Today we have a guest post from Melinde – an expat I’ve known for a while who lives here in Santiago. Melinde is retired and has been living in Chile for just over two years. As many of our readers who may be curious about Chile are likely of a similar age and disposition, I felt that her thoughts could be particularly valuable to any retirees out there thinking of moving to Chile.
I hope this post reassures you that even if your Spanish is not that great, Santiago has plenty to offer.
I have lived in Santiago, Chile for a little over two years. My Spanish is still sub-par on even my best days, but not only does it seem that I have survived the past two years, some might even say that I have thrived. This is an easy place to feel quickly like home. I have left the country four times since moving here and each time I have been eager to get back “home”.
Three things readily come to mind when I think about why I like living in Santiago. The first of these is La Vega Mercado. Many tourists and all locals know about La Vega. It is a huge fruit/vegetable/bulk grain market off the Cal y Canto metro. The bicycle touring company, Bicicleta Verde, takes daily groups of tourists there to check out the abundance to food. Some folks buy their meat at La Vega, but I am still inclined to get mine at the local, highly sanitized supermercado. When it comes to fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, rice, beans, popcorn, nuts, raisins, lentils, cheese and eggs, however, my twice-monthly trip is an awesome blessing. Prices are about half what they are in the supermarket and the selection can sometimes be dizzying. My husband and I take our “granny cart” and load it until it strains. We come home with about 23 kilos (roughly 50 pounds) of fresh, wholesome food at the unbelievably low average price of about 80 cents per pound. A gringa friend of mine does me one better; she goes with her Chilena neighbor early in the morning to La Vega and buys off the backs of the trucks that are parked and unloading their food fresh from the farms. Maybe when my Spanish is better, I will venture to this next gastronomic level of enjoyment and huge savings.
La Vega location:
The tremendously wonderful Santiago public transportations system enables us to do things like get our La Vega fix without owning a car. I cannot say enough about the train/subway/bus system that is termed Trans-Santiago. We never take a cab, and I mean never. Our first few months here we only went where the subway did. Now, we hop from subway to bus #1 to bus # 2, getting everywhere we want and need. There is the need to build in potential waiting time and all the modes of transportation are crammed during rush hour (8-9am and 5.30-7pm) but during most times of the day and on weekends, Trans-Santiago is our ticket to hassle-free transportation.
“…and on the seventh day He rested.”
Sunday is family day. The parks and bike paths are busy, but not the streets. My husband and I have walked down the middle of one of the busiest Santiago streets on Sunday and, not only did we not have to dodge traffic, we didn’t even see any traffic. In fact, many of the roads are closed every Sunday morning to allow thousands of residents to take to the streets on their bikes, skateboards and even with their dogs.
The quiet of the city is so relaxing and a chance to rest and regroup in anticipation of a new Monday in a bustling and lively economy.
These are currently my top three favorite things about Santiago. I get the feeling that, once my Spanish improves and I can do more communicating, the crazy, wonderful people who live here will also make my top-three list.