Family Fun: Museo Interactivo Mirador

Do you know what has been on the To Do List forever? The Museo Interactivo Mirador, otherwise known as the MIM. Have you heard of it? You probably have, as it always tags along on any list regarding children’s activities in Santiago. But let me tell you, any place that goes by an abbreviation as cool as The MIM is going to pack a huge punch because this museum really delivers.

It knocks the socks off all the other museums in Chile, to be completely honest.

First of all, the parking is free AND there’s a guard whom you’re not expected to tip (both firsts in Santiago!). Secondly it’s located inside an immacutely maintained park that is chocka with things to see. And third upon entering you will discover that this museum takes it’s customers seriously because there is disabled and pushchair access to everything (ramps and a lift), lots of loos and benches, plus there is so much staff that you couldn’t get lost even if you tried.

Entering the museum is like stepping into a madhouse … and every child’s fantasy. There are knobs and levers and buttons to push at every turn, glowing lights and loud noises. Areas are divided to cover all the scientific spectrum, from Nutricion & Life and Electromagnetism, to Art & Science and Robotics. While my 3 year old and 34 year old had a ball, there is also a sensory section for wee ones too, which is thoughtfully sectioned off from where all the bigger kids play. We loved the watery wonders inside the Sala Fluidos where you can play with giant bubbles, and the Sala Tierra where you can make a tsunami and watch an earthquake knock down a (tiny) building. There is even a 3D cinema.

I’m sure you are wondering what the catch is. There aren’t really any, only a couple of grievances that can’t really be helped. Tickets are not that cheap particularly as children 2 and over pay, although the effort put into this place is surely worth the cost. It’s also quite a way from downtown Santiago, being located in La Granja, and you need to walk 8 blocks from the nearest metro station (Estacion Mirador).  You also need to share the museum with hundreds of overenthusiastic children, none of whom are the slightest bit interested in the well signposted explanations regarding each exhibit (in fact if you have a newborn like us, or if you’re a bit of a germaphobe, take some sanitizer or baby wipes as there are a lot of hands touching everything before you).  The museum is also GINORMOUS. After almost four hours we still only explored the first floor and saw almost none of the surrounding park so plan it as a day visit.And whatever you do, do NOT leave without first venturing through the multicolored “jellyfish” outside (I have no remembrance of what it really is but it is amazing).

Verdict: A fantastic trip for the whole family even if you don’t speak Spanish, and one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.  Really world class.

The Nitty Gritty:

Children (2+): $2.700

Adults: $3.900

Discount for senior citizens and students (ID required)

Shop selling science kits etc on site

Two food options

Lockers to leave your stuff

Information available in Spanish only.

Wednesday has half price entry!

Children below age 14 must enter with an adult.

Click here for the website.

For more Family Fun Day ideas please click here and here or here. .

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Dear Traveller to Chile

Dear Traveller,

I’m writing to you from a wet and blustery Santiago day, in the heart of Chile.

It’s very rarely wet here, so the rain is cause for both celebration and relief, with a bit of horror thrown in at the potential chaos that might arise.

Santiago is not a beautiful city. To the far east it is green and spacious while the “Sanhatten” area is all modern skyscrapers and grass. The centre is chocka with historic buildings but elsewhere the outskirts are a colourful shambles, a mixture of peeling paint, potholes, graffitti  and sopaipilla stands.

Sopaipilla is perhaps the only streetfood I would recommend to you. Chile does not have the gastronomic delights of say, Lima, but the sopaipilla is a fast and filling option when you get off the metro and need something cheap and hot to fill the gap. Top it with spicy sauces such as chilli or mustard, or something tame like ketchup (in the GREEN bottle!).

For shopping you won’t find many bargains unless you visit a market. La Vega is a sprawling one that extends into various buildings in the area of Patronato, where you can pick up cheap imported clothes alongside ingredients from Asia.  If you want a shopping mall, head to the Costanera Centre in Providencia because it’s also beneath the city’s new lavish symbol, the phallic (aren’t they all?) Costanera Tower.  For antiques and unique finds visit Avenida Italia in Nunoa, which is also the best place to drink a hot chocolate, order a REAL coffee or eat cake. I highly recommend Pasteleria Lalaleelu by metro Santa Isabel – there is even a cake tasting option.

For something a bit different, explore the General Cemetery in Recoleta.  Take your camera too because this place has an energy all of its own and walking around it could take you all day as you lost yourself amongst the tombs.

For eating out you have a few options. At the high end is Bocanariz, Borago, Mestizo and Astrid y Gaston, but you can also enjoy a meal for less, such as at Tiramisu or even at one of the more budget options. Chileans swear by Fuente Alemana or one of the tiny restaurants located inside La Vega Chica.  Many places serve a set menu known as a colacion for lunch, and some of these cost as little as CLP$2500.

In terms of what to see, you should not miss the highly acclaimed Museo Pre Colombino nor the historic Plaza de Armas. A visit to Barrio Concha y Toro will not disappoint either, particularly if you coincide it with dinner at Zully, set inside the restored house of Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro.

Visitors usually bypass Santiago after a few days and head further afield, to tourist sights such as Patagonia or San Pedro de Atacama, but there are things to see closer to home. Valparaiso rewards visitors willing to walk, while nearby Olmue has a wealth of national parks and outdoors adventures. The Cajon del Maipo is the holiday hotspot for day tripping Santiaguinos and it is one of the easiest places to visit the Andes. In summer, a drive along the Embalse el Yeso is unforgettable.

Pomaire is another stop worth making particularly if you want to buy souvenirs and gifts.  This small town is famous for its clay artisans who you can see making Chile’s ubiquitous bowls throughout the village (cheapest places to buy are around the edges of Pomaire).

I can’t say that living in Santiago is always easy but for the traveller it makes the perfect gateway to South America. It’s easy to travel with plenty of sights within close range of each other and the food scene is improving rapidly. This is the place I have called home for three years and raised a family, and it is one of the safest and easiest destinations to travel with children.  This city will reward all visitors whether for just a day or for longer stays. Viva Santiago!

For airport transfers, guided tours, chauffeur service or help settling in, please contact Helen at Miles & Smiles Santiago.  Phone 56 9 91482832 or visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook/milesandsmilessantiago/

Church of the Chorizos, La Vega and Patronato

With our pull-along shopping cart laden with berries, nuts and vegetables, I am walking with my family along Avenida Recoleta on a particularly smoggy Saturday. We had just been to La Vega – Santiago’s biggest indoor market – to do a long overdue shop (I DO NOT recommend going there on a Saturday and certainly not with a pushchair). We’d stopped at my favourite eating spot in Chile, the Tirso Molina, which is in front of La Vega Chica, and lunched on an overflowing plate of mixed crumbed seafood called Jalea Mixta. It’s always an enjoyable experience going there and especially for natural juices, but this time our strawberry juice was swimming in so much sugar that we literally had to do away with the straw and eat it.

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7000 pesos! Enough for two plus drinks and entrada

You can buy almost anything in La Vega, and what you can’t find there you can usually get somewhere else in Patronato. I found a gorgeous straw hat for only 1500 pesos which would have been four times that at least in New Zealand! It was suffocatingly busy  so, naturally, when we returned to the fresh air we decided to walk home.

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Wicker heaven in La Vega Chica

There are three metro stops between Patronato and our home close to Dorsal, and the bus takes a good 20-30 minutes so it’s not a short walk. Around Cerro Blanco in particular there is a lot of character, particularly when you walk towards and around Avenida Peru.

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Patronato
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Cerro Blanco

There is an old rather Arabic looking blue church with walls partly falling away from so many years of earthquake damage that is locally called “Church of the Chorizos“.  This church was originally ordered by Ines de Suarez, the lady of Pedro de Valdivia, but over the course of several hundred years (and earthquakes!) it has fallen down and been rebuilt. This is where the patos malos go to pray, and they do so outside in front of a shrine with hundreds of candles. I didn’t really get it but after observing it many times it is true – every single unsavoury-looking person will stop in front of those shimmering lights and pray while everyone else just walks past. Maybe they were praying for a nice rich gringo to walk past – which unfortunately would not be me!!

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There’s a huge church that was originally built for the Los Recoletano sect of Christianity, and which Recoleta was named after. This is also the church where Chile’s only winner of Miss Universe, Cecilia Bolocco, had a showstopper of a wedding in 1990 that saw the Avenida in front closed and was broadcast on television. Luis remembers the chaos of the moment fondly, saying “she was more famous than anyone else in Chile for winning that competition!”  She went on to have a strong television career after that, I suppose because she was blonde (I couldn’t resist sorry!).

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Old observatory

12144778_10153619863855097_2069327452649086215_nBefore the Cementeries there is a grey, derelict building that I had always assumed was empty but as we walked past some older women came out and I got to peek through the open door. To my surprise it was like looking at a picture of the Middle East or Spain – there was a big courtyard filled with plants with lots of doors coming off of it. I wish I could have taken a picture because I have not seen anything like it in Chile. Luis laughed when I said that I’d thought first it was the Catholic Cemetery,

“Can’t you see all the balconies and the washing?”

The answer is yes, I can see them now. He also told me that the building is very, very old and is typical of the flats that were originally built to house migrants from the country who wanted to live close together. One day I promise you I shall go inside and take some photos because it really was like a glimpse into another world.

Speaking of the Cemetery, most people don’t realise that directly opposite the General Cemetery is the Cementerio Catolica (opens on the side street). This is just as interesting as the bigger one but maybe more so because many of the rooms are pitch black and underground – it’s like the catacombs of Lima –  and worth a visit if your not scared of spooky places (or stumbling upon a homeless person in the gloom).

We walked down Cuccuini to Luis’ brother’s house where we were going to a party.  It must be the day for seeing into other world’s because FINALLY the famous drug lord of the area had opened his front doors and was even standing outside. This was exciting because he lives in a completely window-less house that is always dark, and is used on the street as something akin to an opium den. I’ve also heard so many stories so it was good to put a face to him. He said hello and to be honest looked so completely ordinary albeit for his clothes. He just looked a bit bored and sad.

And so has passed another day, another adventure in my comuna!

Santiago Away from the Beaten Path

Bored with doing the same old shizzle in Santiago? Hopefully this list will perk things up!

  1. Museo al Cielo Libre – Created to stop the building walls from deteroriating further, this art feast for the eyes took over four years to complete. Read more here.
  2. Maipu – a suburb that saw great battles of Chile once play out in its boundaries, and today has memorials in its honor. Visit the Templo Votivo.
  3. Museo de la Solidaridad – Begun during the presidency of Salvador Allende, today this is an interesting art collection that has become a symbol of the resistance. Worth a visit to understand more.
  4. Barrio Concha y Toro – so eeriliy quiet that it is like stepping back in time, the small streets that make up this section near Metro Republica make for wonderful photo (and romance) opportunities. While you are here, visit Zully.
  5. Cementerio Catolico – opposite the General Cemetery, this little visited burial site is at times quiet and frightening, with narrow passages and little light.
  6. Museo Colo Colo – A site for true football fans, its also worth a trip to learn more about a team that has followers from all over Chile.
  7. Parque de Los Reyes – Wonder for antiques and marvel at the lagoon and Santiago’s best skatepark.
  8. Parque Natural Aguas de Ramon – now that the sun is shining, make the most of the weather in this spectacular park close to La Reina.
  9. Patronato – although it is on the tourist path, it’s still possible to find something interesting and new when you get lost admidst Patronato’s jumble of streets, stalls and food stands.
  10. Love Motel – take a rest and while away a few hours in one of Santiago’s premier love motels (not for families!)

Feel free to make this list grow with your suggestions!

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Patronato