I fell in love… Perhaps words that are expected of a foreigner in an amorous environment such as that of a Latin American country; but these things happen, and I cannot turn the clock back now.
SANTIAGO — El Barrio Lastarria, an undeniably beautiful area with a bohemian atmosphere reminded me of the sudden changes and diversity that can be found in the city of Santiago; you just need to be willing to search for them.
As I turned around the corner the streets were inundated with little cafés selling traditional coffee and cabinets brimming with fancy pastries. From one side of the street to the next, restaurants and bars of all kinds are situated with homemade pizzas, traditional restaurant cuisine, waffle bars and cute panadería style cafés exuding the waft of freshly baked bread.. the range of delicacies are infinite.
On entering this neighbourhood, off the bustling highway and away from the noise of Santiago, I came to realise just how much more this city has to offer its tourists. Concrete and grey horizons suddenly vanished, replaced by trees surrounding the close-knit streets and towering lamps like those out of a Narnia film. The buildings are stunning, dating back to the Santiago of old and with every step I took I was taken by surprise. Important people of Chilean history took refuge here such as Doña Victoria Subercaseaux, cousin and wife of the former mayor of Santiago Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna; Pedro Aguirre Cerda, President of Chile between the years 1938 and 1941 and the liberal writer and thinker Don José Victorino Lastarria. I am not lying when I say that each corner introduces yet another exquisite form of architecture from this era.
A small Indie style theater is nestled in one of the streets screening various antique films and rows of fashion boutique stores drew me in with their unique sets of clothing, bags and shoes. Each street I approached only caused me to fall deeper in love with this little area I never knew existed.
As I approached the opening end of one street, I found myself drawn towards an ice cream parlor called Emporio La Rosa. A line of people were crowded in this vicinity, waving their tasting trial spoons in the air before making the decision to choose one of the multiple flavours of hand-made delight on offer. I was excited to see the various exotic combinations they provided such as rose, strawberry and pepper and coconut milk and ginger. Not to mention that just beside the ice cream parlor begins Parque Forestal with santiaguínos jogging the tracks and couples and families relaxing on the open green spaces. There are various sculptures to see whilst strolling these paths as well as La Fuente Alemana (The German Fountain) which is a large icon located further towards the end of the park.
During the evening is a particularly good time to visit Lastarria (in walking distance of the Universidad Católica metro station) with the antique fair in action until 8:00 p.m and a tranquil ambience all round. Enjoy an ice cream, stroll through the park, wander around the various stores and perhaps sit down at a restaurant during the night to experience all that this neighborhood provides.
I know that I personally have found my sanctuary in Santiago – now it’s time to discover your own..