SAN­TI­AGO: THE PER­FECT 10

Around and be­yond the vi­brant Chilean cap­i­tal

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - Christine McCabe

1 LEST THEY FORGET

Opened in 2010 to cel­e­brate Chile’s bi­cen­ten­nial, the strik­ing, light-filled Mu­seum of Mem­ory and Hu­man Rights is both shrine and aide-mem­oire, us­ing doc­u­ments, ob­jects and sto­ry­telling to hon­our the coun­try’s dead and dis­ap­peared un­der dic­ta­tor Au­gusto Pinochet. A vast wall of grainy pho­to­graphs and life-sized cutouts dom­i­nate the soaring spa­ces and give a sense of the scale of the regime’s crimes. The com­pre­hen­sive au­dio tour fol­lows a chrono­log­i­cal nar­ra­tive be­gin­ning with the 1973 coup, us­ing ev­ery­thing from un­der­ground news­pa­pers and hand­i­crafts made by po­lit­i­cal de­tainees, to ob­jects of tor­ture and the har­row­ing ac­counts of sur­vivors. On the top floor, the tour ends with an up­lift­ing mon­tage of the tac­ti­cally bril­liant NO ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign that ran in­ter­fer­ence dur­ing the 1988 plebiscite and saw the even­tual oust­ing of the Gen­er­alis­simo. More: museode­lamemo­ria.cl.

2 SIP AND SUP

Lo­cals eat late in San­ti­ago but many of the best restau­rants are au fait with the sleep­ing habits of vis­it­ing tourists and hap­pily take book­ings for 7.30pm. In the pop­u­lar Bel­lavista food precinct, New York-born Al­berto Bi­tran runs Bar­rica 94, a restau­rant and wine bar where din­ers get the chance to pair Chile’s finest drops with good food. The smart space is lined with walls of bot­tles and the ser­vice is fast, friendly and ef­fi­cient NYC style. Try the cock­les with a Pan­dolfi Price Los Pa­tri­cios chardon­nay. Or short ribs on a wheat berry risotto with a Casa Bauza syrah-caber­net sauvi­gnon blend. Fin­ish with the pear em­panada and a glass of Pa­jarete Ar­midita mosca­tel. More: bar­rica94.cl.

3 SWEET AND SOUR

If you de­velop a taste for pisco sour, the na­tional drink,d and I defy you to re­sist, be sure to check out the new and very cool Chipe Li­bre bar and restau­rant in the stylish Las­taria dis­trict. In a soaring build­ing, where the mood is best de­scribed as rev­o­lu­tion­ary chic, you’ll find a noisy young crowd down­ing pisco sours from tin beakers in a room criss­crossed by mon­u­men­tal tim­ber beams, the walls lined with vin­tage pisco posters. Come here for a spicy Peru­vian-style black snap­per ce­viche, or Patag­o­nian king crab with palm heart; or­der up a pisco flight or a pisco-based cock­tail such as a Wood­stock, mar­ry­ing the wine-based spirit with grape­fruit, lime, thyme and pur­ple corn syrup. More: face­book.com/ chipeli­br­ere­pub­li­cain­de­pen­di­ent­edelpisco.

4 SING WITH YOUR SUP­PER

Si­l­abario is a charm­ing restau­rant in the Ital­ian quar­ter serv­ing re­gional dishes in a stylish din­ing room and court­yard over­seen by the smart young owner and her en­thu­si­as­tic team. As an un­ex­pected bonus dur­ing din­ner a hand­some guitarist and fetch­ing songstress wan­der in to belt out three or four sul­try Latin num­bers be­fore mov­ing on to the next restau­rant. And the pisco sours are among the best I sam­ple in the city, us­ing a bar­rel-aged pisco and sugar syrup spiced with gin­ger, cloves, cin­na­mon and cit­rus zest. More: coci­nalo­cal.cl.

5 A DI­VERSE DIS­TRICT

This pop­u­lar food, wine and shop­ping precinct of Bel­lavista veers wildly from smart restau­rants pa­tro­n­ised by ladies who lunch to edgy, grungy streets dot­ted with grumpy pave­ment ven­dors. You’ll find plenty of wine bars, and stores sell­ing sou­venir stand­bys such as lapis lazuli and al­paca. You’ll also find poet Pablo Neruda’s city pad (see Ode to Pablo) but, like much else in San­ti­ago, it is daubed with graf­fiti, and the hand­somely re­stored 1920s Aubrey Ho­tel, which has an Aussie owner and was one of the city’s first bou­tique ho­tels. Drop by the quaint Galindo, dat­ing from 1968, for a pisco sour and plate of shrimp em­panada. This busy bar and diner spe­cialises in hearty Chilean sta­ples and feels prop­erly bo­hemian; I can well imag­ine Neruda tucked away at a cor­ner ta­ble pen­ning an ode. More: theaubrey.com; galindo.cl.

6 ODE TO PABLO

Chile’s No­bel lau­re­ate Pablo Neruda had three houses,h in­clud­ing the one in Bel­lavista, but why not take a quick jaunt to shabby but ut­terly be­guil­ing Val­paraiso 90 min­utes away, a “clown”, a “mad­man”, a “crazy port” of a town, penned Neruda, where his beloved La Se­bas­tiana perches high above the ocean amid a jum­ble of pas­tel-coloured houses spilling down the hill­side. A di­vert­ing au­dio tour has you climb­ing nar­row stair­cases into ec­cen­tri­cally ap­pointed rooms with drop-dead views through rat­tling win­dows. The large liv­ing room is ar­rayed with an ar­mada of cu­riosi­ties in­clud­ing a carousel horse and a Bel­gian chest where the poet-diplo­mat stored his whisky. The big din­ing ta­ble was cen­tral to many a salon where the dish de jour was gen­er­ally Neruda’s favourite conga chow­der (so beloved he penned an ode to the “thick and suc­cu­lent” eel). His leather “cloud” chair sits at the win­dow and tucked into one cor­ner is a mad pink bar where the poet dis­pensed wine and whisky, ei­ther in dis­guise or sport­ing a painted-on mous­tache. An on­site gift shop stocks English-lan­guage vol­umes of his poetry. More: fun­da­cionneruda.org.

7 THE OTHER CASABLANCA

Casablanca Val­ley, 75km from San­ti­ago on the coastal plain be­tween the city and Val­paraiso, pro­duces some of the coun­try’s finest cool cli­mate wines. In 2008, eighth-gen­er­a­tion vi­gneron Pablo Mo­rande es­tab­lished Bode­gas Re, a fine cel­lar door and restau­rant housed in a con­tem­po­rary adobe build­ing where pro­duc­tion meth­ods date back to time im­memo­rial. Wine is made in tra­di­tional clay pots or enor­mous con­crete urns, and there are cel­lars de­voted to bal­samic vine­gars and fruit and flo­ral liqueurs (cherry, apri­cot, peach, wal­nut and rose). Wine la­bels riff on the no­tion of reimag­ined or rein­vented (thus a Re-noir sparkling) and con­cen­trate on un­usual blends. The stylish cel­lar door and re­tail out­let recre­ates an old-fash­ioned gen­eral store and is the new out­post of the Casablanca So­cial Club, de­stroyed in an earth­quake in 1985. Drop in for a glass of wine or pick up some hand­i­crafts of ex­cel­lent qual­ity; the rugs and throws are par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful. More: bode­gasre.cl.

8 FIND YOUR IN­NER COW­BOY

Cris­tian Waidele of An­des Riders spends half the year in Patag­o­nia lead­ing re­mote horse­back treks; oth­er­wise you’ll find him in the An­des foothills on the out­skirts of San­ti­ago with his herd of gen­tle but nim­ble-footed ponies lead­ing shorter rides, some by the light of the full moon. Mar­shalled by the im­pres­sively mous­ta­chioed head huaso (cow­boy) Don Jose, our plucky ponies head res­o­lutely up the moun­tain, cross­ing streams, trot­ting along nar­row hill­side paths through stands of prickly espino (hawthorn) trees and enor­mous cac­tuses. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing dogs scat­ter wild horses and cat­tle willynilly as we keep our eyes peeled for a faint wisp of smoke higher up the moun­tain. It’s a sign that Don Jose’s son Don Car­los has lunch un­der way — sen­sa­tional steaks washed down with a lo­cal cab mer­lot and the chance to give our gringo bot­toms a rest on soft hay bales while ad­mir­ing the sprawl­ing city far, far be­low. More: an­desrid­ers.com.

9 UP, UP AND AWAY

San­ti­ago nes­tles in a dra­matic nat­u­ral am­phithe­atre, ringed by moun­tains, mean­ing lucky pow­der­hounds can be on the slopes in less than two hours. Three thou­sand me­tres, 67km and 57 switch­backs later and you hit con­dor ter­ri­tory at Valle Ne­vado, a pop­u­lar ski re­sort with three ho­tels linked to 2833ha of nav­i­ga­ble ter­rain ca­ter­ing to all lev­els of ex­per­tise. The drive is great fun, climb­ing above the tree and cac­tus line to the pris­tine snowy crags of the An­des (the re­sort’s top el­e­va­tion is a dizzy­ing 5430m). Valle Ne­vado is pop­u­lar with well-heeled Brazil­ian visi­tors, who tend to skip the minibus and dial up an Uber chop­per in­stead, as well as Olympic ski teams train­ing dur­ing the north­ern sum­mer. More: val­lenevado.com.

10 CEN­TRE OF AT­TEN­TION

Novo­tel San­ti­ago Vi­tacura of­fers good-value pack­ages in a great lo­cale. Vi­tacura is one of the city’s smartest sub­urbs with great restau­rants (in­clud­ing Bor­ago, Chile’s an­swer to Noma) and fine shop­ping on Alonso de Cor­dova, San­ti­ago’s Rodeo Drive. Ho­tel staff are su­per-friendly and help­ful and fa­cil­i­ties in­clude a down­stairs fit­ness cen­tre, day spa, heated pool, free Wi-Fi, in­ter­con­nect­ing gue­strooms for fam­i­lies and ski hire and shut­tle ser­vice if you want to hit those slopes. Three-night pack­ages from $US450 ($622) with break­fasts and 4.30pm check­out. More: novo­tel.com.

Clock­wise from main: the lively Bel­lavista neigh­bour­hood; Casablanca Val­ley; Valle Ne­vado ski re­sort; poet Pablo Neruda’s home in Val­paraiso; the Mu­seum of Mem­ory and Hu­man Rights; be­low, Neruda

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