Matt and I are applying for a long-stay French Polynesian visa in Chile. Sounds a little crazy for an American to apply for a French visa in Chile, but it is the best we could do. There is a French consulate in Santiago, which is where we headed for our interview. Subsequently, being in a new city gave us a great opportunity to be tourist.
Send me a message/email if you are interested in learning about the requirements and procedures necessary for applying. It is too complicated to blog about (and a little drab). We scheduled our interview appointment after we gathered all of the necessary paperwork, photos, and background checks. No easy feat being on a boat away from your files.
Santiago is a 16-hour bus ride or a 100-minute plane ride. We flew, arrived early, checked into Casona Loreto Hotel, dropped our backpacks off and put on our explorer hats. We only had 3.5 days to go on our scavenger hunt – so we hit the ground running.
Here are a few of the highlights of our scavenger hunt…some really cool places!
Our first stop was Mercardo Central which was completed in 1874. It was a bit overwhelming with each eatery vying for your attention, tummy, and wallet. In other words, 3-4 people were standing outside yelling in Spanish to get you to come inside. We understood about 1/2 of what they said. We decided to eat at the first place we saw and it was pretty darn tasty.
We stumbled across their version of “local” fresh market. I say that only because it was enormous. Not just one building of fresh goods, but multiple buildings spanning blocks! It was spectacular! We had not seen berries (blue berries, blackberries, raspberries) in ages. And huge bunch of celery for decent prices (not $5 per stock). We also found a flower mart, which had the most beautiful arrangements. They had an interesting technique where they pulled back the petals of the roses. As a result, you are exposed an extra giant rose.
We were staying near Bario Bellavista, which was not quite “central” but close to the metro and close enough to everything where we could walk. Santiago had a lot of graffiti, but I gathered that they were proud of it and in fact considered it art. It was everywhere. Some of it was beautiful and some of it was “tagging” to me. Consequently, it gave you something to admire as you walked down the bustling streets.
During our many, many miles of walking, we passed through huge, lush parks peppered with huge, flowing fountains and sculptures.
Lovers, lovers, lovers everywhere. Santiago seemed to be brimming with lovers. They kissed in the parks, on the benches, in the streets, in the mail, everywhere. Not little pecks of kisses, but deep, passionate kisses.
COSTANERA CENTRAL MALL & GRAN TORRE SANTIAGO:
We of course, made it to the local mall. I only say that as the largest grocery store and hardware store are attached to the mall. The mall can easily be found as it is attached to the tallest building in Latin America, the Gran Torre Santiago. The building is 300 meters high and 62 floors. The construction was very controversial for aesthetic reasons and the cause of city congestion. Check out this site on Mirador del Costanera Center. We did not have time to do the look out, so we saved it as an action item on our return visit to Santiago.
The Costanera Center Mall is unlike malls we’ve seen to far. It is between 3-5 stories tall and includes a “Happyland” amusement park for kids, name brand stores (from U.S.), and oh so much more. It was awe-inspiring.
CERRO ST. LUCIA:
Cerro St. Lucia is one of the most visited public parks as it is one of the most recognizable icons of the capital. The hill is a remnant of a volcano 15 million years old and has a height of 69 meters. The 63,000 square mere park is adorned with a stunning church, sanctuary, and ornate facades, stairways, and fountains.
CERRO SAN CRISTOBAL:
Cerro San Cristobal is an urban, enormous park in the city which contains numerous historical attractions and activities. Main attractions include Mirador de la Virgen del Cerro San Cristobal, el Zoologico National de Chile, el historico Funicular y el teleferico.
We did not have time to do the Zoo or the Funicular. Maybe on our next visit?
The Funicular dates back to 1925 and is a fun way to get up the hill. It is a 500-meter journey with three stations. We decided we wanted to walk the trail as opposed to sitting in luxury little trolley. What were we thinking????
We passed through the main entrance (via the castle, see photo below) and started our ascension straight up hill – about 1.3 km. The walk sure provided some amazing views. You can see the Mirador de la Virgen in the background in 2 of the 4 photos.
Matt was like the little energizer bunny, but I had to stop along the way to rest my weary legs.
We were surprised to find a lot of vendors, eateries, and shops at the top of the hill. It is, after all, one of the greatest tourist destinations in Santiago.
CAMINO DE LAS SIETE PALABRAS:
At the top of Cerro San Cristobal you will find Camino de las siete palabras (Way of the seven words) which was blessed by the cardinal in 2015. On this pilgrim one gets the image of the immaculate conception at the summit. The Way of the Seven Words is the new ramp with which you can access the temple of the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception of San Cristóbal Hill.
MIRADOR DE LA VIRGEN & SANCTUARIO IMMACULADA CONCEPTION:
The Virgen of Cerro San Cristoball can be seen from the entire city. Installed on the summit of Cerro San Cristobal in 1908 is part of the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception. The statue stands 14 meters high and the pedestal for which the Virgen Statue stands is 8.3 meters high. In addition, there is a small chapel in which his holiness John Paul II prayed and blessed the city of Santiago in 1987.
Throughout the entire area, they piped in peaceful, hymns sung in Spanish, acapella. At the foot of the statue is an amphitheater for holding masses or other religious ceremonies. When we visited, they had a beautiful, life size nativity.
TELEFERICO DE SANTIAGO:
Teleferico de Santiago provides a fun cable-car ride through the sky over the bustling city of Santiago. With breathtaking views, you get an idea of the enormous size of the city that is home to over 5 million residents.
After we excited our titillating ride, we ended up back at the Costanera Central Mall. And continued our exploration.
We hit all of the main districts of Santiago, most of the main attractions, and put in over 30 walking miles in 3.5 days.
Our interviews at the French Consulate went well. We only had one appointment and technically you need one appointment per person. However, today, we we able to submit both of our applications under one appointment. As an added bonus, we got to keep our passports. Passports are typically sent with the applications, which can take up to 5 weeks to process. You never want to be in a foreign country without your passport. Now we wait….
Restaurants and Eateries in Santiago:
Our favorite place to eat was in Patio Bellavista. This is a lively, bustling, 2-story square with dozens of restaurants to chose from. We also enjoyed eating and drinking in Bellavisa where they have well over a hundred bars and restaurants on and around Pino Nono area. Some of our favorite places were “The Backyard”, Buena Barra, Galinda, Agua de Chocolate.
We stopped in a cool DJI store. We both have been wanting a drone, but it falls under the “want” category and not the “need to have” area. Someday….Today, we admired the latest and greatest toys.
Additional Fun Photos:
Talk about walking the “$hit” out of you….based on Apple Health
- Day 1: Walked 6.6 miles, 15,784 steps, and 57 floors
- On Day 2: Walked 10.3 miles, 25,714 steps and 49 floors
- Day 3: Walked another 9.2 miles, 22,633 steps and 161 floors