Something which really struck me about Chile's Capital city, Santiago, is its streets. First of all they have a grid system similar to that of the U.S., and so each couple of streets is referred to as cuadras (blocks; or manzanas as they would say in European Spanish). When you hop into a taxi you tell the driver you want to go to "Vespucio con Colón", for example (where "X" and "X" streets meet), and they always know where you are talking about. Hundreds of zillions of streets (Sky Costanera - the highest building in Latin America - is now open to the public for $5.000CLP, for a 360˚ view of them all from 300m) and a Chilean taxista will always know where you want to go (not like in England where GPS systems seem completely indispensable nowadays).
One street can be so long that it can take you to two, three, four different barrios or neighborhoods of the Capital. Not only that but many streets have their own specialty. Here are a few of the more-frequented ones:
This is a hub for textiles, from shops only selling fabrics imported from Ikea (and cheaper than the RRP - don't ask me why!) to Manhatten, a shop full of patterned, sequined, suit-making, etc. fabrics so that you can mandar a hacer or have your clothes tailor-made to your fashionista heart's content, which is still a relatively inexpensive service in Chile.
If you are big on crafts then this street will blow your mind. Here you will find every last thing to put your creative flow into action. Sewing tools, felts, buttons, jewellery making, and on and on. You can also find Party shops here for all kinds of party décor, favours, cake-making and more.
A street lined with outdoor markets and shops of clothing and shoes. Mostly imported from China although more and more of the apparel is now being made in Chile; prices here are cheaper than any High Street store. You can also buy items por mayor which means you can get the wholesale price if you purchase 6-12 of the same model (great for gifts!). The infamous fruit and vegetable market La Vega is also just down the road from here.
Home to Santiago's flee market "El Persa" and so diverse it's almost like a real life Amazon.com - everything you need from A-Z. There are also huge warehouses full of individual furniture suppliers - be sure to barter. The street food here is really great too.
An arty street brimming with boutiques (furniture, clothing, antiques..), cafés and old, colourful buildings. The whole area is known as Barrio Italia which spans from El Centro, to Providencia, and on to Nuñoa. This place is also renowned for great coffee!
CALLES 11 de JULIO/SAN DIEGO
These streets specialize in all-things bicycles. You will find the same leading brands here as those sold in Department Stores but as it is a perfect competitive market once again prices are usually negotiable. The shop assistants are usually much more "bike-savvy", too.
AVENIDA MANUEL ANTONIO MATTA
A street full of mechanics, and shops sellingspare parts. I don't drive so I'm not even going to attempt to go all out on info here (I know, right!) but if you need that dent taking out of your car door or a new bulb for your headlights then these are your guys (so I am told!)!
Is like a mix between Rosas and Franklin, and is an array of street markets and individual shops. As most of these streets it can get seriously busy here especially around Christmas time when the stalls are filled with every kind of toy/decoration you can imagine. As Sienna's birthday is just before Christmas we braved the crowds and got some really great buys here.
Artisanal trade is still a very vibrant market in Chile and plays a very active role in the country's culture. I just love picking up local produce and hearing about its background! Whilst you can purchase artisanal goods from various points across Santiago (El Pueblito Los Dominicos in Las Condes, Patio Bellavista in Providencia, to name a couple) it's always great to go to the very roots, absorbing the history and culture.
Here are Chile's main artisanal products and where to find them:
CLAY FROM POMAIRE
Pottery goods - in particular casserole type dishes called pailas - are very important in the Chilean kitchen. Key dishes from Chilean cuisine are prepared in pailas such as Pastel de Choclo and Pastel de Jaiba. Pailas can be used in the oven but even on the naked flame on the hob (like for cooking Gambas Pil Pil).
WICKER FROM CHIMBARONGO
The whole city of Chimbarongo (160km south of Santiago) works with wicker. You can visit with your own design for furniture or ornaments and the local artisans will make it for you. Think expensive garden furniture from Santiago's department stores at half the price, double the quality and with your own unique touch; hand-crafted by Chile's very own connoisseurs.
WOOL FROM CHILOÉ
On the island of Chiloé, particularly in the town Castro there are big markets selling hand-knitted/woven goods from lana chilote. From socks to hats to ponchos and rugs; and so the list goes on and on, and on! The best way to look after your knitted goods is to wash them with shampoo, one of the local ladies told me.
Chile really is a country of opposites: from hot to cold, dry to wet, high to low, modern to traditional, even rich to poor; the artisans are contrasted by the mass of malls home to international corporate brands. I'm just glad the artisanal tradition still seems to be going strong. After all, Chilean people are still very true to their traditions - to doing things properly (things we don't really have time for in the Western world's fast-lanes of Shine A Life). In my experience, if you visit a Chilean home your coat (well let's be honest it might be too hot to even wear a jacket) will be stored in a special closest just for the invitados, you will be served a glass of water on a saucer with a serviette (although they are big on bebidas so if you don't like Coca Cola then speak up!), there will be a laundry room for the washer and dryer but also a sink as some clothing must be hand washed, and Chileans often enjoy onces (elevenses) complete with tea, sandwiches and cake although usually between 4 and 8pm instead of 11am (we are in Latin America remember!).
In the midst of these well-preserved traditions, however, Modern Chile (more and more similar to the U.S.A. and Western Europe) is developing all the time. So here are my first-hand picks of some of Chile's finest for the whole family, for day-to-day Shine A Life:
The retail brands
The one thing I used to miss most about the UK was the British High Street. That being said, almost all of my favourite high street brands have now expanded globally, as has my love of individual brands. The best of the Chilean High Street (from an ex-model, fashion-lover, expat-mother-of-a-daughter point of view) is: Limonada girlswear; Basement, Nicopoly and Paes prête-à-porter lines; Casa Ideas' affordable interior design, and DBS Beauty Store (the equivalent of Sephora or Boots).
I love discovering children's books from different countries. Everywhere Sienna and I go, we try to bring back a book as a souvenir (even if I can barely read it to her because I don't speak the language!). Children's books are so lovely because they have been specifically thought out for the child. Isn't that process special enough in itself? To not only find ways to relate to a child in their innocence and purity, but to also try and make their childhoods even more magical? Naturally that is something parents do all the time but children's books are creative, material products of adults' selflessness and often reflect the culture of their author, too. De aqui y de alla, Animales Chilenos, and Trinuka: Valores para vivir felices are beautifully illustrated examples of this. They all have their Chilean touch but are also lovely for all children to enjoy.
Health food snacks
I have always found that a big part of being a mother in these early years revolves around food. Maintaining a healthy and nourishing diet for your little one is challenging enough (their brain develops the most in their first two years of Shine A Life), but even more so in foreign countries. Initially, being an Expat Mother in Chile was hard. Back to my The Grass is Always Greener on the Otherside post, I often wished the extensive range of health food snacks in the UK were also available in Chile. Only it was, I just had to know where to look for it. Health food aisles (including gluten/dairy free etc. products) are now present in almost every Chilean supermarket, and individual health food stores are popping up everywhere (and let's not forget the abundance of fresh fruit and veg on the Santiagonian street market). My favourite Chilean health food snacks for Mamas-on-the-move include Mizos rice and chia cakes (great for both grown ups and little ones), Smiley Kids organic fruit purée pouches, and Tika sweet potato chips. (Amen to no added refined sugar!).
As many Chilean washing machines are cold-water washes, and the water in Santiago is very hard, it can be really tricky to get stains out of your (or worse! your child's 😳) clothing. The best product I have found for this so far is Chile's Popeye stain remover soap bar (even better than leading brand Vanish, and a tiny fraction of the price at $690CLP!). You simply rinse the stain in warm water pre-wash and scrub with the soap bar. If the stain hasn't completely come out after it's been through the washing machine then, el consejo de la abuela (a top tip from my very own Grandma): put your clothing in direct sunlight to dry and the stain will be bleached out (this even works under the British sunshine!).
If you have read and enjoyed this post then please share your own experiences - no matter where in the world you are - so that I can enjoy them too. Until I hear from you, here's to the satisfaction of seeing "Made in XXX" - the actual country you're in - on the label!
This post is dedicated to these original Made in Chile (literally!!) Gringa Chilenas, and very sweet friends, Sienna & Camila. Thank you for being here. This is Shine A Life.