A Buen Ratito in Concepción and Tomé

Whether you´re a seasoned expatriate, a foreign exchange student, or a native Chilean living in the jumbled labyrinth of Santiago - everybody appreciates an occasional weekend getaway. Next time this insatiable urge arises, consider meandering south to Concepción and the neighboring beach town of Tomé for a buen ratito.

 Hands down, the main attraction of Tomé are the beaches. Photo by Jacob Atkins
Hands down, the main attraction of Tomé are the beaches. Photo by Jacob Atkins

First let's talk logistics. Keep in mind that buses to Concé from the southern terminal of Estación Central are frequent, reliable and affordable. For the most stringent budget, however, the cheapest option would involve catching a late-night bus for an average CP$10,000 (US $14.60). Wake up approximately six hours later and you will have already arrived to the city often dubbed as the Ciudad Universitaria, for there are fifteen tertiary schools (public and private) scattered throughout Concepción, not to mention twelve professional institutes.

Perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing of these schools is the University of Concepción, which is often hailed as one of the most prestigious in Latin America. Students and locals alike seem to adore the verdant campus, especially since lavish picnics and family outings are common over the weekend. With its manicured lawn, ivory white bell tower and vibrant murals calling for nationwide education reform - the atmosphere is undeniably buena onda.

Speaking of murals, the renowned Presencia de América Latina located within the lobby of la Casa de Arte (next to the main entrance) is certainly worth a visit. Historically, the acrylic masterpiece on rough stucco was given to the university from the Mexican government in the 1960s. Crafted by Jorge González Camarena, the 300-square-foot painting profoundly depicts the shared heritage of the Spanish-speaking world. Prepare to be blown away while feasting your eyes on phantasmagoric symbolism relating to Aztec mythology, intercultural fraternity and the miscegenation of indigenous people.

 A detail of Presencia de América Latina at the University of Concepción. Photo by Jacob Atkins
A detail of Presencia de América Latina at the University of Concepción. Photo by Jacob Atkins

Upon absorbing the fervent messages behind this truly astounding mural, step directly outside the museum to spend a leisurely afternoon at Plaza Perú. Every weekend there is a charming flea market where merchants sell an assortment of retro antiques, ranging from vintage records, to wizened cameras, to cheap bronzed-colored paperback books. A copy of La cabaña de tío Tom, for example, would run for CP$1,000. Sit down to savor your new purchase over a thirst-quenching glass of schop at any of the multiple bars and restaurants surrounding the square.

Plaza Perú is also where people catch the bus to Tomé - a tiny port city known for textile manufacturing and fishing. For a staggering CP$900, one can travel approximately 45-minutes north where warm sands and sunrays anticipate your imminent arrival. Once you´ve arrived to la playa dotted with colorful fishing boats with names like Messi and Ximena, make yourself comfortable by renting an umbrella for CP$2,000, which can be used until 7 p.m.

 Behold the splendor of ceviche at Restaurant Marino de la Costa. Photo by Jacob Atkins
Behold the splendor of ceviche at Restaurant Marino de la Costa. Photo by Jacob Atkins

Take advantage of your sojourn in Tomé over cups of ceviche from Restaurant Marino de la Costa on Calle Los Suspiros. For another CP$2,000 well-spent, patrons can choose amongst jaiba (crab) machas (clams) and mariscal, (shellfish) all of which are harmoniously drenched in a blend of lemon, lime, cilantro and red onions. If your palate is craving something fried and crispy, then try an empanada de marisco- the cherished Chilean pastry filled to the brim with shellfish.

Equipped with your ceviche and/or empanada, cross your fingers that the famed sea lions decide to pay a visit. Oftentimes these gentle giants come ashore to lethargically bathe in the sun, awkwardly teetering from side-to-side in the process - only to gradually flop on the ground in the most exasperated of manners. Alternatively, they can be seen vegging out in the water, with only their squishy heads protruding above the surface. Regardless of where these chubby creatures go, anticipate an animal-extravaganza upon seeing them interact with the cantankerous dogs of Tomé - a comedic spectacle that will leave you tickled pink and happy to be outside of the city.

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