We made a final descent on a Valparaiso ‘ascensor’ and got on our very last bus journey through South America, sob sob! A couple of hours later we were in Santiago. The first thing that struck us was how modern, new and shiny the city was in comparison to the other South American cities we’d been through. Encompassed on all sides by towering mountains, every surface looked considered, polished & manicured, although we were later told there are older parts of the city which don’t have quite the same allure. The natural bowl shaped landscape means the city acts as an inescapable trough for stagnant pollution; apparently the general rule of thumb is the more money you have, the higher up you live because the air is much cleaner at higher altitudes.
We checked into our hostel in a trendy part of town known for its’ nightlife, BellaVista. Passing boutiques, burger bars and fresh fruit juice vendors, we were surprised at the number of city workers rushing around in the blistering heat wearing suits. Moving to Australia, this is something we would need to acclimatise to! Craving some greens (and a beer) we grabbed an artichoke and prosciutto salad nearby.
We were unfazed to stumble across a plethora of artisanal market stalls next door, but thought we’d continue the eternal search for the perfect pair of earrings (by the way, these earrings are purely an image in my head, they probably don’t even exist, and if they do we’d be unlikely to find them for a fiver in a market.) But we went in anyway. I do think we’ve encountered more artisanal markets than dodgy toilets in the last month, and that’s saying something. But this market actually had a really lovely selection of jewellery, and although they were made with cheap materials, I was pretty chuffed with the two jangly pairs of earrings I got for £2. They were not ‘the ones’, but they could keep my lobes pretty till pigs fly.
We’d planned to meet up with Sophie and Kieran that evening, friends of my old friend Aurelie back in London. They too had taken the plunge and moved to the other side of the world. They had just arrived in Santiago a couple of weeks prior, but had already landed themselves jobs and were in the midst of flat hunting. Santiago may not be Sydney, but it made me realise we weren’t the only people doing something so nutty, and gave me hope for the future! They were taking us for a surprise… we slid into an elevator, then into a second, as our ears popped and we rose to the W hotel rooftop bar on the 27th floor. The doors opened and we fell out into tanned fashionistas poolside soaking up the last few rays of the day. I scolded myself for my creased backpacking wardrobe, at this present moment it didn’t feel like we were ‘flash-packing” as we’d joked earlier. We settled into a white leather lounger and our waitress brought over some Pisco sour cocktails. We caught up and exchanged stories of our travels, as the Pisco went straight to our heads! We admired the astounding views over the city, and it felt as if we were parallel with the mountain tops as the city’s lights began to flicker awake beneath us.
Wobbling back to the elevator, Sophie and Kieran took us out for the best pizza we’d had in South America. Ok, the pizza we’d had in Montevideo was good, but it was on doughy focaccia - this was thin, wood fired crispy, and all topping. Inside were vibrant turquoise and red walls, and we sat in a breezy canopied garden out front. The entertainment was an unexpected “bonus”, as a woman accompanied by a portable karaoke box and children jingled around the perimeter. We felt obliged to give her money, if only to encourage her to move on to the some other unsuspecting diners.
Fuelled up with pizza and beer we returned to the W for a few more cocktails, this time lounging on a big white bed, and scolding myself for not having brought something warmer to wear. As the DJ cranked up the pop music and an influx of high heels arrived to eye up the well heeled, we made our exit. Kieran was keen for a night out on the town, and we were keen to see BellaVista in action, so we grabbed a cab to a different world. The three of us resisted Keiran’s begging pleas to go into a caged karaoke club. We all saw it doubled as a male strip club and heard the girl’s shrieks from within, but he’d thought it would be fun. We did not concur, and after a thorough exploration of the area, settled for a curb side table to have a beer and watch the (drunken) world go by. We continued onto another bar afterward, and things get a bit hazy from there… but I do remember two things. One, I smoked a lot of cigarettes for the first time in a month. Bad. Two, I remember seeing a guy enter the bar with an enormous model of a boat with sails and everything. Somehow, he sold it to people at the table beside us. It could have easily been to us because anything seemed like a good idea by that point. Luckily Keiran hadn’t seized the moment to suggest we return to the karaoke strip joint, or this blog entry would not end here.
- By Cass