After feeling ill and travelling solo, you can imagine the relief when I got to Santiago, to Sam and Max’s flat. They had very kindly booked me a shuttle from the airport and I arrived with what felt like a ridiculous amount of stuff ( I’d been souvenir shopping in Bolivia like I had been told too as it’s the cheapest), very little voice and huge enthusiasm to make up for it.
Their flat is lovely, in the La Reina area of Santiago and on the 21st floor, so the view was pretty incredible. Santiago is surrounded by the Andes, and is in a basin which makes for a pretty unique backdrop to a capital city. Plus I was greeted with a large glass of vino which was bliss!
After an evening of catching up, I slept in my own room, with my own towel and my own bathroom. The best hospitality EVER! And it was most welcomed. They looked after me like stars. I slept like a baby and didn’t wake up until about 11 the next day. I’d been waking up at 7 in hostels as everyone gets up to go on tours or get buses. I obviously needed my sleep.
I decided my first day to do NOTHING! I caught up with my diary, slept, ate, watched TV and was quite frankly pretty lazy.
It’s ok though, I made up for it the next day by meeting Caryn and Tali to go to Valparaiso for the day. I commuted across Santiago in the morning and it was like being back in London – I managed to barge my way onto a full tube – I still got it! Ha
Valparaiso is really easy to get to from Santiago and only takes 1.5hours and cost about £7 return. Not bad. I was looking forward to a day at the seaside, hadn’t seen the ocean for a while but when I got to Valparaiso I was stunned at how big it was. Naive really, and I obviously hadn’t done my research but nevertheless I really enjoyed our day there. Wandering around the Cerro’s and navigating our way up and down the many rickety funicular railways. Some of which I really wasn’t sure whether they were going to break down half way or not! The art work of Valparaiso makes it so special, all the streets with art on each corner and on the stairways. Makes walking up stairs much more interesting!
We also caught a boat out to see the port from the sea which was really nice to do. I’d recommend it – it’s only for about half an hour but if the suns shining it’s nice to see a different perspective of Valparaiso and actually see the extent of it. You also get to see mahoosive sea lions lounging on the boys and giant ships!
That night back in Santiago there was the most incredible sunset, the clouds were a bright shade of pink and the surrounding landscape made for some pretty impressive cloud formations. I am a massive cloud geek if you haven’t noticed that by now haha.
It was time to explore the city! So I got the tube into the centre. It took about 30 mins but was really easy. They have a system similar to oyster that you just top up as you go along and really well signposted exits and changes to different lines. A few places in London could learn a few things from the stations here! First stop, Plaza del Armas where I accidentally ended up going to mass in the cathedral for an hour. It was really busy and I kinda got shepherded in with the crowds and then I felt too bad leaving. It was pretty special actually, even if I didn’t understand a word
I wandered around the main central streets and grabbed some lunch in a cute little cafe that sam had recommended and after refuelling walked up Saint Lucia Cerro. Which I loved. How you can be in a bustling city centre one minute and the next walking up a quiet, tree lined cobbled street up into the hills is so rare and not something I’ve seen in any other city.
I sat at the fountain and watched the world go by. It’s one of my favourite things to do as a very observant person ( I say observant, most people say nosey!) it’s a perfect way to spend time, especially watching people take selfies. Very amusing!
At the top there is a fantastic view of the city, and I knew i was beginning to get my bearings when I could work out where Sam and Max lived. When I got back to theirs Max pointed out that actually I was completely wrong 😂 I did however arrive home to TOAD IN THE HOLE and I was super excited as you can tell by the capitals. Yum!
The next day I decided to do the walking tour, I think I’ve done one in every city I’ve been too. They are the best way to understand the culture and history of a place. You realise that you otherwise walk around a city and don’t see things, not really see things. The free walking tour leaves from the Plaza del Armas every day, one in English and one in Spanish but I’m sure there are plenty more all over the city. It was 4 hours long, so wear comfy shoes and bring water as it was 30 degrees so pretty hot!
It’s one of the best ones I’ve done. The guy was super enthusiastic, honest and had s microphone so you could actually hear him! I turned up with a Starbucks in hand ( something I never normally do abroad where there is fantastic coffee) feeling guilty but the guys first comment was. Oh good, you found good coffee, the coffee in Santiago is awful! Phew 😅 not told off for being a horrid uncultured tourist.
The tour took us to the presidential palace, the art museum, the oldest sectors off Santiago, through the parks and over to Bellaviste to see the student area. The law students were on strike so their chairs were chained to the railings and their were protest banners everywhere. That’s something I’ve seen a lot of in South America, protests!!
At the end of the tour they left us near to San Cristobal Cerro and the vehicular railway so I thought it only right to go an explore. To be honest I felt knackered and could have easily gone home but when in Rome. I’d met a lovely New Zealand couple on my tour so I went with them. They were sheep farmers in NZ and were really interesting.
The views are worth it to go up but it’s not cheap. I got the ticket that combined the railway and the cable car at the top to see more of the city, to be honest if you are struggling for monies you could just do the funicular railway and just walk some of the rest.
The view from the top over the city and the snow capped Andes was beautiful. I really did like this city; again so quiet away from the bustling streets below. And also very peaceful as this is where a lot of people came to pray to the statue of the Virgin Mary.
On my way down from the Cerro I was in a cabin with a group of Panamanian tourists. They were just chatting amongst themselves and pretty much hadn’t noticed I’d got in the same carriage as them until I took my sunglasses off and one of the guys asked me where I was from and what I was doing. So I filled him in with my travels and after he’d exclaimed that it was impossible that I wasn’t married ( funny how people like to say that! I’ve heard it many times over the years) and then he asked me for a photo ‘because of my eyes’. It was much easier to say yes than an awkward no and then have to stay in the same tiny carriage for the next 10 minutes so I accepted. We then continued to chat and it turned out he was there for an athletics competition and was a gold medal winner in discus and shot put. Ordinarily I would have thought this was all bullshit but he got his gold medal out and took my photo this time! A very strange interaction but nevertheless interesting. That’s what I love about travel. The bizarre moments, the interesting people met from all different walks of life and the memories you will keep forever – I am never going to forget that moment, plus the medal was really heavy!
That night I took Sam and Max out for dinner to say thank for you for looking after me and having me to stay. I was only meant to stay for 3 days but I was there for 10 🙈. They just made it too comfortable for me to leave hehe. Plus I was having way too much fun.
The dinner was delicious, steak was beautiful, the wine was yummy and the atmosphere great. I cannot for the life of me remember what the restaurant was called but it’s the one in Bellaviste that has a bed for one of its tables!
We went for a drink after and the place was like stepping out in shoreditch, really strange but really cool. Plus they had ginger beer so I was a happy bunny! Dark n Stormy ✅.
The next day was perfect! Not only did I get to hang out with Max and Sam as it was the weekend but we hung out, in the sun, learning about wine, with wine!!!!!! We went wine tasting at Cousino Macul winery in Santiago, in case you didn’t get that from my above statement ha! We learnt about wine, we tasted 4 different wines which were yummy and we bought wine for After to sit in the vineyard. It was so lovely and so nice to be able to share the experience with old friends ( technically max is a new friend but I feel like I’ve known him forever!) – going wine tasting on your own isn’t the same and feels ever so slightly pathetic but don’t get me wrong, I would have gone on my own ha!
The plan was to go out that evening, so we headed back to the flat to make some lunch. Max and I went to the market to pick up some veg/fruit, we came back and ate lunch and then all promptly fell asleep watching a Disney film! This ladies and gentleman is what happens when you drink a lot at lunchtime in the sun in your 30s. But you know what, still a perfect day and that night we didn’t end up going out, we just played cards and watched films.
On Sunday Sam and I headed to a food truck fest. Saturday for drinking, Sunday for eating. It was lovely, we sat in the sun, ate food and gossiped all day. Ever so slightly more civilised than the last time Sam and I travelled together. Sam and I went to school together and then randomly bumped into each other at Sydney airport, 8 years ago, last time I went travelling. We then, with others, travelled up the east coast for 2 months, and then Thailand and Malaysia. Aged 21 at the time you can imagine it was much less civilised but fantastic fun! And now I get to see her on my travels take 2, 8 years later which is kinda cool. Where are we going to meet in the world next time????
My last couple of days in Santiago were mostly spent writing blogs, booking fights and battling for 6 hours to fill in my online evisa for India next year but in between I managed to time being in Santiago with Phoebe, a girl I’d met on the bus from Peru to Bolivia. I went to the Memory museum in the morning (you have to go there) and met Phoebe later! The museum is wonderfully done, hugely informative, heart breaking sad and totally worth a visit to make sure we all understand the history and mistakes made and make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself! I’ve found that a lot around South America; that countries have all been through similar histories at different times and that we must make sure the horrors of the past don’t get repeated again.
After the museum I met phoebe, it was lovely to catch up and wander the city. We went to Barrio Italia which was so different, it’s full of boutiques and little bars and is a really cool quirky area – in between we may have stopped for a cheeky cocktail too!
For my last dinner in Santiago we went to Bocanariz wine bar. It’s really popular so make sure you book if you go. We sat outside and got one of the last tables. It’s really nice and worth a trip, it’s not backpacker cheap though so needs to be a treat. We had three taster wines and cheeeese! A perfect end to a lovely stay in Santiago. P.s technically my last dinner in Santiago was papa johns pizza before my bus the next evening but it’s not quite the same 😊
Next stop – Puerto Varas, Patagonia, Chile 🇨🇱