Santiago – Valparaiso // Chile
When I was doing my research on Santiago and Chile in general, I had to really dig for stuff to do. Since I’m only visiting 10 days, I had to manage to find something to do. But in reality, the 10 days I stayed in Chile really flew by.Small warning, this might be a lengthy post, since I’m wrapping up 10 days worth of stuff.
The first impression of Santiago was… not too exciting. The city itself looked quite run down and being the capital of Chile, I expected it to be more “flashy” and entertaining. But truth to be told, Santiago only holds a handfull of things worth visiting for the visiting tourist. It has a Virgin Mary on a hill and another excellent viewing point with a nice panoramic view over the city. The city has numerous musea spread around town too. But for some reason, all the ones that I wanted to visit were closed for renovation. There’s a parque which houses 3 museums and all 3 of them were closed, even part of the park was closed down for renovation. WTF! Anyway, as usual I just wandered around the park a bit, just watching the people getting to know their behaviors. Watched a rather spectacular soccer game between some locals.As I walked back to the hostel, I walked through some other parts of the city and my general thought was that the city looks quite run down. It looked dirty and dusty everywhere. Dirty not in the sense of garbage or anything, but just dirty from dust or smog. There was some graffiti here and there but nothing spectacularly arty or fancy. Just some random tags… So yeah………. Santiago didn’t impress me much, so I decided to stay only 2 days and then move on to Valparaiso!
ValparaisoAaaah Valparaiso, where to start? The city itself is only 1,5 hours away from Santiago and is a nice little city at the coast. It was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 and you can immediately see why when you arrive. Many people call it a bohemian, artistic, poetic, hippy/gypsy-like town. And hell yeah they were right. There are colorful houses everywhere and amazing graffiti works decorate the city from the center up to the hills. Each graffiti painting is nearly an artwork. Oh yeah Valparaiso has a lot of hills and the people here get up the hill using Ascensores, pretty much “elevators” but really old-school kind of elevators. For some reason , the 2 ascensores I took were managed/controled by old people and I mean OLD, like 70+! Not that I have anything against old people, but it just fits: the old elevators, old entrances/exits, old people managing it,… it all seems more authentic. The whole combination of colorful houses and hills reminded me of Rio and the favelas there. But it was still different of course. Valparaiso isn’t a big town, so you can pretty much walk to all the attractions or just walk around town. Eventhough there aren’t that many real attractions or museums to visit, just walking around the city gave me a lot of entertainment already. I did visit “La Sebastiana”, a Pablo Neruda house, a famous Chilean poet. It was a 5 story house filled with all kinds of antiques and misplaced items that the poet loved to collect. But for some reason, it all seems to fit. The design of the 5-story house was really interesting and the view on top of a hill, overviewing the whole coast was just simply amazing. I had no idea who Pablo Neruda was, but after visiting the house, I’m a fan.
Vina Del Mar
Eventhough this town is only 10-15 mins away from Valparaiso, it can not look more different than Valparaiso. Vina del Mar is a nice beach resort just a bit north. While Valparaiso has a more bohemian and alternative reputation, Vina Del Mar is the commercial counter part. People all dressed up nicely, streets are clean, big casinos and hotels surrounding the beach area. I walked around the beach a bit and into the city but it wasn’t all that spectacular. It was nice feeling though to dip my feet into the ocean again. This time the south pacific ocean!
The hippy hostel
Eventhough Valparaiso was amazing already, what made it an amazing experience was the hostel. The hostel didn’t seem like your average hostel, it seemed more like a frat/hippy house. People walking around barefooted, music blasting through the corridors, people smoking inside. I’ve met some really interesting people in the hostel, as the city seem to attract a lot of like-minded artists in all kinds of fields. I think nearly every night I’ve hung around with some of the people in the hostel just chatting and talking about whatever.I think the last night was the most amazing one. We chipped in with a bunch for some “melon con vino” (melon with white wine in it) and pisco strawberry. Yes, strawberry and it was DEEEEEEELICIOUS! Dangerously delicious since the sweet taste of strawberry hides the strong liquor taste of the pisco. It was a full house at the hostel, a large group of French people, couple of Germans, oh and 2 other Belgian guys and a handfull of Chileans. We just started drinking and chatting away in the (small) common area, but this area seemed to be too small very soon. As I make my way to the toilet, I see a small group of people dancing in the hallway, some expert latin dancers teaching some novice dancers how to Salsa, merengue and more. One of the girls was playing around with poi (google that shit) too. However, there were also other (older) people in the hostel and they didn’t appreciate the noise all that much. Understandable though… so we had to make our way to the common area. We calmed down a bit since they didn’t have any space to dance or wander around.. UNTIL! One of the French guys picked up the guitar and started jamming some upbeat jazz tune, that’s when the gypsy party started. Some started to snap their fingers, others clapped their hands in different rythms, another one started to do some scat singing, another started to use some spoons to make an instrument out of it. And somehow it just all came together, everyone was playing along and it was just an amazing feeling and atmosphere in general. Just had to be there to witness how amazing it was.
Since my plane was leaving from Santiago, I had to come back to Santiago to catch my flight, but I managed to get a couch with an (awesome) host through couchsurfing. And on top of that, it was the Christmas weekend, so a lot of families are busy celebrating. However, when I wrote Paulina, she kindly invited me to celebrate Christmas with them and if someone invites you for Christmas, you can’t say no. And also because I never really celebrated Christmas before, I wanted to try it. Paulina and her family welcomed me as one of their own as soon as I arrived and their house was nicely decorated too. Awesome looking Christmas tree with Maria and Josef included. Eventhough they kept saying it was a humble Christmas dinner, it still felt really special to me. I even noticed them dressing up nicely too, so I quickly changed out of my gringo-shorts and t-shirt and put on a white shirt and casual jeans for dinner.After dinner we sat around the living room around the tree and crib. Paulina’s mother put on some songs and put the little statue of Jesus in the middle of the crib. After that they exchanged presents, even I got a present! Anyhow it was a lovely experience and I can’t thank Paulina and her family enough for letting me be part of it. That about wraps it up for Chile. Too bad I only stayed 10 days and I’ve only seen a tiny bit of what Chile has to offer. But according to the people from the hostel Chile has a lot to offer for everyone who loves nature. Chile has a good mix of all the elements of nature. I can’t really give you my honest opinion on what Chile has to offer besides the places I’ve visit, but if you’re into nature and hiking and outdoor activities, you should definitely visit Chile.