Published on February 7th, 2016 | by Mark Chesnut
“My Santiago” — Chile Travel Tips from Peigi Rodan, La Bicicleta Verde
Originally from Scotland, Peigi Rodan of La Bicicleta Verde – Bike and Wine Tour Company has spent just over six months living in Santiago de Chile. But she’s already fallen in love with this South American capital city. In this exclusive interview, she tells us why — and also shares her best insider travel tips about how to enjoy Chile‘s biggest metropolis.
What attracted you to Santiago?
The idea of South America brought me to Santiago. I Googled ecotourism and South America; once I clicked on the La Bicicleta Verde webpage I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend this year of my life.
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What do you personally like the most about Santiago de Chile?
I like how it is rough around the edges without making me feel completely out of my depth and without being any kind of dangerous. You see things day to day that make you smile, like people driving around in carts filled with oranges, people spending their weekends in parks selling their old clothes for cheap and people dancing cueca or juggling while you stop at red lights. When I am on the streets of Santiago it is never long before I am entertained by something.
What do you think might surprise first-time visitors to Santiago?
That people have a seriously awesome sense of fashion here and there really is a “cool” scene. People with moustaches are going around on cool road bikes with a plant in their basket on their way to a outdoor concert. It maybe a far cry away from hipster Berlin but there is a scene here, AND I LOVE IT!
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If you have a free day with no work, what’s your idea of a perfect day in Santiago?
Well if I have the day off, I’ve probably been up partying until 5 the previous morning; the city knows how to stay up late! So after some fresh fruit to help the hangover I’ll probably head over to Market BioBio at Metro Franklyn. Here you can find anything you could ever desire, need or just question. I get all my clothes and toiletries here, because it is a quarter of the price of any shops. Then maybe hit up a free yoga class in Parque Forestal. Then on Sundays a lot of the main roads close to cyclists, runners and skaters alike. I take my bike out and feel like I’m part of Hell’s Angels or something a little more mellow. I’ll stop off at the large market La Vega to grab fresh ingredients for the week. Then if I can find a friend’s balcony to watch the sunset on, it’s always a good day!
What are your favorite restaurants in Santiago? Any must-try foods?
I am a vegetarian, so it has taken some time to find restaurants that don’t serve meat. Even when I asked for dishes without meat I am offered chicken …. to Chileans it doesn’t seem to count. I highly recommend the Thai restaurant in the smaller La Vega upstairs towards the back. It is around $5,000 CLP for a large pad Thai — delicious. I love Chilean biscuits because they are covered in Manjar (sweet milky topping); you should for sure try an Alfajor!
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What are the absolute must-see attractions that you recommend for first-time visitors?
When you first get to Santiago you should check out the Tours 4 Tips tours. There is an “off-the-beaten track” one in the morning and “Santiago highlights” in the afternoon. These are the perfect insight and intro to Santiago. You must check out the markets (La Vega and Mercado Central). I would recommend going up the Santa Lucia hill and also Cerro San Cristobal. Then head to Parque Quinta Normal to check out some museums (especially the museum of human rights and memory) where you will learn in depth about the 1973 dictatorship. Then don’t forget to go to Plaza De Armas, Santiago’s main square, perfect for people, pigeon and perro (dog) watching.
Do you have any personal favorite attractions that are lesser known?
Yes! Bio Bio market on metro franklyn. Lastarria neighborhood for a cocktail and a look around some cool shops and street sellers. Then I like to head out to some more “underground” nightlife, where parties are held in different locations and houses around the city and Santiago. Examples of this would be Casa Yungay and also Fonda Mental.
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Your company offers bicycle tours. Some travelers who don’t live in big cities may not realize that cities can be bike-friendly. What makes Santiago a great place for bicycle tours?
Santiago was voted South America’s most bike-friendly city. And for good reason! There are routes of cycle paths dotted around the city; here is a map that shows all the bike lanes. Also, the main streets all close to cars on Sunday morning and afternoons. This gives the cyclists, bladers, skaters and runners alike the freedom to get out onto the street without a worry in the world. You also cover more ground on bike without missing out on the great parts that you would on bus, metro or car. La Bicicleta Verde offers two city bike tours (parks and politics and local life markets) that weave between cycle paths, streets and parks, showing you the true Santiago. Cycling is the way to save the pollution that is a worry in Santiago. So when you head over this way, grab a green bike, it’s the best and most enjoyable way to see Santiago.