Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Santiago, the first time.

Main Plaza, Santiago
Main plaza, Santiago
We decided to spend 3 nights in Santiago as we had come from San Pedro de Atacama on a 24 hour bus journey and we thought we deserved a few days of rest and hoping for some brilliant food.

The city is improving according to our guidebook. It's a pretty standard big non-coastal city. Big, dirty, hectic and people hassling you (dirty mainly because there is a strike by the municipal workers, yes a strike in South America, you would never believe it!).

Our hostel, Happy House, is brilliant. It's a gorgeous old converted house with high decorative ceilings, polished wood floors, a pool, massive comfortable rooms, and a pool. Did we mention they have a pool? It's located in Barrio Brazil, about 20 minutes walk from the main part of town, there are cool cafes and restaurants nearby, including an ice creamery. It's great. 

We ate at a local restaurant which was recommended by the guy on reception at the hotel, it's called  Varcas Gordas (the fat cow) and had the most amazing bife de chorizo and lomo steaks, with chips and salad, and wine, and cocktails. So amazing after so many weeks in Bolivia where pretty much the only option is pizza. We could hardly contain our excitement. 

There is a great ice cream place around the corner from the hostel, very cheap with great ice cream and it's right across the street from a park where you can watch the local teenagers ride skateboards. 

Santiago Markets
Santiago Markets
We bought empanadas on the street for lunch on our first day. The money in Chile is like Australian money (plastic) and when we got the change from the vendor we thought nothing of the ripped $2,000 note (£2 approx).  We discovered that ripped notes in Chile are not accepted ...anywhere (not even the banks), so we threw it on the floor and within seconds it was gone - not that whoever picked it up could use it either. Lesson learned. Don't accept damaged notes in Chile. 

We did an interesting free alternative walking tour of Santiago (with tips), the guide, Matthew, was really informative and walked us around the several markets and some of the old areas of Santiago finishing in the cemetery where he explained animitas. These are a bit of a cultural/religious phenomenon where an 'innocent' is killed in a tragic way and as they were 'pure' and taken in such a way they are considered kind of like saints (note: the catholic religion does not accept these 'saints' nor condone them), people prey to them and ask for things like jobs, health, money. It's quite widespread in South America.

We have booked to come back to the same hostel for a couple of nights before we leave for Australia. All set. 

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