Bienvenidos a Santiago!

Trip Start Sep 24, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
The Green House

Flag of Chile  , Región Metropolitana,
Friday, September 24, 2010

By Kate. (Pics & Vid to come soon.)

Welcome welcome welcome to Santiago. That's what we wanted to hear. Instead, we heard, "Taxi?!" “Transport?!” about five thousand times from people who’s only English word was one of those two. After thinking we were going to get away with not paying the $140 each to get in the country (it seemed like no one was working at the cashier’s desk… the customs guy showed us the error in our thinking) and traveling for almost 24 hours, we just wanted to get to our hostel and sleep! Shielding ourselves with “No gracias” every other step, we made it to a small (but expensive) airport restaurant for some coffee, some wifi, and to figure out our transportation. By the way, I don’t think anywhere else in the world believes in free refills besides the United States. I will miss that!

After going over the options: taxi $30, minibus $22, public bus $12, we decided we would try the public bus as we heard the bus and metro systems were easy to navigate. As we were walking outside, a man approached us about a minibus. He was not with the official airport transport, but he had a nice van and it was only $12, same as the public bus and they would take us directly to our hostel. WORD! We hopped in and were quickly joined by a spunky couple in their golden years, a guy about our age, and a middle-aged woman. The older couple was SUPER friendly and talked to us until they got out (in Spanish of course). They were from an area of Chile near Patagonia, waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy south. It is called, El Tierra de Fuego (the Land of Fire)! Awesome! The middle-aged woman just got out and did not talk while riding. The younger guy was from Santiago and talked to us until he got out as well. As we were driving through the town, we got our own personal little driving tour from this guy and the driver. Our first impression of Chileans was definitely a good one.

We showed up at the The Green House Hostel hoping to GOD this woman was going to let us check in at 7am. GIVE US SLEEP! She answered the door and welcomed us in with a sweet, warm smile. It is a family run business and she and her husband were so accommodating! She showed us right to our room and said we could go ahead and go to sleep and pay later in the afternoon. The hostel was very cute (Click on the pic of Eric for the video). Our room had a queen bed with a set of bunk beds we used as a storage area, a tv with cable, and a few side-tables and shelves. Outside of our room was the shared bathroom (which we did not share because no one else was there!) as well as the dining area with plenty of tables and chairs, another tv, and a computer for guests to use. After checking this out, we slept for a couple hours, then decided to head out in search of food and to get some Chilean pesos to pay her with.

Our first walk into town! Our hostess had given us a map and her son had pointed out a good place to exchange money and find food. We headed that way. The city is very grand, with old, Parisian-style architecture, sky-scrapers, museums, theaters, universities, and great restaurants. It seemed that Santiago had it all. There are many “walking streets” which are areas where the streets do not allow cars and are lined with retail shops galore. Although Santiago does have malls, it seemed that many people preferred to do their shopping on these streets.

We stepped into a small Italian restaurant because we saw a breakfast special advertised only to realize that breakfast stopped at 11am and it was 11:20am! We stayed anyway and I ordered something without knowing what it was. It turned out to be a fancy hotdog, but it was DEE-LICIOUS. Eric got some cheese empanadas, which are always good!

Afterwards, we walked around the Plaza de Armas (see video above), which is where many important buildings are located. They have a huge cathedral there, the National History museum, a huge post office, and many other museums are located around the plaza. You will also find in the plaza many couples and people sitting on the plentiful benches. In addition, you will find people asking for money for various reasons.

We heard, “Hello! Hello!” and turned to see a stout man encouraging us to come over. He had something to give us. “You are Americans yeah? I have a map for you!” He started to tell us about the different areas we should go in Santiago. We thought he might have been promoting restaurants or clubs. All of a sudden, a female voice speaking in English enters our ears. “You Americans are so tall!” His counterpart heads over for a chat, complimenting us on our height and anything else she could think of. This raised our suspicions and I quickly slid my purse and Eric’s camera bag to the front of our bodies. You never know if you are cleverly being distracted while someone else picks your pockets! Anyways, they chatted us up for awhile and then said they were from the university and trying to raise money for local students by talking with tourists. When we offered a couple bucks (about $1,000 chilean pesos) they scoffed asking if we had anything more and telling us they had change for larger bills. I told them we had to pay for our own room! Asking us to pay for some college students when we’re trying to pay for ourselves. You better take a couple bucks! So we left it at that and continued on. Gringos = money.

In the plaza we were approached by others asking for money, including two girls who I felt slightly bad for because they looked like either under-aged prostitutes or crackheads. We felt silly after the dynamic duo got some of our dough, so we didn’t give any more away. We could not sit there for very long because the pan-handling was getting annoying, so we headed off to look for the outdoor market.

Welcome to the most seafood you have seen in one place. The market was scantily scattered with veggie stands around the outside, but if you went inside it was smellin’ YUMMAY. Fish fish and more fish. Huge squids, crazy-looking thorny crabs, mussles, clams, and everything else in the sea. Plenty of fish juice on the ground too. Awesome. Once in the middle of the market, the fish smell (and juice) was gone, and there were a bunch of small little restaurants surrounded by spice stands, artesian crafts, and natural remedies. The waiters at the restaurants like to stand in the walkways and encourage anyone who walks by to come eat there. Again, shielding ourselves with the short phrase of “No gracias” with an occasional “Ya comemos” (We ate already) we made our way through the market.

Once out, and after a big breath of fresh air, we headed over to the Cerro Santa Lucia (Santa Lucia Hill), one of Santiago’s most beautiful parks with vistas bonitas (beautiful views)! On the way there, we stumbled across the Universidad de Bellas Artes (University of Beauty Arts). It was in a huge, old building with giant columns and European architecture. Fancy schmancy. Apparently they just got Mac make-up there as well. They don’t do beauty school like that in the U.S.!

From any entrance to the park, you start climbing ancient stone stairways right away (see video above). The stairs were obviously made for smaller feet and the archways made for shorter people. Once through the main gate, there was a cobble-stone path leading around the castle located in the center of the park and up towards the top of the hill. The place was scattered with pic-nickers, students, and couples. We made our way around the hill, passing an area with a small waterfall, and up to the top. The views were astounding. You could see the whole city with the Andes off in the distance (see panoramic view video). Of course, the view is not as clear as it was when the park was built due to all that 21st century smog. BOO US! (Us being human beings who drive cars. Since I recently was using this form of transportation, I will include myself NOW but not AGAIN… unless I start using again… don’t let me fall off the wagon.)

Afterward, we took a short siesta and headed to the grocery store to buy some din din and supplies. It was about 5pm on a Friday and the streets were bumpin. Everyone was getting off work or heading somewhere. We made our way to the supermarket and ended up getting a veggie pizza and some more cheese empanadas! After walking for hours and climbing up and down hills, we felt like we deserved it. Cervezas plus food knocked us out for the night (I guess the day of travel and the small amount of sleep also had something to do with it). One day down. Viva Chile!
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