We had a great last night in Valparaiso. Our restaurant overlooked the harbor, and we ate really amazing food for way less than it would have cost at home. I really loved it there. But all three nights we were there, we went to a different restaurant nearby with the most amazing owner. We didn’t eat there all three nights, but we went back to visit. Fernando, the owner, was a merchant marine and spoke perfect English. He was also a never-ending source of fascinating stories. And, because my stomach was aching, he gave me some herbal tea to soothe it. What a guy.
We managed to get on a 11:15 bus to Santiago. It only took us two hours. It’s nice to see a new region of Chile. Gone is the endless desert scenery! Hello greenery! As soon as we arrived in Santiago, I knew we were going to have a good time. We did, unfortunately, encounter another cab driver that overcharged us, but there was nothing we could do. We had to get to our hotel. Our hotel was in Barrio Brasil, a really funky area that had a Bohemian vibe to it. It was full of cafes, graffiti, and the iconic image of Che Guevara.
On the first day, we walked around for hours and hours. Santiago is how you would picture a well-developed South American city to be. It’s hot, there are palm trees, street vendors, and the architecture is a interesting blend of the old and new. After searching for some food, we found ourselves at a Schopdog–it’s a Chilean chain restaurant. Basically, it’s beer and hot dogs. Oh man, Chile loves a good hot dog. When I say good, I mean absolutely bizarre. Ketchup and mustard are not sufficient. The most common hot dog is called a ‘completo’– a hot dog, mayo, and guacamole. Yeah, I know. Just don’t think about it. My hot dog had mayo on it, but no guac. Fortunately, I could mask the mayo with copious amounts of ketchup. Weird hot dogs aside, one thing I love about Chile is that you can get fresh juice everywhere. So I washed down my mayo-tainted hot dog with some fresh raspberry juice. Jason and I both ate for under 5 bucks. The rest of our day was spent walking around even more, going out to a nice dinner, and then passing out watching American movies on TV.
On day two, we decided to go to the museums and do a self guided walking tour. The Museo Historico Nacional was full of interesting artifacts and, when I spent the time to translate, full of information on Chile’s history. We started the walking tour with the Cerro Santa Lucia. Stairs. Thousands and thousands of friggin’ stairs. But when you get to the top and see the whole city, it’s so worth it. I bought myself an ice cream to take away the sting of all the stairs. It helped. It really was magnificent though. Later, we visited the Museo de Bellas Artes. I love art museums, no matter where they are. There were some fabulous black and white pictures of Chileans in the 1920s that I just loved. The rest of the day was all about public squares, beautiful buildings and noteworthy places. Such is the walking tour. That night, we managed to drag ourselves out and went to the Providencia section of the city for some live music. Santiago at night is just as fun. With all the palm trees and Christmas lights, it kind of reminded me of Florida. Haha.
Monday, our third day in Santiago, was a national holiday celebrating the Immaculate Conception. Of course, every store was closed. Well, except for some food places. But it didn’t matter. We had a plan that worked out better than we could have imagined. We were worried that the Parque Metropolitano, which has gorgeous swimming pools, a funicular and botanical gardens, would be closed because of the holiday. Just the opposite. Parque Metropolitano is around mini-mountain San Cristobal. And guess what’s at the top of San Cristobal? A HUGE statue of Mary. Yes, we found the place in Santiago where everyone was making their pilgrimage to. And I loved it. It was like a carnival. Cheap food, tons of people, fun atmosphere. We had to hike up to top to get to the pools (which sucked in flip flops) but it was worth it. The pools were clean and beautiful. And then we rode the funicular and saw the city from a different view. It really could not have gone better. That, as you can imagine, took a full day. But we topped the night off by going to the movies again and maybe sneaking some more fries from McDonald’s. Weak, I know. Don’t judge me. We saw Body of Lies, which stressed me out for a solid three hours afterwards. But that’s how I get with war movies. Somehow, I managed to calm down and go out for a little bit before bed. We left Santiago the next morning.