Two weekends ago we had a four-day weekend due to Christopher Columbus Day or as they euphemistically call it here, Diversity Day! In the sprit of Columbus, my friends and I set out on a voyage to discover Chile (for ourselves that is).
Some of us played a little hooky on Thursday so that we could get a head start on our trip. We left Mendoza in the morning for 8ish hour bus ride through the Andes and arrived in Santiago around 5 in the afternoon. We stayed at an awesome pink and green hostel on a cul-de-sac. Due to us being a group of 12 we got two rooms to ourselves. The hostel included breakfast and dinner each day, which was awesome and greatly appreciated!
After getting settled in our hostel, we went out to explore and to eat some empanadas, which surprisingly reminded me of cheese and tomato filled wontons! That night some of us also tried what we were told is one of the typical drinks of Chile. No it was not a pisco sour or a terremoto. I actually don’t remember the name, but it consisted of a fourth of a glass of lemon juice and spices such as oregano, salt, and some others that I couldn’t identify. The rest of the glass was filled with beer. It looked and sounded disgusting, – reminding me more of something one would drink on a juice cleanse minus the beer. But surprisingly it tasted good to me! Some of my other friends didn’t like it so much though. However, about twenty minutes later I definitely had a stomachache!
I had made a list of things I wanted to do and see before leaving for Chile and on Friday morning a few of us set out to accomplish them. I had read about what sounded like a cool street art exhibition and was really excited to see it. Unfortunately upon arriving at what Trip Advisor had told me was the address we discovered that it did not exist. Or rather the exhibition is in a restaurant once a week or something like that. Despite being a bit disappointed, I was happy to look around in the restaurant, which had some cool art hanging on the walls.
Next, we hiked up to the lookout on Santa Lucia Hill, an old castle turned park/ restaurant/ tourist attraction. The view of the city at the top is breathtaking and very peaceful – a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city that one feels below. This was definitely one of my favorite parts of Santiago.
We spent the rest of the day walking around, eating some delish sushi, and walking around the central market, which is filled with fruit, vegetables, clothes, flowers, among other goods. Last we took a funicular up to San Cristobal Hill to see another spectacular view of the city. At the very top of the hill is a statue that overlooks Santiago. I’m getting the sense that this is a common thing in South America! Below the statue sits a beautiful outdoor church also overlooking the city and decorated with flowers and greenery. If I was of the church going persuasion and I lived in Santiago I would definitely want to pray here.
That night we ate asado (obviously I did not) and watched Chile loose to Colombia in soccer.
On Saturday we ventured out of Santiago to check out the beach. Unfortunately we arrived to find cold overcast weather covering the coastal cities. We spent the morning in Valparaiso a quiet port town wandering around and taking a boat tour of the harbor. Around midday we drove 30 minutes further to Viña del Mar, clearly more of a beach going spot that reminded me of a cross between Santa Monica and Deal, New Jersey. As we were finishing lunch, the marine layer burned off and the beautiful sun came out! Needless to say we quickly finished up our lunch and headed over to the shore. It was funny to learn that it was some people in my group’s first time seeing/ touching the Pacific Ocean! I loved kicking off my shoes and wading in a bit and thinking about how this was the same ocean I can put my feet in back home.
Before heading back to Santiago we walked on the boardwalk a bit, hung out in the sand, and some of my friends went to Dunkin Doughnuts to get a taste of home!
That night I went salsa dancing – or at least I tried to salsa dance despite my pitiful lack of dancing abilities!
Sunday was our last actual day in Chile. I spent it with a few friends going to all the historical sites that I didn’t want to go all the way to Santiago and miss. We started with a tour of Pablo Neruda’s beautiful house that he built for his mistress and second wife I believe. This house is the only one of the three houses he has in Chile located in Santiago. The house was really gorgeous, adorned with lots of artwork and unique furniture. It was really impressive to walk into Neruda’s study and see a glass cabinet filled with all of his awards and honors, including his Nobel Piece Prize.
After lunch we went to the Plaza de Armas, (Santiago’s main square), the old congress building, the Supreme Court, Palacio La Moneda (the Government House), the Santiago Stock Exchange, and the Opera House. All were very grand and official, looking more traditionally built and European than I had expected. We also ate some really good ice cream!
On Monday morning we bid adieu to Chile as we headed back to Mendoza on the bus.