After only 3 days here, the streets, metros and signs seem to take on a sense of familiarity. Santiago has a great vibe to it and we are enjoying what it has to offer.
Our time clocks are still not syncing and 3am-4am is a usual waking time. However with free wi fi in our rooms, the usual lying awake looking at the ceiling changes to reaching for our iphones and reading the Sydney Morning Herald online. It’s not good news reading about the bushfires and people losing homes. We feel for our family and friends going through the intense heatwave. Although a relief to be here where the nights are cool and comfortable makes for perfect sleeping conditions, this does not last long. With the days being longer the afternoon temperatures here warm up to mid 30’s and by 5pm the sun still has a bite to it whilst high in the sky. This is when the city dwellers take shelter under the many shady parks and plazas established for the Chilean summers.
Rudy, the hostal owner, is fabulous with recommendations on food, museums and must places to visit. We take a self walking tour around the city visiting older architecture, palaces and historic churches dating back to the 16th century. Roman Catholic is the dominant religion here and Santiago has a place of importance in history for its Cathedrals, so there are many to choose from. Given Ben’s love of Catholic Churches we compromise for the two main ones. Of course the architecture from the 16th-18th century, like all churches built in this era, are grandiose and contain splendid works of engineering with high ceilings and domes, carved stone walls and timber pews, statues decorated in gold and elaborate paintings. ‘Always worth it for the photos’, I say to Ben convincing him to step back into a church. They are also an escape from the afternoon heat to cool down, as well as to rest and reflect.
Our lunches are nothing to write home about. Being on a budget we spend our main pesos on dinner but the last few days have come down to what we can decipher on the menu – we already understand cervezas (beers), and empanadas and now know the difference between a good and bad one. Also discovered Chilean hot dogs (Completo) smoothered with avocado, chopped tomato and soft cream cheese. Ben has already sourced out the cheap and cheerful local beer called Escudo which I think is comparable to our VB. Beers have been a great way to practice our Spanish and interact with the café/bar staff by asking their recommendationio (is this such a Spanish word?). And on hot afternoons I stick with Coronas….why not when they are only $3 for a litre bottle in some places.
Sunday’s are family days in Santiago and we make a an afternoon heading over to San Cristobal hill in the Parque Metropolitano where the Virgin Mary stands 45 feet overlooking it’s 7 million residents. The old funicular has been closed since August but we make our way up on the free bus provided. The views are spectacular and have been blessed with clear blue skies and with minimum smog. The park is perched on a wide hill which sits in the middle of the city and was well designed with shady trees and lush green lawns for the locals to enjoy. It is a retreat for everyone in the city and Sunday proves a popular day where they picnic, swim and visit the Virgin Mary. In the park is the most impressive public swimming pools, but sadly we wanted to swim there on Monday it was closed for maintenance. A ritual is bike riding or jogging up the hill which I am sure is about 4km high. At first we though it was a marathon but alas Rudy told us this is an everyday event. On our return to town we felt guilty with our level of unfitness so decided to walk down the hill instead. Two hours later feeling a sense of fulfillment in doing some level fitness we were able to justify our beers and something to eat at one of the local restaurants at the bottom of the hill.
The locals are very friendly here, especially when eating out. Often the table beside us will overhear us speaking English and attempt at practicing their English on us. As it turns out their English vocabulary extends more than our few Spanish words. Always a laugh though.
As we are confused with times here with twilight, which leads to sleeping in, we start to sync with the locals by doing things later in the day and eating later at night. Besides most restaurants don’t serve food till after 8pm. Ben quickly adjusts to this style of living. Perhaps the Noblets descended from the Espanols not the French. It is a style of living we are starting to assimilate to. Surprisingly even if we start the day at noon we don’t return to our hostel till after 8 and then we go out again to eat.
With 4 days coming to an end now, we have explored only a small part of Santiago. We can easily spend another week here to see the museums and areas we missed out. Although sad to leave our hostel, as we have made new acquaintances already with Rudy and his partner Marita, and exchanged emails with a lovely girl called Katlyn from Texas we must repack our packs and catch our first bus to Valparaiso, only a 1.5 hours away.