Santiago de Chile
17.07.2016 - 19.07.2016 18 °C
When we were first researching this trip, I found a lot of useful info on other people's blogs so I'm going to start each of these posts with some practical stuff which might come in handy for anyone planning a similar trip.
1) As British & Irish citizens we didn't need Visas to enter Chile
2) When you arrive at Immigration at the Airport in Chile, they stamp your passport and give you what looks like a till receipt. Turns out this is your Immigration card and is very important. Don't lose it. They don't tell you this but if you do, it's another $100 and a whole load of hassle to get a replacement.
3) We booked our Hotel through Booking.com and it was hassle free. They mention a 19% tax which isn't included in the price which is payable by all residents of Chile. It says if you pay by Dollars that proves your identity as tourists and thus you can avoid this tax. As it turns out, your very important Immigration Card is all you need to prove your standing as a tourist!
and so on to the good stuff...
We arrived in Santiago, to little fanfare it must be said, at 7.30 in the morning after a very long journey from Dublin via Madrid. All in all it was a 20hr trip door to door but the whole 5hr time difference thing threw us a bit. Not quite arriving the day before we left thing but it certainly took a bit of time to readjust. Hardest thing on arrival was taking money out of the ATM and trying to work out the exchange rate. Turns out 1,000 Chilean Peso's are worth €1.44 or so but because they've been devalued so many times it's just marked as $1. The taxi tickets were marked $7.6 yet the lowest note I had was 20,000peso. I thought to myself, he's never going to have change for this! Anyway once you get used to the fact it's 7,600 it gets a little easier to work out.
We arrived at the hotel, a fabulous, almost gothic style, think home of the Adams family and were given a great welcome. Early days I know but the staff were very friendly, hopefully a sign of things to come. We casually mentioned we were on honeymoon and got upgraded to a premium suite and given a bottle of Champers. Think we're going to enjoy our stay here.
As the room wouldn't be ready till 3, we took our slightly smelling selves for a stroll in the 'Chile' morning air (the first and last time I'll use that one!) Just yards from our hotel we came across the funicular which brings you to the top of the Cerro San Cristobal. This hill towers above Santiago and has spectacular views of the city and the snow covered Andes in the distance.
We strolled back down in the balmy heat, 18degrees, had a spot of lunch and our first Pisco Sour.
Finally, we got to take a long awaited shower, and chilled out for the rest of the evening. After sitting in the very warm heat for lunch, there was a noticeable drop in the temperature once the sun went down and the pair of us were shivering under the heaters for the rest of the night.
Mind you this was only about an hour as we hit the hay at a ridiculous 8pm. I put it down to tiredness and not the fact we're on honeymoon 😉
Inevitably we woke early and after breakfast headed for a stroll around downtown Santiago. Sadly the sunshine and heat of yesterday gave way to overcast conditions and a resulting drop in temperatures. Think of Dublin in January and you get the idea. The weather wasn't the only thing that was turned on its head either as the calm and serenity of the Bella Vista was replaced with the hustle & bustle of a modern city existence. What was really noticeable was the lack of other tourists from our neck of the woods. We stood out but everywhere we went we were greeted with a warm smile and friendly banter...well we think it was friendly, hard to tell when the limit of your Spanish Is Cerveza, Hola and Gracias. We visited all the main buildings in the city, the Art Museum, the Cultural Museum, the Palacio de la Moneda etc. All magnificent architectural sights, a throwback to Chile's colonial past. As is often the case when wandering city streets, we soon built up an appetite. Down near the river on the edge of the Parque Forestal is the fabulous Central Market reminiscent of the Fruit market in Smithfield in Dublin. It's chaotic as the traders try to outdo each other in the shouting stakes. It's famed for the fish stalls but there's a multitude of other stuff available too. All the stalls are on the outer ring and a walk through to the centre reveals loads of restaurants serving up Fish, Fish and more Fish.
We decided to down tools and have our lunch which was...you guessed it...Fish. I really wanted to try the Crab but chickened out. No sooner had I ordered and the table next to me got theirs delivered. Impressive to say the least.
We continued on after lunch around the Cerro Santa Lucia and the area around Barrio Lastarria. One of the first things noticeable around Santiago is the amount of stray Dogs that inhabit the streets. Caution is exercised but we've discovered that it's not really necessary. The locals are very fond of these dogs and whilst they live on the streets they are very well looked after. A number of them have jackets on, provided by caring locals and we were told that it's not uncommon to see them jumping on buses and getting a lift to places where they know they'll be fed. Sounds like a wind-up but didn't stop us looking at every bus going past waiting for the inevitable paw at the window. This was spotted in the same Parque Forestal, kennels randomly placed for the poor mutts to sleep in.
We returned to the hotel aching but satisfied with the days efforts. We polished off the Champage kindly given to us by the hotel and headed out again for a bite and some local brew. Tomorrow we say goodbye to civilisation as we fly north to Calama and the Atacama desert, the driest place on earth. Yikes!!