Published: August 8th 2007May 21st 2007
Sunset at the top of the mountain
Hola! ¿Cómo está? Dar la bienvenida Chile!
Obviously after two and a half days in Santiago we are now fluent in Spanish, but for those of you that are a bit rusty the translation is 'Hello! How are you? Welcome to Chile!'.
We finally got here after an eleven hour flight in a special time machine that enabled us to land in Santiago four hours before we left Auckland, all very bizarre. Having just had our Saturday afternoon and night we had to go through the whole thing again, which also meant that we had a terrible nights sleep on the 19th May twice over...once on a plane and once in bed with horrendous jet lag which meant we were wide awake at midnight until five am! Anyway that aside, our visit to Chile has been fantasico!
Our accomodation is in the Providencia area of Santiago in a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast called 'Villafranca'. After a month of hostels this place feels like The Ritz. The decor is beautiful and the staff are lovely, especially Mercedes our little housekeeper! Oh, and getting breakfast too.....now that is a luxury we haven't had since we left! So far
View from San Cristobel
got by on cereal bars and a bottle of water, so to have a table full of food layed out in front of us every morning has been bliss!
Our first afternoon here was written off with severe tiredness, so it was on our second day that we started to explore. We headed off to Plaza de Armas, the central square in town. The walk there was long, but very pleasant through some lovely parks. Santiago is a nice mixture of being a big city, but relaxed too, and the parks were full of people just sitting and watching the world go by, or kicking a football around. There also seems to be a huge amount of stray dogs, but they all look healthy and seem friendly enough. Anyway, back to the Plaza de Armas...I think we spent about five minutes there! It was a nice enough square, but that was it. I think we have got to the stage of our trip where only the spectacular interests us. After a stroll around Cerro Santa Lucia, the hill at which Santiago was founded in 1541, we headed towards Bellavista. This is the Bohemian quarter, and is full
Just a sample of artwork on the buildings
of colouful buildings, bars and restaurants. It was here that I started to feel like we were in South America, a feeling compouned when we saw some men with Llamas dressed in hats...thats the Llama's in the hats, not the men!
Bellavista is also the start of the funicular railway up to the top of Cerra San Cristóbal, a large hill which is in fact a spur of the Andes. It is said that from the summit the views of the city are spectacular, but a thick smog envelopes the city, so the view was somewhat diminished! However, the vista was still quite something, as was the sight of the twenty two metre high statue of 'Virgen de la Immaculada' towering into the sky. This was even more special as we were there whilst the sun was setting and the pink skies illuminated the statue and the snow covered Andes behind. Actually this was the first time we had seen the mountains..I had forgotten they were there! On a clear day Santiago has one of the most stunning backdrops of any city in the world, with the Andes in the background and the city sprawling out far below (I
View from St Lucia
Old churches and building covered in the un-relenting Santiago smog!
can say this as I have seen it on the postcards!) However, we have since discovered that the mountains stop the winds from moving the air over the city and thus its covered in smog, and that the worst months for this are.......you've guessed it May to June! So no dazzling Andes for us!
After a ride back down on the funicular we made our first venture into a Chilean restaurant. I was keen to try some of the native food...and we ended up with 'Lomo a lo Pobre'. This is a Chilean speciality, but to those of us back home it is steak with two fried eggs and french fries!! It was delicious though, as was the spicy salsa dip provided (it was at this moment, as our mouths started to burn that we realised we were eating chilli, in Chile, and were actually rather chilly!) l also enjoyed my apperitif, Pisco Sours. This grape brandy is also a national favourite, though not Max's. I quite enjoyed it but he had one taste and the grimace on his face said it all!! A quick tube ride home on the excellent metro system, and it was off to bed.
Plaza del Armas
Contrast between historical and modern
Day three, today, started off with another lovely breakfast courtesy of Mercedes. Fuelled up we got on the metro (by now Max does a very convincing 'dos baleto, por favour!') and went into town again, and back to Plaza de Armas. We were convinced we had missed something here as it is supposed to be one of the best things to see in Santiago, but we were right the first time and headed off after another five minutes! We looked in some shops, and Max tried on a Chile football shirt but concluded that as the men here seem to be short and stocky by nature and he is tall and slim, the chances of finding a good fit were less than zero! After that we stumbled across what seemed to be Chile's version of Rememberence Day, with lots of Soldiers marching and laying wreaths, followed by a gun salute that was possibly the loudest thing I have ever heard. I think they must have practiced it last night as I heard two almighty bangs whilst laying in bed, and convinvced myself a bomb had blown up! It put my mind, if not my ears, at rest to discover
Clare tastes the local delicacy of Mote Con Huesillo (Barley pearls in peach nectar)
the real cause of the blast!
We were running out of things to do, so decided to take the funicular back up to the top of San Cristóbel to have some lunch. Here our 'tastes of Chile' experience continued. We both had an Empanada (stuffed meat and vegetable turnover....or meat pie) and then I decided to try an exotic looking drink called Mote con Huesillo. After seeing many others drinking/eating this interesting looking concoction, and reading the translation in my spanish dictionary as peach nectar with barley kernals, I gave it a whirl....but only after about five minutes of practicing the correct pronounciation. Anyway, I ended up with what I wanted, so I must have been convincing! It was worth the effort. I love trying new things....it is all part of the travelling experience! After this we strolled around Bellavista, taking in all the colours and artwork on the buildings, and set off back home.
So in these few brief days in Chile we have a new vocabulary, and a real feeling of wanting to see more of South America. I feel Santiago is only a tiny glimpse of this. Next stop Cusco, and the Inca Trail....our biggest
challenge yet. We are both excited and a little apprehensive, but hopefully the journey will show us exactly what this ancient civilisation is all about. Not to mention give us some wonderful memories and a real sense of achievement. Peru here we come!!
Hope you are all well, not long till we are back in the UK now. It has gone so fast!
lots of love
Clare (and Max) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx