Tomorrow I leave Santiago for Mendoza in Argentina. I am sorry to be saying goodbye to Santiago. Having initially planned to stay just a night or two here, it has become difficult to leave. Its a fantastic city and a surprising one. All the guidebooks I read hadnt many good things to say about the city, but I really like it. With its leafy tree-lined streets and population of 6 million, its like a cross between New York and Madrid. Every day has been spectacularly sunny and hot and its been such a treat just lounging around soaking it up.
Ive had an eventful week and half in terms of meeting new people. For example, the HI hostel here has a resident American ex-pat called Monty who´s a bit of a character and has had a cvery interesting life. Spent alot of time hanging out chatting to him. During the week, three French men (all called Pierre and all gorgeous) arrived and caused a bit of a stir in more ways than one! Not oly were the female population of the hostel fighting over him, they got drunk every night, cuased a lot of trouble, and it ended with them getting forcibly ejected this morning but not after a huge scene at reception! They were actually very funny guys and we´ve had a hilarious week there. Also met a couple of girls from Dublin and a bunch of guys from Mayo. Paddy´s Day was great craic of course - everyone converged on the only Irish pub in the city. Whyen we got there it was pretty dead but it wasnt long before we livened it up. All the Chileans looked a bit afraid at first but we got them up dancing and singing and it was a great night.
During the week I went on a lot of city walkabouts and saw quite a lot of Santiago centre which is a great place to wander about. I visited the Mercado Central where there is a fantastic fish market and I had an outstanding lunch there! On the same day I took a funicular and cable car high over the city and spend an hour or two in the hills enjoying a panoramic view of the city with the backdrop of the Andes (which is quite obscured by the pollution cloud that hangs in the air). Many days I walked the shopping streets and visited the Plaza dArmas, ate icecream, visited the city´s churhces and museums. One of my favourite things was taking a tour of the poet Pablo Neruda´s house. He and his wife have the most amazing collection of memorabilia and books - a very cool place. I had hoped to take a day trip out to the coast to Valparaiso and Viña del Mara but Ive been enjoying the city too much to really get around to it.
Almost had my bag picked here one day. Got caught in a bottleneck of ppl all converging on a set of traffic lights, and I suddenly heard a "ziiiiippppp" sound (thats my impression of a zip opening by the way) so I WHIPPED around to find this middle-aged woma with her hand on the front pocket where the bulk of my money is. I stood right up agaisnt her and just stared her out of it and then SHE called me a bitch and took off. Other than that, no bad experiences and Santiago feels like quite a safe city for the most part.
Theres a great area here just where the hostel is situated called the Barrio Brasil which is full of interesting cafes and barsn - its very bohemian and residencial and a very nice part of the city to stay in for a while.
So anyway, thats the update on Santiago. Itsbeena apleasant surprise, if an expenisve one, and I would love to come back again some day. Tomorrow morning I cross the border into Argentina and then back again in a few days before I head south to Patagonia and hopegfully Tierra del Fuego.