On Tuesday we took a free walking tour of Santiago. It was great to learn the background of all the things we’d been seeing, and it was a bummer we didn’t take the tour earlier, because our guide had some great recommendations of things to see, do and eat.
One of the interesting things I learned on the tour is that Santiago is full of cafés serving “coffee with legs.” Apparently Colombia’s quality products were not making their way to Chile, so everyone was drinking shit coffee. In order to bring people into the cafes, businessmen came up with the idea not to import good coffee, but instead to dress their waitresses in short skirts and low cut tops. Think of them as the Hooters of the coffee world. This plan apparently worked quite well because they’re all over. There’s some on the street that you can see inside, and then there are the others that have tinted glass, and just a sheet of paper on the wall or a neon sign that say café, but you can’t tell what’s going on inside. Those are the ones where you probably don’t want to know what’s going on inside. Since Starbucks made its way to Chile, the coffee with legs hasn’t been quite enough to keep business up, so now, in order to draw the female crowd in, too, if a woman goes in these cafes, she can get some great deals and excellent service. I love to support local business, but I think I would still stick with the Starbucks.
Another interesting thing I learned on the tour was how Chileans love to burn buses. Franco, our guide, pointed out the city buses that were driving by, and told us that Santiago citizens hate them as much as they hate the ugly, dirty river that runs through the city. At one point, the city scrapped the old buses and promised citizens that these new buses would be practically silent and able to fit many more passengers. As soon as they rolled them out, the people discovered they were louder than the old buses, and were so big, they could barely turn corners on the streets without taking up all the lanes and causing problems. Citizens were unhappy and began to protest and ask for new buses. So the city decided to repaint the old buses, and debut them as new ones. Since the people of Santiago are not idiots, that didn’t work. As a sign of protest, the citizens of Santiago started burning the buses. Now, Franco told us, burning buses has become a common thing to do while protesting, even if the protest isn’t about the buses.
After the tour we walked over to the Cerro San Cristobal and took the funicular up to the top. It was a beautiful day and we got a great view of the city. At the very top was the statue of the Virgin Mary and a wall of plaques, letters, and offerings to the Virgencita.
Later that day, mom headed back to the airport, and I met up with a friend who was staying in Santiago. We met with some other foreigners, mostly Americans, who were living and working in Santiago on a program that invites young entrepreneurs (thank you, spell check) to Chile to work on starting up their businesses while networking with Chileans in order to foster the growth of a start-up culture in Chile. It was pretty fascinating to hear about all the stuff that they’re doing. Oh to have direction in life. I imagine that’s a nice feeling. 😉