Back in November (or was it December?) my childhood friend L contacted me out of the blue. She was one of my best friends in high school, back when I lived in Australia. Since I moved back to the States, we kept in touch sporadically over Facebook.
“I’m in South America,” she said. “I’ll be here till July. Come visit me?”
As if I needed anymore convincing than that.
(Both my friends and L’s friends were in semi-disbelief at our story, including new friends we made during our adventure. “But you guys hadn’t seen each other properly in eight years? And only kept in touch on Facebook? And just decided to go traveling together? WEREN’T YOU GUYS WORRIED?” My advice if you’re ever in a similar situation as to the one I was in: SAY YES. Never turn down a travel opportunity and the possibility to reconnect with an old, good friend.)
I calculated my vacation days, estimated the cost of a trip to Chile, used some credit card points for my airfare and BOOM, I was going to Chile.
I landed in Santiago at 11 p.m. on a Friday. When I met L at the hostel, I had already secured the business cards of a Chilean businessman (my flight seatmate, incredibly kind fellow) and my taxi driver (a good looking guy who spoke English fluently). Can I say GET IT GIRL?
My first day in Santiago was the World Cup came between Chile and Brazil, so L and I went to the Plaza de Armas to watch it. To say the atmosphere was intense would be the biggest understatement, but oh my God guys, THE ATMOSPHERE WAS INTENSE. I’d never seen anything like it. (I later was in Buenos Aires for the Argentina game and with a bunch of Brazilians for another Brazil game and both times I was very overwhelmed.) Here I thought that the US was getting more and more into World Cup soccer, and then I went to Chile. Don’t get me wrong, the US *is* getting more into World Cup soccer (we are one nation under Tim Howard, after all) but we have A LONG WAY TO GO before we even come close to the South American fanbase.
Santiago’s beautiful. I love how that from pretty much wherever you are in the city, you can see the snow-capped Andes on one side. I love how there’s seafood plentily available and an abundance of really, really good sushi restaurants. I mean, ALL the food I had was really good! I love how kind the people are, despite the fact that English is not commonly spoken. And I love how much there was to see in the city, from the museums to the markets to the restaurants.
In addition to Santiago, I also visited Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. I adored Valparaiso to pieces; I love how colorful the city was, particularly as the day I was there the weather was particularly bleak looking. (That’s what I get for visiting Chile in the winter, I suppose.) The street art was also breathtaking. I mean, where else can I find a city with rainbow steps? Or such beautiful graffiti?
Vina del Mar was also wonderful, but I suspect I’d have gotten a very different feel of the town had I visited in the spring or summer, as it’s a beach town. Still, beaches are actually my favorite in the winter. Beaches in the summer are too hot, too crowded, too sunny. In the winter, I can admire a beach for its untainted beauty, the way the waves crash along the shore as the crisp air takes my breath away.
I also visited the town of Quillota, where L’s family is from. Can you believe I didn’t take a single picture in Quillota? It just felt odd to me, to visit my friend’s family hometown and family members and be That Girl and whip out her camera to take a bunch of touristy photos. (That’s the reason why I didn’t vlog this trip, either. That, and I didn’t want to be singled out as an optimal target for pickpockets, particularly in the busier cities.) Because back in 2010 I went to the Shanghai world Expo and visited the Chilean pavilion. Part of the exhibit (and, incidentally, the only part I remember) was an “inside look” for a typical Chilean house. When I walked into L’s family’s home, I was hit with a flood of visual memories from that pavilion and I have to say, they got it pretty spot on.
Somewhere between our Chilean adventures, L and I carved out the time to hop over the border and spend a few days in Buenos Aires. More on that next!