Exploring Santiago

Friday, 05-09-2014. Day 17.

A Day was Not Enough

It was raining when we woke up. We had intended to have breakfast at hostel, then head out to catch Wally's free walking tour of Santiago. But the rain was coming down pretty hard, so we decided to stay at the hostel and worked on some schoolwork (mainly math) in the common area.

Homework is hungry work, so a few hours, we started thinking about food. It had stopped raining, so we decided to get some lunch before Wally's next walking tour at 3:00 p.m. T-Mobile wasn't giving us any sort of data connection in Santiago (weird, because we had data access on Easter Island), so we had to rely on an old school map. We walked over to where the restaurants were supposed to be.



As we explored, we found that we really liked Santiago. It's walking and biking friendly, has a good amount of parks and green space, and pretty interesting. It helped that we were in a university and museum district, so it felt pretty vibrant.  But there's plenty of traffic, too, and people aren't afraid to use their horns.

Fountain in downtown Santiago

Fountain in downtown Santiago

We ended up in a part of town that felt a little like downtown Los Angeles. We must have read the map wrong, because we had a hard time finding an open restaurant. We ended up in Big Ben of Santiago,  a lunch counter of sorts that displayed their pastries and dishes in street-front windows. The food was pretty good. They had a comedor (dining room) down a set of steps. The big dish in Chile is the empañada pino, a mix of ground beef, onions, raisins, hard-boiled egg, and black olives, so we had to try one. It was pretty good (though I was surprised to find that the black olive had a pit in it). Frankie ordered a hamburgesa completa, a hamburger with a lot of toppings, which was messy to eat but really tasty.

From there we walked over to the Museo de Bellas Artes to catch Wally's 3:00 walking tour. 3:00 came and went, then 3:15. Another tourist, a nice gent from Melbourne was also waiting. We chatted with this fellow a bit about what to see and do in Melbourne, then we decided to call it and walked off, a little sad that Wally was a no-show. Then we turned the corner and realized that we had been at the back of the museum (though it looked a lot like a front), and Wally probably started his tours on the other side. Whoops.

So instead of spending three hours with Wally, we meandered up Pio Nono (that's a street) toward the National Zoo and Cerro San Cristóbal. We spent 7,000 pesos to take the 45-degree Funicular of Santiago up to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal, 300 meters above Santiago, and the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception (a theme for us, it seems). The ride took ten minutes, and at the top offered great views of Santiago and the Andes  range in the distance (as well as a few shops for Jackie to peruse).

Mini-panorama of Santiago and the Andes from Cerro San Cristóbal.

The Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception is an open-air cathedral, dominated by a 22-meter tall statue of the Virgin Mary at the peak of the hill. At the base of the state, there's a small chapel where Pope John Paul II blessed the city in 1987.

Virgin Mary statue atop Cerro San Cristóbal

Virgin Mary statue atop Cerro San Cristóbal

We got some ice cream, then rode the funicular back down and walked back toward the hostel, taking in the sights and keeping an eye out for a place to eat dinner. The street leading back to the hostel was thick with bars, and people were sitting outside, sharing liter bottles of beer poured into glasses. It seemed very civilized.

The girls (especially Jackie) were starting to get weary of trying new foods, so when we saw Bella Italia, a pizza joint on Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins (again, the greatest street name ever), right around the corner from the hostel, they enthusiastically voted for pizza for dinner. We gave in, and we're glad we did — the pizza here was fantastic. This was Jackie's favorite meal so far; she's never eaten so much at one meal ever before.

Here's a funny learning moment for us. When you order water in Chile, they ask , "Sin gas or con gas?" This confused us at first, but we quickly figured out that sin gas is "without gas," or bubbles (hence still water) and con gas is "with gas,"  or sparkling water.

Despite missing the walking tour, we managed to take in some good sights in a short amount of time. We headed back to the hostel and lounged in the common area for awhile until it was time for bed. We wished that we had a few more days in Santiago, but we had a flight to Sydney in the morning.

Notable statistics

  • Missed opportunities: 1
  • Stray cats seen: 4
  • Stray dogs seen: 13
  • Tourists taking iPad pictures: 1
  • Funiculars ridden: 2
  • Pizzas eaten: 4

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Exploring Santiago
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