A little after noon today we came out of a business meeting at downtown Santiago. One of us proposed to drive us to the Club de Golf Los Leones to have lunch. He warned us this place was somewhat expensive, but that it was comfortable enough to resume the conversation after lunch. He told us the menu was about CLP 12,000. That is indeed a very expensive menu, around 3 times what you would normally spend at an average restaurant downtown. What the hell, I thought, I don’t know the place and this is a good opportunity: you are only allowed to enter with a club member. And there were a couple of business opportunities to discuss, so this agreeable place sounded OK.
This is an enormous country club located in the heart of Santiago’s “financial district”, on of the most exclusive and by far the most expensive district (by land value) all around town. The club has an enormous park (the golf course,) a restaurant, bars, several tennis courts, meeting rooms, etc. It has even its own hill.
The place breathes exclusiveness. To get to the restaurant you go through a foyer where a steward bows to the club member while bestowing scanty attention to the rest. The restaurant is located one floor below, to which you get by the stairs. The foyer and the stairs are lightly decorated but in a style that made me remember some exclusive clubs I’ve visited before: wooden colors on the walls, a brown carpet, and golden handles, carpet holders, and thresholds. Also, portraits or names -I don’t remember- of previous club presidents or board members.
However, nothing makes you feel “exclusive” like the view from the table. Oh my, if I had to choose one word to describe it I would use “magnificent.” The golf course starts only a few meters from the restaurant and goes endlessly until a little before the horizon. Maybe not that much, but close. From the table itself you can take a look at the sky as if you were on the countryside, without any buildings polluting the scene. The nearest skyscrapers are a kilometer or so away, so they are no hindrance. The green landscape and the blue sky make a wonderful view. You really feel outside Santiago.
While I entered this place I felt a little awkward, like I didn’t belong there. I mean, I definitely don’t belong there, I know it, but I also felt it. What also makes you feel a little awkward are the 150,000 USD you are lacking to buy your place into the club, and the thought that every club member has had to disburse that amount. Somewhat disconnected from reality, at least from Chile’s.
I remembered Andrey Bolkonsky, the prince from “War and Peace” who having been raised in a wealthy family always felt at ease on exclusive venues, formal receptions and places like this one. Taking a look around at other club members, I saw the same confidence, a sense of belonging, of home advantage. I was an alien from another place in space-time.