Chile!

I shared the taxi part way with the others heading to the airport and jumped out nearby my Hostal for the night. As I came in a German guy was nipping out and asked the receptionist if she wanted a beer, to which she said yes. He then offered me the same and I took him up on it. The German dude was adept in Spanish and we were joined shortly by another girl who worked there and had a nice chat and I learned a few new words as we sat around the table until the early hours. The other girl was from Ecuador so I got a few details, that country wasn’t part of the plan originally but it might be now… heard good things!

It was a nice Hostal and they just got new beds put in (Hostal cacao). Nice breakfast with eggs too, hadn’t had that in ages having been accustomed to just bread and jam with the occasional bit of fruit if lucky. I then headed out to the morning walking tour of the city, which was really good.

Chile has the first democratically elected president 1970. First democratic step down of a dictator 1990.

Centro Gabriela mistral had several previous uses but is now reserved for art. The group of Chilean schoolers in our group were getting interviewed by some tv show so while I waited I nipped inside and found a London Underground exhibit of all the old posters!

We visited the house of Salvador Allende, a rather eccentric leader who had a pet alligator.

December 1540 Pedro de Valdivia arrived on a hill in the centre which has a good view of the surroundings. Prisoners put to work to build park on hill!

In the main theatre 350-450 people are employed with 80 who literally just play the part of people in a crowd for productions. Another random fact is that as part of the various costumes the building contains 500,000 shoes, and when they get rid of them it can cost as little as 500 pesos (60p) to buy old costumes.

La quintrala, was a fairly beautiful, ginger, bloodthirsty ex inhabitant of the City that was extremely wealthy in high society but with a penchant for murder, and bumped off people that defied her. She owned a private Jesús statue that she visited regularly to ask for forgiveness… but apparently never quite got to grips with the repentance part of not killing people again. This statue was given to the church eventually and has its own story after la quintralas passing. The Jesús had a crown of thorns that fell around its neck in an earthquake, which was then followed by another tremor when they tried to replace the crown, so they just left it. Earthquake viewed as punishment for sinful behaviour so they took the statue out on a procession every year. A couple of times they didn’t bother with the procession (1985, 2009) and both occasions were followed shortly by a devastating quake, so now that custom is fully entrenched and happens to this day.

One of the churches you can also bring your pet to mass to get it blessed.

Lunch I got some recommendations off the tour guide and landed on a place called bar nacional, trying cazuela for the first time. This is basically a soup/ stew with a huge chunk of chicken in and lots of veg and sweet potato too, it was great and the portion size was massive so all good. I did another tour in the afternoon that was more visual than factual so not much to say but some nice parks and architecture to enjoy. I threw a couple of things together for dinner cooking at the hostel while talking to a few other guests, and was amazed that they were impressed with what I came up with. I was pleased for possibly the first time in my life to have the least tragic attempt at dinner at my spot on the table when I’d been the one making it. I wanted to go to to a place a few hours out of town the next day (ever since it had been recommended to me in Bolivia) and by chance a Brazilian from the hostel on holiday from São Paulo, Amanda, said she also had the same plan so we spent a bit of time figuring out logistics before bed.

Valparaíso and Viña del mar

Up early and out by bus from Santiago central to Valparaiso. Apparently this can also be done by riding the metro as far as possible in that direction and then getting a short bus but this seemed efficient enough. We didn’t have a huge amount of time and so whilst Booking the first walking tour we got found by a tour rep for a bus tour that covered both places in one day. We got a ‘great deal‘ discounted to 10k from 35k pesos as a promotions amount. I think this could actually have been because the tour bus had left already with a couple of spare spaces as sunk cost, but they could zip us up to the first stop in a car. Either, way it was very good for the price of about £11.50: 2 hours in Viña del mar, back to Valparaiso for lunch and then a few hours going there.

I was expecting a more beach town vibe. These places are actually quite big and built up in their own right. I get the feeling that if you can afford, it’s probably quite fashionable to have a place here to enjoy the beaches and a flat in Santiago for work. It’s picturesque in its own way, not so much by the beach and coastal area in my opinion but more the extensive Street Art that form a large chunk of any city scape view. It’s renowned for this and apparently a while back had a period of 6-7 years where other people from the continent came here to learn the vocation, most notably those that took it back to Mexico. The port of Valparaiso is vast so I spent a few moments in awe staring over the heaps of shopping crates and cranes. I heard that there are always war ships in the bay, and following on the naval theme there is a maritime museum there too that we visited. In the latter we could followed very conspicuously by a group of school kids that eventually decided to say “Hello, how are you” then ran away giggling

There was a bit of mess up with drop off points as we started heading back to viña del mar…. despite me telling the organiser back in the office that I needed to be in Valparaiso… unfortunately like pretty much every city, street names are shared and so both these conurbations share the same street and something got lost in communication. I had no other plans for the evening so it wasn’t a huge problem to wait until the end of the drop offs and go back, the guide needed to head back later anyway. We had a chat and then he shared his wife had died a couple of months ago, and talked about his daughter that he was about to pick up who was a teacher. As he pulls up he utters that there she is and she looks just like her mother… the feels. Turns out she was a big fan of English music, particularly Radiohead and we also talked about food a lot. It’s generally a bit awkward as these places have reams and reams of tasty recipes and I don’t feel I ever do a great job selling English food… mainly because all my favourite restaurants are from elsewhere. Well at least we are great at appreciating and replicating other foods. Nonetheless apparently it was her dream to come to England! Anyway, I got to my hostel which was a bit rougher than usual but the internet worked and breakfast was good, the dude even made it earlier especially for me so I could make my morning tour on time.

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