People are often amazed that Nicole and I have been living out of a duffel bag and suitcase for almost a year straight. Haven't you missed having a home?
Surprisingly, not most of the time.
Although for the past three weeks, we've been settled in one place at our friends' home, even prior to that, when we consistently lived on the road, not having a permanent residence didn't bother us much at all.
Why? We traveled slow, often spending two weeks at an Airbnb before heading to the next destination.
Because of this, the Airbnb we chose often would make or break our stay. If we liked our Airbnb, we often couldn't help liking the city, too. If we didn't like the Airbnb ... why did we decide to visit this town anyway?
In Santiago, Nicole and I loved our Airbnb. And we also loved Santiago.
Santiago is Chile's capital and home to approximately 1/3 of its people. We found that Chileans speak about Santiago as if it is a country unto itself, totally separate and apart from Chile's other areas.
Originally, despite our plan to spend seven weeks touring Chile, Nicole and I decided to skip Santiago altogether. We flew into Chile's capital but immediately hopped in our rented gray Volkswagen hatchback and drove northwest to Valparaiso. Especially for myself, having lived in New York City for seven years, other metropolitan areas are often a disappointment. I figured Santiago would be like all the others.
But looking back, it would have been a shame to spend almost two months in Chile without seeing Santiago.
And after reading My Invented Country, Chilean author Isabel Allande's excellent memoir on her home country, I realized our plan to skip Santiago would be a mistake. Moreover, Nicole gravitates to large cities anyway so it didn't take much work to convince her to add four days in Santiago to the end of our itinerary.
Once we arrived, we were almost immediately happy with our decision. Our Airbnb was located in a high rise building in the bustling Bellavista neighborhood. For our four day stay, we got a small taste of what life might be like for an ordinary city dweller. We walked to nearby restaurants only a few blocks away and enjoyed the spacious outdoor patios. (I especially liked Galindo, a cozy diner-esque spot serving delicious Chilean comfort food.)
The Bellavista neighborhood is also one of Santiago's best for checking out street art. So we did that, too.
We spent a few hours strolling to Parque de las Escultuaras (Santiago's sculpture park). And a few more hours stuffing ourselves with the famous sandwiches at old school Fuente Alemana, after Nicole read a New York Times article about Santiago's sandwich shop scene.
We fell in love with the city. For some reason, at least to us, there seemed to be a vibrant spirit often lacking in other places we've visited. Bustling, yet full of friendly people. Nicole and I definitely would make a point to visit again if we make it back to Chile some day.
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