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Posts Tagged ‘Santiago’

My Chile travel blog is finally online

August 16th, 2016 No comments

Every time I travel it seems to take longer and longer for my travel blog to be posted online and this is definitely the case again now. Seven months to the day from the start of my memorable and highly enjoyable trip to Chile and I have finally managed to get it online.

Flower Clock, Viña del Mar

A photo of the flower clock in Viña del Mar, added to the top of this post for the purposes of my WordPress Facebook plugin.

Route to Chile

The route I took to Chile

As those who follow my travel blog, or those who just happen to have read my previous entries, will know I don’t blog live while I travel for several reasons. Usually there is the case that when I travel I tend to visit places that are off the beaten path, or in some cases off the grid completely, meaning no chance to post live but more importantly I feel that this takes your concentration away from what you are seeing and experiencing. It is my opinion that when you blog live, either daily or periodically, while things may be fresh in your memory you will experience each day in terms of what you can write about in your blog rather than in terms of new experiences.

As a result I write my blog in bullet point form and then, in collaboration with the photos that I took and the schedule for the trip, reconstruct my blog and type it up after returning. However a combination of the fact this was a trip to visit a friend, rather than an organised trip that had a schedule, and my current personal circumstances have resulted in extended delays which is a shame.

However here it is… my 2016 Chile travel blog! Just read on on this page, or navigate to the “2016 Chile” category using the site menus, to read all about this great country.

Chilean Flag

The National Flag outside La Moneda

I won’t post much about my trip in this announcement message but to cut a long story shore I loved Chile and want to return again soon. The people, the food, the culture, the way of life, the climate, the atmosphere, the prices and the experiences that I have made me fall in love with the country very quickly. Even though I only visited Santiago and two cities fairly close by I know that Chile is a county that I want to visit again soon, maybe combining Santiago with another region such as Patagonia, The Atacama or Easter Island.

The blog I have written, since there wasn’t a set itinerary and we didn’t spend the whole time rushing from place to place, is written in summary format as opposed to my usual point by point account of what happened each day but I think it gives a good overview of my experiences in Chile.

For the purposes of search engines who will pick up on this post once I publish it, key words for my blog and sights that I saw include…

  • Chile, South America, Latin America, Santiago, Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, La Granja, Las Condes, Parque Forestal, Parque Metropolitana, La Moneda, Plaza de Armas, Iglesia San Francisco, Museo Violeta Parra, Cerro Santa Lucía, Costanera Centre / Center, Metro de Santiago, Plaza Baquedano, Quinta Normal, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, 1973 Coup, Pinochet, Iberia, Empanadas

As usual there is no way I can finish with a boring list so here are a few of my favourite photos from the trip.

Pancracia

Pancracia the cat

Mote con Huesillo

Mote con Huesillo

Santiago de Chile

The steps up to Cerro Santa Lucía

Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile

Plaza de Armas

Iglesia San Francisco

Inside Iglesia San Francisco

La Moneda

La Moneda, the Presidential Palace

A great view of Santiago de Chile

The view from the very top of the hill at Parque Metropolitano.

I hope that you enjoy my blog from this trip. I didn’t see much of the country compared to most people who visit but as usual feel free to message me if you have any comments, corrections, random messages or want to ask anything.

Happy travels!

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The journey home from Chile

January 30th, 2016 No comments

Normally I consider paying extra for better seats a luxury or an unnecessary expense, with standard seating usually being adequate, but after my final flight home I think the ones I paid extra for were worth every penny. In total I paid in the region of 150 euros for an over-wing exit row from London to Madrid and front row exit row seats on the flights to/from Chile, electing to save my money and have a standard seat on the final flight from Madrid to London. Big mistake.

Never in my life have I had such uncomfortable seats and so little leg room, on any aircraft and with any airline all around the world including the North Korean state airline. The seat was uncomfortable and gave me a back ache, the head rest was too low for my height which hurt my neck and even spreading my legs as far as they could go without squashing the person next to me or tripping people over as they walked past my knees were still pressed into the seat in front of me so solidly that walking off of the plane upon arrival in London caused me a lot of pain. I am just thankful that the person in front of me didn’t even attempt to put their seat back or I could have sustained real injury. Apparently Iberia don’t think people above the size of small child travel on their aircraft.

Iberia have horrible leg room

Horrible leg room Madrid – London

Iberia ()lack of) leg room

Another photo of the painful conditions I found myself in on Iberia.

The flight itself was made worse by a large group of Uruguayan school children who, after hitting me in the face with their bags several times as they boarded, proceeded to be so loud that it gave me a headache. We also did not receive any drinks or food service for the entire flight due to severe turbulence which, although I am not affected by it usually, combined with the lack of food and drink made me feel quite sick. Neither of these problems were the fault of Iberia, but they made my uncomfortable conditions a lot worse due to the fact I couldn’t get up to stretch my legs, use the bathroom or drink any water to calm my stomach or head. Although I guess in some way at least the turbulence meant that the Uruguayan kids couldn’t run around and annoy everybody like they did during the first 30 minutes of the flight as they had to remain in their seats.

Maybe next time I will fly with a different operator, or via a different route, although if Iberia work out to be the best option again I will definitely book the extra leg room seats no matter what the cost especially for the transatlantic legs. No way could I have survived 13 hour flights in those conditions.

Luckily the rest of my journey home was much better. After breakfast we left the apartment for our journey to the airport, which went fairly smoothly. It was a short metro ride to Los Heroes, where the airport bus starts, and the next bus started boarding shortly after we arrived. It is a very efficient service, has a bus every 10 minutes during the day, and is cheap but I do wish they had more space for luggage. By the time everybody boarded the small luggage area on board looked more like a jenga tower. Hopefully they will extend the metro to the airport soon which will make the process even easier, but I had no real problems with the transfers.

Santiago de Chile

Our apartment was in the smaller building in the background

Santiago de Chile

The neighbourhood that our apartment was in

I was able to check straight in when I arrived at the airport which gave me a chance to have a quick lunch and final catch up with Steven. There aren’t that many food options at Santiago Airport, just a couple of cafes from what I saw, so while the airport seems to be very efficient don’t get here too early as you will end up frustrated.

I always like to write about issues that I encounter when I travel just so that anybody reading my blog has an idea of what to expect. I don’t generally moan or complain about anything I encounter when I travel as it is only fair to play by the rules of the countries you visit, and my return journey from Kyrgyzstan to London last year was far worse than anything I encountered returning from this trip. However, the more information you have the more you are prepared and the more you are prepared the more you will enjoy your trip as you won’t let little things get to you.

As I said though the extra leg room seats were worth every penny I paid. I had an extremely comfortable flight from Santiago to Madrid and, while I didn’t sleep for more than a few minutes, I arrived in Madrid refreshed and relaxed. I saw some interesting cloud formations and watched some good movies but other than that the flight was fairly uneventful.

Extra leg room on Iberia

Extra leg room Santiago – Madrid

Santiago Airport

Santiago Airport, waiting to depart

Cloud formations over Brasil

Cloud formations over Brasil

Arriving back in your home city from a great trip is always a low point, but having been in Latin America for 11 days I almost had a culture shock when I got back to The UK. After leaving the aircraft it was well over an hour before I saw anybody smile and in that time I heard 11 people either shouting at people or having arguments with random strangers, in most cases over the smallest of things, and there was a severe lack of eye contact compared to Chile. I guess when you live somewhere you get used to the way things work, and the attitude of the population, but this enforces what I have said several times about travel being essential to personal growth and to opening you up to new ideas / cultures. The more you travel, especially off of the beaten track or at least away from tourist hotspots, the less things tend to bother you and the less you tend to rely on things being exactly how you expect them. That is my experience anyway, I don’t know about in general.

But for now it is time for sleep. It has been an exhausting but absolutely amazing two weeks which I have enjoyed immensely, and one which has made me fall in love with another country all over again. This is only the second time I have been to Latin America but I always have such an amazing time so I know I will be back. I don’t know when, I don’t know the countries I will visit and I don’t know what format my trip will be but I will definitely be back. So many good experiences and so many good memories.

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Santiago part 2

January 28th, 2016 No comments

We spent one afternoon this week in the area of Quinta Normal, another of the main parks in Santiago, looking at museums. First on our itinerary was Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, the human rights museum. I wanted to come here to learn more about the 1973 coup which installed Augusto Pinochet into power, and the atrocities committed during his dictatorship, as we don’t know much about them in The UK. The museum contains a wealth of exhibits from the coup and dictatorship including previously unseen videos, letters from prisoners, newspaper clippings, military artefects, testimony from survivors and much more. It chronicles the time immediately before the coup all the way up to the return to democracy and is well worth a visit if you want to learn more about this dark period of Chilean history. I already knew some stuff about the Pinochet era, both from my own studies and from what Steven has told me, but seeing everything for myself and reading information in more detail was very eye opening. As you may know from reading my blog I have seen some pretty horrific things in museums, including gloves made from human skin at the war museum in Kiev and mass graves of hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda, and while the exhibits weren’t as graphic here they still made me wonder how evil and twisted those in power can be.

The museum also houses exhibits dedicated to peace and human rights in general in addition to a number of temporary exhibits. While we visited there was an exhibit dedicated to Pedro Lemebel, an openly gay Chilean writer and activist, which, although I had not heard of him before, was interesting to look around.

Human Rights Museum, Santiago

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos

Pedro Lemebel exhibit

The entrance to the Pedro Lemebel exhibit

Contained within Quinta Normal itself is the Natural History Museum. I have visited the counterpart in London many times, and the content of this one was nothing new, but it had a much larger focus on the flora, fauna and environment of South America from prehistoric to present times and if you are interested in learning more about the area then it might be worth a visit. The park itself is worth a visit at any rate, and I enjoyed my time there.

It's me!

Me in Quinta Normal

Quinta Normal, Santiago

Quinta Normal

I made it my mission to find some Sopaipillas while in Chile. Sopaipillas, as described in my previous post, are a traditional street food consisting of fried pastry, which in Chile has pumpkin pastes as an added ingredient. I made some with Steven in The UK, and I have made some myself since then, so I wanted to try some while in Chile just to compare. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any for the majority of the trip as they are primarily a summer street food but luckily yesterday we found some. We spent some time looking around the Mercado Central, and surrounding area, before taking a local bus to the huge Parque Arauco shopping centre and right by the bus stop was a lady selling Sopaipillas. I have to say that the ones I made in The UK, even the ones I made myself, were so much better due to the fact these were most likely store bought or catering standard ones.

Parque Arauco was your standard designer shopping centre and, given that it is located within the wealthy neighbourhood of Las Condes, is full of international restaurants and designer brands. However, despite that, it was a nice place to visit. We spent some time looking around at the shops before eating at Ruby Tuesday and relaxing in Starbucks. Even though this was in a designer outlet the prices of food were still a lot cheaper than I am used to, for example two large steak meals with a few soft drinks each and a tip came to £30 which would not even buy one steak meal in London. The bus ride back to the city centre was interesting, however. We seemed to get a bus driver in a hurry and who swerved all over the place, driving extremely close to the car in front etc. This made us a little bit nervous and anxious so we got off the bus slightly earlier than planned, close to Pio Nono, but this area was closer to the apartment anyway.

Mall Parque Arauco, Santiago

Mall Parque Arauco

The past few days, since our day trips out of the city, have been less rushed than the first half of my trip. We have looked around a few museums and churches but we have also done a lot of relaxing, just walked around and soaked up the atmosphere, eaten some good meals and done some shopping which to be honest has been quite welcome. While there is a lot more I wish that I could have seen in the city, and I’m the sort of person who likes to fit as much in as I can, it was nice to do things differently and I know I will be back again. We did so much walking in the first half of my visit so on top of that I think that my feet needed a rest anyway.

So here I am, at the end of my final full day in Chile. There has been a lot that I have seen that will probably have escaped my mind when typing up this blog, as it’s written in an overview style rather than being a point by point account of what happened each day like normal, so I will probably add an opinion and roundup post to my blog at some point after I return along with a few photos that I want to share but haven’t been able to include in these posts.

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Chilean Food

January 28th, 2016 No comments

My time in Chile is almost over, and tomorrow I leave Santiago for my journey back home. I know I have said this a few times in the blog but I have had such a great time here and will miss the country when I leave. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m visiting my friend, because of the way of life, the atmosphere, the fact I am in an apartment so don’t feel like a tourist or the food but I suspect it is a combination of them all.

I have mentioned the food of Chile quite a few times but now I’ll talk a little more about it before talking more about the second half of my time here. Overall we have eaten fairly simply while I have been here. Partly this has been to keep costs down, partly this has been due to the basic kitchen in the apartment and partly this is because it is what we have wanted to have. Overall the food has been tasty, cheap and good quality.

Kitchen

The simple kitchen in our rented apartment

Sandwich

A simple sandwich, typical of the food we made for ourselves in the evening to keep costs down.

I started this trip with a couple of days of home cooked food at Steven’s house. I had two main meals there which were Pastel de Choclo, a sweetcorn pie, and Humitas which are similar to Tamales. While these were home cooked meals they were an indication of what was to come as everything so far has been filling and made with fresh ingredients. We have had a lot of empanadas since I arrived, partly due to convenience but also as I really love them. I have made empanadas myself and had them in Latin American cafes in London but the best ones that I have had have been in Chile. The ones you buy from the supermarkets aren’t as nice but we have had a few from street stalls and cafes and they were really nice. Also really nice was the food at a Chilean restaurant very close to Plaza de Armas called Nuria, which served a selection of typical dishes. We ate there a couple of times and I tried the Cazuela de Vacuno, which was a very tasty beef casserole, and Lomo de Vacuno a la Pobre which was beef, fries, onion and fried egg. This sort of combination is very popular in this part of the world and I had something similar at a Peruvian takeaway near me but served with hot dogs instead of beef.

Chilean Food

Cazuela de Vacuno

We have tried to stick away from international restaurant chains where possible, as they are overpriced and I wanted to try traditional food, but we did indulge in Johnny Rockets and Ruby Tuesday in various shopping centres. However, one restaurant chain that I did fall in love with was the Chilean fast food restaurant called Dominó, specifically their Churasco Palta which was a beef, cheese and smashed avocado sandwich. I asked to go back again as I loved the food so much and I can sense that I will want to make it myself when I return home. The food in the apartment has been simple, usually fruit and sandwiches with other occasional treats, but it has filled a gap.

Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets in the Costanera Centre

Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets. I had heard a lot about it from my American friends so decided to try it.

Churrasco Palta

Eating Churrasco Palta at Dominó

Street food is common in most places around the world, except maybe some western countries, and Chile is no exception. The summer months generally have more selection but all over Santiago we still found people selling completos, which are hot dogs fully loaded with huge amounts of toppings, which look very messy but are loved by Chileans. Sopaipillas, a fried pastry made with pumpkin paste, is another common street food in Chile although we didn’t find any on the streets for the majority of our visit. We didn’t try much street food during my visit, instead opting to rest our feet over lunch due to how much walking we were doing, so perhaps next time I visit I will try more along with the famous Terremoto cocktail which I didn’t have a chance to try either.

One thing I did try from the streets a few times was the traditional Chilean drink Mote con Huesillo which is a sugary, nectar-like drink containing dried peaches and barley. It is served with a spoon allowing you to eat the ingredients and then drink the liquid. It sounds horrible, and I read one blog online which described it as both looking and tasting like monkey brains, but I have to tell you it’s actually really nice. The first time you try it it’ll probably seem extremely weird, as we don’t have anything like this in Europe, but you will soon fall in love with it just like I did even though I don’t usually like peaches.

Mote con Huesillo

Mote con Huesillo

As you can tell I really like the food that I have had out here, but I will move on…

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Santiago part 1

January 22nd, 2016 No comments

I have been in Santiago for most of a week and I am having a great time. Staying with Steven in a rented apartment in the city has proved useful as we have been close to everything, have been able to keep costs down and I feel that I have been able to see more of the “real” Chile, compared to if I had decided to stay in a hotel.

The apartment itself is not the best compared so some I saw online but it is adequate for my needs. It has a living room with dining table, a small but functional kitchen, a clean bathroom and a bedroom with two single beds. The cost was approximately £190 for the 8 days that I am here which, given its location, I find very reasonable indeed. The only downside is that due to interference from the fire station across the road reception on the TV is very bad. However, my past existence as a radio scanner enthusiast taught me that there is always a workaround available, in this case attaching the external antenna to the clothes airer in order to create a giant antenna. On the other hand, in addition to the location, it has the added benefit of being in a gated compound that has people on the gate so it should be fairly safe.

It looks funny but worked

My creation which helped improve the TV signal

I have spent most of my evenings making home cooked meals and watching Chilean TV / Netflix with Steven. I am learning Spanish at the moment but as I quickly found out upon arriving here Chilean Spanish is very unique, with its frequent and almost exclusive use of slang words, that it is very difficult to understand. Fortunately, many of the programs on TV are from the USA and I have discovered an interesting Judge Judy style show called “Caso Cerrado” which has helped me practice.

Although that is enough about the apartment.

Santiago seems a really nice city. I have spent my days exploring and walking around with no real plan, checking out some of the sights, eating some good food and just generally having a good time.

Cerro Santa Lucía is a good place to visit when you first arrive in Santiago. It’s a hill close to the centre of the city which gives you a good view of the local area. It isn’t as high as Parque Metropolitano, and definitely not as high as the viewing platform of the Costanera Centre, but I enjoyed my time here. Fuente Neptuno and the grounds definitely provided me with some good photo opportunities.

Santiago de Chile

The steps up to Cerro Santa Lucía

Santiago de Chile

The view of the city from Cerro Santa Lucía

Cerro Santa Lucía

Cerro Santa Lucía as seen from the main road.

Parque Metropolitano is another good place to visit if you are looking for a view point in the city. You can either walk up the hill or take an old funicular lift and are presented with some great views. There is a giant statue of the Virgin Mary here as well as a church, and it’s well worth a visit. Just be careful on the steep steps leading up to the statue – I slipped over and hurt my shoulder, much to the amusement of the only American tourists that I saw the entire time I was in the city. If you like the bar scene then head in the direction of Parque Metropolitano anyway as the road leading to it from Plaza Baquedano, called Pio Nono, is full of bars, restaurants and clubs and is very popular with university students from what I am told so should have a good atmosphere in the evening.

Funiculars are fun

Ascending the funicular in Parque Metropolitano

A great view of Santiago de Chile

The view from the very top of the hill at Parque Metropolitano.

Pio Nono

Pio Nono, near Parque Metropolitano

The Costanera Centre provided me with the best views of the city, although being inside a shopping centre it is very sterile and expensive. The Costanera Centre can be seen from all over Santiago, as it is the tallest building in Latin America, and consists of a huge shopping centre combined with offices, a hotel and the viewing platform. The shopping centre contains a few local brands but mainly big international brands and so for me was nothing special. The viewing platform, called the Sky Costanera, can be accessed from the basement and is the highest view point in the city. You are shot up to the top of the skyscraper in elevators really quickly while you are told the history of the building in Spanish by the attendant. The viewing platform has telescopes to allow you to see things in the distance, but other than that I will let the photos do the talking.

Sky Costanera view

A view of Santiago from the Sky Costanera

Me in Santiago de Chile

Me at the Sky Costanera viewing Platform

Costanera Centre

Inside the Costanera Centre

Costanera Centre

The Costanera Centre

Santiago has a really nice atmosphere. In addition to the viewpoints mentioned above we spent the first half of my time here walking around and taking in the famous sights such as La Moneda, which is the Presidential Palace which was infamously bombed by the Chilean Air Force during the military coup which killed President Salvador Allende. More about that coup later on as I am planning to visit the Museum of Human Rights before the end of my visit. Other sights that I have seen so far include Plaza de Armas, the Metropolitan Cathedral, Iglesia San Francisco, The National Library and the Violeta Parra Museum which was brand new when I visited. We also visited the cultural centre contained in a basement underneath the plaza next to La Moneda.

Plaza Baquedano, Santiago de Chile

Plaza Baquedano, 5 minutes from my apartment

Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile

Plaza de Armas

National Flag

Looking towards La Moneda and the National Flag

Cultural Centre

The Cultural Centre next to La Moneda

I would highly recommend all of these sights, maybe with the exception of the National Library which we only went into in order to get out of the heat, as they all show a little bit of Chilean culture and history. One thing that you will notice in the city is the large number of churches and cathedrals, as Chile is a fairly religious country. Some of the churches are fairly basic but some are really impressive such as the Iglesia San Francisco, which is very close to La Moneda. I believe it is the oldest church in Chile and is beautifully decorated, and well maintained as we found out when a cleaner asked Steven to help her lift some of the heavy cleaning equipment up some steps in order to help maintain a chapel.

Metropolitan Cathedral

Metropolitan Cathedral

Iglesia San Francisco

Inside Iglesia San Francisco

I have heard a lot about Violeta Parra from Steven, and if you read much Chilean history it is very likely that you will have heard of her too as she is somewhat of a national hero that helped put Chile on the map and develop the Chilean folk music genre. I won’t go on about her too much as I don’t want to get any details wrong but if you want to learn more about her then the museum, very close to Plaza Baquedano, is well worth a visit. It is free to enter and showcases a lot of her work including original lyrics sheets, her guitar, photos of her and her art work. It also tells you more about her life, from her humble origins all the way up to her tragic suicide. A word of warning though, at the time I visited the museum was completely in Spanish but the information was easy to translate.

Violeta Parra Museum

Inside the Museo Violeta Parra

One thing I love about Santiago, in addition to the climate, people, and the atmosphere is the large amount of open space and the number of parks despite being a populated city surrounded by mountains. Parque Forestal, Parque Uruguay and Museo Parque de las Esculturas are among the open spaces that I have spent time in so far, most of which have been situated along the river. Museo Parque de las Esculturas is worth a visit as is has a great atmosphere and a large selection of public artworks, perhaps you could visit it when walking back from the Costanera Centre like we did. Parque Forestal is very central and seems to be a place where people like to go to relax at weekends and during their lunch breaks. I visited here a couple of times and during the first visit I was taken to what has quickly become my favourite ice cream parlour in the entire world, Emporio La Rosa. If you like ice cream then come here and take some into the park, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I have fallen in love with lúcuma flavour, although as it’s a local fruit I doubt I will be able to find it in The UK.

Mapocho River, Santiago

The Mapocho River, near the Costanera Centre

Santiago

Public art and sculptures in the Parque de las Esculturas

Me in Santiago

Me walking back to the centre of Santiago after visiting the Costanera Centre

We are due to take a break from city life over the next few days and have booked a couple of day trips out of the city in order to see more of the country. Tomorrow we visit Valparaíso and then on Monday we visit Viña del Mar, which are both on the coast approximately 90 minutes from Santiago. The intercity bus service in Chile seems a LOT more extensive and efficient than that in The UK. If you want to visit either of these towns, or indeed other ones locally or further afield, then just head to the Estación Central and you can buy tickets inside the bus station next door for all of the major companies. Alternatively, I have seen kiosks dotted around the city for all of the companies if you won’t be going near Estación Central, but going there allows you to check prices and schedules of all of the companies.

I am looking forward to both day trips. Valparaíso is a city that I have heard a lot about and Viña del Mar comes highly recommended by everybody from Chile that I have talked to.

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Bienvenido a Chile

January 20th, 2016 No comments

Welcome to Chile! I have just checked into the apartment where I will be staying for the next 10 nights and it’s really close to everything. It looked a little far out on Google Maps but my friend assured me it was central and he was right – the nearest metro stop is less than 5 minutes walk away, and it’s only 10-15 minutes walk to what I would class as the centre of the city. The apartment is basic but we don’t need anything fancy just somewhere affordable, safe and central. The owner seemed nice, and she even bought us a selection of fruit as a welcome gift, but other than when she took payment we won’t see her again.

Charlie in Santiago de Chile

Charlie enjoying the view from the apartment

Santiago de Chile

Our apartment was in the smaller building in the background

This is my 3rd day in Chile and for the past few days I have been staying at my friend Steven’s house in La Granja, a residential area to the south of the city. The idea of me staying there was to see where Steven lives, meet his family, play with his cat and just relax after a long flight. Oh my what a long journey it was.

I decided to book a cheap Travelodge near Heathrow the night before my flight, even though I didn’t depart until mid-afternoon, as being a weekend I didn’t know about engineering works and also as I just wanted to relax. I’m definitely glad I chose to spend the night as there was so much engineering on that I had to take 2 trains, 3 tubes, a bus and do some walking to get there, compared to the usual 1 train and 1 tube plus a small walk, which would have been stressful on the day of the flight. I knew I would have 24 hours of travelling ahead of me the next day, including a 13.5 hour flight, so all I did at the hotel was relax in the restaurant and then watch TV.

Waking up to snow near London Heathrow

Waking up to snow on the morning of my flight to Chile via Madrid.

I woke up on the morning of my flight to be greeted with freezing temperatures and a covering of snow on the ground which, considering I had not taken any thick jackets due to travelling to South America during their summer, made me look forward to my trip even more than I already was. Transport that day was a lot smoother than the day before and I got to the airport, checked in and boarded my first flight to Madrid with ease. Upon arrival at Madrid I was transported by shuttle bus to the non-EU section of the airport ready for my flight to Chile which, luckily, was on time. There aren’t many options for food at Madrid airport from what I have seen, just a couple of cafes, fast food outlets and a Starbucks but I passed the time eating in a cafe and using the free WI-Fi in Starbucks.

Then it was time for my 13.5 hour transatlantic flight. For the whole outbound journey, and the transatlantic portion of the return leg, I have booked extra leg room seats at a cost of 150 euros total but it seems that it was worth every penny as Iberia, who I’m flying with, seem to have some of the worst leg room I have ever seen. On the way to Madrid most people had their legs pressed very firmly into the seat in front of them and there’s no way I could survive that especially not long-haul. Luckily I had this much leg room.

Exit row on Iberia

This is the leg room I received by paying for an exit row

The flight itself was very smooth, on time, the food was nice and the entertainment system was pretty good considering I had heard lots of bad reports in advance. Plus, being a night flight, having the exit row meant I was able to get up and stretch my legs whenever I wanted. Although a piece of advice – don’t pick the exit row at the front of economy on the left hand side as this is by the entrance people use to board the plane and I got knocked by bags and elbows a lot. The other side should be fine. The man next to me, I think a Chilean businessman, was kind enough to let me have the window seat for descent and landing as it was my first time in South America and I was treated to some amazing views.

Flying over The Andes

Flying over The Andes on my approach to Chile

Santiago Airport

Arriving in Santiago de Chile

Immigration, baggage claim and customs went very smoothly considering the long queues and I think I went from plane to arrivals in 30 minutes – so quick that Steven had not arrived yet. I took the opportunity to change some money and stretch my legs.

One thing you should know about Santiago airport is that there is no metro or train service to the city. They have plans to build it but it’s not there yet and so your options are taxi, private shuttle or airport bus. We took the airport bus as it’s reliable and fairly cheap, only a few thousand pesos per person. The ride into the city, to Los Heroes metro station, took around 30 minutes and from there we took the metro a few stops before taking a shared taxi to Steven’s house. The shared taxi system will be confusing for non-Chileans but it seems efficient – they travel on vaguely set routes, for a cheap fixed fee, and leave either when full of when the egg timer they have reaches the end. I think we were in the taxi for maybe 10 minutes before we arrived in La Granja.

La Granja is not an area of the city that you will ever visit as a tourist unless you have a reason as there isn’t much there. It’s a fairly residential area, I believe with houses mainly built in the past for the military, with a couple of malls but nothing for tourists. It’s also a commune which a number of guide books say to avoid but I never felt unsafe there, although granted I never went out at night. Except for a few Mormons, and the Chinese family that run a general store on the main road, there generally aren’t any non-Latinos in the area either so you will stick out like a sore thumb, unless you are Latino yourself, but this is never something that has bothered me. But as it’s an area with a certain amount of crime I didn’t take many photos.

Pancracia

Steven’s cat, called Pancracia

The two days in La Granja I spent mainly relaxing, adjusting to the time zone and heat, playing with Pancracia thr cat and eating some good home cooked food. Wow what food it was. We did a little bit of shopping and walking around seeing the area where Steven grew up but didn’t do too much as we knew that we would be doing a lot of walking around for the rest of my trip. We did travel a few stops on the metro one afternoon to visit the Mall Plaza Vespucio, where Steven used to work, to stretch our legs and have some coffee but that was about it. As I said this area isn’t really for tourist so you won’t really have a reason to visit here.

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Next stop Chile!

October 10th, 2015 No comments

For years people have been asking me why I haven’t visited South America yet, to which I have always replied “I’ll get there one day. There are so many places in the world I want to see” or something similar.

It seems that the time has finally come as I will be jetting off to Chile for 11 days in January 2016. I booked at the end of June, only a few weeks after coming back from Central Asia, but didn’t want to post anything here until my blog from that previous trip was online. It’s a shame I can’t stay longer, due to work commitments, otherwise I would have travelled extensively around Chile or seen other countries in the area, but I know I’ll have a good time regardless.

Route to Chile

The route I will be taking to Chile

I’m not sure what I’ll be seeing when I’m in Chile. Obviously I’ll be seeing Santiago, as that is where my flight goes, but beyond that nothing is definite. There have been suggestions of visiting Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, La Serena and the wineries in the valleys near Santiago but it’ll probably be a little while before anything is set in stone. I will also have to wait until nearer the time to see how the recovery from the recent magnitude 8.4 earthquake and Tsunami progresses before making any commitments to visit the coast.

There will be a lot of flexibility on this trip as I’m travelling on my own to visit a friend, rather than being part of an organised group, so I can see what I want and won’t have to deal with problematic group members. Maybe I’ll visit Punta Arenas or fly up to the Atacama for a few days but maybe I’ll stay close to Santiago, we will see when I get there.

South America is a region of the world that always comes highly recommended by people who like to travel so I’m glad I will finally be able to see part of it for myself. It’ll be very hot in January, but I’ll be fine. I prefer colder weather but after my nights shivering in sub-zero temperatures at Song-Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan it’ll be nice to go somewhere hot!

I’m in the process of improving upon the Spanish which I learned in school in order to be able to communicate with the Chilean people without having to rely on my friend to translate. In Chile they speak a complicated variety of Spanish so it may not be too easy but I’ll do my best. I’m planning to visit Madrid for a few nights some time before Christmas in order to get some hands-on experience with the language before Chile.

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