Wow, it’s crazy to think that it has been a whole year since I traveled south to Chile.
This post has been sitting in my drafts since November, 2016 a few days after arriving home from our trip. To say the last year has been busy, and honestly sort of crazy, is an understatement. There was a lot of travel, a move from the Charlotte to Cleveland, and a new job. There were more destinations that I’ve kept up with writing about, and still my time in Chile has stuck on my mind.
You might be wonderful how I ended up in Chile for the Thanksgiving holiday week. The simple answer is that my youngest sister, Natalie, was studying in Santiago for the semester. My best friend Megan and I had committed to go and visit her, wherever she might choose to study abroad, when we studied for the summer in Spain six years prior. Of course, my most well-traveled sister, Julia, was in for the trip and the three of us were off to visit Natalie!
We flew left on Thursday evening, one week before Thanksgiving, and arrived home the following Sunday. It was a solid 10 day trip, giving us plenty of time to enjoy central Chile. The trip was honestly not so bad, even though I flew Air Canada to save money and literally went from the southern US to Toronto to Santiago (definitely went in the wrong direction for that connection!).
We spent our first day wandering around Santiago with my sister, before heading to Valparaiso for the weekend, then back to Santiago for the remainder of the trip. While I’m sure I will be missing some of the details from our trip, I can definitely hit the highlights.
First and foremost, the food! We were surprised to learn that Chile isn’t especially known for their food, they tend to be quite international in their palate with a strong taste for Peruvian food. We enjoyed some pollo con aji amarillo, a traditional Peruvian dish of chicken in a yellow sauce with rice, for lunch one day and it did not disappoint. The clear highlight of Peruvian cuisine is the empanadas. We ate empanadas anywhere we could get them, even trying vegan versions in the Lastarria neighborhood.
We enjoyed much of the food in the Lastarria neighborhood, including nice cafes to grab a pastry and espresso, Bocanáriz– a lovely wine bar, and of course the Emporio La Rosa location for the most delicious gelato and gelato pops dipped in chocolate, you can bet we stopped there more than once!
Another food favorites in Santiago was the famous empanadas from Zunino emporium near the Plaza de Armas and the market. You have to try an empanada pino, the most traditional flavor, with beef, hardboiled egg, raisins, and olives – it’s good I swear. We couldn’t leave without trying chorillana, a huge plate of fries topped with beef, a gravy-like sauce, and a fried egg. We were told these are ideal after a night of drinking but preferred to eat them while grabbing a few drinks one evening. They are the perfect accompaniment for a pisco, a typical cocktail with the liquor Chilean pisco and lime juice. They’re quite tart!
While I can’t honestly say I was a fan, it was absolutely part of the experience to go to a bar and order terremotos, or earthquakes. The drink includes a fermeted wine, called pipeno, with a splash of grenadine for a nice red color, and a hearty scoop of pineapple ice cream. Even with ice cream involved, the terremoto didn’t suit me but I am still glad I tried it! Speaking of wine, be sure to read my recap of our wine tasting in central Chile, just outside of Santiago, here.
To wrap up my food recap (the bulk of my recap of course!), we really enjoyed visiting the Mercado Central, a beautiful historic monument and huge daily market. We all picked up some merken, a smoked chili pepper used often in Chilean cooking. Much of the of the food and shopping we enjoyed we found from simply wandering around the city, while taking in the sights. We even stopped for a Chilean “completo” on our final day, because why not. The completo is essentially a hot dog, best if purchased from a street vendor, loaded with topping such as mayo, avocado, tomato, and saurkraut. They’re larger than the hot dogs we typically eat in the US, and the bread used for the buns is way better. Don’t knock it until you try it!
I have much more I want to share with you about our trip to Santiago, Chile, including our Airbnbs, trekking in Cajon del Maipo, shopping at Los Dominicos market, visiting La Chascona – Pablo Neruda’s House and Museum, a stop in the Bellavista neighborhood, and a surprisingly difficult trek up Cerro San Cristobal for city views. Check it out in Santiago, Part 2.