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Lucire: Volante
chile



Remarkable A view from Tierra Patagonia

Where ‘Land’s End’ is just the beginning

While the urban landscapes of Santiago and Valparaiso are feasts for the senses and the mind, Elyse Glickman discovers Chile’s long and winding stretch of Patagonia is a paradise ethereal landscapes, earthy flavours and endless adventure

 

If you were to describe Chile in five words or fewer, ‘a force of nature’ could sum things up. The mainland of the ribbon-shaped nation is literally a country for all seasons, from the deserts of the north, to the pulsating central coastal metropolises of Santiago and Valparaiso, into the wine country and down south to the verdant alpine expanses of Chile’s “lake district”. At the very tip, the Chilean side of southern Patagonia is a rising star in destination travel, where ends-of-the-earth scenery meets luxury eco-tourism and adventure vacations.  

 

Cities on the hill

 

 

The home of Pablo Neruda (the iconic poet formally known as politician Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto) is one of Santiago’s most visited attractions. However, other writers have left their mark on Santiago while bringing a Chilean voice to international literature. They include Angel Cruchaga Santa Maria, novelist Isabel Allende and playwright Ariel Dorfman (known for his internationally acclaimed play, La muerte y la doncella [Death and the Maiden]).

The most efficient way to get acquainted with Santiago’s cultural, literary and culinary landscape during daytime hours is to sign on for bike and walking tours. Architect–guide Andreas Garrido of Paseos en Bicicleta does a brilliant job of immersing new arrivals by steering them through trendy neighbourhoods such as Barrio Lastarria and past important museums and landmarks, such as Museo Bellas Artes, Plaza de Armas and Parque Forestal.

Many of the buildings in areas like Lastarria unforgettably splice splashy paint jobs with an eclectic mix of architectural styles stretching the decades and many world cultures (French and German as well as Spanish). However, what really brings this Santiago primer to life is Garrido’s discourse. His advice to visitors is to dive into the city with no preconceptions in order to discover it and fall in love with it. The same goes when it comes to getting to know how Santiago’s denizens differ from those in other Latin American cities.

‘You may think we are shy or depressed at first, but actually, we are shaped by geography, as well as earthquakes, floods and politics,’ Garrido remarks. ‘We are not Buenos Aires or Rio. We are not outspoken, yet we are expressive as you will see as we go through the parks and different barrios. Even with the dramatic changes for the better we have experienced in the last 25 years with our (more liberal) economy, politics and culture, the city continues to evolve. One hundred years ago, we wanted to be French. In the 1980s, we wanted to be American, and now we want to be Chilean. The city’s become an exceptional destination because we’ve learned how to appreciate our intelligence, heritage and culture.’

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Upon arrival at the Mercado Central area, visitors can shift gears with a walking tour led by American-born Colin Bennett of FoodyChile. Though the Mercado Central itself is cheerfully commercial and worth a walk-through, Bennett spirits his charges into the heart of La Vega, a consortium of four working markets. Though they are vibrantly gritty, the produce areas impress with neatly organized stalls overflowing with oversized vegetables and carnival barker-like meat and cheese vendors.

While grand hotels and upscale chains like the W are well represented in Santiago, its boutique properties and restaurants set the mood for a stay uniting romantic elements of the European-influenced old world with modern-day splash. Le Rêve, in the Providencia neighbourhood, does it by paying tribute to Santiago’s French cultural roots. The rooms and public areas have a deliciously Parisian feel, and there are some surprising amenities like an open, home-y kitchen offering guests a midnight snack.

Fashionistas who prefer to live on the edge, and are definitively in the market for local Chilean labels, will find two malls around the corner from le Rêve just may fulfil their dreams of some unique finds. Though the Drugstore Mall’s interior design defies gravity, every corner of the three-dimensional maze yields great discoveries including the city’s best ice cream and some interesting one-off boutiques, from Mo’s streamlined basics and fashion-forward things at Las Urbinas 23 to the frilly-girly wares at O! and Pituqui-Pinaqui. Up the block, Casa & Ideas (which reads to the eye as the lovechild of US retailers Crate & Barrel and Anthropologie) stocks cheerful housewares and practical gift items.

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Anybody who has been to Asia, meanwhile, will find nearby Vivo Panorámico’s eclectic layout and random mix of high- and low-end stores similar to malls in Tokyo and Bangkok. However, most of the shops’ fashion sensibility leans Latin American.

Amid all the sparkle and flash, there is the matter-of-fact leather shop Osorio Opazo, offering a mix of frankly comfortable work and walking shoes, beautifully crafted cowboy boots, timeless fashion boots and a few unexpectedly fashion forward styles thrown in for good measure. Discreetly hidden in middle of trendy Bellavista, the Aubrey (a sublime private residence-turned-urban retreat), is so decadently homely and inviting, and its food and cocktails so inventive that it could stand as the perfect amalgam of all of Santiago’s worthwhile neighbourhoods.

However, you will have to get your self outside its protective gates into the night. The neighbourhood is a hub for some of the city’s innovative, upscale restaurants and clubs. While those cafes specializing in “modern Chilean” cuisine are plentiful, Borago, in the über-chic and exclusive Vitacura neighbourhood, pushes that notion and locally procured ingredients to extremes, and with great showmanship. Though takes effort (a cab ride or car rental), a trip to ritzy Barrio Las Condes neighbourhood lends another perspective on how modern Chileans live tastefully.

On an inauspicious residential street, former LAN Chile Airlines executive chef Maria Eugenia Terragno Merino opens her home to visitors, bringing forth an ultimate local dining experience. At her Terragno Cocina (terragno-cocina@vtr.net), adventurous diners can book an intimate dinner or learn to cook a meal and make a perfect pisco sour in her eclectic, expansive kitchen. After lunch, one can stroll Las Condes’ high-end shopping streets, scout Chilean designer finds at the city’s best indoor malls such as Alto Las Condes, or take a stylish detour to the Museo de la Moda and its changing parade of themed exhibits. At press time, the space was winning raves for its celebration of all things 1980s, as it did before that with focuses on Madonna, Michael Jackson, Princess Diana and other fashion eras.

 

Valparaiso, about 75 miles northwest of Santiago, bears many similarities to other Pacific port cities such as Wellington, San Francisco and Vancouver. Besides an expansive bay, this UNESCO World Heritage City has a strong college town vibe, an artist colony flavour and lots of festively painted dwelling lining its steep hills. In contrast to Santiago (which for many is about hitting noteworthy neighbourhoods and ticking museums and landmarks off the list), Valparaiso is a city better suited for going where the day takes you.

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Judith and Gerrity von Daam, the American couple behind the widely acclaimed restaurant La Concepcion, started their own life experience in Valparaiso that way. What they built from it is a location with great views from practically every table as well as perfect ceviche, inspired Chilean–Mediterranean seafood main courses and lovely desserts with Chile’s famously ripe fruit. When you walk off a late lunch at this fantastic restaurant, you will inevitably make pit stops at the numerous art galleries and one-off boutiques selling lapis, hand-crafted clothing and home accessories.

Just outside Valparaiso, a stop at Casa Marin is a must for enophiles. Maria-Luz Marin is inspiring, both as a pioneering Chilean woman winemaker and a major force within Chile’s international wine boom. While Marin at one point helped develop and produce wines for the mass market, she is now determined—no matter how big Chile's wine industry gets—to ensure wines evolving from her vineyards will stand out on their own. While her winery and tasting room are exceptionally pretty and exhibit a woman’s touch (adorned with elaborate inlays and mosaics created by her sister, Patricia), Casa Marin is also noteworthy because of its daring location just two and a half miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Marin certainly knows her stuff, having gone straight from college to winemaking in the mid-1970s, even though women winemakers at that turbulent time in Chile’s history were almost unheard of. While she relishes the fact she was the first female winemaker to work for a private winery, and later found success making wine for multiple US and UK clients in the mid-1990s, she had the nagging feeling there was more that she could do to be a true winemaker as opposed to being a wine producer. While she had the clout to open a winery bearing her name, she did not want to take the path of least resistance, knowing that route would result in wine with little soul or character.

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FoodyChile’s Colin Bennett



Drinks at Borago


Former LAN Chile Airlines executive chef Maria Eugenia Terragno Merino of Terragno Cocina


An enormous squash

 

 

 

Valparaiso, about 75 miles northwest of Santiago, bears many similarities to other Pacific port cities such as Wellington, San Francisco and Vancouver. Besides an expansive bay, this UNESCO World Heritage City has a strong college town vibe, an artist colony flavour and lots of festively painted dwelling lining its steep hills

 

 

 

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