14.03.2014 - 19.03.2014 27 °C
Friday 14th March - Wednesday 19th March 2014
We arrived in Santiago in the early afternoon and hopped in a taxi to take us to Happy House Hostel. A pretty cool hostel. It's a huge old house, perfectly restored with original features, vintage decor and a huge outside area with a plunge pool.
We set out walking and within less than 5 minutes we were both thinking the same thing, 'we're going to like this city'. It's got a really nice feel to it. It's big but manageable, the metro is easy to use, the architecture is impressive and it's divided up into really cool little barrios. That night we ended up in the Bellavista neighbourhood, which as it happens is one of the best places to hang out.
The next day top of our list was the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. We got the audio headset which made a massive difference because not a lot of it is in English. We weren't familiar with the history of Chile so this museum was like a shocking 3 hour history lesson. They've had a tough past and the museum has done such an amazing job laying it all out and taking you through it year by year, blow by blow.
Over the 5 days we visited multiple parks (the best being the Sculpture Park), the Museum of Fine Art, the very modern shopping centre (with H&M and Topshop where I got my shopping fix!) and got the Funicular (cable car) up Cerro San Cristobal with the 14 metre statue of the Virgin Mary at the top. The views over the city and of the Andes are incredible.
The Museum of Fine Art
A local dog chilling at the bottom of the steps of Cerro San Cristobal
On our third day we moved to Castillo Surfista Hostel, home of Duke, the skate boarding dog! A giant, slobbering hyperactive dog who caused havoc over the 3 days we were there. I had a love/hate relationship with Duke. I loved him from afar but when he got too close with his drooling jowls, whooshing tail and eager puppy-ness I wasn't so keen.
We had moved to be closer to my cousin Damien and the bar he owns, Fiddlers Irish Bar. The best Irish bar in Santiago! That night we watched a Chilean band play Irish music and Chilean dancers dressed in full Irish dancing costumes doing the jig. It was brilliant! And then we sat on the roof terrace catching up on the last 5 years of life with Damien, until way to early the next morning!
On St. Patricks day Damien had a few surprises in store at Fiddlers and overlooking Fiddlers, or Santiago to be more precise. He had been planning for a year and had managed to convince the city council to let him turn the statue of the Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristobal green for the weekend! He invited Zarius and I to do the honours. But before we did, we watched a flash mob of 25 Irish dancers appear in front of his bar. One lone dancer firstly appeared, placing a wooden platform on the ground and without music started dancing, the only sound were the shoes against the board. Then slowly 24 others materialised, each with a wooden platform of their own and then the sound of Irish music filled the air as 25 sets of synchronised feet performed an incredible dance. And then as suddenly as they had appeared, they dispersed into the cheering crowds that had gathered. They had literally stopped traffic!
But there was no time for us to hang about and drink green beer we needed to get to Mary! We all hopped in a cab and raced to the hill before it shut its gates for the night. The taxi driver weaving his way through the what seemed like hundreds of cyclists making their way to the top of the hill. The sun was setting behind the city and it was truly beautiful. As the crowds left and Damien skilfully set up the lamps, we looked down on the city and thought, yup, we could live here. And then it was dark. Zarius and I took our places and at the count of three plugged in the lights and there she was in all her green glory, Mary, with her arms outstretched over the city. What a sight. What an experience. Thanks Damien, what a great wedding gift, it's a memory we will never forget.
The race is on. Damien and Zarius carrying the lamps the last leg of the journey
On the way down to top it all off we had the most perfect 'moonrise'
Of course it was back to the bar later that night to join the throngs of people from all over the world celebrating St. Paddy's day at Fiddlers bar. We were joined by Phillip, an Irish guy we had met at our hostel, the first Irish person of the trip to date! We drank outside and soaked up the atmosphere until the local police arrived and dispersed the crowd!
On our last day in Santiago Damien recommended we take the metro to the end of the line, Los Dominicos, where there's a handicraft village. What a lovely way to spend our last day. It was a welcome break from the city, a little haven tucked away and bursting with art and crafts and little eateries. It reminded us both of South Africa actually.
That night we joined Damien and his girlfriend Daniella in Bellavista and ate Chorrillana (chips topped with egg, beef, sausage, onions...) which they washed down with Fanschop (beer mixed with Fanta Orange) while we stuck to plain old beer. We had such a wonderful 5 days in Sanitago, it was great hanging out with Damien and Daniella, they really made our stay. I don't think it will be our last visit, we definitely want to go back.
But no matter what, I'll always be the little cousin!
The next morning, nursing somewhat sore heads, we headed for the bus station to catch our bus to La Serena in the Elqui Valley.