Santiago and Valparaiso
Arriving in Chile was pretty spectacular as we ascended up winding, narrow roads through the snow covered Andes mountains. We soon realised we were very lucky to reach Santiago as the pass was closed the day before due to the weather and closed again the day we arrived for the whole weekend. Friends who we had met in Mendoza were left stranded until it reopened. Luck must have been on our side.
We arrived late in the evening so we checked into our homely and comfy hostel and hit the sack. Refreshed in the morning, we headed to Centro for the obligatory free walking tour of the city. Our guide was a passionate Chilean with a very enthusiastic personality and cool accent. He educated us on Chile's unsettled government, it's economic struggles and the countries political division. During the tour he took us to a local cafe where we sampled the famous pisco sour, a cocktail based drink made from Pisco liquor, lemon juice, sugar and egg white. They went down a treat. For lunch he recommended to visit the seafood market and try the traditional Chilean dish, Paila Mariana, essentially boiled water and seafood. We weren't overly impressed and unfortunately Nick later found out it wasn't that hygienic either. It's always good to try these things though, right?!
One of Santiago's famous traditions is known as "coffee with legs". Attractive Chilean women wearing next to nothing serving you coffee. Apparently there is also a "lucky minute" every day where the curtains are drawn and the staff drop their clothes for one minute. We managed to stumble across one of the more raunchier establishments with blacked out windows and where the staff had a lot of flesh on show. It was a bizarre experience as we sipped on our espressos and the staff tried their best to get some tips! It's definitely not your average Starbucks experience.
That evening we headed to the city's night spot and bohemian area of Bella Vista, colourful cobbled streets, lined with copious amounts of alfresco dining.
The next morning we left for the countries cultural city known as Valparaiso. Unfortunately the weather wasn't on our side and it rained the majority of the time. It is a port city with numerous steep hills (known as cerros), a maze of narrow streets, alleys and escaleras (funicluars) and painted houses forming a patchwork of colours. We were a bit bummed out because of the weather and no free walking tour so we drowned our sorrows in a bottle of cab sav and watched the England v Peru friendly.
After our whirlwind visit to Valparaiso we headed back to Santiago for a 24 hour bus journey to the Atacama desert!
Next stop is the Salt Flats!
Laura and Nick x