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Getting to Know Santiago

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Having already escaped to Argentina, we thought it was about time that we headed off to Santiago in an attempt to get to know Chile's capital. We made one almost fatal mistake; we went on the weekend. Everyone who is from Santiago knows that to stay in the city over the weekend is ridiculous, due to the absolutely sweltering heat. Us brits headed in off our nicely air conditioned bus and were immediately hit by about 30°c temperatures that made us realise that we were not in for a nice cool day - especially as it was only about 11 o'clock when we arrived.

However, we decided to grin and bear it. On the bus some guy approached us to invite us to a barbecue with lots of other travellers in a park in Santiago. Needless to say we declined. Jorge did not look like he had any idea what a party was, so we thought he was probably exagerrating as to how good the barbecue would be. The idea of not trusting strangers goes out the window (sorry Mum and Dad!), you when you're travelling/trying to forge your way in a new country. Although, this was one stranger we decided not to trust!

My housemate Mari had taken our guidebook in hand and recommended all of the places we needed to visit if we were only there for a day. So we started in Pajaritos, which was where the bus left us and then headed into the centre of Santiago. We got on the metro which is pretty nice, quite modern and they have wisely opted for a lot more standing space than seats, which seems far more practical when all they need to do is fit as many people as possible in the carriages. We got off the metro at La Moneda, ready for a Frida Kahlo exhibition that I had seen on TV the night before. La Moneda is the palace where the Chilean President, Michele Bachelet lives. You are allowed to look around and stuff if you present your passport. However, as luck would have it we excitedly heading to the main gate past the special police guys dressed all in white and with large hats (obviously the equivalent to the soldiers that we have outside Buckingham Palace). We smiled in our blonde, foreigner way and as we went to walk past we got stopped and told that the palace was closed to visitors. Brilliant. That was meant to take us a couple of hours. Rubbish.

Next we headed to the Metropolitan Cathedral. It was amazing. Imposing and ornate, with extravagant touches and as mass was taking place we got to experience the priest or bishop or whoever he was (I'm not good with the whole religion thing) booming out a sermon of some sort and then watch as every single member of the congregation repeatedly crossed themselves. A cross on the forehead, one on the whole face, one on the heart and then a final cross for the entire body. Mental. I took some photos of the cathedral but I won't put them up as they are rubbish. I really need to work on my photography skills. I ended up with a picture of a font. Who wants to see a font?! If you do, let me know, I'll email you the photo, it's pretty standard, just marble.

Then we headed to eat, it was at least 12.15 by then and Hattie and I had come to an agreement that by the time we reached the market it would definitely be time to eat. So we made for the Mercado Central which was really authentic. Smelt of fish, but obviously that's pretty standard for a market that mainly sells fish. We went and found a restaurant in the market to eat, which was interesting as I felt this would be the perfect time to practice my negociating skills. It almost ended badly as two men fought over our custom and we were forced to side with the stronger man! After lunch, which was just simple fish and potatoes we decided to head for the cooler areas of Santiago.

We hit a photography exhibition at the Universidad Catolica, I can't actually remember the name of the photographer but it was really cool, he just had a display of various people that he had met. Then we walked towards Patronato an area famous for shopping, or so Mari had told us. In actual fact it was like 'Bundlesville', people were piling into shops in their hundreds. Seriously I almost want to have a look, then some possessed looking woman began to fight her way through the crowds to what appear to be shoes that had been reduced by 10% or something. For the first time I was scared by a shopper's mentality, I saw what I must look like in the Christmas sales.

Making a swift exit from that area we went into Bellavista, one of the cooler areas of the city, very bohemian, where we made a visit to Pablo Neruda's (the famous Chilean poet) house., La Chascona It was infinitely cool. He originally built it to hide his lover Matilde Urrutia, who later became his wife after he divorced his previous wife. As he had a enormous appreciation of the sea, he built the house to be like a boat. Full of furniture that you'd see on a boat, low ceilings and slightly sloping floorboards. He has some really interesting art and bits and pieces that he collected in his lifetime, although a large part of his books and possessions got burnt once he died, as a result of the Pinochet regime. The tourguide that we had, Boris, was great and actually had interesting information to convey! Well worth the 90p that we each paid!

After that we were exhausted from the immense heat and could take no more so returned to Viña, where the sea breeze was definitely a welcome relief!

I went to a rave on a pier in the evening which was pretty awesome, lots of DJs and cool Chileans! I won't bore you with the details of that, as it was less than cultural!


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