Temple in Peñalolen, and reports that some 9,000 people showed up to enjoy the snow there … and destroyed the temple gardens and facilities in the process resulting in temple closure.
Having two children, we spend a lot of time going to places with their happiness in mind. What follows is our list of the best places for youngsters in the city of Santiago, with top accolades going to the Museo Interactivo Mirador, a science and technology museum that will honestly blow your mind and take up most of your day. Chile is also very family friendly, and restaurants will not blink an eye if you pop by with children or babies (and some even have play areas, especially in areas like Ñuñoa and Las Condes). Further afield, you could stop by:
There is no better introduction to the jungles of the world then Selva Viva. This is an indoor, living museum where you can hold parrots, snakes, even hermit crabs, whilst learning all about the world´s ecosystem.
Price: Adults – CLP$9.950 per person / Children (3 – 17 years) and Senior Citizens – CLP$8.950 per person Address: Av. Presidente Riesco 5330, (Metro Manquehue, inside Parque Araucano), Las Condes
This interactive museum takes the fun side of science very seriously. It takes it so seriously, in fact, that the whole family will be amused and entertained for hours – if not the whole day! Visit the website here.
Price: Adults – CLP$3,900 per person / Children (3 – 17 years) and Senior Citizens – CLP$2,700 per person Address: Av. Punta Arenas 6711, (Metro Estacion Mirador), La Granja
Put simply, this is a stunning museum curated with love and maintained with care. This two-storey building is filled with replicas and models of aircraft in all their forms, and there is an outdoors area to explore where you can step inside a real plane.
Price: Free Address: Avenida Pedro Aguirre Cerda Nº 5.000 (Ex camino Melipilla), Los Cerrillos
Choose from one of the museums or just wander this colossal, and historic, park. Museums on offer include the Museum of Natural History, the Science Museum, a railway museum (Ferroviario), and the Artequin children´s art museum.
Chile is world famous for the quality of its night sky and its observatories rank as some of the best in the world. Learn as much as you can at this city planetarium located within University of Santiago (weekends only)
Price: Adults CLP$3.800; Children, Students and Senior Citizens CLP$3.000 Address: Av. L. Bernardo O’Higgins 3349, Estacion Central. Metro Universidad de Santiago
Give your kids a break from touring and instead take them to meet all manner of cute and furry critter at this farm located in the pre-cordillera. There are also adventure activities to enjoy in the extensive grounds.
Price: Weekday CLP$4.500; Weekend and holidays CLP$4.900 Address: Av. Larrain 11.095, La Reina
From summer swimming pools, a hillside furnicular train, a zoo, Japanese Botanic Gardens, a dazzling-high cablecar (teleforico) and a city lookout, this gigantic hill dominating the Santiago skyline will provide for the whole family.
Price: Various entrance prices Address: Pio Nono 450, Recoleta. Metro Baquedano
I´d love to hear your recommendations and feedback!
Hippocrates is famous as being the father of modern medicine, who believed in the time of Classical Greece that illness came as a result of poor diet, living conditions and environment. Today this type of thinking is in mode, with the idea of health through food popping up everywhere from our Instagram feed right through to the streets of Chile. La Fraternal is one of those restaurants pioneering cleaner eating, being a vegetarian/vegan/raw food restaurant in Ñuñoa that also sells health products as well as giving cooking and yoga classes. The head chef, Alejandra Olmedo, aims to make this type of cooking easy and accessible for all, and her passion is obvious as you can see on her food blog.
The restaurant itself is uplifting, all wooden furniture, color with relaxing music, wafting incense, lots of light and a mishmash of designs.
Our waitress was very warm and friendly, and the food was served in quick succession without any of that awkward waiting or trying to catch the server´s eye because you feel abandoned.
La Fraternal serves up a colacion, or set menu, including on weekends, as well as a regular menu which contains an extensive drink selection with juices designed for various health purposes. We went for a lemonade and a Jugo del Luz, which is a specialty of the establishment that contains vitamins and greens (recipe below).
As part of the menu for the Thursday of our visit, we had a starter; I chose a Vegetable Soup and Luis had a ¨Timbal de NO Atun¨, which was essentially a ceviche with lentils. Both were very good, the lentil ceviche was a standout and very clever. In typical Chilean style, we also received homemade bread.
For the main, we had a burger patty made with mushroom above wild rice with a country stew and some added greens for good measure. This was very nice, though I did find the burger a bit bland.
The dessert was delicious, cooked apple with chocolate mousse and oats – it was small but the chocolate was very rich and full, and I loved the combination of the three.
Given La Fraternal´s attention to healthy drinks, we decided to also order a Carrot & Orange juice (which was so good!) as well as the India Milkshake. Visually, this drink was spectacular and the oat milk, cacao, banana and cardamom all worked well together.
Overall, I was happy with this discovery. Excellent service and food which, although sometimes bland, came at an excellent price and pace. This place works well if you are in the area and need something filling but budget-friendly and also healthy. I also personally am super excited by the effort being put in by the people of La Fraternal to revolutionize food and simplify a way of eating that appears so daunting to many. I will definitely be back.
Chile is the world´s fifth largest exporter of wine and the ninth largest producer. There are 14 different wine growing areas producing 10 million hectolitres each year – all thanks to Chile´s unique microclimate, secluded position between mountain and sea AND the ingenious of Spanish conquistadors who brought the first vines over in 1554. My favorite spots? Check out Casas del Bosque for something grand, Attilio & Mochi for something special, Matetic for something fun, Emiliana for something organic, Bodegas RE for something small and Santa Rita for something close to Santiago.
2. Oldest Mummy in the World
The oldest known mummy to have been excavated was found right here in Chile´s Camarones Valley, and dates back to 5050B.C. The mummy was a child who was part of the Chinchorro culture.
3. UNESCO Sites
Chile is blessed to have five cultural UNESCO sites that will transport you in time and blow your mind. Don´t miss the historic section of Valparaiso, the island of Chiloe (specifically the churches), Rapa Nui National Park (Easter Island), Humberstone & Santa Laura Saltpeter Works (former mine) and Sewell (former mining town).
4. 6500km of Spectacular Coastline
That makes Chile one of the world´s longest countries, which is made all the more obvious when you take into consideration that it´s also one of the narrowest at just over 200km wide. The water is frigid though, thanks to the Humboldt Current which makes its way up from Antarctica, bringing with it an incredible bounty of seafood that makes Chile famous. Close to Santiago, a good option to visit is the small fishing village of Horcon, which clings precariously to the shore.
5. Driest Place on Earth
Is the Atacama Desert, which has an average annual rainfall of 0.05mm with soil that has been compared to Mars. In 2003, scientists published in the journal Science that there were no signs of life in the Yungay region, and as such this area has been used by NASA to test instruments for possible missions to Mars. This beautiful desert also provides one of the clearest places to view the night sky and is filled with observatories, including two major sites opereated by the European Southern Observatory. There are also geoglyphs such as the Atacama Giant, which is the largest prehistoric anthropomorphic figure in the world at 119m high.
6. Obligatory Flag Display
Each year during Fiestas Patrias, Chile´s national holiday celebrating the country´s independence, it is compulsory to hang a Chilean flag from every public building. If not, you face a fine!
7. Fireworks Like You´ve Never Seen
South Ameria´s largest fireworks display occurs each New Years Eve in Valparaiso. In 2007, the Guinness Book of Records recorded a display of a whopping 16,000 fireworks!
8. Government UFO Research
Chile is one of the world´s few countries to boast a government supported organization researching UFO´s. In fact, the paranormal has become normal in Chile; the town of San Clemente has an 19 mile ´UFO trail´ although a sighting guarantee is slim: “In no way can we guarantee that a tourist coming to San Clemente will see a UFO” states Chile´s official tourism board, Sernatur.
9. Divorce + Abortion = Hot Topics
Divorce was legalized in 2005 and has one of the world´s lowest rates of divorce, while abortion is still illegal and a topic of debate politically. Chile is classed as a Catholic country.
10. Glass House Protest
In 2000, an actress took up residence in a temporary glass house in the center of Santiago. This provocative display was to prompt discussion about the double standards surrounding morality in Chile and to protest against cafe con piernas (below).
11. Coffee Shops + Sex
Cafe con Piernas are traditional coffee shops sparked during Chile´s dictatorship, where you order your coffee from scantily dressed women. There are various levels of nudity on display depending on where you go.
12. Robinson Crusoe Inspiration
This classic novel was inspired after Daniel Defoe read the story of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor, who was marooned on the Juan Fernandez islands for four years.
13. Really Amazing Trees
The Alerce tree, found in the south of Chile, is recorded to grow as much as 4000 years old making it one of the world´s most ancient trees. Meanwhile, the Chilean Palm is the biggest palm species in the world but it´s also one of the rarest – check out La Campana to see amazing natural palm forests.
14. Largest Copper Reserves
Chile has the world´s largest copper reserves and is the largest exporter. It is also has the second largest reserve of lithium along with sizeable reserves of iron, silver, zinc, coal, gold and iodine.
15. Powerful Earthquakes
In 1960, the world´s largest recorded earthquake struck southern Chile, measuring 9.5. and killing some 1,500 people. Make sure you are prepared by reading this.
16. Moving Houses … the Traditional Way
On the island of Chiloe, people get together to perform minga, where communities gather to pop a house on tree trunks and move it to a new site by oxen.
17. Attached to Horses?
The term huaso, which today refers to the Chilean cowboy, comes from the Mapuche (indigenous culture) word for shoulders. Why? They had never seen horses before when the conquistadors arrived, and so thought man and horse were joined.
18. Nobel Prize Winners
Chile is known as a country of poets, and for good reason. Pablo Neruda was a famous politician and poet who won the prize for literature back in 1971, and is known for such works as Twenty Love Poems and Heights of Machu Picchu. Interestingly, his former school principal was none other than Gabriela Mistral, who was the first Latin American writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1945.
19. 4000 Disappeared Under the Dictatorship
During the dictatorship, led by CIA-backed Augusto Pinochet, 4000 people are said to have been executed or ¨disappeared¨. A million more fled the country while hundreds of thousands were detained or tortured. Pinochet was influenced by a group of Chilean economists who studied at the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, free market guru; they became known as the Chicago Boys. You can find out more at the Memory + Human Rights Museum located at metro Quinta Normal. The General Cemetery in Recoleta (metro Cementerios) also contains a field dedicated to those killed, with a series of unmarked graves.
20. Romantic History That Should Be A Movie
The early colonization of Chile is nothing short of movie-worthy. Spanish-born Pedro de Valdivia lead a team of men from Peru into (what is today) Chile, dodging murder attempts by his fellow team leader. Valdivia brought with him Ines de Suarez, a widow who he is rumoured to have known in Spain … despite being a married Catholic to a woman in Spain. Once in Chile, they founded the city of Santiago, despite facing numerous uprisings from the local Incan/Picuenche communities. When Valdivia was away, an uprising nearly defeated the Spanish but Ines de Suarez rallied the troops and decided to boost moral by cutting off the heads of the 7 tribal leaders they were holding prisoner (and hoping to barter their freedom with). Her move paid off and the natives were defeated. Valdivia brought to Santiago a young Mapuche boy, Lautaro, as his personal groom but during one battle Lautaro switched sides and passed on valuable information to the rebelling indigenous Mapuche who had united under the leadership of Caupolican. Lautaro became a leader and it is thanks to his intimate knowledge of the Spanish that led to the capture of Valdivia, who was killed in unknown circumstances. His death came after he´d been ordered to give up longtime love, Ines, who had been married off to one of his Captains in 1549. His wife had been en route to Chile when he died. Interestingly, the popular local soccer team Colo Colo is named after the Mapuche leader Colo Colo, who was instrumental in the appointing of Caupolican to tribal leader. Have a read of the much beloved poem, La Araucana, written by Alonso de Ercilla, which details the Spanish conquest of Chile and was published in 1569.
Don´t forget that I am writing a weekly fictional story about this very history. Read the first chapter here.
What are your favorite facts about Chile? Here are some other posts you might enjoy:
¨The drugs were always there. They were there for my father when we had nothing to eat. They were there for my mother, when my father was in jail. They were there for my sister after she was raped. And they were there for me, as I looked after my family and vowed that I would always rise up – raise my family up – so that nothing could hurt me.
I fell pregnant when I was 20, to a man I always thought was the greatest guy ever. He was so good looking then, and he was tough. No-one wanted to fight him – plus he was skilled with the knife. We met at a friends house when I was sixteen and I was just blown away by him. His charisma, his green eyes, the way he didn´t care what anyone thought. I felt lucky that he chose me.
After the baby came he moved in with my family. He went to work, I stayed with the baby and took care of my nephews. But then one day he didn´t go to work. And everything changed. He took to dealing drugs from our home, which was nothing unusual for me as I knew all about drugs – I´d grown up with them. But the coke messed him up, it really did. Every day was the same. I couldn´t stand it. I couldn´t stand him. We would fight in front of our children – we had two by then – because there was no where else we could go to fight. He´d hit me and I´d hit him back. But I always stayed because I didn´t know how I´d be able to support myself and our children without the income he brought him from drugs. I was also a sucker for those green eyes.
In the end it wasn´t a decision I had to make. He stabbed someone one night after a soccer match, got arrested and I never saw him again. I don´t think of him. I took over his job dealing the drugs, not because I love drugs but because I needed the money. It became something I was good at doing and to be honest I enjoyed the power
I met Pablo three years later. He is a quiet guy, someone that let me be go about my business. We had a lot of fun together. He also worked, which I liked. We have three children together and we live in the same place where I lived with Daniel, though we have bigger rooms because I´m the boss.
I am the boss. I bring in the most money and people are afraid of our family because there are a lot of us and we´ve been here a long time. There are fifteen adults living here and we have everything we need to defend ourselves in a situation. Situations do happen but I´m not afraid. Things do happen in front of the children because we can´t shelter them, though we do try to protect them. They are growing up the same way I did, though more stable because this time around there is always food on the table. They all go to school too. My sisters all work, and most of the men too, though there are a few bad eggs in every family that sponge off the rest of us. I don´t like the man my eldest daughter chose and I was not happy when she fell pregnant because of the strain it would put on me to feed an extra mouth, but I am surprised by how she has matured since her daughter was born.
I am proud of how I have built my family up. I am proud of how strong our name is. I live for the little things, for my children, my grandchildren and my nieces and nephews. I save for months to throw the best birthday parties and I love any excuse for a party. I love watching soccer and I support Colo Colo. Sometimes I wish things were different – I have so many scars, seen so many horrific things – but I´m not bitter.
I am strong.¨
Notes from The Street is a series of interviews conducted with various people I have met during my time here. My aim is to humanize a different world to what expats normally encounter, but a Santiago one that thousands live none the less. For more stories try: