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Santiago by Day and Night

Posted by on February 28, 2011

This post is for Monday October 4th, 2010.

On weekdays, Santiago runs a guided walking tour, leaving from the Plaza de Armas. It’s free, the favourite word to a backpacker’s ears, and so a few from the hostel met up with others in the main square.

Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral

Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral

Our guide, a local student who is part of the international free walking tours organisation, offered both Spanish and English, but as there were only English speakers and one Brazilian who could also follow English, he switched to that – handy for us, but also made me regret that my language skills are still inadequate compared to so many other multi-lingual people around the world.

The Plaza de Armas is a common name for squares in the middle of the city as, according to the guide, it’s a place where the locals would store munitions and supplies for war in the event of an attack on their settlement, could retreat to there to arm themselves and defend against invaders – often from the natives. That is, armas = arms.

We explored a route similar to that Susanne had taken me, through the old section of Santiago, past the presidential palace, the bank sector and Coffee with Legs. In the middle of the town there’s another cerro – this time Cerro Santa Lucia, where originally rubbish was dumped, and later was increased in size and height and turned into a park. We headed to the bohemian district for a cafe lunch – of course he probably gets a cut from the cafe but it was good, and we had a good laugh showing our guide some of the varying Spanish phrases in the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet – especially the latter, which has a ‘dating’ section including phrases like ‘easy tiger’ and ‘not if you were the last one on earth’. Ah the Lonely Planet, ever accurate and relevant(!).

Free - The Santiago Walking Tour

Free - The Santiago Walking Tour

Finally we went into Bella Vista, the area below the furnicular up Cerro San Cristobal, and were shown some of the good bars and restaurants to head back to that night, as well as some suggestions for drinks (an Earthquake?!!). Also in the area was the former house of famous poet and artist Pablo Neruda, now a crazy museum that Adrianne had raved about as well.

He bade us farewell and a few of us had lunch together, including a geologist from the UK (who we correctly figured had been to Mendoza – the previous week the European geology conference had been taking place there, of all places!). Our group also included an American (Rod) with a great last name – Buenviaje – basically good trip – an apt name considering his amazing jetsetting around the world in the preceeding few months. We all agreed to meet back up later for some dinner and drinks.

Santiago - a bit smoggier this time around

Santiago - a bit smoggier this time around

Andrew, one of the English guys, and I went up the furnicular – where I’d been a couple of weeks prior. The view this time was not as spectacular – Santiago’s infamous smog was well and truly languishing over the city, but we checked out the open air church and the like, before heading back down and walking into town. Andrew and I decided to splurge on western food for once and get some KFC, yes, I know, it’s wrong – but sometimes you just get a craving :) Back to the hostel where we met up with Jess, the English girl, who was running late for dinner.
Andrew up Cerro San Cristobal

Andrew up Cerro San Cristobal

I set about booking our bus for the next day, and managed to finally secure what I’d been trying to get for so long – Full Cama Suite – luxury in a bus! Finally I was going to enjoy a bus ride. We secured tickets to Iquique, about 24 hours up the coast, as we wanted to head pretty quickly up and then across to Bolivia, as Andrew was keen on visiting La Paz, and unbeknownst to him I had plans for a bike ride there…

A short time later all of us managed to find one another back at Bella Vista for food. Since you know by now I will mention what I had – I decided to try an eel stew. The stew itself was great, but I’m not such a fan of eel. Ah well. Also tried some Chilean beers – some up to 9%, not that great. However upon asking for a terremoto – the terribly un-PC ‘earthquake’ drink, were told to move to one of the bars around the corner. We grabbed some cash from an ATM and hunted around before finally being directed to the upstairs of a bar where we were certainly the only non-locals. Much better than tourist bars. They served ‘terremotos’ by the jug-full there, and with the locals finding out Rod’s last name was Buenviaje, the night turned into a loud and fun one, with a taxi finally taking those of us at our hostel back around 4am.

Normally this would have been quite ok. However ther was one small flaw in this plan…the 24 bus ride ahead of us the next day…

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