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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Finally in Chile

Santiago de Chile is known for the permanent smog that covers the city. The amount of traffic together with the spectacular mountains that surround the city are the reasons for this.

Well the day we arrived we didn't notice this. We immediately took a taxi from the airport to Vitacura, with a stop at the bus terminal to drop Stepan who is going to Mendonza. In Vitacura we were welcomed by Muriel and her son Martin. Muriel is a good friend of a friend of Tiago and was kind enough to host us for a few days. And what a host, despite working all the time, looking after her two year old child, she still found time to talk with us in the evenings (sorry for my lousy spanish) for hours, show us some Chilean gastronomy and take us to Valparaiso, 150 km away from Santiago, by the coast.


What does Santiago has to offer a tourist? There's some museums, the cathedral, some other churches, Pablo Nerudas house and then shopping and food.

The Plaza de Armas is what I would call the city center, although the city has different centers. Around this square one finds the beautiful roman-catholic cathedral, the main post office building, the national museum, some galleries and a small park. Not far is the Palacio La Moneda, the president's official residence and the pre columbine museum.

In our first day around Santiago we walked and walked and walked... I spent some time at the beautiful post office building in plaza de armas sending some stuff home and after that we went around the city. We had lunch at the food market, visited Cerro Santa Lucia and then just wandered around trying to buy books (in the country of Neruda, Allende, Sepulveda, Donoso among many others this can be a hard and expensive quest) and clothes. We still found time to visit La Chascona the house Neruda built to spend time with his mistress, later second wife.

At night Muriel surprised us with a typical Chilean dish, which I still have to ask for the recipe. We had to wake up early the next day because we were going to Valparaiso, but we still managed to stay up late talking.


I must confess I wasn't very eager to visit Valparaiso, but I'm glad I went there. Yes, it's a touristic place but it is charming, beautiful and inspiring. The beautiful facades in Cerro Alegre, overlooking the harbour are fantastic. And then the grafitis that cover many walls some with political purposes, others just works of urban art, give it a special feeling. It's one of those places where you would like to sit down in a cafe writing and thinking, watching the time pass by. Unfortunately time was something we didn't have, so after eating the traditional dish of Valparaiso - Chorrillana - a huge dish with french fries, small pieces of beef, onion and a slice of cheese on top in The Mastodonte, we went to Viña del Mar. This is Santiago's beach resort, it's covered with skyscrapers and concrete. It was just not my place... After Viña we went back home. Muriel went to a concert and we stayed home planning the coming days.


It's a completely different city Santiago on a Sunday morning. There is hardly any traffic, no people on the streets (apart from peruvian emigrants trying to call home) and almost everything is closed. What brings us to town then? The entrance in the museums is for free on sundays and we want to visit La Moneda. La Moneda can only be visited after 3 because there is something official going on so we head on to the Pre Columbine museum. It's a good collection they have on display here and explanations in spanish are very good. It's possible to learn a lot here. La Moneda was a bit disappointing, since it is not possible to visit it inside, just the courtyard.

After seing everything we sat down in a cafe close to Cerro Santa Lucia until it was time to go back home, pack, say goodbye to Muriel and Martin and move on to the bus terminal where we will take the night bus to Villarrica.


Samual James said...

I’m heading up to San Pedro around the 17th of feb and wondered if i need to book accommodation (a cheap double room is what I’m after)or whether it is ok just to turn up and find something? any help is appreciated.cheers
Hoteles Pucon

RC said...

Hi Samual. I was there a bit later in the season and booked the room by the phone on the way to San Pedro. I would recommend booking at least a week ahead and tell them exactly the time of your arrival. I remember that my bus was delayed and an American that came in the same bus as me got to my hostel a couple of minutes before me and almost took my room! If your bus is running late, just make a phone call telling them that.

Right now when I travel I check the hostels and reviews both in hostelworld and tripadvisor and I book either on the hostels website, by hostelworld or I call directly to the hostel. You might have a problem in Chile if you don't speak Spanish, but you can try :) They are used to English speaking people, so they should be able to understand you.

Enjoy San Pedro! It's one of the nicest places I have been to in my life. I will go back there when I go back to Chile! There are so many things to do and see around San Pedro! And do the Salar de Uyuni tour. It's tough but fantastic!