Posted by: paulgilders | January 23, 2012

Santiago

We have spent 3 days in Santiago and I am left with mixed impressions. On the negative side, many parts of the city are run down and there is the impression that many people struggle for a basic living. In parts of the city you get hassled for money (we are relatively wealthy tourists after all) and many street corners stink of urine.

On the positive side, the city has many beautiful buildings and has wonderful open park spaces. Streets have been built wide and are often tree-lined for shade. The public transport and cycling infrastructure seems very good and highly utilised. Despite the rather hectic nature of the traffic there seems to be more respect between cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

One thing that has struck me is the level of involvement of the people in their politics. There are many bookshops, roadside stalls and cafés selling political material. Alongside this there is a heavy police presence to prevent trouble and all the police cars have heavy wire protection on their windscreens. On the way out of Santiago, we even saw armed cars on street corners.

One other oddity is the presence of so many stray or wandering dogs. Strangely they all appear to be in good health and are friendly and streetwise (they seem to completely understand street lights). Many appear to live in the parks where they have access to water. There is clearly an incredible respect between the dogs and their human neighbours.

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Finally, we have been disappointed with the food. We may not have visited the best restaurants in Santiago, but we have struggled to find some basic supplies, such as good cheese – the cheese here is all bland and rubbery. We also haven’t had a good salad yet. Most seem to be basic ingredients – bland tomatoes (they always take the skin off) and bits of old lettuce is as much as we have seen. Probably our best feed was a street vendor selling the hot and freshly cooked beef sandwiches with salsa, guacamole, chives and mayonnaise.

Despite all this, we are now keen to leave Santiago and head out to something a bit more relaxing. Today we got detailed maps of southern Chile and we are keen for some cycling.

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