Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A couple of extra days? Why not a short trip over to Chile???

After what felt like having run after time since somewhere in Colombia - as we had still so many places we wanted to visit before our only booked flight, out of Rio a couple of months later -, we suddenly found ourselves with too many days left before we needed to be in Buenos Aires. What to do?

It seemed that we had miscalculated the days, and instead of about 5 days until we were meeting our friend Nuno2 in BA, we actually had 10 days. As it was already our third day in Mendoza, the travel urge was starting to lift it's head and we were starting to contemplate where would be the best place to spend this time gift.

We first thought about going down to Bariloche, which is supposed to be a beautiful mountain village. But the more we heard about the place, the more it indeed sounded like a lovely place, but also as very similar to what we are used to from around Switzerland. Not exactly what we had come all the way to Argentina for.

The choice instead fell on Santiago de Chile. We had originally planned to skip Chile for this trip and come back there another time to see Chile and southern Argentina.

But here we were! Only 7 hours away by bus (time perception seems to change drastically as you travel! Back in Switzerland it used to feel rather far to go the less than 4 hours to Zurich from Geneva, while in South America, a 12 hour long bus trip was rather normal), it suddenly seemed like the perfect destination.
And it was! We both liked the city immediately. It has a good vibe and felt like a place where I could definitely imagine living for a few years. On our first day there we joined a 'free-tour' group and spent 3.5 hours walking the streets of the centre and getting the history and current affairs of different monuments and buildings, as well as pointers to some good restaurants, other places to visit and the best ice cream in town.
I wrote 'free' tours as these tours aren't really free. Well, they can be as you only pay the amount that you think is correct at the end of the tour. Hence it can be free if you chose to not pay anything. But in general it seems like the big majority of people joining the guided tour do pay. And most pay the amount suggested by the guide.
Salvador Allende statue
A flag with the size of a tennis court
 It was however a very nice tour of the city that we felt was worth the money suggested, especially as it is quite a lot cheaper than any traditional guided tours. It was also an excellent way to start off our two days in Santiago since it gave us a good idea of what we really wanted to do, such as visiting one of the houses of Pablo Neruda. The tour also gave a good orientation of the city, and some good pointers in general. The ice cream in the suggested place was indeed really good ;)
Old reflected in new


As we had come all the way to Santiago, we felt it was necessary to pay a visit also to Valparaiso as it is highly recommended as one of the more beautiful cities in South America and included as an UNESCO world heritage site.
The city does have some pretty parts, especially the hills with old colourful houses. But we were rather disappointed as it was far from as beautiful as many other places we had already visited and as it the whole place seemed to smell really quite bad. We suddenly wished that we had kept the travellers fever down and had settled on an extra day in lovely Santiago instead.
However, as we had gone all the way there, we decided to have a good time anyway and set out to discover the city, walking up and down its numerous hills and lunching on the best empanadas I have tasted which were bought from a small tobacco shop funnily enough.

On the last, extended day, back in Santiago, we enjoyed visiting the house where the very famous Chilean writer Pablo Neruda lived partly.
Telecom building with a shape of a mobile phone

A crazy concoction of several building, I much preferred the original house where his then-to-be wife lived before they officialised their reunion.

Nuno also went to the museum of contemporary art for a couple of hours, while I enjoyed a nice stroll of people watching through the neighbouring areas.

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