Superb Santiago

Trip Start Mar 17, 2008
Trip End Jun 08, 2008

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008, Santiago, the second time round......what a difference. Firstly our accommodation was a million times better. Due to me still being under the weather, poor old Richard had to carry most of the luggage - ie two very heavy rucksacks. Instead of going for the easy option - a cab - we decided to brave the metro system again. Whilst itīs pretty safe, there are quite a few steps to negotiate and carrying approximately 35 kilos, itīs no mean feat. At one point I started to get a bit worried as I saw various veins starting to pop out of Richardīs arms, head and any other body part on view. Despite my many attempts, Richard would not let me carry my rucksack for fear of me going back downhill and we struggled on to the hostal where there were yet more stairs, where he finally put the rucksacks down and the veins went back in.....!!

I omitted to say that when we came out of the metro, we were greeted by hoards of policemen in riot gear. Trying to keep a stiff upperlip and not be fazed by this, we tried to walk confidently along the street and not look too nervous. I forced Richard to take a quick break from heavy weight of the rucksacks at which point a local asked us if we were English. We replied "yes", although in fairness it was probably pretty obvious. He told us that there was a big grudge derby footie match (Colo Colo vs Estudiantes de Chile - the country`s premier sides) about to start and that we would be advised to get away from the metro station area as soon as possible as the fans tended to cause trouble when they came out of the game. Was this Millwall in disguise thought Pablo?

We thought he was maybe being a bit OTT, so we asked the girl about it at the hostal when we checked in. Her advice was to not go out until about 9pm as just around the corner from the hostal is the main square (Baquedano) where the fans meet to chat/fight and initiate running battles with police etc after the match and they have a tendency to charge along the small side streets. Apparently all of the local shops etc close to avoid any problems.....!!

So several hours to get to know the inside of Hostal Forestal. To be fair it was ok inside, but could have done with a lick of paint and a good old scrub in the toilets and showers!! Nonetheless we chilled out until it was safe to go out, and then headed back to the patio area in Bellavista for dinner. GB was a bit freaked out about being anywhere other than in bed, but managed well enough to demolish a nice piece of sea bass whilst I enjoyed Patagonian lamb and a disappointing Chilean Cab Sav. We were both whacked afterwards so had an early night.

Our first full day in Santiago was not the warmest but there was bright sunshine which is always a good start. We tucked into the hostalīs outstanding breakfast (not), bread and jam, coffee, powdered milk and some apples that looked like theyīd been in one of those tall vases for weeks as a decorative display. We then set off to explore Santiago properly for the first time. We strolled around the corner a couple of blocks to the Funicular, which is a train (about 900 years old it seemed) that climbs an almost vertical hill (or so it looked) from the bottom, to the top of Cerro San Cristobal. From here, despite the smog (Santiago is one of the worldīs most polluted cities we learned that day) the views were amazing - and yes before you all ask again we will upload some photos as soon as we can find a shop to copy them to CD!! We made it all the way to the statue of the Virgin Mary, and on the way back down looked in at the souvenir shop for some postcards. Those duly pųrchased, we also spotted the worldīs most inappropriate memento - (Tim you were so nearly the proud owner of this) a "glow in the dark Jesus on a cross"!!!!! Grim.

We then took the cable car across to another area of the park (this urban park was constructed in an effort to counter some of the cityīs pollution), and from here made our way on foot past the (now closed for the winter) public swimming pools, and through a lovely set of gardens via an exhibition of artwork produced by underprivileged, homeless and mentally disabled children. We were very glad we went in - it was a timely reminder of how lucky we are. We ended up in a very swanky neighbourhood of Santiago, but after a fruitless search for a lunch venue, decided to head back towards Bellavista via the cable car and funicular.

We were having a great day and what better way to enhance it than a long lazy late lunch at a street-side restaurant in Bohemian Bellavista. And so we spent the rest of the daylight hours and the first of the dark ones at El Tablao, a superb Spanish restaurant, flamenco chords echoing from the stereo, outstanding food and a half bottle of the finest Cab Sav Iīve had so far on this trip (really put into perspective the grotty bottle (all 2 quid of it) that I bought on our last night in San Rafael. We tore ourselves away from the restaurant when the chill took hold, although itīs autumn here, itīs best described as the equivalent of a (rare) gorgeous English summer - hot during the day, but nippy once the sun goes down. Our late lunch meant that it was only about 8pm, ridiculously early in these parts, but this was more exercise than GB had had for several days and we were both tired. An early night would enable us to explore more of the city tomorrow (Sunday).

So, day two in Santiago. We had a nice leisurely start and after negotiating check out and storing of luggage we set off on a walking tour from the Lonely Planet that took us to yet another part of the city - Bellas Artes (a great arty and bohemian area renowned for cool cafes and restaurants) and the main shopping, commercial and banking areas. We started with the most amazing public library - what an incredible building - and then climbed to the top of Cerro Santa Lucia that we had seen from the top of Cerro San Cristobal yesterday. We got yet more fantastic views of the city, saw lots of "trysting" lovers and also a great view of the Cerro San Cristobal and the "Virgen".

In need of refreshment after this climb, we happened upon Santiagoīs coolest cafe - It was just too cool for school with fantastic retro furniture and really cool, chilled music. We enjoyed a lovely espresso, brownie and agua sin gas to regenerate the batteries.

Our tour then took us to Plaza de Armas where there was a group of old boys (locals) playing chess - looked like a pretty serious affair with clocks to time each move and a big crowd of spectators. As well as this there were great artesenal stalls and lots of street performers.

We then hit the main shopping streets. Santiago doesnīt cease to amaze with so many different areas. The shopping streets could quite easily have been in New York or London, they were very cosmopolitan with a mixture of glamorous department stores, boutiques and tourist tack. Pablo spent most of his time in the latter trying to pick up a knock off watch. I, of course, was immediately drawn to the boutiques....!!!

Finally, we hit the financial area and saw the Chilean Stock Exchange, we think, from the outside. We wanted to go in, but felt that shorts, t shirt, flip flops and lonely planet guide werenīt appropriate attire to schmooze with the booted and suited city slickers...!! Richard was very keen to find the bars that the "bankers" go to after work where the waitresses show a "little more than a bit of leg" (he found out from Lonely Planet that this is a stand against the oppression of Communism and strict Catholicism), but, what a shame, we couldnīt find any, so instead headed back to our hostel ready to get our bags and embark on our long bus journey to Caldera on the Pacific Coast of Chile for two days of relaxing. What luxury we were afforded when we realised that for a very small sum, we had the Chilean bus equivalent of club class, with seats that turned into flat beds on which even Pablo could sleep in some degree of comfort. The only thing missing was the free bar and on board service, although we did get movies in English with Spanish subtitles to keep us going before falling asleep.....
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parkerich on

Re: Birthday girl
hi guys,

great to hear from you again, thanks for the long emails they are much appreciated. GB says a big thank you for your birthday wishes. really glad there´s some (if slow) improvement for you both. mikey back on the road eh, well that should lower the average speed around east kent - of course this is a good thing as mum will have significantly increased the averages in recent weeks!! i hope that the next few days brings more relief for you both. we´re now in san pedro de atacama - in the middle of the desert. as it´s GB´s birthday tomorrow, I booked us into a swanky hotel which is absolutely stunning - more about that in our blog update. we´re just waiting for the bus to take us off to the salt flats and lagoons where we should see 3 different types of flamingo includuing the rare ¨James¨ breed. we´ve taken some great photos since we arrived yesterday, sunset on the volcano was incredible. we are both healthy and well although yesterday the altitude affected me with headaches but this is a good practise before next week´s Inca exploits at 4000+ metres. We enjoyed a couple of days on the beach at Bahia Inglesa on Tuesday and Wednesday - it was like paradise (if deserted), a nice bit of r&r before getting active again here. well, enjoy the weekend, hope it brings better health - the sun is climbing high here as i type, bringing welcome warmth (it gets down to near freezing at night, but reaches mid 20s in the day). take care both of you, and give the boys a friendly slap on the back from GB and a boot up the butt from me if they bark!! lots of love from Pablo & Carmen in the desert xx

parkerich on

Re: george has become spiderman!
Hola Mum, Dad, Eloise, Nigel, Charley & George,

Thanks so much for my birthday wishes. I can´t wait to see pictures of George fully kitted out as Spiderman with his new 'funky' haircut. I bet he looks a picture!!
We have had an amazing second day in San Pedro de Atacama and are just back from our tour to the Lagunas Altiplanicas where we´ve visited lagunas at over 4,000m altitude - good training for our Inca Trek that will also be at high altitude.
Good news is that we have finally managed to put some photos onto cd and are about to head to the local internet cafe to put some on the blog as we can´t do it from the hotel.
My birthday is going to be amazing as we will start with a dawn trip to the El Tatio Geysers where we will see the sun rise and then swim in the thermal pools. We then pop back for lunch (hopefully of a llama empanada) and head off to Valle de la Luna for an incredible sunset experience - we can´t wait. Thanks so much for transferring the dosh, I have put it towards these trips for Richard and I.

Well, I´d best sign off so we can get the photos uploaded, have an early dinner ready for our pick up at 4am tomorrow - ouch!!

Lots of love to you all,

Carmen & Pablo xxx

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