A Waking Tour of Santiago

Trip Start Nov 03, 2012
Trip End Dec 31, 2012

Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, November 4, 2012

After an extended sleep at our hostel we went down stairs for the complimentary breakfast of toast tea/coffee, yoghurt, packaged cakes, chocolate biscuits and salt crackers. 
We don't ask culinary questions, we just eat.

Today we leave for the walking tour of Santiago that takes approx 4 hours.
We met at the Plaza De Armas the center of Santiago. Our tour guide was Antonio a 23 year old language student. This 'free guided walking tour' system (tips are suggested at the end, it's the way the students make a living) has had some recent success in Europe and so has branched out into a number of South American and Central American capitals.


Plaza De Armas is the central square where many of the older, governmental buildings are including what was once the presidents palace (now one of the worlds most regal post offices) the courts (which had very slow justice as you had to sail to Spain and back to get an official judgement adding 6 months to the process) and the jail, now a museum.
Statues abound in the parks, streets and squares of Santiago, this is no different. A fountain, toped with the marble representation of a Spanish woman fighting with a native woman had been toned down by government censors. They did not cover up the nakedness, they removed the weapon from the Spanish woman's hands to reduce the air of brutality.
The Mapuche tribe were one of the few native tribes to put up a prolonged resistance against end the Spanish control of the conquered lands. Santiago was attacked and burnt down at least 5 times.
Antonio told us about the coffee in chile and how, by and large, it is terrible. But then there are the special coffee shops, the ones where you get 'coffee with legs'. You buy your coffee (generally business men, during their lunch break) and a pretty girl sits next to you, barely wearing a skirt, and chats to you. You drink the coffee, look at the legs, tip and leave. It is not so much of an incidental cultural thing as an industry. Some coffee places have smoked glass windows, because the women wear less than a skirt.
But that is not cultural, and so we'll ignore it. Just like I (Alexis) ignored the description of 'the happy minute' which included nudity, dancing and appropriate levels of encouragement from patrons.
We had lunch at Casa Lastarria where we shared a pale cheese, tomato and basil pesto sandwich and some lemon pisco. Alexis seems to have a bad habit of deciding what he wants, changing his mind, and then ordering what he wants whilst pointing at the wrong part of the menu and butchering the Spanish language.
We walked past Santa Lucia Hill, known to be a place to act saintly during the day and devilishly at night. So they now close it after 7pm. We went off the map route a touch to a wall mural of a poet who was reknowned for her teaching of children and bringing the vote to women in Chile.
We moved through the Lastarria Neighborhood before crossing into the parklands to dodge dog crap and see a statue/fountain presented by Germany to the Chilean people after 100 years of independence. (Think 'naked aryans landing a boat on a rocky shore, being chased by condors' and you'll get the gist.)
A couple of blocks walk took us nearer our accommodation, where we saw the markets (all pretty quiet in the afternoon) and the BellaVista neighborhood where the Guide recommended a number of places for dinner, including what translates as 'Like Water for Chocolate' from the book of the same name, which children in Chile learn at school like kids in Australia learn (insert name of book you were forced to read but helped you understand the culture of the country you were growing up in).
The walk stopped near the base of San Cristobal Hill, where tired feet would have been happy to stay, if not for the stupid 'Shall we go up the hill to see the giant statue?' comment that passed Alexis's lips.
Up we went.

You start by walking through what looks very much like a small town fete with stalls selling Spider-Man masks, hats, hand crafts and fruit salad.
The railway to the top of the hill, the 'funicular', was out of order so the only option to get to the top of the 800 meter hill, atop which is a large white statue of the virgin Mary, was to walk.
A walk which Antonio vaguely suggested would take something that sounded like 15 mins, but, due to Murphy and the subtly of the English language with Chilean accent, what was really said was 50 mins.
We had the tail end of a bottle of water between us, and with a biting sun and a 'do we really want to do this' mindset, we wandered up the road.
The road itself takes a very long route around the hill back and forth where the foot track, after following the road a little way, breaks off up the hill.
Repeated weekends of training at waterfall gully in South Australia, would have put us in good stead.
If we had done them.

We required a number of stops, for heart rate reduction and thirst. But fortunately, ego wise, we were not alone. The statue itself is both modest and stunning. It does not compare to the Christ in Rio but its stark whiteness and the signs that surround it calling for 'silencio' offer an air of retrospective calm. Or in our case, breath catching awe.
The walk down was quick and easy but the realization that we had probably chosen the most sunny time of the day (2-4) for our walk made us acutely aware the bite the sun was having on our skin.

We walked back to our hostel, stopped in at the local shop for much needed liquid refreshment and went to our room for a short moment of eyelid contemplation.
*insert snoring sound effects here* (Alexis, not Tina)
The tendrils of jet lag seemed to grasp once more at our eyelids.
Suddenly it was 7pm.

Of the meal options available (restaurants Antonio suggested or meeting up with Hanse and Ingrid who we met on the guided walk, but totally failed to arrange anything with) our best solution seemed to be going down stairs, grabbing something to cook and eating back at the hostel.
A cheesy lasagne and bottle of red (Carmen insigne cab sav at $6AU) with a packet of jam biscuits seemed the best option and the least of all evils.
Seems the electrical system at the woodshed and Bella 269 have something in common. Plug too much in and bang. No dinner for you.
Found an alternative outlet, microwaved the cheesy dribble known as lasagne, drank the wine filled out the blog.
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