My Life Stories

Chile Day 3: Markets, Metro, and Wine

On the third day, which was originally going to be my day trip to Valparaiso, I opted instead to spend time with my new Brazilian friends since I had visited a beach the day before and I really don't think I would have topped that experience. So, after some breakfast we headed out into the streets wandering around in search of a particular cash exchange for some of the girls to exchange money, during which we visited a nice little market and explored a library.

We then headed for a famous ice cream parlor called Emporio La Rosa which is one of the top 25 ice cream places in the world apparently.  I chose the rasberry mint flavor which was quite delicious, and cold (it was pretty warm out, although unusually cloudy).

With something sweet and cool in our bellies, we headed off to the metro to catch a train to the south of Santiago to get to the Concha y Toro vineyard tour.  We took the metro to the Las Mercedes stop at which point the locals knew exactly where we were headed and told us to go wait for a shuttle bus. We boarded the bus for 500 pesos each (about $0.80) which took us straight to the vineyard. Along the way several salesman boarded the bus to sell us snacks and candy. They have a funny trick where they pass out candy bars to anybody willing to grab one and then they go back to collect the money from anybody who opened it.

Arriving safely at our destination, we paid for our reservations and received wrist bands to enter the vineyard.  I should probably mention at this point that the tour we were on was completely in Portugues. It didn't really bother me since I had quite a few personal translators handy, and most of the dialogue could be inferred by what we were being shown anyway.  The tour was pretty nice overall. The grounds were nice to look at, there was a theatrical light show in the cellar, and the wine tasting was fantastic. Did I mention the wine was amazing?!  For $12 you get the tour, about a full glass of wine, and you get to keep the glass! Oh, and you can eat grapes off of the vine.

After the tour, and feeling a bit...hungry, we decided to grab a bite in the food court of a shopping mall outside of the metro stop before returning to downtown.  Here I encounted two very interesting things: the first was restaurant called Bob's Burgers, which apparently has no affiliation to the popular cartoon show, and a hot dog place called Doggis serving some very "different" hot dogs. I chose to go with the "terjano" and the "country" dogs.

The Terjano: Chopped tomatoes, cripsy fried onions, and BBQ sauce. Not bad!
The Country: Chopped tomatoes, guacamole, and mayonaise. Never again!

After making it back to the hostel, the Brazilians had a dinner date with one of their friends who lives in Santiago, so I decided to relax a little and just hang out there until they returned. Well, they returned about 11pm that evening, and the hostel bar closed at 11:30pm, or so I thought. After convincing a few of them to come have a drink with me on my last night, we were dismayed to find out the hostel bar closes at 11pm on Mondays! Turns out, Chileans love their weekends, so much in fact that they party so hard up until Monday morning that they need the following night off!

So what did we do? Naturally we headed out in search of some refreshments. It was difficult to find a place, and we finally ended up getting some drinks from a restaurant. Yes, you can get drinks to go from a restaurant. Weird, I know.  With drinks in tow, we headed back and said Saúde (Brazilian Portugeuse for cheers) and finished the night off right.  

As we were finishing up for the night, I made friends with an Australian sitting at the next table over. One thing led to another and I soon found myself invited out for more drinks with him and a local that just finished his shift at the hostel and was looking to socialize.  So once again, I found myself back on the streets of Santiago in search of refreshments. We settled on a sidewalk cafe serving 1 liter bottles for a few bucks each.  After some good conversation, and refusing the many offers to buy things from local panhandlers, we called it a night.  But remember how I said never again to the "country" style hot dog?

It didn't taste any better at 3am. It actually tasted much worse because it was cold. And probably because it was prepared at 3am.

My Exit Strategy

After a less than ideal night's sleep, I awaited my reserved taxi in the lobby of the hostel. I was very sad to have to leave such a fun and amazing place, but all good things must end.  I can't really say much about the departure since it was pretty normal: get to the airport, go through security, wait for the plane, board the plane, leave place you wish you didn't have to.  I will say though that the Santiago airport offers quite unique views (even when it's smoggy).

In conclusion, I had one hell of a trip! So much so that I probably haven't felt more depressed to leave a place than I did after this.  Usually I leave feeling satisfied and content with my time spent there, but I think it was the fact that I loved being there so much that made it that much harder to leave. The one thing I found solace in was my $382 round trip ticket. Yes, you heard correctly.  And with that, Adios Santiago, hasta la proxima!

Chile Day 2: The Pacific

It's amazing how hospitable people can be sometimes. Through a recent friend I made while working at a client in DC, I was able to meet up with his friend, Marcel, who lives in Santiago.  At first I wasn't sure if I was going to take them up on the offer since I only had three days to spend in Chile and thought I might want to explore Santiago the entire time, but I am extremely glad I obliged.  After picking me up around noon, we stopped off at his house to pick up Eliana before heading off to Zapallar on the coast of Chile. The drive was around an hour and 45 minutes and I must admit I might have taken a snooze or two along the way, but I did manage to grab a shot or two from the window.

Upon arriving in Zapallar I was extremely excited to finally witness the Pacific ocean in all its glory. We drove down through many small streets down to a restaurant on the water front called El Chiringuito de Zapallar. The food here was nothing short of amazing, and even though the prices were on the higher side for Chile, the portions were very generous.  Here is my order of Reineta (a Chilean white fish) and french fries.  Delicious!  One cool thing about the location is being on the water which means LOTS of birds, and they aren't shy.

Following our late lunch, practically dinner since I didn't eat any more that day, we hiked up to the top of the hill just behind the restaurant which provided some great views.  I'll just explain with pictures instead of words.

Thinking the views couldn't get any better, we drove just a mile or two south to the next beach where we walked along a stone walkway for probably half a mile, watched the waves and sunset, and headed back just as the sun was setting. As someone who has always lived on the east coast, this was my first beach sunset, and I loved it!  Again, words can't describe it, so I'll let the pictures do it more justice.


With the sun completely set, there was not much else to do except prepare for the long ride back to Santiago, and long it was! Apparently Chileans love their weekends, so much so that they enjoy it all the way up until midnight on Sunday. There was an incredible amount of traffic going back since there are only a few roads to take and everybody was on that road. I didn't get any pictures, but some of the highlights of that trek were vendors at every toll booth trying to sell you water and snacks, gas stations with nearly a hundred cars waiting to get gas or use the bathroom, and people just hanging out at the gas stations at 11pm on a Sunday enjoying a hot dog and conversation, not caring about the fact that they have to get up the next morning and go back to work. I couldn't do much except sleep on the way home, which was actually a challenge because I think we listened to just about every brazilian samba CD ever produced during the three-hour ride!

When I woke up from my nap we were outside of my hostel and it was 12:30am, so we said our short goodbyes and exchanged emails and handshakes and I thanked them so much for the wonderful day we shared together.  Next time I go back to Santiago I am definitely going to say hello.  Thank you, Marcel.


Onward to Chile

Following my one-night, one-day stay in Panama City, I headed for the real mission of this trip: Chile. After all, the whole reason I booked this trip was because I snagged airfare from DC to Santiago for $382 round trip.  This time I was able to grab a shuttle from the hostel to the airport for only $9, but I had to leave on their schedule which put me there about an hour before I really wanted to be there.  Not wanting to risk missing a flight or who knows what else, I chose this option. On my way to the airport I managed to get one measly picture of the famous Panama City buses which are decorated beyond belief. 

While waiting in the airport I had ample opportunity to play on my phone while sitting on the floor to charge my phone.  That's when I got one of my favorite photos of the trip.  This old couple just happened to stand right in front of me and were both dressed in white from head to toe. I don't what the significance is of that, but it sure caught my eye!

Santiago de Chile

Arriving at Santiago Airport at 3am, I quickly made my way through customs and searched for an ATM. It took me a while to find one and then it took me a while to actually get cash, because the one option needed to get cash was in Spanish and said 'foreign transaction' which I didn't think was my option. Don't count on free wifi at this airport.  I managed to get some help from a receptionist at the taxi desk to connect to a rather painfully slow network which allowed me to access my hostel's website to find their suggested method of getting there. There is no way to metro downtown from the airport I was told, even though I thought I had researched that before I left.  So, in the end, I paid about $12 to ride in a shuttle bus with several other passengers going to the same general area. 

I think this has to be the first time I'd ever arrived at a hostel in the middle of the night, and I'm not sure why it was something that always worried me. I was greeted by a most wonderful host, Carlitos, who allowed me to hang out in a room with some couches, use the bathroom, and even help myself to some breakfast even though I wasn't going to check in until after 2pm that day.  Turns out he spoke pretty fluent German and Swiss German as well, and we had some good conversation, but sadly I never saw him again before leaving.

Since I couldn't check in for almost 11 hours, I decided to make the best of my time so I headed off to join a walking tour of Santiago.  This was actually my first ever walking tour. I typically shy away because I want to be in control of where I go and what I see, but being alone on a new continent didn't particularly give me the confidence to do that just yet. Especially since I'd read so much about camera theft and I figured safety in numbers would be the best way to go.  The tour was quite good and helped familiarize me (at least somewhat) with the downtown area.  The highlights included Mercado Central, various other markets, some examples of old and modern architecture, and the massive cemetary.

At the end of the tour our guide took us to a restaurant where we all got to sample the famous drink Terremoto, which means earthquake in Spanish.  Here is our guide Mathias pouring our drinks.

Following the tour, I and several other tour members were quite hungry so we all headed for a stop mentioned during the tour called Tio Willy, or Uncle Willy.  This is supposedly a place for locals to eat, which in part I suppose is true, but plenty of tourists eat there simply because it is hyped up on the tour.  Nevertheless, I ordered the famous Peruvian Ceviche which was quite good!  Ceviche is a simple dish consisting of raw seafood with onions and cilantro which cooks in the acidity of lime juice. It was quite refreshing and surprisingly filling.

After finally getting some nourishment, myself and another from the tour decided to head for the famous Cerro San Cristobal park which sits atop a hill smack dab in the middle of the city.  This is the ultimate viewpoint for seeing the city and so off we went.

On the way we passed through the Bella Vista neighborhood with all of its brightly decorated buildings.

Unfortunately, the smog level was affecting the view, so it left a little something to be desired, but the funicular ride was quite fun. Oh, and cold bottled water at the top tastes great no matter what it actually costs!

By this point I was getting quite tired and quite sweaty, and of course smelly which just completes the trinity of a weary traveler.  My new friend and I headed back to the hostel, turns out they were staying there too, to freshen up a bit and decided to also grab some dinner before calling it a night. We managed to find a quaint little place called Venezia in the Belles Artes neighborhood after passing about dozens and not finding anything overly enticing.  Not to say my meal was anything special, but it was nice to sit down in a semi-quiet restaurant that probably gets overlooked by a lot of tourists.  I ordered a half chicken with mushrooms and spicy mashed potatoes. Yes, they were quite spicy.

After dinner we parted ways at the hostel and I went to mingle at the bar when I ran into my new roommates, who, as it turns out had lunch with us that day! They were a wonderful group of Brazilian girls and guy who were all cousins traveling together.  And with that day 1 of Santiago came to an end.