San Marcos Church
After awakening early on Sunday and enjoying a hotel breakfast, we rode the metro red line to Los Dominicos. This is the last stop on the line and it lies very near a Dominican Monastery. A scenic park and beautiful grounds greet you as soon as you walk from the metro station. From there, we made a fifteen minute walk, nearly a mile, to San Marcos Church. This is a sister church of Granada established by a team led by Sam Mateer. They did not know we were coming to join them for worship, and somehow we managed to walk in just as the service was starting. It felt like home. The music, the message, the people…it is a beautiful community of people.
In some ways it felt like the reverse of Granada. San Marcos is the English speaking church that shares space and ministry with a Spanish speaking church. These two congregations are united by more than a common worship facility. They share life in the same presbytery. In the San Marcos Church there were people from the U.S. and a number of other English speaking countries such as the Philippines. The building is contemporary and set in a very nice suburb of the city. (You can find the church’s website at: http://sanmarcoschurch.cl/)
Sam and Lois Mateer planted this church. Sam explained to me that when he was being commissioned as a missionary, he visited Granada, and the church helped to send them off. Sam retired a few months ago, and a new younger pastor named Samuel Lago who grew up in Santiago has taken leadership. The transition seems to have worked wonderfully.
Lunch with San Marcos congregation
One of the traditions of this church is that following worship each week, everyone is invited to a local mall to share lunch together in the food court. This gives everyone the chance to get the food they want and then to visit together at a common table. Sandy and I loved this time because it gave us a chance to meet the people, to learn about the history of their church and also to make new friends. And yes, there is very little difference between the mall there and the mall here! And no, we did not eat McDonalds! The greatest joy for us was seeing the gospel at work in this great city. People are coming to faith in Christ and growing as disciples. New churches continue to be planted there.
From San Marcos Church we rode the metro back into town and began walking through the neighborhoods near our hotel. Just beyond Santa Lucia is Barrio Lastarria. This is a small neighborhood filled with small cafes, art galleries and some small bookshops. It has a very bohemian feel, and there are artists doing and showing their work on the sidewalks. The area reminded us of some of the small streets of Paris. Barrio Lastarria also happens to be the location of the best of Santiago’s ice cream shop, Emporio La Rosa. This is a place you want to hang out. When you enter you decide how many scoops you want, buy a ticket and then exchange your ticket for the ice cream flavors of your choice. Some of the flavors were a bit unusual. Thankfully, another patron stepped in to explain the ropes and tell us about the choices.
Ice Cream in Barrio Lastarria
It is always more fun to explore ice cream in hand. On the weekends antiques and books are sold along the sidewalks. You can imagine, the neighborhood is full of foot traffic. We could have spent the whole afternoon here.
From Barrio Lastarria we made our way through Parque Forestal and along the river. The park was laid out and commissioned at the centenary of Chile. From one end to the other the monuments were gifts given to the government of Chile from other countries for this celebration. The United States provided an interesting statue of Abraham Lincoln. The German Government provided an immense fountain that graces one end of the park. On warm summer days, families enjoy the park while their children use the fountain as a swimming venue! The beautiful trees and the monuments make the park a beautiful place to relax and people-watch.
German Fountain in Parque Forestal
After walking the length of the park and crossing the river, we entered into another neighborhood called Bellavista. This neighborhood is the center of nightlife. Shops, boutiques, and restaurants fill a huge section next to the university. Bellavista became the hotspot for evening entertainment during the days when the city was bound in by the river. If you crossed the river, you left the jurisdiction of the city authorities. It was an anything-goes sort of place. Today it is a place for nice restaurants and evening entertainment of all kinds. We stopped in the shopping area to look for gifts we could take home for our kids.
From there we made our way to the base of the hill just north of Bellavista. It is called Cerro San Cristobal. This hill rises steeply to the summit where there is an immense statue of the Virgin Mary. Since this hill is much higher than the rest of the city, it gives the impression that Mary is overlooking all of Santiago. You can see this hill from anywhere in the city.
There are a series of walkways leading up the hill. Thankfully, you can ride a funicular to the top in just a few minutes. We waited for about a half hour to get a ticket.
Mary – Cerro San Cristobal
As we waited, we met a young family from the Santiago who told us much about life in Chile and about their city. They reflected the gracious and welcoming attitude of the people. As it turned out, we did not find out until after the half-hour wait that they would not take a credit card for payment. The young couple we met insisted on paying for our ride to the top. (I was thinking: “Sure, that would happen in Miami.” It made me wish we were more welcoming of visitors in our city!)
The view from the top was spectacular. Close to the summit there is a place where worship services are held; there is also a rather large chapel, and flowers, lots of flowers. From the top of this hill, you can get well oriented with the lay of the city. (No, you cannot climb stairs to the top of Mary!)
We made the decision before we rode to the top to walk down the hill to Bellavista. As it turned out, this was a rather long walk of almost five miles. The roadway, the only open way all the way to the bottom, encircles the entire hill. The good news is that it was all downhill! Along the way, we had to chance to see families enjoying Sunday picnics, bike rides, and also taking in the sights. We also were given a 360 degree view of the city.
Selfie from top of Cerro San Cristobal
By the time we made it back to Bellavista our feet were tired and our throats were parched. The good news: it was time for dinner! There were three types of restaurants in Bellavista. First, there were ones clearly for college students. They each advertised the cheapest beer. Second, there were ones for tourists, more expensive and clearly very trendy. Third, there were ones for the locals with dishes we had never heard of. We wanted local food so that we could try new tastes to complement our experiences of the day.
By the time we reached our hotel, it was clear why people love this city. The people were gracious and friendly. There always seemed to be someone happy to help us and ready to explain things. The variety of the barrios in architecture and activity make the city all-together a place of many moods, and refreshing diversity.