Santiago - April 5-9
Apr 9, 2010
|April 5, 2010
Today was one of the longest days ever, lasting about 30 hours! We started off with an early flight from Sydney to Auckland before an hour stopover. From there we continued straight on to Santiago. The reason for the day being so long was that we crossed the dateline and so despite taking off from Sydney around 10am we arrived in Santiago at 11.30am on the same day. As well as sleeping and eating, I watched the film Avatar on the plane. I guess this isn’t the best format to watch a film which has such good graphics but I thought it was pretty good nonetheless.
Once we touched down in Santiago, we managed to get through immigration pretty quickly (Elizabeth had to pay $131 for her entry fee due to America charging Chileans a similar amount; mine was free) and found the shuttle buses into the city easily enough, too. The hostel was about a 10 minute walk away and it was nice for us both to stretch our legs after such a long flight. We got checked into the hostel, showered and headed straight out to walk around. We wanted to stay active and stay awake fairly late to avoid too much jet lag and getting some fresh air certainly helped. We didn’t really do anything, just walked around the Centro area of the city.
Back at the hostel late afternoon we were both getting hungry so decided on an early dinner. This caused a bit of a problem here as many restaurants shut from mid-afternoon until around 8pm as it is so quiet. However, we found one place which was open and served more traditional food and we wandered down. The place was called Confiteria Torres and looked pretty posh. The menu wasn’t too expensive and given we didn’t have many choices we decided to eat there. Elizabeth ordered a vegetable sandwich and “empanadas queso” and I got the “lomo a la pobre” (steak with eggs!) which is apparently a local speciality. I didn’t know that at the time but it was bloody good, if a little large!
Back at the hostel I desperately tried to keep myself awake until 8pm so I wouldn’t be crashing too early. I didn’t want to wake up about 3am and not be able to sleep any more so I was glad when the clock finally ticked over and I went to bed. I fell asleep immediately, with no problems.
April 6, 2010
I’m not sure how well my jet lag prevention worked yesterday but after waking up briefly at 1am, I awoke again at 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I played around on the computer for an hour or so before falling back asleep again for a little longer. When I awoke I actually felt a bit groggy from over-sleeping and Elizabeth felt similar.
We had breakfast at the hostel which consisted of fresh fruit, bread, jam and scrambled eggs. It was actually pretty good and it is nice to get free breakfasts at the hostels as it is a good way to avoid spending unnecessary money!
We headed out once we had decided what to do and we started off at the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. The exhibits were really interesting and showed the different influences upon culture in the northern part of South America and southern part of Central America. It was good to see something which exhibited the culture not just from Chile but the entire region, including the Mayan and Inka populations. There were many similarities between all of the groups and it was good to see stuff which we had previously visited in Mexico and will be seeing later on in Peru.
Some of the more interesting things we saw included a number of statues including a depiction of a man wearing a monkey’s coat, even to the extent of having a pair of monkey feet just above his own feet; a man with peeling skin, a sign of being reborn; and men holding axes in one hand and decapitated heads in the other. They were all really interesting and nothing like anything I’d seen of or heard of before.
We decided to try one of the set lunches in the Centro and at around $5 each they are really good value. We ate at “Good Lunch” and it was a pretty good lunch, too!
In the afternoon we headed to one of the city parks, Park Cerro Santa Lucia. It was a really large park and we started at one end where they had an elevator to the top. The park housed a number of interesting buildings, some which looked like old forts, some which looked more colonial/Hispanic. It was such a strange mix but it was nice being in such a lovely green area in such a hazy, smog-filled city!
After wandering around, we headed to the Market Santa Lucia where we bought a few souvenirs and presents before the long walk back to the hostel.
For dinner we headed to an area of the city called Bellavista and found a cool restaurant called Galindo. It was really busy but as the weather was still nice we sat outside. The locals don’t eat dinner until quite late so even though it was nearly 9pm and late for us to eat, many locals were only just turning up. I had a Chilean casserole steak dish with puré picanté (spicy mash potato) and Elizabeth tried the “Porotos Granados”, a Chilean bean dish. Both were really good and really filling. We headed back to the hostel suitably stuffed having had a good and relaxing first full day in Santiago.
April 7, 2010
We had a number of things planned for today, mostly museums, but nothing really went to plan. After breakfast and a stroll through the city, including the Plaza de Armes, we headed towards the Museo de Artes Visuales. This was a modern art museum and was hidden away in a little courtyard we had trouble finding.
On the way there we encountered a number of school kids running around covered in paint, flour, eggs, etc with one boy holding a pig’s head! They were all running down the road shouting something. We just stopped and watched them not knowing what the hell was going on. It was funny to see but I still haven’t got a clue what it was for!
Anyway, once we actually found the Artes Visuales, we were both quite disappointed. The displays were really average and one entire floor was dedicated to a local poet. Elizabeth doesn’t like modern art as much as I do but our visits to these places invariably result in us finding some interesting pieces and discussing them. Here though, nothing caught our eye at all and most of it was, well, quite bland actually.
From there we walked through the Parque Forestal to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. I had Googled the top ten things to do in Santiago and both the park and the fine arts museum had been listed. The park was nothing compared to the lovely green space we wandered around yesterday, being quite dirty and enclosed by two busy roads creating a nice background of noise and smog! The fine arts museum was not much better but I think that this has fallen victim to the recent earthquake here. The main entrance was open but there was only really the main atrium and about four side rooms open. They housed some interesting stuff although all of the statues were obvious reproductions. The museum was also supposed to house a contemporary arts gallery but on walking around the building we saw that the entrance to this was in dire need of repair, with much of the stone staircase having collapsed. It was quite a shame as the building was huge and really impressive but we could only imagine what artworks it might have concealed.
Once again we went for the set lunch option, this one including a salad and dessert and even cheaper than yesterday!
We were kind of lost for things to do after that, having planned on visiting three museums and having finished them within about an hour! We headed back towards the Plaza de Armes and had a quick walk around the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago. There was a service going on the cathedral and it was quite amusing hearing all the Spanish-language songs being sung.
After that, having wasted another few minutes, we headed to Mercado Central. This was supposed to be a big fish market but it turned out to be a crappy effort at a market although it did contain lots of seafood restaurants with waiters hassling you and shoving menus at you. Today was not turning out so well!
The next attempted stop was a bar called La Piojera where we hoped to try the Chicha (hard apple cider). We were the only gringos in the bar and everyone was looking at us as we ordered. The drink itself was quite a weird flavor, tasting much like many of the strong fruity drinks you consumed as a teenager when trying to get drunk quickly. Elizabeth didn’t care for it at all and so even that stop didn’t last too long!
By this point we were both getting a bit fed up so we headed back to the hostel and I took a nap. The effects of walking around all day in the heat plus a bit of leftover jet-lag had gotten all too much for me!
In the evening we headed back to the Bellavista area and found a nice place called Mosaic Café. We ordered two typically un-Chilean quesadillas and were annoyed we’d arrived about 5 minutes too late to make the most of their happy hour where all food and drink was about half the price. Still, the meal was cheap enough and the food was good. I was annoyed at the end though when the waitress asked for a tip. The guy on our first night had done that and I had assumed he expected it because it was a posh place. This was not so upmarket but I reluctantly gave her a small amount. I don’t like being asked to tip – surely it is meant to be a result of good service? Anyway, the service hadn’t been bad anywhere here and I just suspect I’ve gotten out of the habit of giving tips as we’ve been to so many places where it isn’t expected.
April 8, 2010
Today we took a trip out of the city and headed to the Andes mountain range where we stopped at two villages – Farellones and Valle Nevado. The tour through the city was quite interesting just to get out to the mountains. The city suburbs were where the expensive properties were and the contrast between the inner city and the outer was stark, with BMW and Mercedes dealerships along the road alongside many American and other Western chains. Our guide told us that this was due to the smog in the city. The outer areas on the Eastern side of the city were on the Andes foothills and had much cleaner, clearer air and you could see why people would choose to live here.
As we reached the mountain road we were told we had to go through 40 bends to Farellones and another twenty to reach Valle Nevado. Each one of these bends was a complete hairpin along a narrow, generally windy gravel road with sheer drops on one side of the van. It was quite an experience! Part way up the first section we stopped and saw Andean condors flying and some eagles, too. The condors are really amazing looking as they glide through the air. Close up images aren’t so pretty but thankfully they weren’t that close!
We headed straight up to Valle Nevado first, being the highest point of the mountain we could drive to at 3,025m above sea level. The area was a ski resort and as it was the off season the place was dead except for a load of construction workers repairing the roads, re-decorating the hotel and building another nearby. The views here were pretty good but the one and a half hour stop here was quite excessive! The only thing open here was the expensive restaurant and a shop selling mostly skiing gear. Thankfully we didn’t need either food or skiing equipment and instead found a nice place to sit and enjoy our little picnic lunch!
Our tour only included three people and our tour company had three people along for the ride, too. It seemed weird to have a 1 to 1 ratio on a tour but we only really heard from our main guide, Greta. She was quite chatty on the way up and down and gave us some good history and facts about this region as well as Chile in general.
We then headed down to Farellones, the curves being just as bad going downhill as up. When we got there we found a quaint little village with a couple of restaurants and cafes and some shops that were actually open. As with most tours, of course, we only got 5 minutes here to take pictures. This seemed really stupid and would have been much better to have had less time at the top and more here.
As we continued back into the city we could see the smog that covered the built up areas so even though the tour hadn’t been great it was good to know we’d had some clean air to breathe for a few hours!
Once back at the hostel they were arranging a barbeque for everyone staying there. For just 3000 pesos (about $6) each they were going to buy wine, bread, salad and meat for us. This was a bargain and seeing the large bottles of wine we went through we certainly got our value for money. The chap at the hostel arranging it was a little scatter-brained but he had fun being the host for the evening. It was just a shame his cooking wasn’t up to much, with most of the meat being quite under-cooked! Still, we all told him how great it was and he was proud of himself! The evening was really good fun as we got a chance to chat to some other people at the hostel. Elizabeth and I spent most of the time chatting to Drew and Anna, a couple from Reigate (near where I’m from and where my brother now lives) and Sarah and Bryan, a couple from Shannon in Ireland. It was just so funny sharing so many similar stories from obnoxious, pushy taxi drivers in Asia to the amazing wildlife we’d all seen to the group agreement that Australia is bloody expensive! The wine had come from Concha y Toro, a local vineyard, and it was really drinkable – maybe too much so! The time just flew and before we knew it the clock was showing nearly 2.30am and we thought it was time for bed. We only have one day left in Santiago and whilst we don’t have too much left we want to do, we don’t want to spend it all in bed!
April 9, 2010
After our late night last night, it was difficult for us to drag ourselves out of bed. We didn’t make it down for breakfast so after a quick shower we headed out around the city. Feeling some after effects from the red wine we decided we should get some food and we ended up going to the same place we had visited a couple of days ago for their set menu. It was only just gone midday so the place was empty when we arrived and empty when we left. Usually we’d have avoided such a place but having been there before we knew the food was edible and the portions were value for money.
We spent the next few hours just walking around. We walked all the way through the Parque Forestal again and right up to Baquedano where we crossed the Rio Mapocho into Bellavista. We had been to Bellavista a couple of times for evening meals but had always got the metro right out here and had yet to see it during daylight. There was a small market just over the river which I had noticed a couple of times in the evenings but we had not visited so we took the opportunity to see what they had. There were some quite cool little souvenir type stalls and we ended up buying a couple more souvenirs including a magnet and a little stone moai – the name used by the people of Easter Island for the large statues there, a place we are going to tomorrow!
At the end of the main road was Cerro San Cristobal which is the highest point in the city. Considering the bad smog today we decided not to bother taking the funicular up to the top, preferring instead to walk some of the smaller back streets. We found a small art gallery/shop and decided to have a look around. The guy working there was really friendly and chatty and told us a bit about the art and artists. I particularly liked some of the cityscapes which were hanging behind the counter as well as smaller copies around the shop. It turned out the guy working there had painted them and had originally been inspired by the view he had when he stayed just outside downtown Los Angeles! We eventually found one of them we both liked and at a good price and we decided to buy it. Some of them were quite bright colours and whilst they were still great we wondered where the hell we’d hang something which stood out so much!
Armed with our purchases and our remaining hangovers, we headed back to the hostel. It was quite a walk back and we both felt like we’d done our fair share of exercise around the city during the last few days here. After that we just hung out at the hostel for a while and packed up our bags. We have an early flight tomorrow and were going out for drinks this evening.
On one of the football websites I use, I know a guy called Peter who lives right here in Santiago and by coincidence actually lives very close to where we are staying. After contacting him once we had arrived we arranged to meet for a drink and he took us to his favourite local bar which was just 2 blocks from our hostel. Despite all the walking we had done we hadn’t even been down that street let alone seen that bar. At Peter’s suggestion we tried some of the local beer brewed by Kunstmann. It was not only good to get beer recommendations but great to get some local insight. We hadn’t had long in Santiago this time around but we are thinking of coming back to South America and it certainly gave us some ideas of places to go and see, even within an hour or so of the capital. After a while, Bryan and Sarah from the hostel joined us and we carried on chatting and drinking. Peter unfortunately had to leave us as he was teaching a class tonight but it was great to meet him and I look forward to coming back at some point in the future and meeting up again.
By this time Elizabeth and I were quite hungry so we order a chorrillana. This was recommended by Peter and is described in our guide book as “a heart-choking platter of fries, onions, fried eggs and beef”. After a few more beers than we needed prior to an early morning flight tomorrow the food tasted amazing and we both scoffed the lot between us. I’m glad we’d been warned it was enough to share and only ordered one!
Conscious of our early start we headed back to the hostel around 10pm, grateful we’d packed earlier and had little to do in the morning except wake up and pray the taxi turned up!