Something to Declare

Santiago Travel Blog

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Andrew at the foot of Santa Lucia hill

As the flight touched down in Santiago the passengers scrambled to disembark.  We were not in a rush so we took our time getting off.  Bought our visas for $US 30 each and passed through immigration.  At customs we went through the 'something to declare' aisle and the official looked at our packaged Australian Bush teas and spices.  She confiscated a small packet of sultanas and several selections of the teas and spices that were in the Australian Geographic Shop gift pack. 

The airport was packed at arrivals, then I noticed my name on a paddle held by an Airport shuttle service.  We had booked one through the hostel and were promptly whisked away to a row of mini buses and loaded into one of them.

Heading up the mountains for lunch
  After introducing ourselves to the other passengers the shuttle people decided that we should be in a different mini bus..  The journey to the Hostal Forrestal gave us a snapshot of the housing in the outer suburbs ( very rundown with mounds of rubbish stored in yards).  At the Hostal we climbed a steep flight of wooden stairs to the check-in desk with Andrew valiantly carrying the suitcases up and me taking the backpacks.  The rooms had high ceilings and were cool, our room was down another flight of stairs at the back of the building and it was roomy with an ensuite.  Kitchen was small, dingy and grubby.  The ATM thwarted our attempt to withdraw money as it welcomed us in Spanish and English then the English prompts disappeared and my thumbing through the phrase book was too slow.
Dancing at an Artisan Market

Found a supermarket and bought steaks, salad vegetables, fruit, wine, milk, coke and salad dressing for about $AUS20.  Walked back to hostel then gave in to a crashing headache and went to bed after taking headache tablets.

Next day we surfaced for the free breakfast which was bread rolls, apricot jam and coffee with powdered milk.  Headed out to get money from the ATM to pay for our two week stay at the hostal and winged it successfully.  The streets were full of yellow buses belching fumes as they raced to pick up passengers.  Walked a long distance to the Information  Centre to find it was closed for 3 days.  The next day was a public holiday so we think they needed one to prepare for it and one to recover from it!  We did find an independent tour guide company and met a delightfully helpful English speaking young man who gave us some options.

Views from Santa Lucia
  We booked a one day tour with him for a couple of days time.  In the evening we walked through an artisan market finding a superb restaurant called 'Off the Record'.  Here the manager introduced me to Pisco Sour.....  a must if you like lemony alcoholic drinks!

Next day was the public holiday for the Immaculate Conception.  All of the big market places were open.  We walked  through fruit and flower markets ( with cats sleeping in the boxes), clothes and local crafts.  Stray dogs of the larger breeds roamed throughout the streets and parks and footpaths had to be negotiated carefully to avoid the mounds of excrement.  Many locals had dogs which they walked on leads and there were lovers were glued to each other on park benches and in shady parks.

From the hills overlooking Santiago, the pollution evident

Friday was our one day tour and we were collected from the hostal at 9 am in a small white car with our guide and a German girl who was training to be a tour guide and learning Spanish.  As we left the busy city and most of the smog, the scenery changed to country and over a river we arrived at the wine estate of Concho del Torro.  It had a huge stately garden and we hurried to catch the English speaking tour.  The guide gave us a very interesting talk on the wine growing and the discovery of the Carmenere vines amongst the Merlot.  The Carmenere in France and indeed Europe had been wiped out by a disease a couple of centuries ago and it was long forgotten that cuttings had been taken to Chile and had flourished  in South America.

on the hill overlooking Santiago,
  The grape had always been harvested with the Merlot.  Nowadays it is harvested  separately and  Carmenere is now being marketed and exported......  truly lovely.  The winery buildings were very old but extremely well built and very beautiful.  The Devil had been introduced to the folklore of this winery to watch over the ageing bottles and to stop pilfering by the employees centuries ago.  It seemed to have worked as bottle numbers remained constant since word got around about the devil.  In fact we did see his shadow in one of the vaults storing bottles of 40 year old wines!

From the winery we head into the mountains to a beautiful place hanging out over a roaring river. Around us are cactus and spruce on sparsely vegetated mountains that lead up into snow caps.

Street around our hostal
 We sample some traditional dishes and are then taken back to Santiago to do a brief tour around the older streets and are driven up Santa Lucia hill through the amazing pieces of architecture.  Went out to dinner in the evening and I am able to order two glasses of tap water in Spanish which is understood!  I have the smoked salmon.

Next day we take the metro to do a practice run to the bus station in preparation to going to Valparaiso.  The underground is cheap, efficient and despite my misgivings, clean.  We visit the Museum of pre-Columbian Chile and the Bellas Artes (Museum of Art).  At dinner I am now also able to tell the waiter I am full up in Spanish and ask for the bill!  Next day is round one of elections.

Funnicular in Santiago
  Nothing much is open especially restaurants and bars as law forbid the sale of alcohol for about a 24 hour period around an election.  I cook a stir fry at the Hostal and at about 10pm it sounds like there is a street party happening just around us.  I persuade Andrew to accompany me to see what is happening and we find the supporters of the 2nd place getter celebration at a 5 star hotel behind us.  There are banners, flags and boater hats in the appropriate colours.  Vehicles passing fly banners and toot if they have the right candidate displayed.  Drums beat and singers sing and we watch from a safe distance across the street.  We have read about Michelle Bachelete's policies and hope that she will be elected and become Chile's 1st female president.

 

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Andrew at the foot of Santa Lucia …
Andrew at the foot of Santa Lucia…
Heading up the mountains for lunch
Heading up the mountains for lunch
Dancing at an Artisan Market
Dancing at an Artisan Market
Views from Santa Lucia
Views from Santa Lucia
From the hills overlooking Santiag…
From the hills overlooking Santia…
on the hill overlooking Santiago,
on the hill overlooking Santiago,
Street around our hostal
Street around our hostal
Funnicular in Santiago
Funnicular in Santiago
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Santiago
photo by: Bluetraveler