24th May 2012
Hola, we have had a week of sightseeing and chilling out since we arrived here in Santiago last Friday. Saturday we spent exploring the old part of the city where we are staying and seeing some of the beautiful old buildings that seem plentiful! Lunched on crab at the Galeon Restaurant in the Central Market after viewing the many stalls of fresh fish and various seafood - some we weren't too sure of! - and the fabulous fruit stalls where all the fruit and veges looked at least twice the size as back home. On Monday we went back to the Central Market and wondered why there were very few people and not much traffic about. Turns out May 21st is a public holiday so we stayed and watched the parade of the army, navy, air force and police representatives which was pretty cool and something tourists wouldn't get to see every day!! The speeches were pretty boring especially since they were in Spanish and we didn't know what they were saying!! We walked along Parque Forestal to the San Cristobel Hill and took the funicular up to the top for a wonderful view of the city albeit a less than clear one. We had decided to walk down as there were many tracks but of course we managed to find the most "off the beaten" one which was also the steepest and the least easy to follow....probably the one the local kids use aka the gondola track from the 60's!!! However, we think it was also the fastest so we were soon supping a chopp(draught beer) in a cafe which was well deserved!!! Sunday was a very cruisey day and we didn't venture too far - the first proper "day off" we have had since we left over a month ago. And it seems like we have been away a lot longer than that!
Tuesday we took a day tour to the cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar which are on the coast - Valparaiso is a port city and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003. We visited one of the three houses of Pablo Neruda, the second Chilean to receive the Nobel Prize (for Literature). Vina del Mar is almost joined to Valparaiso but is a younger city and is an important beach resort. We had lunch there in a 'Castillo' by the sea - the seafood was delicious!!
Wednesday was another day of strolling the neighbourhood and climbing up to Castle Hidalglo on the smaller Santa Lucia hill - a great view of the city although the smog does tend to spoil the view of the Andes. Thursday was another day tour (only 3 of us this time compared to a bus load on Tuesday); this time to Isla Negra also on the coast and to the Matetic Vineyard in Rosario located in the San Antonio valley. We visited the favorite home of Pablo Neruda which was amazing as he was a prolific collector of just about everything but especially nautical objects, shells, birds, butterflies, insects, masks and railway themed paraphernalia. His house overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the rooms are not dissimmilar to being on a boat or in a railway carriage and is in a wonderful location - unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos inside the house but have a few of the exterior and views out over the ocean. He and his third wife are also buried there looking out over the sea.
The Matetic Winery was where we stopped for lunch - I had sea bass and Brian lamb shank - accompanied by a very nice savvy and a Pinot Noir! After lunch we were given a tour of the winery which is run organically and the buildings were pretty amazing. A wine tasting to finish off while looking over the vineyard and at the sheep, goats and alpaca they also have there was a great way to finish the day. Tomorrow we fly to Lima and then down to San Bartolo for about a week. Adios!
21 May Parade Santiago
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