Let’s Get Into Gira: Pablo Neruda’s “Chascona”

Today, my host mother and I went on a tour (gira en español) of Santiago. We went to some of the city’s most iconic sites including Pablo Neruda’s city home, La Moneda, and El Museo de Bellas Artes (finally). The locations are in the order in which we visited them.

La Chascona is a local word, but its origins are from an Indigenous, South American language. I believe it is Quechua for mane of hair. It refers to Neruda’s lover and third wife, Matilde Urrutia, who apparently had a wild do. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

1) La Chascona: Una Casa de Pablo Neruda

This is “La Chascona”. It’s one of Pablo Neruda’s three houses. The others are located by the sea on la Isla Negra and Valparaíso. Pablo Neruda, in my opinion, is probably the most famous Chilean – besides Pinochet. However unlike Pinochet, Neruda is known for his poetry, not his draconian system of government.

These eyes are hung from ceilings, trees, and windows all over this home. I am pretty sure they sell them in the gift shop too. Yes, that’s right: Neruda went commercial. Well, not really, but the house has a very nice gift shop adjacent to a Bohemian café decorated with Neruda quotes. Stop by for one of their quiches. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

We took an official tour of the house in the morning (en español), so I wasn’t able to understand everything (yet). Nevertheless, I picked up that this structure took five years to build, was for his third wife, Matilde Urrutia, for their … romance, and Neruda had style. He adorned his home with art-deco furniture, asiatic paintings, and loved nature. His house is multi-floored, multi-building’d, and basically a garden; it’s like a Chilean Falling Water with a mini waterfall.

The tour was relatively cheap (only a few thousand lucas) and was a mere forty minutes. It’s also located right next to El Cerro San Cristóbal: a very touristy hill that gives you a whole view of the city on a clear day. It is located in Bellavista too, a club/artistic neighbor of Santiago, but be careful – it gets dangerous at night. If you’re in Santiago, Chile, like poetry or literature in general, and enjoy walking tours: la Chascona is a must see!

Here’s the address: Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, Barrio Bellavista, Providencia, Santiago. I would taxi this one.

2) La Moneda

Business in the front (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

La Moneda is arguably Chile’s most important government building. Surrounded by guards, encased by construction, and closed today, La Moneda stands as one of Santiago’s most beautiful structures as well. Though yes, it is a boring color, the mere size and detailed architecture is enough to make any art history major drool (or me).

Party in the back (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

In Spanish, la moneda means “currency/coin”. This building doesn’t handle all the pesos now of days, but was once the minting place for all the Chilean currency. La Moneda is located in the center of Santiago close to Bellas Artes and Plaza de Armas. It is heavily crowded midday, so watch your bags if you go. Pickpockets are apparently everywhere.

It is at least worth a visit. Though not fully shown in the pictures above, it has a huge fountain and giant, national flag in the front. Great for your iconic Chilean photos, and in the summer, the fountain becomes a pool for dogs!

Here’s the address: Morandé 130, Santiago, Chile. The Metro is probably the best method of transportation. The Plaza de Armas station is probably the closest – start there and walk.

3) el Museo de Bellas Artes

Finally! I have been trying to go to this place for weeks! I am so glad I made it before I left. This museum is free too; well kind of, there is a donation box in front that is somewhat mandatory. “Free” and quiet – it’s a perfect attraction if you have down time.

The main exhibit currently is about Los Jaivas. It’s a Chilenismo for “heavy bass”, but it sounds like the word for crab in Spanish. Confusing? Los Jaivas is the name of this very popular Chilean rock band. They have been all over the world (and Chile)! Not pictured is a huge interactive map that shows all the areas in Chile that this band has been to. From Antofagasta to Tierra del Fuego, they have seen the end of the world for sure. (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

In reality, Bellas Artes is actually pretty small. It has roughly six main exhibitions at a time (or at least open), a café, and of course, a gift shop. The exhibits rotate, but currently range from macabre, sexual corpse photography (no joke) to classic portraits by famous Chilean painters. The diversity is quite nice.

As the name states, this museum is located in Barrio Bellas Artes (literally “Beautiful Arts” in Spanish). Walking through, I was reminded how much of a hipster magnet it is. It was fun trying to explain what a hipster is to my host mother. Through the museum and on the streets, I would whisper, “Eso es súper hipster,” as we passed coffee shops and street performers alike.

As stated in another article, Bellas Artes is closed on Mondays, so if you are planning on going, don’t go on Monday, you’ll look stupid trying to open the big doors (trust me). It’s open the rest of the week – Enjoy.

Here is the address: Parque Forestal s/n. Casilla 3209 Santiago, Chile. It’s also right next to the Line 5 Metro Stop by the same name. I’d use the Metro for this trip.

Going into the city again was awesome. Crowded, loud, and somewhat smelly: I am going to miss Santiago. It was also great to indulge my inner tourist – camera clad and wide eyed. I leave in less than one week and have a busy weekend, so expect to see some more photos and new sights.