Santiago de Chile - 08-12/12/14

Old lady and friend outside Santiago's fish market

Another brand new airport, Puerto Montt, another early take off.  South America just keeps on confounding stereotypes and expectations! 

However, once again, our accommodaton proved elusive.  Martin spent so much time hunting on the internet for these hotels that he seems to have found a few lesser known gems!  But most of them are gems.  We weren't too sure at first about this place in Santiago though.  It's a serviced apartment, rather than a hotel, and for some reason, they are not allowed to display their name outside, so our driver from the airport (who had found the location using his satnav) was loath to leave us until he was sure we were in the right place.  The reception for the  building, which is not the reception for the apartments, gave him a sealed envelope for us, which gave us our room number and a code for the door.  All a bit mysterious!

However, we got in for our first night and set out next morning to try to figure it all out.  To cut a long story short, we finally tracked down reception in another room, having been led on a wild goose chase by the instructions in the room into a different part of the building, which we accessed through a dark fire escape, only to find the room we were looking for sealed off by what looked like police crime tape! Back down in building reception, we were given another number- and voila! - the door opened to reveal a friendly lady who was clearly expecting us. 

Very few people in Chile are prepared to attempt English, so everything is harder work here and this experience gave us a slightly jaundiced view of the accomodation, but it's grown on us.  Everything we need is here,except for clear information, but now we understand the system, we're enjoying a few days slopping around, buying our provisions and eating in the room, rather than going out each night.  Cheaper too!

Santiago is not going to be on anyone's top ten city destinations.  Having spent our first morning figuring out the mechanics of the place - metro, buying bus tickets for our next legs of the journey, checking out how the bus station works etc (remember - no-one spoke English), we were happy to relax in the room for the afternoon.  On our second day we took a City Tour.  The guide was good - he did speak English - but he was struggling to make it inspiring.  There doesn't seem to be a coherent history to tell and so many of the buildings have taken a regular pounding from earthquakes, that the old centre feels a bit dispirited.  The President doesn't even have her own palace.  Towards the end of the tour, there is an opportunity to see a panorama of the city from one of its high hills, but more often than not the view, such as it is, is obscured by pollution.  You can barely even see that the city is completely surrounded by mountains which, on the rare clear days, make a very dramatic backdrop.  The area we are staying in is a very modern and prosperous business district, so attractive enough, but not exactly interesting.  This is not a moan.  We knew what to expect as all the guide books and the Chileans we have talked to told us the same thing.  We are here because we are on the way to somewhere else and very grateful to have a comfortable, airy apartment to relax in.

  Tomorrow we take the bus to Valparaiso, on the coast.

Not the actual façade of the cathedral - they had the builders in!

Now the Brazilian embassy - possibly the new Chilean president's residence when they've saved up enough to buy it

"This is the best I can offer you of a view of the city" - our tour guide