After 26 hours of planes and sitting in airports, including 10 hours of attempted sleeping and running around Pearson to get to our gate, after our Toronto flight being cancelled and panicking about our luggage vanishing without a trace… We made it! We landed in Santiago de Chile, found our luggage and hopped on a cab for town.
Santiago is a huge city nestled up against the Andes, there are skyscrapers spread across the the skyline and old colonial buildings are squished between new construction and shanty huts. Broadleaf trees and palms are mixed together in parks which are inserted all around the city. Our hostel was across the street from one such park, Forestall, where there was a contemporary Art museum, cafes and empanada stands. Locals were lounging in the shade on their breaks and dogs were running free looking for food and friends.
Our hostel was really colourful and fun–each room a little different than the last. There were movie posters hung in open air seating rooms where other guests were reading and smoking. We hit the streets after dumping our stuff and while Megan browsed jewelery in a nearby street market I got myself cafinated so I wouldn’t pass out from lack of sleep. The street market was full of knick knacks and trinkets, one stall in particular was mostly metal posters featuring all kinds of nostalgia and nerdery which really tested my impulse control. Although, I did pick up a couple of “Condorito” comics which had cover art that was too fantastic to pass up.
We wandered on through side roads, making our way to the Plaza de Armas in central Santiago and found Cerro Santa Luciá, a park on a large hill right in the heart of the cultural district that is home to old castle-like structures that offers incredible views of the city. This walk was the big highlight of the day.
We started climbing up the twisting walkways admiring greater and greater views of the city, all kinds of locals were eating their lunch amidst other tourists that were exploring. Every turn we thought we were nearing the end of the climb and some twisting staircase would appear to let us crawl higher. Eventually we got to the top and I was able to take an incredible panorama while a man played Bob Dylan from the top peak of the tower behind.
After the long decent back to the streets, we walked through a market plaza, got some empanada and made our way to Plaza de Armas, a bustling and beautiful park space surrounded by very old, large colonial buildings. There were old men playing chess next to a crowd watching breakdancing performances, god-fearing men were shouting rhetoric at passers by and old women fed pigeons under the shade of trees.
The buildings in the plaza were amazing displays of craftsmanship and appear to be very well maintained considering their age. The plaza was packed full of people, so we decided to continue onward and seek out the Market Central.
Unfortunately, the Market had just closed its doors when we found it. Not too disheartened we decided to find a seat in the shade, have some ice cream and head back to the hostel. At this point we were delirious from lack of sleep, so we had a shower and lazed around a bit chatting to a felow Canadian and world traveler.
He suggested we go up the road a couple blocks to the supermarket and buy some groceries, as it much cheaper than eating out. We stepped out into the lively night time and meandered our way to the supermarket, then stocked up on some simple items for a light dinner.
To my utter astonishment we found that Chilean wine is ridiculously cheap. I picked up a bottle of pretty tasty merlot for ~$3.00 Canadian. Like, seriously cheap.
We (I) spent the night draining the bottle while chatting up the other hostel guests, including three lovely ladies from Europe, Switzerland, Germany and Norway specifically.
It was about as good as a first day abroad can be, tomorrow holds a lot of promise as we head for the coastal city of Valparaiso (in reality we’ve already spent the whole day here and sneak preview: it’s amazing)
Check back tomorrow(ish)!