Week 8: Santiago & Valparaiso, Chile

Trip Start Mar 31, 2014
Trip End Sep 18, 2014

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Flag of Chile  , Valparaiso,
Sunday, May 25, 2014


We arrived in Santiago in the early evening on Monday and had our first taste of the metro system to get to our apartment for the week, and were quite impressed. There seems to be a metro arriving almost straight after the previous one leaves, which was even more frequent to what we encountered in Europe. But then again, there are 7 million people living in this city and later on in the week we would find out (during peak hour) why even that isn't frequent enough.

Our first impressions when we ventured out to discover the city were strongly influenced by how cold it was, with several layers struggling to be enough, but once we got past that we really started to like this city. On our first afternoon, after discovering the seafood and fruit markets, we took the free walking tour of the city, in which we learned some of the history and events that have shaped Santiago and Chile, and took us around a couple of key inner city neighbourhoods. In particular we became fond of Bellavista, which is the 'bohemian' neighbourhood and is filled with restaurants, cafés and bars.

During our time in Santiago we also visited 2 of the key hills of the city, St Lucia Hill and San Cristobal Hill, which both have great lookouts over Santiago, we ate like Chileans by scoffing down a Completo for lunch (a hot dog covered in tomatoes, avocado and mayo) and drank a Mote de Huesillo (peach juice, puffed wheat and a whole dried peach), we went shopping at the only H&M in South America, and visited the Museum of Memory & Human Rights to learn about Chile's dark (and scarily recent) past. The museum is a memorial to a time in Chilean history, where tens of thousands of people, primarily socialists, were either killed, imprisoned or fled the country under the dictatorship of Pinochet between 1973 and 1990.

After Santiago we headed to Valparaiso, a port town, an hour and a half from Santiago. Valparaiso is well known for its colourful houses and windy streets built over numerous hills or 'cerros', as well as being the primary sea port of Chile. We spent 3 days here, wandering the streets and hills, catching the ascensores (elevators) to different parts of town, taking in the (largely) impressively graffitied and beautiful buildings, visiting one of the famous houses of the (mid-twentieth century) Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and eating the much raved about carrot cake and Nutella cheesecake at the #1 trip advisor rated cafe in town!

We also took a bus 15 minutes along the coast to another town, Viña del Mar. We only spent a couple of hours here mainly walking around town and along the coastline, but also saw some of the key tourist hotspots, including the flower clock and one of the statues brought over from Easter Island. Here we were also able to catch a traditional Chilean dance as part of
Patrimonial day.

We finished off our time in Chile last night with a nice dinner and vino at a restaurant overlooking Valparaiso, before today catching the bus to Mendoza in Argentina, a 7 hour bus ride with spectacular scenery and over 20 hairpin turns as it winds its way through the snow-capped Andes Mountains.

Hasta Luego Amigos!

Mitch and Sally
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