Onto the big smoke of Santiago

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December 18th 2011
Published: December 18th 2011
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Valpo to Santiago

Day 64 –Wednesday 14th December

Today it was another long walk but this time going uphill to Plaza San Luis with its concentric rings of cobble stones and then continuing up Avenida Alemania which has great glimpse of the city below. The day was overcast but still this is such a great area to walk around it did not matter and the colourful buildings brightened up the view. We walked past the Cielo Abierto (open skies) Museum of Art which consists of street murals painted on the side of houses, to us the more interesting murals are outside this area and on the walk up. From here we started down unfortunately Espiritu Santo Ascensor was closed for repairs so we did not get to ride in this one, but it was only a short walk down to the El Plan area.

Here we peered into the old Menzel Restaurant to see the wood panelling and the private booths for secret liaisons but did not stop for lunch because everyone knows we are together. We had to walk back to the other side to banking area to find the post office which we eventually found so we could send our Christmas Cards (no guarantee that anyone will get them). After a quick stop at the bank it was now about 4.00pm we decided to head back to the hostel for a rest before getting ready for dinner.

For dinner we wandered down the road to the café we were at last night and had yet another great cheap feed. Tonight was our last night in “Valpo” and it is kind of sad to be leaving such a great city. This place has a certain edginess to it being a port city, but is starting to develop into a serious tourist town. All this combined with quirky transport options, interesting history, and the scenic hills it is built around makes this a great place. Of all the towns we have visited so far, Valpo is the one we could be tempted to settle in for a while, although a quick look at the real estate prices showed that it was almost as expensive as Sydney. So you Mums don’t need to panic just yet.

Day 65 –Thursday 15th December

At breakfast this morning we meet a lovely older couple from Paris who had an amazing outlook on life and living it to the fullest and do everything now while you can, which is exactly what Scott and I think. We had arranged with Ed (the owner of the Hostel) for a taxi at 11.30am to the bus terminus, so we had time to pack and say goodbye to Valpo.

We had not booked tickets to Santiago so we turned up and went to the ticket counter where we were told to run and jump on the bus straight ahead as the bus was about to reverse out. Stopped the bus and got our backpacks into the luggage department and jumped onto the bus, not sure how much the tickets will cost. The bus assistant (note the word conductor here means driver) walked through and we brought our tickets for our 2 hour journey.

During the taxi ride to our apartment in the centre of Santiago I noted that the women here appeared to be more stylish that Buenos Aires, which we had heard was the opposite. The city is huge with shops everywhere and people rushing around, I guess the Christmas shopping madness has hit now. We arrived at our apartment that we had booked to a hiccup, the man at reception would not help us and told us to ring a number, we said we had no phone and he shrugged and pointed down the road. So I stayed with the bags and Scott headed out in search of a phone, with both of us not very happy. When Scott returned he said that the person on that number rattled something very quickly in Spanish and hung up, so we were none the wiser. The booking info had said that check in was between 3.00 – 9.00pm and as it was only 2.30 we decided to wait hoping someone would turn up and rescue us. At about 3.15pm we were just about to try once again talk with the guy at reception when the cleaner came up to us and asked us to follow her. Finally we are in our apartment and we then got a phone call from the lady who organises the bookings for the apartments and she apologised for the mix up and described the man at reception “as not a good man” so everything appeared to be sorted. Later in the evening we received an email from booking.com to say we were being hit with a cancellation fee as we had not turned up, which is very strange because here we are sitting in the apartment. After an email to the management of the apartments this was also sorted out, the apartment is great but the organisation of them is very adhoc.

In the late afternoon we went for a long walk around the plaza and got an idea of the location we are in which is perfect, everything is within walking distance and if not the metro line is just up the road. About 8.00pm we left for dinner to an area we had seen earlier that had a cluster of restaurants and chose one, the meal was good but the menu was limited so probably try somewhere different tomorrow.

Day 66 –Friday 16th December

We have a kitchenette is the apartment so we cooked up scrambled eggs for breakfast before going back to the bus terminus to buy tickets to Mendoza in Argentina for Tuesday. To get out to the bus terminal we could either get a cab, bus or the local Metro line. We chose the metro and it was a quick easy option, once we worked out how to buy the tickets. Like Buenos Aires you just buy a ticket and that allows you a ride anywhere within the metro area till you choose to jump off. The cost of a ticket was 680 pesos ($1.30) so it is a bargain. The trains run about 3 minutes apart and although they have a few seats most people have to stand. Being a weekday the train was packed but we managed to squeeze on for the 8 station ride out to the bus terminal. We discovered that there are two terminuses and we needed the other one across the road where we managed to pick up our tickets out of town for Tuesday morning. So with that sorted we jumped back on the metro to the centre.

We then went for a long walk out to some of the other inner suburbs of Santiago including Bellavista. The Bellavista area is near the University De Chile so there are lots of cheap restaurants and bars and a swanky plaza similar to Norton Street with overpriced cafés and souvenir shops, it is a huge contrast. We stopped at one of the cheap bars for a beer and some empanadas and watch the crowds go past. To get back to our apartment we crossed the Rio Mapocho or as I like to call it “Willy Wonka’s River”, it is a lovely chocolate colour and appears to have the same consistency; thank goodness it did not smell although I am sure it does at times. No wonder the guide books do not mention the river as a tourist attraction. The city has a great vibe and really pumps of a night with the bars and clubs opened till the small hours, but it is not a pretty city the buildings are mainly ugly apartments with the beautiful older buildings overshadowed and hidden.

For dinner we went to a place around the corner which is very cheap which means bland and stodgy. Scott got a common dish here in Chile which consists of chips, fried beef, chorizo (not spicy really just a chopped up hot dog) and a fried egg everyone seems to eat it. I had a bland fajita which was chicken and salad wrap with tasteless sauce, I wish they would learn about spices, but it was cheap so I should not complain.

Day 67 –Saturday 17th December

Today was market day so we got the metro to Franklin and there in front of us was a huge market unfortunately we had read it was a second hand and antique market, but it really was just a Paddy’s Market. I had images of a trash and treasure set up with people flogging their belongings but instead it was professional stall holders selling all manner of crap. This was like Paddy’s markets on steroids, with two huge warehouses full of furniture sellers, where the smell of furniture polish almost made us pass out. The rest of the stuff was shoes, clothes, toys, phones and all manner of plastic crap, lined up and down streets and through warehouses and shops, it just seemed to go on forever. We wandered around for more than 2 hours it was so huge and covered a few city blocks, there was nothing there we wanted to buy but it was an interesting experience. We got the metro back and decided to go to the museum Museo Historico Nacional in the Plaza de Armas, but it had been fenced off as there was an opera being performed there that night. We walked around and looked through the shops.

Later we went looking for somewhere different for dinner and went towards the Plaza area thinking things maybe more exciting in that direction. As we were walking down one of the side streets I noticed a group of women in front of me laughing all with very revealing clothing, Scott pointed out the small doorways leading into darkened rooms. The penny dropped in front of me was a smorgasbord of ladies of the night every shape and size you could imagine; a type for everyone. The only thing we didn’t see was a nun with a Shetland pony, but I am sure if you had the money you would get it. I suspect they were laughing because they knew we had walked into the wrong street and were looking around naively. We decided this was not the smorgasbord we were looking for so turned the other direction and towards Bellas Artes where there are lots of restaurants and got blue cheese hamburgers and a bottle of wine. On the way home around midnight we stopped for a coffee and cake, which we are discovering isn’t the done thing. From what we have seen most people tend to have coffee and cake prior to going out for dinner, and we were lucky to find a proper café open as most close early.

Day 68 –Sunday 18th December

Slept in till 9.00am and slowly got up as it is Sunday and there is no urgency since nothing will be open. Our first destination today was Cerro Santa Lucia, which is a high rocky outcrop in the centre of Santiago that the city mayor back in the 19th century transformed into a beautifully landscaped park. The park is covered in stairways, paths and fountains, all of which are over a 100 years old. Unfortunately time hasn’t been kind to the park and maintenance appears to be non-existent so the steep steps were a bit of a challenge but was well worth the effort. The elaborate fountain to Neptune near the entrance was spectacular and the views over the city at the peak were fantastic. Today the smog in the city was a little better so for the first time we could make out the huge Andes Mountains that tower over the city in the east. I had read that you could see the mountains from Santiago but to this point hadn’t been able to see them, and they are actually really close with the outskirts of the town hitting the slopes. The problem with Santiago is that it is in fact ringed by mountains so that if there is no wind the smoke just settles in and doesn’t move.

Today was perhaps the hottest day we have hit so far on the trip and it would have to be at least 30 -32 degrees so from this peak we headed down again and back onto the streets and went in search of some ice cream for lunch. Shared a small bucket of chocolate ice cream before we moved onto the town’s art gallery. The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is located in a huge neoclassical building that was constructed in 1910. The huge glass dome that spans over the inner courtyard was magnificent and it was worth going just to see that. Because it is Sunday the museum is free and we had expected it to be packed but there wasn’t too many people and it was easy to wander around the exhibits. There was a wide range of different artwork on display so it was easy to spend a few hours wandering around enjoying what Chile artists had to offer. We did both however enjoy the exhibit of the Hungarian photographer Andre Kertesz the most.

Just as we were about to post this blog the buildings fire alarm went off and we had to grab our pouches containing our money and passports and the laptop and go down 16 flights of stairs. It was strange as initially we were the only ones walking down, then 2 more tourists joined us about the 8th floor and in the foyer a family emerged and a few other people. There are 23 floors of units where is everyone? At reception there was no urgency and eventually the alarm was turned off without the fire brigade turning up and checking everything was safe to return to the rooms. Not feeling great about the safety, reception indicated it was someone smoking I hope that is right. We are now back in our room and about to send this blog.

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21st January 2012

I like it!
Valparaiso is just gorgeous. Santiago looks interesting. Looking good you too. Was'nt it Gustav that fell in the chocolate river in Willy Wonka?

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