Published: July 29th 2010June 13th 2010
Plaza de Armas
We arrived in Santiago after an hour and a half bus ride and took our first South American metro to the stop nearest to the hostel. It was then a bit of a walk along pleasant, tree-lined streets, through the Barrio Brazil, with our bags weighing us down. Our hostel, Casa Roja, is set in an amazing building, an old mansion with high, high ceilings and beautiful, intricate details on the interior walls. There’s also a pool (too chilly to appreciate unfortunately), loads of communal areas to chill in, a bar with a big screen to watch the World Cup on and even a cricket net (well, it is run by an Aussie!). It was the first “proper” hostel we’d really stayed in and it felt strange to be back in reality/civilisation. We dumped our stuff in the dorm room, watched a bit of footie and then headed out to find out about bus tickets to Mendoza. And they were surprisingly cheap! The bus terminal is near the market area which we wandered around a bit before hunger struck and so Ian devoured what he called the best Big Mac ever.
We then headed for the centre on the metro
and walked through the ubiquitous Plaza De Armas and past the cathedral, where Lisa dropped her super-expensive and gorgeous new camera! (Not her fault though as the camera strap came apart). Luckily, it seemed to be working OK so panic over. We saw the Basilica de Merced, outside which we randomly met an English dude (Paul?) we’d spent the last night of the Salar de Uyuni tour with, the Parque Forestal which had a very Parisian-esque promenade and the Museo de Bellas Artes, a hippy hangout where artistes of all kinds were doing their thing with police on horseback watching the goings-on. We then crossed the river (actually tiny dribble might be more appropriate) and Lisa nearly got run over by a crazy Chilean at a crossroads. Apart from the dangerous driving, the Barrio Bellavista was lovely, the place to come for nightlife and restaurants, with cool courtyards hidden off the main street and lots of funky shops. We walked up to the bottom of Cerro San Cristobal and then went for a pizza on Plaza Italia. Had to be a good place for pizza no? Then a hop on the metro home and some chill time. While we were
Basilica de Merced
checking the Internet, we got chatting to Gill and Dan, a couple from up north (Liverpool and Manchester respectively), who were some of the first people we’d met on this trip who were our age, more or less. They were on a world tour, having jacked in boring jobs at TJ Hughes back in England, and had just arrived from Australia. We got talking, about our experiences and life and so on and ended up getting pretty drunk while putting the world to rights.
After the unexpected piss-up the night before, we got up late and packed up our things, only to be told at reception that the buses to Mendoza weren’t running as they couldn’t make it over the pass due to snow. But we went to the terminal anyway, hoping that perhaps the weaher had improved since the early morning bus had tried to cross. Of course, it hadn’t, so we changed our tickets for the following day and prayed to the rain gods. So it was back to the hostel for us, for a quick skype session, a shower and the end of the footie. Missing the bus was actually not the worst thing in the
Outside the Museo de Bellas Artes with folks juggling, singing, dancing, skateboarding and all sorts
world as it meant we could see more of Santiago - it was only the purse strings it was hurting.
We found a great place for lunch, right opposite the hostel, called La Castellana, where you can have a huge, yummy lunch for less than £3, which included a salad, soup, bread, main course and a drink, known as a colacion. An amazing deal! Then we got back on the metro to Cerro Santa Lucia, where some theatre guys scrounging for money spied us and managed to get a peso or 2 out of us for their theatre company. Easy gringo targets me thinks. We walked up the Cerro to get great views over the city, with a moody skyline and mountains all around. It was a real lovers retreat with couples smooching in dark corners and cuddled up on benches. Then we moseyed on down to the Paris-Londres area, where the cobbled streets really make you feel like you’re back in Europe, and saw the Iglesia San Francisco. We bought some delicious cookies and as we were munching them we saw something that made the phrase ”the blind leading the blind” a reality, as we watched a blind
Open air gig outside the rubble of the Mueso
guy guiding a blind girl down the street. Our walk ended up turning into a bit of a street food tour as, after the cookies, we chowed down on some fried pastries (which I never did find out the name for) - we tried a plain one and a sausage one and it was pure deep fried goodness! The city had a good vibe and it was nice to just stroll around discovering new sights. We went in search of Traitors Corner, a restaurant/bar popular in the days of the Pinochet rebellion, where secret meetings took place to discuss overthrowing the dictator. You could only enter the place if you knew the correct answer to the question asked at the door, a secret password as such. And apparently, the same question and password are still used there today. Or they were at least, because the location of the bar is now a building site! We couldn’t believe it wasn’t there as we were looking forward to taking part in the tradition. So, a little down-hearted, we carried on to the Iglesia y Convento de la Recoleta Dominica and then walked through a park with huge rocks placed around it as
works of art, past the telecoms tower and witnessed lots of building work going on - property is booming in Santiago apparently. We crossed the business district during rush hour and saw crazy, block-long queues of people waiting for buses and taxis, before getting back to the hostel and dining on empanadas and juice.
Up again the next day and to the terminal, but not before another amazing lunch at La Castellana. We were happy to find out the bus was going and slept until we reached the mountain pass, where we drove through beautiful, snowy mountains and around the windiest road in the world with 31 bends in total (no wonder the road is closed for much of the winter - it really could get sketchy up there). We then spent an hour at border control, which was a much more civilised and quick affair than our previous experiences. They even had machines to check the bags! It was bloody cold though but we had a friendly bus guy to entertain us.
Argentina here we come!! :)
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