Chile: Santiago

Santiago was handicapped for us from the beginning.  We confined ourselves there for all of three weeks with administrative duties (Brazilian visa) and incoming visitors (my brother, Michael, and his girlfriend, Kathleen).  The visa had been weighing on us for quite some time.  We were unable to get an appointment at the consulate in San Francisco before we left the United States, and we had heard it could take up to a month for processing abroad.  Staying in the same place for a month isn’t really our style, so we were hopeful when we heard it would only take 7 days from Santiago.  Little did we know, published prices for visas go out the window when you get them in Santiago.  Our $140 visas ended up costing $200 each, and they told us we were lucky because the price was going up two days later.  I’m not sure if lucky is quite the appropriate word…

We also had trouble finding a hostel as the prices were much higher than we expected.  In fact, we even tried a dorm room for the first three nights to save a few dollars.  I can now say with 100% confidence: never again!  People coming and going at all hours of the night, locking your stuff up every time you use it, no privacy, yuck.  However, the hostel did have great information about the city—it’s where we found out about the Vendimia Festival in Buin, so we do owe them some credit.

One of the first things we like to do when we arrive in a big city is to join a free city walking tour.  The concept is great.  You show up, they teach you about the history and help you to form a spatial map of the city in your mind, and then you pay them what you think it was worth.  You can always locate a free tour because the guide is required to wear an obnoxious colored shirt.  The tour we stumbled upon by accident happened to be giving their first tour ever on a Chilean holiday (when all the other tours were closed, great marketing).  During our three hour lesson, which started in the Plaza de Armas and ended at the house of Pablo Neruda, a famous Chilean poet and communist, we discovered a soon to be favorite ice cream shop and a great place for authentic Chilean food and actual draft beer.  So it wasn’t ALL boring history…

Obviously our tour guide was an “A” drama student.

For us, Santiago was just another big city.  It had skyscrapers and smog, financial districts and hipster hangouts, a great metro and a decent bus system.  We dabbled in the museums, but our true understanding of the culture came from what else…the food and the drinks unique to Chilenos.  We tried the local creation– the terremoto–at La Piojera.  For Santiago, a town where you could eat off the floor of the metro (it was that clean), the terrmoto sounds against their nature, but aptly named an “earthquake.”  It is made with pineapple sherbet, unfiltered wine (whatever that is), and a shot of fernet.  It sounds awful, tastes pretty good, and anything more than one is WAY too many.  In fact, some people order the aftershock after their first, which is essentially the baby version.  I guess it’s the Chilean version of the night cap.  For me, it would have just been goodnight.

The picture of pain.

…which we endured once with Amit and Galit, whom we met weeks prior at the end of the world in Ushuaia, and again with my brother and Kathleen.

And Joshua secretly enjoyed.

The true highlight of the trip was staying with my childhood friend, Haley.  She married a Chilean, and has lived in Santiago for the last 6 years.  The first night we met up, we hiked up San Cristobal Hill, an 880m overlook of the entire city with a 22m Virgin Mary, and as luck would have it, could see views of the Andes Mountains instead of the usual smog!

She invited us to stay with her, so we got even more time to visit, understand life in Chile and catch up on everything that has been happening over the years.  We drank from her husband, Fernando’s, wine collection, played yenga (Spanish Jenga) and gossiped about all things Sacramento.  It was exactly what I needed after being gone from home for so long.

We were fearful that the week with Michael and Kathleen would be reminiscent of the movie Groundhog’s Day, where we’d relive each day of our first week in Santiago, since we had scoped out most of the activities already.  But, it wasn’t the case.  After our first meal together, I came down with an awful “stomach issue.”  I was worried my appendix had grown back and had exploded in my body again—it was that bad.   The timing couldn’t have been more disruptive since we had guests or more annoying since it was my very first of the trip!  Not to mention, the four of us were squeezed into a quaint, one bathroom apartment.  And, if you can tell from the pictures, my brother and Kathleen are not petite.  So Joshua became their personal tour guide.  With the responsibility left up to him, they ended up walking all day through the areas of the city with the worst smells, the highest propensity for theft and the cheapest, most questionable food.

They did make it to the largest winery in Chile, Concha y Toro and to a “café con piernas” or essentially a place where businessmen go to drink coffees, smoke cigarettes, and get served coffee by girls in tight dresses.  Joshua doesn’t drink much coffee, but he was inspired to try a coffee at every establishment in town.  So was my brother…go figure.

They also made it to the daily chess games in the Plaza de Armas which attract a large betting crowd.  I know my brother lost a few more pesos than he’d like to remember during the trip.

Once recovered, I had limited energy, but there was one draw in Chile that could get me outside faster than any other: stray dogs!  There are thousands of street dogs in Chile, many are fed by local restaurants or find leftovers in the garbage, but none of them have homes.  It’s a huge problem for the country, but…for me, I love the amount of stray dog puppies you get to see walking through the city.  Seriously, they are everywhere, and I stop for ALL OF THEM.

2 thoughts on “Chile: Santiago

  1. What an amaaazing time we had, so great seeing you Laura and meeting Josh!! And so stoked you finally got to meet Mr. Alfonso 🙂 Keep in touch!!! Besos de Santiago

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