A Chile reception

Trip Start Sep 22, 2012
Trip End Oct 21, 2012

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 1

Welcome to our first ever blog of South America, as we travel through Chile, Argentina and Peru, then continuing onto the USA before heading home.

We woke bright and early today at 6am before heading off to catch our train. Ted had previously suggested taking a taxi, but since I view Bernie Madoff, Adolf Hitler and Sydney airport taxi drivers as being in the same category, I suggested Sydney's excellent public transportation instead. Not a difficult task as Ted dropped me and the bags off at the station first, then walked there after.

The best thing about today is that we wisely bought confirmed airline tickets in Premium Economy, as opposed to the nail-biting, grey hair causing stress of staff travel. As it turned out, the flight was full anyway. We haven't bought confirmed airline tickets since 2003, and we forgot how wonderful (albeit expensive) it is!

In true Qantas fashion, we were delayed an hour before we'd even left - it was just like being back at work again! Fortunately there was a massage chair near the boarding gate which we utilised before boarding. Premium Economy ended up being quite good - similar to business class but with less snobby attitude. Although I did spot Ted giving a few evil glances to the Economy passengers who walked through the separation curtain to use our Premium Toilet. We even had an indigineous Chilean on board, complete with traditional dress. But unfortunately, just like that time I was sitting at the traffic lights next to a car driven by Ronald McDonald, I couldn't get my camera out fast enough to capture the moment. After 2 meal services, 3 crying babies and 23 episodes of "Modern Family", we were in Chile.

With all the flights I've done, the view from the aeroplane window as we flew into Santiago was definitely one of the best. Seeing the backdrop of the snow-capped Andes mountains framing the city was spectacular. It was certainly chilly in Chile too! Our excitement of arriving was dashed slightly when we discovered that, as Australian citizens, we had to pay an $85 entry fee. Talk about a cover charge! The baggage handlers must have been having a siesta, since the bags came out an hour late. We then found our transfer driver and left for our apartment.

Santiago is really different from what we were expecting - almost like a cross between Lisbon, Ulaanbaatar and Helsinki. We expected a congested, high-rise, busy metropolis but instead we have a relaxed and friendly town. Our apartment is a Dutch owned, chic apartment near the bohemian neighborhood Bellavista. The owner is very pleasant, but we were too polite to tell him we desperately needed a sleep as supposed to a one hour talk! After a nap, we headed towards Plaza de Armas (so we thought) to do a sightseeing tour.

This didn't go straight to plan as we walked out the door and Ted asked if I knew where I was going. This continued about five more times despite reassurances that I did. Then he asked me again. Then he asked if I was being secretive. Then I gave him the evil eye and all was well again. We got to Plaza de Armas just in time for our free tour.

Chile was chilly no more, as my unwise decision to wear sexy, skinny jeans made me nearly pass out from the daytime sun. We walked around Plaza de Armas and learnt about the Spanish conquest of the Chilean lands. We also visited the Palacio de Moneda and heard about the regime of Augusto Pinochet and the "disappeared". Certainly a turbulent history in Chile's past.

Unfortunately Ted and I were struggling to stay alert so we departed the tour at Barrio Lastarria and headed towards Barrio Bellavista for some dinner. We forgot that most nationalities in the world don't eat at 5pm like we do, so we opted for a restaurant that was still serving late lunch. Despite several months of learning Spanish, I still wimped out and opted for hand gestures, grunts and charades when asking for something on the menu. We love this neighbourhood - really classy and lively. We wanted to go up nearby Cerro San Cristobal but unluckily the funicular is being repaired, so instead we headed to a local supermarket to get some supplies before returning to our hotel.

Tomorrow we are heading out to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar on the coast which will definitely be shorts weather! We are going to try and stay up late to counteract jet lag but we aren't sure if we'll be successful. Only one day so far in Chile, and we like what we see.

Day 2

As predicted by Ted and myself, we were wide awake at 4am, thanks to the joy of jet lag. Rather than lying around complaining about it, we thought it would be a good idea to get dressed and watch the sunrise from the top of Cerro San Cristobal. All the Chilean partygoers were still in full force, as were a lot of street dogs wandering around. Unfortunately when we got there, the road leading up was closed! I asked a nearby policeman who advised it didn't open until 10am. Bugger!

We came back to the apartment where we were able to, fortunately, fall back asleep before being picked up for our tour to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. Our driver Freddie is very nice although, come to think about it, everyone we've met in Chile has been. Yesterday we wore jeans and it was hot. Today we wore shorts and it was cold. So unfortunately our trip to the seaside was not as balmy as hoped.

We first went to a roadside restaurant called Los Hornitos de Curacavi to try empanadas, one of the local dishes in Chile. The ovens used there are about 400 years old, so I hope they've been cleaned at least once in that time! They also gave us a fermented Andean drink called Chicha. We love trying the local delicacies! The countryside is very green and Chile produces a lot of resources such as copper, fruits and wine. Freddy told us about the number of earthquakes (yikes!) that Chile gets, although judging on history they seem to get a big one every 25 years, meaning one shouldn't come until 2035. Hmmm...I like it when the earth moves, but not like that.

When we arrived in Valparaiso, I really wasn't that impressed. Valparaiso is a seaside town that was the main entry point for South America before the Panama Canal was built. To me, it seemed run-down, grubby and uninteresting. And a lot of graffiti! Unfortunately, the history was a lot more interesting than the town itself. We then went to Vina del Mar which was a lot nicer, and geared more towards tourists. Even though the weather was dull, it was easy to see why people would be attracted to the area as the city was a lot cleaner. Apparently the population can swell to over two million people during summer (it's usually 290,000).

For lunch, we were taken to a seaside restaurant which, co-incidentally, seemed to attract all the tour groups, under the guiding hand of their tour guide. (cough, cough commission). I tried the local conger-eel fish which was very tasty, and did not comprise of eel. After visiting a local lookout, we headed back to Santiago to beat the traffic.

The drive back is about 120kms, but fortunately so is the speed limit, so it really breezed by. One thing I really liked were the toll booths, which have a whole lot of locals selling food and drink, meaning you can beep your horn and buy a Coke, a sandwich and a beaded necklace, whilst paying your toll. How resourceful! I doubt it would work in the Western world though, as they'd probably put a drive-thru McDonald's window there instead.

When we arrived back at the apartment I fell straight asleep and fortunately, Ted woke me up for dinner or I probably would've wrecked my body clock again. We walked up to Bellavista for dinner and saw a sushi restaurant and thought it would be a great idea for dinner. Wrong. Just like its coffee, Chile is not well versed in the art of sushi. It was still fun trying to order the food since the waitstaff couldn't speak a stitch of English, and my Spanish is so limited. Vineyards tomorrow!

Day 3

Today was a lot more fun than yesterday as we visited the local vineyards. Unlike any other vineyards we've been too, these were located in the outer suburbs of Santiago, as opposed to a fair distance out of town.

This morning, Ted decided to try his hand at grocery shopping as opposed to taking me, the mediocre Spanish speaker, with him. He managed pretty well, although he did stump the butcher when he asked for minced meat. We met the owner of the apartments Tatiana today, who is part Dutch, part Chilean and all excitement. Her friend even kissed me when she met me so all this frequent South American kissing is something we'll have to get used to. When Freddie arrived we headed straight out to the vineyards.

Apparently the Chilean vineyards were very amateurish in past years, before they invested in guidance from the French (just like the Rainbow Warrior did, I suppose). Of course they are now among the best in the wine industry. We first went to a vineyard named Cousino Macul, a family owned vineyard that has been operating since 1856. Our guide Fernando took us around the cellars (bring a jumper) where we learnt about the process involved with wine making. When we were looking at the stainless steel vats, Fernando suggested I put my head inside one to see what the inside was like. I had a bit of a flashback to the "Hansel and Gretel" story before realising he just wanted to show off the inside technology. Phew!

The wine tasting was a surprise - the tasting samples were almost half a glass each. And they didn't have those wine waste carafes on the table, forcing you to drink it all. Best of all, the standard wines average around $5 a bottle, whilst the Premiums are around $15. These factors prompted Ted to buy three and I didn't argue.

For lunch, we went to the excellent country restaurant La Vaquita Echa, which had the best food we've eaten in Chile. Unfortunately it still had the worst coffee. We were also befriended by the dog who always looked hungry forcing us to give him samples of our food. From there we went to Concha y Toro vineyard which was a bit more production line than Cousino Macul. It had beautiful gardens and an amazing building though. Their most famous wine is "Casillero del diablo" which translates as "The devil's cellar". Eeek.

The tour was similar to the last one except for one weird twist. At the end of the tour, we were lead down into the cellar supposedly belonging to el diablo, where they closed the doors, turned off the lights, and we heard the voice of the "devil" himself telling the history of the wine. Uh-huh. It was like being in demonic Disneyland! Then conveniently, the tour ended right in the gift shop.

After returning to our apartment, Ted cooked Chilean spaghetti bolognaise and we discussed what a great time that has been had in Chile. We've only been here for two and a half days and I still feel like we've just scratched the surface of La Roja.
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Gudron on

Heeeeey guys, so weird, feels like you only left yesterday and then after reading all of this it looks as if you have been there for ages!! Happy to see/ read you're doing great and keep us up to date here! Have a great time and don't forget to relax in between all the adventures (and writing of blogs) x

Lisa G on

Hi guys,
I love reading your blogs. It always feels like we are there with you.
Sounds like you have fitted in very well with the Chilean way of life.
Have a great time and I can;t wait to read the next installment.

Kylie Waz on

Love this Andrew!!

I'm stinging to get there! your blog post made me laugh out loud. You are really great at blogging. Looking forward to the next installment.

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