Chile: Santiago and Valparaiso

Day 1

We arrived in Santiago at 11am, after a 12 hours flight from Sydney that departed at 12pm of the same day, Sunday 15th of May. Our mind and bodies were quite confused when we arrived… We almost drank tap water, we almost fell asleep while walking around, we almost forgot to pick up our bags at luggage claim, we almost paid £5 for a bottle of Evian water! But luckily we got our Chilean stamp on the passport, and managed to get a sim card after a few headaches and my rubbish Spanish, and an Uber to our accommodation in Santiago. We are staying at Trivento apartments in Miraflores area, very nice place with a great host called Victor who we met on arrival. He was very helpful and very funny, full of charisma and the perfect welcoming figure to our South America adventure. Once arrived and settled in we called Juliet, Brucey’s mum to say happy birthday and catch up. I then fell asleep just before we wanted to go out straight away, and Brucey took the opportunity to call his sister Cam. After I woke up, I was starving and we went for a delicious dinner and a few FLIGHTS of wine tasting at a restaurant called Bocanariz in Barrio Lastarria (a road full of restaurants) which literally means mouth-nostril. The food was great and so was the wine. We then got to bed and recovered a bit of the tiredness and jetlag in a lovely comfy bed!

Day 2

We left a bit in hurry after having breakfast to join the Tour4Tips free walk. The walk is conducted by guides dressed as Wally’s in red and white stripes and it’s free a part from tipping at the end if you enjoyed the tour. In the morning we did the off-the beaten track that goes through markets, and the general cemetery to learn more about how chileans express their respects to the dead. It was really interesting how he dead are still very much part of their life, we saw a tomb of a little kid that died only five days after he was born, and the family is still now 15 years later bringing a lot of kids to the cemetery every year on his birthday to celebrate and to ensure he still feels part of the family wherever he is. There were also stories of a guy who loved to smoke a lot, and his wife when he goes to visit him at the cemetery she lights up a cigarette and leaves it to burn on his grave. Another wife was explicitely asked by her husband to only bring him beers instead of flowers when it would be his turn, and that is what she is doing now that he is gone. The tour ended at the tomb of Salvador Allende, the first socialist president elected democratically who was in power from ’70 to ’73, when he was betrayed by his army chief Augusto Pinochet, who with a golpe in Plaza La Moneda took over the country in a dictatorship that lasted until 1989. There are different opinions on how Allende died, he was in the Moneda palace and was asked to surrender and leave by 11am, but he didn’t surrendered so Pinochet started bombing the building and Allende was found with his AK45, some say he shot himself (but it would have been difficult since the weapon is so big, some say he used his toe to pull the trigger) and some say he just got killed by the soldiers. It was very interesting to hear the story from Liz, our guide who is originally Chilean and was telling us that her family is very divided on opinions, like the whole of Chile, since Allende had great ideals and loved the people but he didn’t achieve much and actually ended up getting the country into a bad economy, while Pinochet despite the horrible violence some say have brought more prosperity and modernity to the country.

At the end of the tour we were kindly offered a “terremoto” a cocktail with pisco (the local liquor) and pineapple icecream, the name means earthquake like in Italian, since we are sitting on the most sismic state in the world where the highest ever Richter scale shake has been registered in history (over 9). In between tours we had a quick lunch with a sandwhich “Italiano” which the chilean invented, with avocado tomato and mayonnaise, red green and white like the Italian flag. They apparently love mayo and they put it everywhere!

The afternoon tour started at 3pm and it’s more the classic route with the main Santiago highlights. In both tours we had good guides and learnt a lot more about the history of Chile, some we listened to some slighlty different opinions, and visited some of the key historical places of this fascinating country.

During both tours we met two friendly couples, Daniel and Jess from Melbourne Australia and Hayley from Queensland and Nigel from New Zealand who live in the South of NZ.

In the evening we were very tired since we walked a lot, and decided to have a home cooked meal with a nice bottle of wine and have a chilled evening. We ate a tomato and avocado (which is a real obsession here in Chile, and the avocados are huge and super tasty) salad and I made some turkey lemon escalopes. For dessert we had a cheap and cheerful mousse au chocolat by Nestle! The wine was a Chilean Carmeniere, very nice (and cheap). We ended up playing Gloom for a bit, I finally managed to win, and we also got stuck with some chores which meant we went to sleep far too late!

Day 3

In the morning we had to pack up our stuff and leave the flat, had a breakfast of ham and bread to gather the energies to go and visit the museum of human rights, Museo de la Memoria e de los Derechos Umanos. We got there by tube, the stop is Quinta Normal and the visit takes about 2 hours. The museum is free but it is only in Spanish so if you don’t speak the language you have to get the audio guide in English which is 2000 pesos per person (£2).
It was very interesting and informative about the dark time from ’73 to ’89, some parts are quite intense, as the tortures are described and some of the stories are very shocking but it is a must if you want to get a better idea of the Chilean history and heritage. After the museum we went back to the apartment where we met Victor who gave us our bags back, and we then stopped for a quick cheap lunch on the way to the bus terminal. We then got a bus to Valparaiso, it costs about £2.50 for a 1 and a half hour bus journey on a very nice modern bus. We both passed out within seconds on the bus. Arrived in Valparaiso we got an Uber to our accommodation, called Casa Galos. Beautiful room, and lovely place with rooftop views over the harbour and the Valparaiso hills. A bit over our budget but an amazing treat. We didn’t have time to do much in the afternoon so we only ended up having an EPIC dinner at Casa Luisa, where we were amazingly surprised by the quality of food, great value for the quality, and the lovely family owned feel with jazz music really made it special. After dinner we went to sit on the rooftop which has amazing views of the city lighten up at night, and met a very nice and interesting couple Gabriel from Brazil and Kristina from Russia. They met in Moscow where Gabriel studied medicine for 8 years, and they have now moved to Brazil where Gabriel is an intensive care doctor and where Kristina is a translator from Russian to German. We had a very good chat about travelling, drinking wine, carnival, best beaches in the world and life. Great first impression of Valparaiso so far.

Day 4
We had a tasty breakfast at our place which was included, scrambled eggs on very fresh bread, coffee, cereals and fruits. We then made our way to the plaza Sotomayor where the navy blue building stands out amongst more old and decadent buildings. Here is where the Tour4tips Valparaiso starts. Again we had a full day with the Wallys, in the morning discovering the off-the-beaten-track Valparaiso, seeing the Harbour and flat area, getting a “rollercoaster” bus (believe me there is a reason why they call them that) which are going very fast because they take commission for as many passengers they can get on, so they are quickly trying to get more people than their competitors, all the way up to the old Valparaiso prison where we learnt more about the history of this place during the dictatorship, and then we walked down stopping at some streetart points. We then had lunch with Hayley, Nigel, Daniel and Jess who we met again here. We were very happy to find out that Daniel and Jess are going to La Paz on Friday on our same flight!

In the afternoon they made their way back to Santiago, while we had the second Tour4Tips highlights tour where we visited a lot of amazing murals and the two best hills of Valparaiso and we tried the Afaconas, a cake made by Sergio, a guy who lives under the stairs in a small little hallway full of murals and colourful walls and stairs. On the tour, we met an intresting girl from the Ukraine called Natalia who gave us some tips for Bolivia and Peru. Like in Santiago, each tour ended with a drink, in the morning we tried coke and wine and in the afternoon we tried another cheap drink which didn’t taste good at all.  Throughout the day we got a real feel of the city of Valparaiso, which was a rich and famous port until 1914 when the Panama canal was built. Before then it was prosperous and rich, since everyone who wanted to reach California or the west coast had to stop here. Especially during the California gold rush everyone stopped here as it was pretty much the half way point. After 1914 it slowly lost its power and the economy of the city got worst and worst. It’s very bohemian, but interesting and beautiful in its own way. As Chilean would say it is a city that has a soul, and it certainly wouldn’t leave anyone indifferent.

After the afternoon tour we were knackered and after chilling for a bit in our lovely B&B we went for dinner at  Cafe del Pintor which is number 2 o Trip Advisor, nice and cheap set menus  but the quality is miles and miles away from number 1!

Day 5

We finally had a nice lie in, although Bruce didn’t sleep much since I had a nightmare and woke him up by shouting in the middle of the night so he comforted me but then couldn’t sleep for hours. We had breakfast as late as we could, 11am, and then went to see Pablo Neruda’s house La Sebastiana. I am a big fan of the Noble Prize poet, and was very excited to go and see his house. It was amazing, also Brucey loved it even if it’s the first time he heard of the poet! Such an amazing place, full of his charisma, I loved the bar where only he was allowed to serve drinks, mainly chilean wine, and the amazing living room overlooking the beautiful and colourful Valparaiso, the top floor is the one I was most jealous of, the study where he use to write. We couldn’t take photos inside so we stayed as long as we could to try and take it in and try to remember all the rooms full of soul and details. The audio guide was very good, strongly recommend if you are going to visit. After that we walked downhill towards the open air museum, which is actually only a bunch of murals with numbers underneath, across the many up and down staircases that characterise the city, it’s beautiful and it’s easy to get lost by admiring the streetart, even if the stray dogs poos disseminated everywhere along the road keep you on your toes! ALong the way we met a nice kitten that followed us along for quite a while and helped us cope with missing Mr Jenkins so much! After that we slowly made our way back, we bought a thermal long sleeves shirt for Bolivia and Peru and got back to chill out a bit before dinner, we booked again Casa Luisa for tonight, couldn’t resist! Tomorrow we leave at 6am to get the taxi to the bus station, then another bus from Santiago bus station to the airport then fly to La Paz with one stop in Iquique. It’s going to be a fun day, also going from sea level to 4000 metres!

Overall we loved Valparaiso, there is something magical about the colourful street art, the stray dogs and cats that never make you feel lonely, the warm locals singing on the roller coaster buses, clowns on the trolley bus, the once glorious now decadent buildings, the port, the lights at night from the hills that are shining like dragonflies. It’s a place with a soul.



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