And they landed. We are for the first time in South America and it is also the first such a long journey with Marianka. But let’s start from our quandary over the flight :-). In Iberia we ordered the so-called sky coat / baby bassinet for Mania, so that the entire journey from Madrid to Santiago she would not have to spend on our lap. But we had problem to make a reservation of seats next to each other, since Iberia requires a surcharge of € 30 if you want to sit next to each other. However, we decided to go whole hog and do not pay. We thought that at the check-in they would give us the right places. However in Berlin we were told that everything was booked. The prospect of spending separately 13 hours on a plane it was not what we expected.
We landed in Madrid, where we had 40 minutes to change (you have to go by train to another terminal).
The airport is clearly marked, but sometimes the signs are confusing, for example: the arrow down does not mean to go down the stairs but to go ahead. The lady at the check-in was very understanding and it turned out too, that the places next to each other are available. We do not know why it seemed different in Berlin. We got on board very glad. 13 hours later we landed in Santiago. Mania didn’t cry even once. However she did not allow to sleep the people next to us, because after 2h she got used to the surroundings and she began to talk (loud funny cheeping, gurgling and cooing) to everybody and everything around – sometimes to the bassinet or to the stewardess, to the toy, etc. We landed in Santiago around 9:40 p.m. local time (+ 4h difference when compared to the Polish time).
When we left the airport we started to look around how can we get into the city center, where our first overnight stay was scheduled. We had not even look around when the boy with the badge of the airport approached us asking if we needed help. He helped us to find an exchange office quickly (exorbitant exchange rate!!!) and he also pointed the way to the just departing bus to the downtown of Santiago. Right behind us got on the bus probably about 30 other people who have just finished their working day at the airport. At this moment, it turned out how traveling with a baby is different from traveling with anyone else. As soon as we got on the bus Mania decided to mark her presence on the territory of Chile – her nappy required an immediate change :-). The first time we changed Manias’ nappy was on the bus full of people. The expressions of the passengers’ faces – priceless :-).
Luckily, it turned out that the bus goes to the metro station Los Heroes and it was 15 minutes walking distance from the house of our coachsurfer – Paula. We learned about it from the helpful passengers who got off the bus at the same bus stop. The journey took us approx. 30 min. After walking 20 minutes we were in the Paulas’ apartment, where already slept a couple from France and a girl from Mexico. A cat lived there also :-). Finally, after 22 hours of travel, we found ourselves in bed (in fact I with Mania in bed, and Mario on the floor next to us).
In the morning I went shopping for breakfast. Our hostess was gone, the French were also about to leave. You have to admit that the French showed no signs of increased concern about the morning and the evening hygiene. We stayed with the Mexican – Cristina, with whom we spent the whole day. The shopping was done in the supermarket (cereal, cheese, ham, yogurt, mango, blueberries, avocado, bread rolls – on weight!). I paid over 30,000 CLP (to facilitate 30000/1000 * 2 = 60 $, although it’s a little less, but never mind).
The first point of our excursions was to take our luggage from Paula to Jose, our next host. Everything worked perfectly because Jose lives one street further. He went out with us and showed us exactly where is the first point of our “tour” – a hill of Santa Lucia and the park surrounding the hill. At the top is the Torre Mirador, from this place you can see Santiago. Here also for the first we found out how big mistake it would be to take a pram for Mania – there were many long and narrow stairs. An interesting fact: daily at 12:00 o’clock is fired a shot out of a cannon from the hill. We did not know it when we were almost at the top of the hill. You can imagine how powerful can be a bang :-). We went down from the top on its other side, so we were just a step away from Barrio Bellavista – an entertainment district. Before we directed our steps towards the next interesting point of Santiago – San Cristobal hill, and we went to an exchange office on the way. And here is another important piece of information in South America it is very difficult to exchange the dollar with some additional markings – stamps, signatures, dates etc. – we already came across two such notes.
Going through Forestal park, we reached the river bank – an grandiloquent expression in this case. The Mapocho River, along which you need to go to get to the Baquedano metro station, from where it is only a stone’s throw to the hill. The Mapocho River (due to the construction of the dam in the mountains) is almost dried up, and what flows looks like a muddy goo. Chileans at every turn recall that their country is being destroyed by reckless investments. It is also in these recalls a certain malice, because the majority of dams, power stations, gasworks belong to the Spaniards and Chileans themselves say that for the second time the Spaniards are trying to conquer them. On the way we quickly changed Manias’ clothes on the grass and it was the first time in her life when she saw a horse – and it was not just a horse, but it was a police patrol on horseback :-).
We got to San Cristobal. It turned out that because of the fact that it’s Monday, and to make matters worse, even the first Monday of the month, the cable car to the summit is not working. But instead the busses are running. We bought a one-way ticket, because we wanted to go back on foot. On the hill you should go, if only for the view – Santiago situated in the valley is really impressive. Coming down from the hill we stopped to buy the water. Someone in front of us bought a rather strange drink. A moment later, we sat at the table with this dessert-drink. It was Monte con Huesillos. It is a traditional drink Chileans, which includes tremendously sweet and cold peach syrup, peaches and boiled wheat seeds. The taste was unique. :-).
We finally finished going down at about 4 p.m..
I checked in the guide, as it turned out later not precisely enough, that the central fish market (Marcado Central) is open until 6 p.m. From the hill I recommend you take the metro (you can buy a single ticket, depending on the time of day there are different prices – CLP 650), because it is really a long distance. Metro is another obstacle for parents with a pram. Not all stations have elevators, and even if they have, it’s pretty hard to find them. If we add to this a lot of crowd and the fact that the guard not always stands at the entrance for prams, a pram for a small child turns out to be more of an obstacle than a help (then again we were glad that we took the sling :-)). As it turned out the market was opened until 5 p.m. :-(. The only thing we were able to see it was the closed entrance. In the area of market I encountered a quite surprising situation. A young girl came up to me and told me to grab the camera and hold it in front of me. The things you can read in the guidebooks about thieves are unfortunately confirmed by reality. I explained to the lady who came to me to warn me, that my camera was fastened to the strap and I was holding the strap in my hand. However, she insisted that I should grab the camera and I took the camera strap off my shoulder. So I did.
Unfortunately, it was Monday and for this reason we were unable to visit any museum in Santiago and we regret it very much, especially that we haven’t visited the Museum of Memory and Human Rights.
We were already tired and hungry. We decided to get something to eat, and we were in the vicinity of the main square of Santiago – Plaza de Armas, so it was easy to find an eatery. Lonely Planet recommends a few. We decided to sit in Bar Nacional. The decor was as of the last century, the waiters as well, but this is not the most important. The food was great. I do not know if it was because I was starving that I liked Lomo a la Pobre so much (a steak with poached eggs served with french fries and fried onions). Karola ordered chicken with vegetables. Both dishes satisfied our appetite. Mania was also satisfied, sitting between us on a normal chair. By the way, we haven’t found any chairs for children in Santiago. She ate a muffin and gurgled with us. We were also able to try pisco, a traditional alcoholic beverage (35%), which is made from grapes. The bill was sizable – for both of us we paid about 27,000 CLP. Jose told us later that the same dish, of course in some other conditions, on the other side of the Mercado Central (after the bridge), you can purchase for 5,000 CLP and not 11,000.
Speaking about certain shortcomings in restaurants we must notice that till that time, we did not find any baby changing table so we usually changed Marianna’s nappies on traditional tables, on the grass or wherever we were able to find some free space.
By Jose we were about 7 p.m., where practically waiting for us dinner. Mania after a whole day very soon fell asleep, but we were and we are still very proud of her, because she is a very brave tourist and she was smiling almost all the time.
The next day we decided to spend with Cristina. At 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the corner of Plaza de Armas starts Trips for Tips, the tours to the main attractions of Santiago. These tours to the main attractions of Santiago are free of charge. Tours are available in two languages: English and Spanish. You have to be aware that these tours last more than 4 hours. Mind that they last more than 4 hours. At 3 p.m. at the central train station near to the station Universidad de Santiago we agreed to meet with Ivan, our next host from couchsurfing, with whom we were going to Vina del Mar. So, even before we started, we knew that we could not see everything and that we could not also go to any museum :-(.
A tour of the Santiago we can recommend with a clear conscience. The guide was great – he talked greatly about the history of Chile and monuments that we passed. We were able to see the renovated after the earthquake museum Chileno de Arte Precolumbino, the opera house, the palace of La Moneda, we went through the district artists / hipster Barrio Lastarria and many others, and we finished our tour at the Bella Artes museum. Franco, who was our guide, provided us also with some useful information. If you want to eat cheaply and well in Santiago, you have to ask people on the street about “pica” or “picada”. These are mostly family restaurants serving very good and cheap food. During our trip we visited the most famous pica in Santiago – Pica de Clinton (opposite to the opera house), where even Bill Clinton leaving the opera ordered a glass of Coke – a place that is now decorated with portraits of Clinton, gadgets and so on.
Our time in Santiago was about to end, we took our things from Jose and went to the station, where Ivan was waiting for us already. We bought tickets to Vina del Mar from Pullman Bus company (CLP 4000) and also the tickets for the night bus to Pucon, which we had to catch in Santiago in two days.