It’s a bit ridiculous that I’m writing about Santiago when we’ve been back from the big trip since March! But, life can run away with you at times and before you know it, it’s 3 months later and we’re back to everyday life…kind of.
I’m currently in the U.K. working over the summer before I begin a PGCE course in September, at York University. Tim is working away in New Zealand (we’re so far from each other now!) spending time with family and saving up the pennies before he too heads to the bright lights of Blighty. It’s crazy to think that only a few months ago we were swanning around South America with hardly any worries in the world – until our very last day of the trip. But more on that in the next post.
Where did we leave off? Departing Concepción on the night bus to Santiago de Chile, waving a tearful goodbye to our new bestie, David. Ok, I’m exaggerating about the tears but we were very sad to leave the Escobar-Flores family who had welcomed us into their home with all the love (and food) in the world.
We didn’t stay in Santiago long; an hour or so to be exact. We were aiming to get to Pichilemu, a small surf town a couple of hours from the capital but due to bus routes, we had to detour into Santiago to get the next bus out. Luckily, we’d booked first class so by the time we arrived, we were reasonably rested.
Pichilemu is such a cool little spot and the hostel we stayed at was amazing. La Sirena Insolente is built solely from containers and sits high up on a hill, with views out to the Pacific Ocean from the rooftop terrace; a prime spot for the die-hard surfers to get a glimpse of the waves. The hostel was equipped with a yoga space, meditation tent, gym area, cozy dorms, ping pong table and a well-stocked kitchen. Can you guess which part I liked the best?
The only downside was, despite how great the facilities were, and how trendy the hostel looked, the vibe was a bit off. Perhaps it was a little too chilled out; too surfery for us? It was hard to determine who worked there, who was volunteering, who the guests were and we weren’t granted the usual welcome where they give you the layout of the land and explain all the activities on offer or recommend good places to eat/drink etc.
But we loved our days here, spending most of our time at the beach or walking the cliffside and relaxing at the hostel, reading. My favourite day was the day I finally got up on a surfboard for more than a few seconds. I actually rode the wave in! The conditions were great for learners and with that 5mm wetsuit, you could stay in the icy waters for a while.
From Pichilemu, it was back to Santiago de Chile. We had already spent a week here before we went to Patagonia but to save writing about it twice, I saved the post until now. Also, Tim was sick the entire time before so there wasn’t much to write about because I spent the week poolside at our hostel.
We’d heard from so many travellers to only spend a day or two in Chile’s capital and I have no idea why. It’s an amazing city. The streets are clean and bright, there’s great museums, a reliable metro system, fantastic night life and a thriving restaurant scene. We were told that we’d probably get pick pocketed or mugged but we never felt unsafe walking the streets and every local we met was lovely.
So, nothing to complain about from us. Go to Santiago!
We stayed at La Ventana Sur hostel, both times. We loved it so much the first time that we re-booked. It’s in the leafy barrio of Santa Isabel which reminded me a lot of Greenwich village in New York: brownstone buildings; tree-lined streets and hipster coffee stops on every corner. There’s a lot of green in Santiago, you’re never too far from a well-kept park. A favourite was Parque Santa Lucia which has numerous winding pathways and cycle routes up a steep hill to Castillo Hidalgo at the top. It’s a great spot for runners and cyclists and there’s also many a nook and cranny for those canoodling couples (which there’s no shortage of in Santiago!) to relax in and…canoodle.
Santiago is a liveable city. I think the reason a lot of travellers only stay a night or two is that it’s possible to get all the tourist attractions done in two or three days. But if you’re looking to for a city that has a liveable vibe to it, it’s Santiago. The history is quite fascinating, especially the transformation since the dictatorship of the 1970s, which you can learn all about on one of the city walking tours…which of course, I went on.
A trip to Chile isn’t complete without a visit to Valparaíso. This city is a major seaport for Chile and was once known as the “Jewel of the Pacific” when European sailors flocked here for work in the early twentieth century; it was an important stopover for ships traveling between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. With the building of the Panama Canal, Valparaíso suffered a huge blow to its economy and many people left, however over the past two decades there’s been a cultural revival, attracting many artists and other creative types to its hillside neighbourhoods. It’s truly a city of colour.
We took a day trip to “Valpo”, spending our time wandering the graffiti-covered streets and artist enclaves (on a walking tour, of course) and eating one too many empanadas.
Our 2017 Adventure was sadly coming to a speedy end. With one more week to go before flying back to the land of sheep and hobbits, we said our goodbyes to Chile and headed East to the final stop on our epic journey, Buenos Aires.