Monthly Archives: February 2016

About 24 Hours in Santiago!

After the fairly quick (under 2 hours) bus ride from Vina del Mar to Santiago, I arrived (again) at one of the several Santiago bus terminals in the city. I had already made a reservation at a hostel so, this time, I knew exactly where I was going (the taxi line) when I arrived into town.

I took a taxi to my (lovely) hostel, checked in, dropped off my bags, grabbed a map and headed out to explore Santiago.

hostel santiago

The front of my Santiago hostel

Cara, who I had met up with the week prior in Vina del Mar, was living in Santiago and taking Spanish classes. Prior to my arrival in Santiago, we made plans to meet at the starting point of a free walking tour.

The starting point of the tour was the Plaza de Armas, the central square so I made my way there and wandered a bit before Cara and I were scheduled to meet.

The tour was in English, and super informative. If I had to make a comparison, Santiago felt very much like it could have been a city in North America, in most cases.

More of Santiago’s architecture…including Pablo Neruda’s Santiago home (bottom).

Parks are a big part of life in Santiago. They felt pristine.

The other thing to note, is that because most people don’t live together until they are married, is that the parks become make out locations for couples. Example A: park benches were filled with couples like this one. Example B: Behind Cara, you see several couples embracing one another on the ground. Also, a frequent sight.

And, if you didn’t already know, sex sells. Billboards like this one were everywhere. Not sure if I noticed it more than in the US but it felt overwhelmingly naked in Santiago!

santiago ad

The day went quickly. Day turned to night. Cara and I had dinner.

Then, after some resting, we started our evening … at a club where Cumbia music was on tap. Cumbia is said to be the mother of Latin music. We were busy dancing and trying to figure out how it went, this was the only picture of the evening!

cumbia

I got back to my hostel sometime in the middle of the night. The next morning, before leaving for the airport, I needed to take care of two things:

  • Check the internet
  • Visit the “American” supermarket to stock up on peanut butter.

First, check the internet. Why? Word on the street I had been told that the flooding in the Atacama Desert was pretty severe. The Atacama Desert is known to be the driest desert in the world. So, I sort of blew it off until, you know, hours before my flight to the center of it. I mean, how could a desert flood? Um, well it can. When I Googled “San Pedro flooding,” multiple articles stated that this was the worst flooding the region had seen in 11 years.

WHAAAT?

I emailed Alana and Courtney, who were probably at the airport for their overnight flight from the US to Santiago, where they would connect to Calama, the nearest airport to San Pedro de Atacama. I let them know about the flooding concerns. I confirm that my flight is a go and we’ll see each other the following day.

Second, visit the “American” supermarket. Why? As someone who is not a steak eater, I was unsure what I would do in remote, high-altitude, heavy meat eating countries. Along my travels, a few travelers had suggested getting peanut butter as a backup. So here I was … in the middle of Santiago … looking at Philadelphia cream cheese, many brands of yogurt and peanut butter that I recognized and enough candy to fill a candy store!

I purchased a plastic (wasn’t risking glass smashing when they throw your bags underneath the bus) jar of peanut butter and headed to the airport for my flight to Calama.

At the airport, of course I would see a Starbucks. The sign ‘para llevar’ was a phrase I had learned with Marisa in Mendoza …which means ‘to go’… and, in this case, made perfect sense. I smiled, knowing I understood exactly what it meant, and made my way to my gate.

para llevar.jpg

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Valparaiso to Vina to Santiago

Valparaiso was hard to leave but after 4 nights, it tied with Mendoza for the longest I stayed in one place. So I was eager to get going. Valparaiso is on my list of places to return. I’m excited to see the progress this beautiful port city will make over the next few years. Here, an example of the work that’s being done to repair some of the streets, or maybe just as a warning for pedestrians…

valpo2

Between the delicious food, gorgeous views and lovely people, Valpo was a place I had easily fallen in love with. Just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, advice from others should be taken with a grain of salt. All I had heard, was ‘you’ll love it or hate it,’ and I am so happy to report I loved it. I understand why some may hate it, but that’s a decision you’d have to make for yourself.

Heading to the bus terminal, I realized I would soon be back in a big city – Santiago – with a full day and night there, where I would once again meet up with Cara. Then, I would fly from Santiago to Calama, on a flight I booked before I left the States. From Calama, I would transfer to San Pedro de Atacama to stay one night alone before meeting friends who were coming to Chile on vacation from the States. After those three nights, where we’d be staying in an actual hotel (!), I would be on my own (and back in hostels) again. But a few nights with familiar faces was exciting before I would head into less developed areas of the continent, with less of a plan than I had now.

Here’s the view on my ride from Vina to Santiago. I sat in the front row on the upper level of the bus and, as you can see, the view was pretty incredible.


Exploring More Valparaiso

After returning to the city from our winery tour, the three of us parted ways. I quickly dropped off my bags at my new hostel and left to take in more of the city.

I headed to the port and took a boat ride. While on the boat, I met a family who took me in as one of their own and we continued on a tour of Pablo Neruda’s home.

The boat ride was educational and shared the story of the importance of Chile’s history as a crucial South American port city.

Pablo Neruda still is one of Chile’s favorite people. He was a poet and a bit eccentric as you can see when you walk through his home. Unfortunately I have no pictures of the interior but he loved the water so his home was built as if he was on a boat so out every window it looked like he was sailing.

I mentioned that there was another traveler who moved from our first hostel to the second. Later that evening, she and I met up at the hostel and decided to have Valentine’s Day dinner together in Valpo. No photos but our ceviche dishes were absolutely amazing.


Off to the Casablanca Valley!

Off to the wineries! Chile has a long history of wine making, and has several regions. In Valparaiso, I was not far from one of them.

Not only were the wines spectacular, but the views were too.

Tour, tasting and lunch at one winery ran a whopping $36. And you can see, it was a stunning winery.

 

 

 


Valparaiso, you’d love it or hate it. Spoiler alert: I loved it.

As I mentioned, I had been warned you’d either love Valparaiso or hate it. Well, Valpo, as it’s lovingly called, was a total win for me. After two nights I loved it and decided to stay longer.

Except when I went to extend my reservation for another two nights at breakfast the next morning, I was told this hostel was booked. So breakfast became quite productive for planning my day and my sleeping arrangements.

First,  I had to make a plan to change hostels since the one I was currently in was booked. It happened that there was another traveler who wanted to stay longer as well so one owner of the hostel made a call and two of us were going to transfer to another hostel.

Over breakfast, all the travelers at the table shared our plans for the day. Mine was not really a plan but I wish that I was keen to visit the wine region. In conversation, I found two other travelers who were hoping to do the same.

And, in nearly one fell swoop, I had one owner calling to find two of us another hostel and the other owner was about to plan the day for the three of us.

Three of us asked the other owner to book us on a tour. He told us that’s not how it works; yet, after making just one phone call, he confirmed that we’d be driven out to one of Chile’s most accessible wine regions, the Casablanca Valley, later that morning.

Planning? Sometimes it’s just for the birds!