Well after ‘roughing it’ for three weeks on a truck – clearly any form of civilisation was going to be a welcome break. And where better to re-join modern civilisation than the capital of Chile – Santiago. Even saying it sounds glamorous.
So we ended in Happy House Hostel and it is sooo nice here. We were not expecting private twin rooms with our OWN bathrooms thats for sure. Thanks Dragoman – a lovely end to an amazing trip. So we freshened up after our 12 hour drive and made plans to eat at 8.30 for the ‘last supper’ as it were.
Howeverrrrrr, our guide Yves did not anticipate that we would want a ‘last supper’ night out in Santiago so he hadnt booked a restaurant for us. Oh dear. Cue sighs from us the group. It is not easy getting 23 people seated and fed in a restaurant without a booking so our poor guide Yves looked a tad stressed as he tried to organise something. And hoorah he did 🙂
We ended up in a restaurant in the Bellavista area which was lovely. Gorgeous in fact and there were cocktails a plenty. Good times.
The next day – slightly hungover (thats probably a white lie – quite hungover) I packed to go to my new digs over in Providencia. UPGRADE TIME!! I was sooo looking forward to chilling by the pool allllllll day. It was soooooo hot here 🙂 So backpack on (just the baggage you want to arrive with to a classy hotel and lorrrd its soo heavy – over 20kg!) and offs I went to a more leafy, quieter part of town. Latas Mamasita.
I checked in all dandy and smiled happily at the room with a bathroom and a HAIRDRYER – finally – straight, blow dried hair! Yay. Also complimentary washing products. Could I have been more smug?! No I dont think so! I may have done a happy dance. Ahem.
I sunbathed, had a nice salmon ciabatta then decided to make use of the ‘business centre’ and upload my photos – all by myself. It was so peaceful. And I felt so grown up. However, I wanted say bye to the remaining members of my group so I hot footed it across town to meet the others before everyone went their separate ways.
It was a nice evening but I think tiredness from the trip and previous night out shattered us all so no drinkies for me this evening and I headed back to le hotel for a good snooze. And then, images of Luther series 3, episode 1 flashed through my head. Oh nooooo! What if there was a man under my bed waiting to kill me?! (Of course) and I slept largely with the light on – because of course this would stop him! Mental note dont watch Luther till on my flight home to le UK. Plan.
The next day I got a taxico to meet mum and made polite chit chat with the driver. I did not anticipate having to wait 2 hours for mum to exit at the arrivals gate and awkward silences followed with said taxi driver. Mum then emerged and it was lovely to see her arrive – hoorah – and we nattered until .. Well we nattered all the time really. Shared news from the UK and my adventures and we then got one of those tour buses around Santiago as our joint introduction to le City. This was nice as you dont really have to do much except be driven around admiring the landmarks. I did force mum to get off at a couple of stops – one of them being Saint Lucia hill – and I climbed to the very top. Cue photos of Santiago. Saw a couple of gecko things too which was cool. Also fell down some steps onto my bum. Classy. Flip flops arent climbing material.
On the hill mum and and I noticed quite a few ‘amourous’ couples. They were everywhere. Smiling politely we passed them but inside I was thinking ‘get a room, there are children – and DOGS around’. Not that I am bitter at all. Moving on….
Then found out on our walking tour a few days later that this is because young adults generally do not move out of their parents homes until either they get married or go to university. As it is too expensive to move away for university – the latter is not really a thing. So children generally live with their parents until their late 20’s (I feel better about that!). The country is still quite traditional (divorce was only legalized in 2004 and abortion is still illegal) so there will be ‘none of those shenanigans under my roof’ is sort of the mentality of parents in Chile. Hence making out ALOT in parks. Not sure this is a better outcome but hey ho.
Then due to mum’s bad back and blistered feet (she didnt take well to the hot climate the first few days much to my amusement – I am horrible!) we got back on the tour bus. I forced mum to get off again at an area called Bellavista so we could mooch around this very cool neighbourhood – but she was worried we would miss the last tour bus back. So we saved this for another day and ordered pizza take away at le hotel with pisco sours. Classy ladies I know 🙂
In Santiago Mum and I also walked about Providencia which is lovely and completely different to other parts of the city. Also had amazing ice cream. We did a ‘tips for tour’ free (ish) 3 hour walking tour. ‘Most people tip me 10,000 – 15,000 pesos’ was the introduction from the ‘where’s wally guide’ so not really free or discretionary. However this was very good and gave us a brief insight into the history and culture of Santiago and Chile. Plus it was in the SUN. Ahem.
On the tour, we started at Belles Artes station and looked at some graffitti done by Inti Castro – a popular Chile graffitti artist.
The images are supposed to represent items a modern citizen needs or relies on. Including a mobile phone. Not sure exactly what the skulls are meant represent – I assume death in some way – but I was too shy to ask! Santiago is very focused on the arts and you can see this throughout the city with independent shops selling homemade items, street dancers, jugglers, graffitii etc. There was also this cool old building which is now an arts building for up and coming artists and clothes makers. Mum and I attempted to venture into one of the shops but quickly discovered it was a sexy shop like Ann Summers. Not quite.
As much as I love creative people, they always highlight how uncreative I am! How do they think of these things?!
Also found out that dogs are a big part of Santiago’s culture. People treat them as family and its generally the way that the owners let them out in the mornings and they go home in the evenings. Ha, day out for the dogs! The ones without homes are looked after by the residents of Santiago and none looked under fed or ill. Apparently if people see an injured dog, they take them to the vet. There are also kennels scattered around the city and bowls of water for them to drink out of! So lovely.
As mentioned above, Santiago appears to be big on the arts and the shops are full of things I wanted to buy. Darn budget and exceedinly full backpack. There is also cool graffitti everywhere (although I guess that is the same with most big cities). Its a really lovely city. My favourite I think although having gorgeous weather does help. We visitied the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Centre and the guide pointed out these door handles that President Allende installed to represent ‘power to the people’. Pinochet later took over this building and changed the handles upside down. Our guide said that this was to signify oppression.
Our guidetook us to the La Moneda presidential palace and we learned that President Allende died here fighting the coup involving General Pinochet – who he had appointed as Commander in chief for the army. It was my understanding that he shot himself once the army broke into the building. How awful. Mum and I wanted to visit the muesum about this when we returned to Santiago from San Pedro but it was difficult to find. There was very little information generally about the Pinochet era.
We ended our tour at a wine establishment with hundreds of different wines! Yay. My brother Darren and his girlfriend Nicole would have loved this place and I wished they were here with us at this point. Cue missing home.
Mum and I then returned to Bellavista for shopping and cocktails. I cant describe how much I love this place and Santiago in general. I just feel so relaxed here. And oh the weather is amazing – hot but not humidly so.
And then we bid our sad farewell to the hotel – and ate as much breakfast as we could – before heading to the airport for our next destination – San Pedro. Not before we had to spend ages finding a foreign currency exchange place because all the hotels want dollars and not their own currency. If you pay in dollars, you dont pay the 19% VAT charge apparently.
Weirdly as we were walking down the street, this cute dog saw mum across the road and started wagging its tail excitedly. Then it ran acorss the road to join us and shockingly got super excited and kept sniffing her and running around her. It was SOOOOO wierd. Then it followed us all the way to the bank and waited outside. We did get a bit freaked out because it literally would not leave mum’s side – even when we popped into a shop to ask for directions to the bank. It also kept barking at her. Shamefully we intentionally lost the dog by hiding in the bank for a while and leaving by a separate exit. I feel sad about this now. It could have been our mascot or protector and a companion for mum’s dog Betty in the UK.
I have written a blog separately about the lovely San Pedro so after this break, we returned to Santiago. Lovely Santiago. Howeverrrr, in my pursuit to convince mum (and the family really) that hostels were actually quite nice, I convinced mum to stay in Happy House Hostel for our last few nights in Santiago. She agreed.
Upon arrival, mum seemed a tad deflated and when they showed us the room with a double bed, I was like ‘oh lord, not again…’. So I said I asked for a twin and the staff said ‘Si this is a twin’. Hmmm. No. So they changed us to a twin room which was a tad grottier. ‘Where is the kettle and tea facilities? Where is the hairdryer?’ was mum’s initial comments. Also the drive from the airport did not help as it highlighted that we were in fact in a less desirable part of town. Tears welled in mum’s eyes as she foresaw her last few days here. I felt so bad. However, she soon got used to this as I located a hairdryer and showed her the kitchen upstairs for tea. No hostels for mum in le future.
We tried to find the muesum about the dictatorship but could not. So we headed to Bellavista again to relax. The next day, we headed to Valparaiso and looord, if you ever see the bus station here, you’ll think Victoria Station is a coach wonderland. It was sooo chaotic with people everywhere and no screens to tell you which bay your bus was leaving from. Numbers 30 – 36 was what we were told as we had to scan and wait for our bus to arrive.
Alas we had been told Valparasio was a wonderful place. But on arrival, we could not see why. It was very run down. However, we found our free walking tour guide and he showed us a lovely side to the city. The city has many ferniculars as it has so many hills. The houses are all painted in wonderful colours with lots of alleyways and graffitti art – of course.
It was a visionary treat but notmso for the nostrils as the smell of dirt and dog pee filled the air.
Nonetheless, as lovely as the tour was, mum and I were happy to get back onto the bus for the safety of Santiago. By this point, mum had started to quite like the hostel 🙂
Our last day together involved sitting around the hostel pool (right?! How could you not like this place) and relaxing. It had been a lovely two weeks. And mum was leaving me. There has been too much of this – the departure at Gatwick, the end of my Dragoman tour/goodbyes and now this.. Emotionally it has been a rollercoaster!! Ha.
So I then waved mum off at Santiago airport and bravely headed back to le hostel. All by myself. I felt lonely without her. The next day I had no plans as my flight to Buenos Aires was not until the next morning. So I made my way into the breakfast room all by myself. Haha. I am kidding. During our stay here, I had spoken to a lovely couple in their mid 40s who were travelling for ONE YEAR. Lucky devils. They were also doing the same Dragoman tour I had done but starting off in Santiago. I also spoke to this man and his son who had spent one month travelling the Lake District of Chile by bicycle. I then made friends with this American girl called Laura and spent the day subathing with her by the pool – not before speaking to another older woman about the trials of dating in London and being in your 30s. She had the same concerns for her daughter! Ha. Laura had met some people in Mendoza so I had dinner with them which ended my stay in Santiago perfectly. What an amazing time I have had here. I love you Chile.
Now onto Argentina…..
Oh and on the personal injury front – the splinter has gone 🙂 Woop. I got it out all by myself 🙂 However, on another front, I seem to have gained a wierd, incessant giggling whenever something happens.. even thinking about it makes me giggle. Its sooo wierd but if mum tells me her feet are blistered, her back hurts or more recently she sunburnt her nose, I burst into fits of laughter and cant stop. Random! Poor mum.