You've got to love the Spanish word "barrio". So much sexier than "neighbourhood", the English-language equivalent. Barrio slips smoothly off the tongue – something you'd whisper in a lover's ear, perhaps – whereas "neighbourhood" sounds like the series of defeated clunks my first car made when it finally died.
So, it's with great expectations that I down my second pisco sour in the bar of The Singular Santiago hotel and venture out for an early evening stroll around barrio Lastarria, one of the Chilean capital's increasingly popular, er, neighbourhoods.
It's dusk, the lights are coming on and the first thing we encounter nearby the hotel is a small pedestrian square populated with raggedy buskers, amateur jewellers and budding artists selling work ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Beyond, the square gives way to a small, lively street lined with restaurants, cinemas, bookshops and bars. Murals big and small add splashes of colour and the low-rise architecture is a melange of old and new that never jars. It's one of those areas where history – it was one of the first barrios to be founded in Santiago – and old bohemian bones can be seen under the skin of recent renewal.
It's a place to stroll, to see and be seen, where pisco bars rub shoulders with pizzerias, people dine al fresco on chorrillana (a Chilean dish of French fries topped with different types of sliced meat, fried eggs and onions) and the smell of grilled pulpos fills the air.
It's also the artistic centre of Santiago, with the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Centre, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Modern Art and the Municipal Theatre all within easy walking distance of our hotel.
In the wilds of southern Chile, 3000 kilometres away, by the Tierra del Fuego National Park, The Singular Patagonia huddles against the shore of the Senoret Channel. Set in a 100-year-old cold storage warehouse, it has been thoughtfully renovated as a stunning five-star hotel in a manner that could easily double as a James Bond villain's lair. Here in Lastarria, however, its sister hotel, The Singular Santiago, is more Bond than Blofeld. Classical and understated on the outside the interior is as sophisticated, masculine and stylish as 007 himself.
Chilean designer Enrique Concha has created an environment that's inspired by an idea of bygone European elegance but has also somehow combined that with quirky, modern elements – Bond in a tuxedo and electric pink socks, if you will.
The rooms are large and beautifully appointed, the bars, restaurants and common areas decorated with modern furnishings in throwback styles, eclectic accoutrements and carefully selected artworks.
Particularly notable are the wacky jigsaw-shaped leather tables and the small plunge pool on the rooftop bar. With panoramic views across the city, it's a good place to settle in for a dry martini nightcap.
The Singular Santiago is a five-star, 62-room hotel in the heart of artistic Lastarria. See thesingular.com/en/hotel/santiago
LATAM Airlines flies to Santiago daily from Sydney and five times a week from Melbourne. Flights from Santiago to Punta Arenas depart five times a day. See latam.com
APT hosts bespoke tours throughout South America See aptouring.com.au
Keith Austin was a guest of LATAM Airlines, APT and Singular Hotels.