I love Santiago

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Jul 06, 2011

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 30 February 3rd - We're in Santiago, firstly, before I continue, I loved this place! Loved it! Not enough is written in the lonely planet about it! And it has nothing to do with coffee with legs PB!!

As ever, we assume we are at a different bus station, but still decide on a taxi. I'm glad we did, it took roughly 25 minutes, and that included the taxi driver deliberately wasting time. Our hostel was number 24 Dominica and he was at 420 Dominica, it's so clear what he needs to do, but he looked at our book and the address for 3/4 minutes. This drives me bonkers! Are we that lucky in the UK for taxi drivers to know their local area? After a few hints, he continued forward, and, oh, there was our hostel!

James and Sarah had booked a private room and also booked based on a recommendation from a guy they met who in La Paz, who I bumped into in the showers later on that day (he told me, without any prompt, dreadlocks and private rooms drive the girls crazy, I guess I've got a while to go before my hair gets that long!) Their room wasn't ready, mine was so quickly drop off bag and downstairs for breakfast. Usual bread roll and a cup of coffee. Hostel was having a BBQ that night and seeing as we weren't meeting the Germans till the next night, we figured a great idea. James picked up a brochure for a FREE TOUR in central Santiago that started at 3pm and finished right near our hostel (we were around a 20 min walk away from the centre) so perfect! James also spots that we are close to the Parque Metropolitano and the 870m statue of Cerro San Cristobal. So with the day set, we headed to the funicular for the steep ride up to the statue and the city skyline view.

Oh boy, it's hot in Santiago, we're talking 34C 92F, James is enjoying having his arms out, Sarah and I are busy jumping under trees and umbrellas! While we stopped and gazed at the city below us, Sarah pointed out a building that looked like a boob, then one of a small penis! I had no input to this game whatsoever!

Ultimately, it is a wonderful treat to see a large city like Santiago (and Quito, New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong etc) from above to really gauge the size and density. Santiago has a plume of dense pollution lining the city skyline and is a city built in a valley with mountains surrounding on all sides. Even though we've all had a rough night sleep, I'm so happy to be out and about as we only have a limited amount of time here.

We walk up a number of steps, pass a small church then begin to get closer to the statue of Cerro San Cristobal, of course they have scaffolding up today, but I manage to grab a decent picture. We must have stood at the top for a while, I was asking James and Sarah about other trips they had been on and in all honesty, it was so good to be outside and not stuck on a bus.

Before we know it, time has flown by, we make our way down the mountain and meet an elderly couple from Ohio, so the discussion is about the Superbowl of course. We get back to the hostel, I've managed to shower, unpack, change and feel settled and poor James and Sarah are still waiting for their room. Turns out it's an Ikea room, fresh new smells as well! I'm more than happy to wait.

Eventually, we head into town, to find somewhere to change dollars, find some lunch, then find a guy in a red tshirt saying FREE TOUR. The walk into town was great, it feels like a European city, so different to everything experienced in Peru, Bolivia and San Pedro de Atacama.

Lunch is a Complito, basically a hot dog covered in salsa, covered in guacamole then a whole tub of mayo sat on a bed of chips. James had double the size of mine and we all had beers to wash it down. The tour was about to start so we had to rush our beers, not a good choice in the heat of Santiago!

We find the tour guide Franco and begin the 4 hour tour around Santiago. The guy was so so friendly, promised he would tell us where to eat, what to eat, where and what to drink, the best nightlife and of course some history about the city. The tour was free, but at the end tips are welcome, he prefers cash but sometimes gets fruit, food, subway passes etc.

We start in the Plaza De Armas and the main cathedral. The city has been rebuilt numerous times due to earthquakes and fighting with a group from the south. We then head to Tribunales de Justica. After this, is when he mentions 'coffee with legs'! OK, if you google coffee with legs, you'll see more of the recent developments about coffee with legs, but the original version is a bit more subtle. About 30 years ago, a coffee shop sprung up with a difference. You were served coffee by a beautiful woman, who would flirt with you for a couple of minutes and it meant all men went on to have a great day at work or whatever they were doing. I think the same should happen in a mens clothes shop, get some pretty girls to walk round, saying, 'hey you look awesome in that' and the tills would be ringing! Anyway, a more recent development of coffee with legs, includes blacked out coffee shops, the ladies are in bikinis serving coffee all day, and every so often, the front door is locked and the magic minute of nakedness happens. The girls put back on their bikinis, open the door and continue serving coffee. A young German girl on our tour asked why there were no such outlets for women. Franco laughed, pointed out some ugly dude nearby and said, because the men here are ugly, the women are beautiful but the men ugly! It was a fair point.

We then headed to the Plaza de la Constitucion and Franco went over the history of the recent governments, problems with the USA and of course the Pinochet period. Franco talked about periods of time when he was younger where there would be a tank on every corner in the city centre. Just crazy! We then moved over to the largest flag I've ever seen on a pole, it was the size of 1/4 of a football pitch  and we also passed the Placio de la Moneda. and then walked around the Santiago's version of Wall st.

It was around this time that Franco introduced us to a local drink. Wheat with a peach and peach juice. Ahem, not what I would call a drink, but we would sample it the next day! And of course, the Nuts 4 Nuts stalls. Young lad left Santiago for NYC, sold loads of nuts and came back to Santiago, and they are literally everywhere!! Franco then showed us a theatre that had some damage left from the most recent earthquake. Franco says that people are so used to earthquakes that it doesn't bother them, where someone like his mum even after her lifetime in Santiago, still isn't used to them. Largest on record was 9.3.

We stopped off during the tour for a drink and got chatting to Franco. He's does this job part time, normally the morning session as he plays in a band. Sadly, his band disappears during February, as one member has a couple of kids, but an excuse to come back and see him play for sure! We were in the Barrio Lastaria and bumped into Iris and Jenny. Both looked fresh, awake and in tiny little dresses (they had been moaning about not being able to wear half of the stuff they brought but I guess Peru and Bolivia are not those places for dresses!)

Tour continued on to Parque Forestal, Franco points out the best place for ice cream (and we never went!! We considered it but in some respects, it was too hot for ice-cream, somehow I doubt that makes sense) and pointed out a statue gifted by Germany after Chile had Independence for one hundred years. The two hundred anniversary has gone by, but no subsequent gift so far??

Franco said at the beginning of the tour, the best place for street food was the University, those students demand decent food to feed their brain. As we passed the University, Franco pointed out the tasty As for sale. Sliced up fried beef in a hot dog roll, with salsa, smooth smooth guacamole and some mustard or mayo on top!

We continued around Barrio Bellavista, Franco showed us local places to go out in the evening, a club hidden behind two grey garage doors that is free before 1230am, an Irish bar where we could watch England v Wales in the rugby (I popped in to confirm they could) and we ended at the house of the 1971 Noble Prize for literature winner Pablo Neruda. His house is now a museum, he travelled the world, mainly wrote poetry and had a habit of collecting things, and anything in particular, cigarette buds, trash, all sorts, and hung them all in his house. His house also had a boat theme to it.

Thanked Franco for his excellent tour and when it is done like this, by a young lad walking you around a city, you get such a better understanding and feel for the place. Already, I'm loving Santiago!

Headed back to Hostel for the BBQ. I was a little unwell, probably the spaghetti from the other day, but waited patiently for some food to come off the BBQ. After a couple of hours it finally did and the chicken only came off the BBQ at 1145pm, man!! During this time, met a couple of young girls from Australia, one who assumes a Visa for Brazil will take 30 minutes, not the ten days the book advises, a couple of lads from Australia, one on his first ever trip abroad and met one of the other girls on the plane over, they seemed very keen on following their route! There was also a British guy, a lad from Sweden who risked sushi, lady from Germany and an old guy from UK. Man I was fading, I had a good relaxing night, but the lack of sleep from the previous night made my eyes very heavy. I think we finally called it a night before 1am and I slept like a log in my dorm, of course, with it being a dorm I didn't get undressed or get under the sheets, well it was warm anyway!

Miles walked 3.52
Temp 34C 92F

Day 31 February 4th - Can't remember waking up. No idea about the morning but we headed out for the ongoing bus ticket to Mendoza. We walked to a local subway, and it was only 9 stops to our bus station. I love riding local transport anyway, and James is putting together a video of all the transport he has taken during his trip. Took only 5 mins to grab our ticket to Mendoza, seeing as we were going for a heavy night, we went for a mid afternoon bus journey into Argentina.

We caught subway back near the city, and I wanted to have a 'coffee with legs' so we headed to Cafe Haiti as recommended by Franco the day before.
My poor brother Pete will be disappointed, we have a saying in the UK, 'Body like Baywatch, face like Crimewatch' well that was the experience, zero flirting and just a couple of half smiles. I'm sure with a better handling of Spanish and maybe looking smarter, I'd have had a better experience. Sarah and James joined me but were also unimpressed, we drank up and left.

James and Sarah wanted to change more money and on the way picked up a peach drink each!! It was not good, neither finished the drink, I had a tiny little taste but it really wasn't for me. It was dead cheap though! After finding a watch for James, we were getting hungry and wanted some As. On the way we spotted a blacked out windowed cafe, the door opened and sure enough a girl stood there in a tiny bikini, we all smiled and walked on. Sarah offered for her and James (no coffee with legs pass) to meet me later, but I was hungry and needed some different kind of As.

We found the vendor, posing in the shot below and grabbed an As each! As-As-As!

It was so so tasty. The guacamole delicious, the meat perfect, man I could have had a couple.

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to watching England beat Wales in the 6 Nations, where while I was looking for an ATM Sarah and James met Chris and Adam, two very very cool guys from Australia. The German girls were supposed to be organising a night out in Santiago, but we hadn't heard a peep from them, so we decided to sort out our own night out and if they contact us, then fine, problem was my cell phone was down to one battery bar.

Franco had recommended a restaurant in Bellavista for the amount of meat served, so James and I were happy to head there for dinner. The place was packed, but the guy who waited on us, pulled a table for two, that was empty, out of the packed restaurant, put it outside on the corner of the street and we were sat. James and I shared a meat feast of beef steak, two pork steaks, chicken steak, spicy sausages, two blood sausages, potatoes and salad, as well as the tasty bread and dip you always receive before a meal in Chile. I skipped the bread, I knew what was coming, a massive meal followed by a lot of alcohol equals a ginger man asleep in the toilets!! We also had a tasty bottle of red wine with our meal. I took my time, which is hard for me, but I ate so so slowly, enjoyed the ambiance of the night and the fantastic company. When we finally finished the meal James was nearly asleep. We offered for Chris to come join us, his friend Adam was very ill but he brought along a very cool Asian looking Australian girl called Mai. We chatted for an hour, another lad from the USA who I was talking to came by but met another girl from Oz to have dinner with so I told him where we would be ending up, still no word from the Germans and James was beginning to come around. It was about 1130 pm when we entered this club with no name. There were still tables out so we sat and ordered some drinks. Chris ordered a long island ice tea without mixers, which was basically 5 doubles in one glass, it turned my face a funny shape! I happened to order a tasty Margarita which came out in a girly glass, great! It didn't help that I ordered 3 more after!

My phone was dead, we assumed the Germans had blown us off, but me being me, I would feel bad if they had tried to call, so Mai let me put my SIM card in her phone. Sarah asked Mai a great question, so how long have you been travelling for? Most people say a few months, a few weeks etc, Mai, she has been on the go for 6 years! Most of the time working somewhere, but she hasn't been back to Australia in 6 years, crazy! And would you know it, the phone goes off, it's Jenny asking where I was. Seeing as the club had no name, I try to get the bouncer to chat to Jenny, but he's useless, I then leave the club to find out the street name, it's at times like these when I need my glasses, saving me having to walk all the way up the street to read the street sign. OK, they know where we are, and now the doors are closing on the club, but the useless bouncer recognises me and lets me slip back in. I was excited that they were coming out and I hadn't missed their call.

When they arrived, we all caught up, Iris showed me that they had been to South Americas largest Winery, they had been shopping etc etc, Jenny then tells me about her crazy boyfriend wanting to kick my butt.

Tables were taken away, and in this club, you have to queue at the front to purchase a drink, then move to the bar to hand over a coupon to get your drink, a stupid system, and when it starts, everyone is at the front lining up! It's another time when I'm glad I have only a limited amount of cash as the drinks were going down quickly, the music was very cool, except for a couple of tracks mixed badly, and it was so cool , well for me, to know that I was clubbing in Santiago.

The night went on passed 4am, the Germans decided not to come to Mendoza, so I managed to say goodbye to them, in a drunk state, and slept like a baby.

Miles walked 2.36
Temp 34C 92F

Day 32 February 5th - I woke early, a little drunk still and wandered off into Santiago in search of some coffee with legs, I couldn't go all that way and not go. I went to the place we had seen, closed, I went to another place, closed! I ended up sitting on a bus stop, resting against the timetable hoping one would open. It never did, Santiago was dead on a Saturday. So, PB, you'll just have to convince KB for a little trip to Santiago.

The walk into the city was really refreshing, I walked through a park of sprinklers, saw people walking their dogs, the ice cream place was open but I still had alcohol in my system still. I wandered on back to the Hostel, grabbed a coffee and laid down for a bit.

I feel like that Smirnoff advert, when they guy asks 'were you there when 4 DJs rocked Santiago' - well actually I was!

Morning flew by, we had a trip out to find an ATM, grabbed a juice and it was then a taxi to the bus station for our bus to Mendoza. We are all feeling worse for wear.

Bus was comfy, stunning views as we headed through the mountains to reach the Argentinian border.

This ends my short time in Chile. The flag, red stands for blood, white for snow, blue the sky and the star, one independent state. I know I'll be back someday, the hostel we were at, most of the staff worked there for a free hostel bed. It's an awesome place to meet people, go out safely in a safe area, so much to see and the weather is super hot. If you haven't been you should go, seeing as Mendoza and Patagonia are so close by also. Chile, friendly people, beautiful women, tasty food, great weather, what more could be better!!

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Pete on

I have concerns about your chicken steak...was it produced when a chicken got in on with a cow?!?

Dave on

Coffee with legs... do they do tea with arms? No pictures of you busting some moves in the club?

Loren on

How come no pictures of 'Coffee with Legs'?
I know a perfect job for you when you get back. Writer for National Geographic!
Here's a tip from the camera pros (not me). When taking pictures through windows of buses, put your camera on the scenery setting. It does work. Also in dark places try using your night setting and/or increase the iso setting to a higher number.
I really appreciate all of your blogs, just like reading National Geographic!
Do the locals let you take pictures of them ?

Abi Gorringe on

I know I'm a little behind ... just catching up on your blog. Loving the coffee with legs efforts. Maybe it's somewhere to take little E in seventeen and a half years, when he becomes a man of the world?!

Bev Nelson on

Got behind reading your blogs Ant but I'm enjoying them immensely.Barrie's niece is married to a fellow from Chile.I'll have to tell him how impressed you were with his country.Love your descriptions of your pals you've met.

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