Spring Break in Chile!
The last week of September was spring break for the students on my study abroad program! All of my classes (except one) were cancelled for the week, so my friend, Lucia, and I decided to go to Chile to visit another friend from Macalester. It ended up being an incredible, much-needed vacation!
Day 1: Departure from Mendoza and Arrival in Chile
Lucia and I got to the bus station about 45 minutes before our 10:30am bus was scheduled to depart. We checked in with the bus company only to realize about 15 minutes later that the bus drivers from the company were striking that day – none of the buses were going to leave. We panicked for a moment, but then realized that we were able to return our tickets for cash on the spot. And along with other frustrated travelers, we went next door to another company and bought tickets for their 1pm bus. The whole experience ended up being relatively stress-free, especially considering how complicated a cancelled bus would have been in the United States.
Then we were off to Santiago, Chile! The bus ride ended up being around 7 hours (including about 1 hour in customs). We were warned ahead of time not to bring any non-packaged food with us because it would be stopped at the border – and the Chileans did end up being pretty thorough with their bag searches. They had dogs sniff all of the bags, as well as the bus!
Once we cleared customs, the ride was pretty uneventful. But the switchback descent down the Andes right after the border checkpoint is not for the faint of heart (or for those with a fear of heights) – looking at you, mom 😉
Day 2: My Birthday!
From the moment we arrived in Chile, Lucia and I were shocked (and excited) about how different Santiago was from Mendoza. First off, the climate was totally different – more green and humid – we kept saying that it felt like we were in Florida. Second, Santiago is huge! I felt like a small-town girl finally arriving in the big city. Because it is such a metropolis, Santiago also feels much more like a city in the United States than Mendoza – and has more of the amenities that I am used to in the United States. Lucia and I got excited about so many things that we don’t see or have in Mendoza: flowers, a subway system, crosswalk signs, peanut butter, plastic Ziploc bags, aluminum foil, sliced wheat bread, etc.
But we were most excited for the variety of food that we could have access to in Santiago (our food in Mendoza was getting VERY repetitive). So, for my birthday, we went hard.
We started the day at a brunch place called Original Green Roasters (definitely a place for tourists, but we weren’t complaining) where I had eggs benedict with smoked salmon and a smoothie.
Then, Caroline, our friend that we were visiting, had to go to class for the day, so Lucia and I did some sightseeing around the city. We hit up typical “Trip Advisor” spots like Cerro Santa Lucia, La Plaza de Armas, and El Mercado Central. For lunch, we wanted to get a light salad or sandwich, but unintentionally ended up at a seafood restaurant in the Mercado Central with a three course meal (tostadas with tomato salsa, salads, and then fish) – but again not complaining because all of it was delicious!
Finally, for dinner, Lucia and I met up with three other girls that are studying in Mendoza with us. We went to a restaurant with typical Chilean food called El Caramaño and I ordered a traditional “pastel de choclo”, which is basically like a shepherd’s pie but with mashed corn on top instead of potatoes – I definitely recommend it!
Day 3: A True Vacation Day
Caroline had class again on this day, so Lucia and I were pretty much on our own. The night before, we planned to go on a run at 10am, but didn’t end up waking up until noon… Once we got ourselves together, we went on a nice run on a trail through Caroline’s neighborhood and afterwards played around at an outdoor exercise park. Then, we made a huge lunch with fruit, toast, and yogurt (No joke, we were SO excited for our meal). Afterwards, we went to the Costanera Center, which is the tallest building in South America and also has a mall inside. I was excited to go because Caroline told me that there was an H&M (I was on the hunt for a dress). But we were not expecting the mall to be as big as it was – probably six stories and with every brand-name store one could possibly imagine. I was stoked just to see everything because the only U.S. chains that we have in Mendoza are Subway, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. Again, the mall was a nice taste of what I have been missing in Argentina.
For dinner, we met up with Caroline (after a very cramped rush-hour subway ride) for dinner at a seafood restaurant, Azul Profundo. I ordered salmon with quinoa risotto. Again, absolutely delicious
Day 4: Hiking and Street Food
Caroline, Lucia and I started out the day by hiking Cerro San Cristobal. At the top, there are amazing views of the entire city of Santiago, along with a giant statue of the Virgin Mary and tons of vendors of traditional Chilean food (obviously we hit that up). My favorite thing that we tried at the top of the cerro was a drink called mote con huesillos – peach juice with wheat and a dried peach. The combination looks and sounds really disgusting, but overall I really liked it!
We descended the cerro on a contraption called a funicular and then walked around the Bellavista neighborhood with one of Caroline’s friends from her program. That night, we got Indian food (!!) at a restaurant with a bunch of people from Caroline’s program.
Day 5: Valparaíso and Viña del Mar
For our final full day in Chile, Lucia and I tagged along on Caroline’s program excursion to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar (about 1.5 hours from Santiago). Both cities were incredible; Valparaíso boasts awesome architecture and history, and Viña del Mar (a summer destination for many Argentines) has beautiful beaches. The most interesting thing that I learned on the excursion was that Valparaíso is a community-based city. For example, the neighborhoods in Valparaíso are separated by cerros and people strongly identify with the cerro (or neighborhood) in which they were raised. In addition, because most of the inhabitants of Valparaíso are of the same socioeconomic class, the city as a whole rallies together against gentrification.
Towards the end of the day, Caroline, Lucia and I were able to meet up with another friend from Macalester – it was crazy there were four of us all in the same place!! It so great to catch up with everyone and compare experiences
Day 6: Back to Mendoza
Whew! So that concludes our incredible trip to Chile! Lucia and I boarded our bus back to Mendoza at 7:45am so happy and full from the friendship, food and big city life that we had been missing in Mendoza.
Feeling refreshed and ready to see what the rest of the semester has in store!