Monday, June 28, 2010

Vamos Chile!

So far we've spent 3 amazing weeks in Chile. Should have known that the gorgeous drive from Mendoza into Chile was a foreshadow of things to come. The bus ride through the Andes was definitely a highlight and should be done in the day time when you can see the massive expanse of the mountains, the clear blue skies and the winding snow capped peaks. Then we got to our friend, Pablo's parents' apartment on the 23rd floor overlooking the city of Santiago - Fantastic, we were smack in the middle of downtown and within spitting distance of all the major tourist attractions!

First impression - Awesome! We jumped off the bus and got into the subway, which is brand new, efficient and clean. We took a look around and were met with the gorgeous Santiago night-scape.
Second impression - Even better! Santiago is like South America with a system! It's organized, the people line up, the shopping is better and the infrastructure of the city is oddly very North American.

  • The walking tour - we did a free/by donation walking tour of the city, which was wonderfully informative and we met the most amazing Belgian Couple!
  • Pablo Neruda - He's a Chileno poet/politician that had the knack for collecting the most random things from around the world. We got obsessed and saw all 3 of his houses in Santiago, Valparaiso and Isla Negra. Superb and his poems are great too!
  • Pisco Sours, Terremottos and Carmeneres - All dangerously potent drinks that are pleasurable in their own way! All worth trying and consuming in vast quantities!
  • The Views - From, well, everywhere it seems! Cerro Santa Lucia, San Cristobal, the apartments...
  • Valparaiso - It's a gritty, artsy port town by the coast that has amazing colored houses and graffiti everywhere. It's beautiful and dark and worth visiting.
  • Hanging with Pablo and getting a great feel of Santiago and Vina Del Mar.

Things we've learned:
  • It's crazy fun to be in a city when they win a World Cup match. The city literally comes alive! Chi-chi-chi Le-le-le Viva Chile. I guess this is the best they've done in ages and boy, are they celebrating! Avenida Alameda, their main road (which was right outside the apartment) was closed down and thousands of people poured down waiving their flags and cheering like mad!
  • They love being in pictures. The Chilenos will literally pose for you even if you don't want them to!
  • There are lot of avocados and onions here. Like you get guacamole with every single thing you order!
  • It's on the expensive side, Chile is definitely not cheap, but the quality of everything is much better than anywhere else. The cutlery doesn't break and the serviettes work.
  • It is a long, long country and we have to take more buses!
Currently, we're heading up northern Chile to go to San Pedro de Atacama, one of the driest desert regions. We took a pit stop to do some start gazing! We wanted to do something a little different and seeing stars and the moon from a super telescope was fantastic. We're in La Serena, one of the best places in the world for astronomy - apparently, there are only 4 places and Chile, has the biggest and the best of them all. Plus, you see different constellations from the Southern Hemisphere and it's all upside down compared to the north. Yup, we're astronomers now, and randomly, it is the time for Scorpios...

The view from the Mandiola's residence! That's the Andes!!

Pablo Neruda's house in Isla Negra - our fave new poet!

Pisco Sours and lunch with la familia.

Amazing grafitti in Valpo

Our awesome host, Pablo.

Chi-chi-chi Le-le-le. Viva Chile!

La luna...from the super telescope. Soooo beautiful.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

4 Months and counting!!

We finally made it to our 4th country in 4 months! Currently chilling in Vina del Mar, a wonderful coastal city in Chile. I'll write more about how impressive Chile is but in the mean time - to commemorate our 4th month. Here's a list of some things we've learned, what we're confused by and stuff we love.

Things we've learned:
  • Travel tip -Don't go with the cheapest bus option and pay for the cama suite - it's either too hot, too cold, has no food or is filled with crying babies.
  • They deliver everything here - there is ice cream delivery (Cordoba) !!! And you can order as many flavours as you want. That is impressive...
  • Warning - Do NOT expect North American service anywhere...Eat well before you are starving.
  • Efficiency is not high on the list of business practices here.
  • Hot sauce is not hot in South America.
  • Fashion - Mullets and rat tails are back (why oh why!?)
  • Safety Tip - Always carry your backpack in front.
  • Travel Trick - Pack your dirty laundry on top of your mochilla.
  • Burger King is alive and kicking, jean shorts are not dead, MC hammer pants are making a comeback, Converse makes a killing here.
  • Life Saver - Don't trust pedestrian lights - just cause it's green shouldn't mean you should walk.
  • The drive from Mendoza to Chile is one of the most beautiful ones out there!
Things we are confused by:
  • Business hours. We are still not sure how and when this continent actually works...seriously.
  • How Yuko can get groped during a wine bike tour on a moving bike! hahahaha
  • Babies on motorcyles (that is not a car seat!)
  • Watching a stray dog getting out of a public bus alone in downtown Santiago
  • Serviettes that don't soak up anything & how there can be a monopoly on crappy cutlery
  • No concept of food cost - you will find a jar of mayo in your sandwich and a full block of cheese in your empanada
  • Why clubs start at 2am and people have dinner at 11pm!
  • How you can have pickles but no relish, peanuts but no peanut butter and soy sauce that doesn''t have salt.
  • How women can walk in high heels - between looking out for dog poo, ditches, potholes and uneven feet have seriously changed shape and I'm in runners!
  • Siestas during winter. Isn't the concept of closing during the afternoon because it's too hot?
Stuff we love:
  • 4 generation family asados in Argentina are awesome! You don't have to be a meat lover to enjoy the goodness of this.
  • Speaking Spanish with the Malanos ;) and only being quasi understood but still have great conversations! Muchas gracias!
  • A bicentenial celebration in the capital city is the best experience ever - gigantic parades, fantastic floats, open air concerts and thousands of people out in full force celebrating. Thanks BA!
  • Brazilien Cachaca, Argentinian Malbecs and Chilean Merlots and Cab sauvs follow a close second.
  • We're still great friends. It's true folks - after 4 months, we still like each other!
  • The sexiness of the Braziliens, the beauty of the Argentinians and we've only gotten to Chile!
  • The Brazilian Portuguese is wonderful to listen to - it's like they're singing a song when they talk.
  • Corner stores that sell everything and we mean everything!
  • Alfajores with dulce de leche - they are basically suped up wagonwheels :)
  • Pedestrian only streets
  • Traffic lights turn from Red to Orange then Green - it's like advanced warning that you're about to get hit.
  • Bakeries/Panadarias everywhere and 24 hour pharmacies (with little windows that open like in a gas station to take your order)
  • Hooks on tables so your bag won't get stolen
  • Ice cream and food by weight, fresh fruit from Brazil that melt in your mouth
  • Listening to our MP3 player in the subte/bus while people watching
Some fave moments in the last 4 weeks:

The most amazing drive ever. Mendoza, Argentina -- Santiago, Chile

Thanks for the Bicentennial party BA!

We love Argentinian wine.

We all managed to say on the horses!

The best Cordoba experience.