Travelogue: Santiago, Chile

My recent globe-trotting was so gloriously lengthy, I figure it’s best to split the trip out into more bite-sized chunks for the purpose of rehashing it here. Be warned – when we get to Antarctica, I’m going to fangirl. Hard.

After months of planning, research, shopping for gear, and packing three seasons of clothes into a single bag, departure day finally arrived. I taxied my way to the airport, checked in, and ditched my hefty 18 kilo backpack with the airline, with the hope of being reunited again in Santiago! The Adelaide airport has a beautiful view of the Hills, and I was treated to an amazing sunrise with them in the foreground as I sipped my coffee at the gate. Something in my waters told me it was going to be an amazing holiday.

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As will be no revelation to anyone who’s ever flown, cattle class is not my favourite. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the airline element of the first leg went smoothly. After a connection in Sydney, it was all aboard for the hop across the Pacific! It’s a journey I’ve done many times before on my way to the States and I knew what was in store: sleeping tablets and swollen ankles. Even so, I was immensely excited – something about being bound for unknown territory made the confinement more bearable.

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We touched down in Santiago and despite looking like a feral animal, I nearly bounced off the plane. I was promptly greeted with my first taste of interacting in Spanish – epic fail on my part! I had grand plans before I left home. I downloaded the Babbel app, paid for the Spanish subscription, and even naively started at the beginning of the very first module with every intent of completing all of them in five months. Ha. Haha. Remember those day jobs I mentioned? They had other ideas. By the time my countdown clock was on days instead of weeks, I’d managed a sum total of about 20 subsets, the majority of which were the travel-specific ones I raced through in an attempt not to be THAT tourist.

Once I’d thoroughly confused myself and the customs officer with my garbled Franglish (French-English-Spanish), I was set free on a beautiful, unsuspecting Santiago. The ride to my hotel downtown was a complete eye-opener. I don’t know quite what I expected, as I did minimal research before I left, but Santiago is an extremely well-maintained, metropolitan city. We cruised along smooth highways with pedestrian overpasses. The businesses which lined the main drag from the airport into town were remarkably similar to the setup of many American industrial areas. And the city itself? Stunning. The parks were gorgeous and plentiful, the architecture impressive, and the people were friendly and welcoming.

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Thank God for that last point, because after a stately arrival, my situation soon descended into madness. I wandered inside the residential tower which housed my lodging, and after yet another terrible attempt at Spanish with the building receptionist, I managed to locate the front desk for the suites inside one of the rooms which had been converted to an office. The woman who greeted me understandably only spoke Spanish, but despite the language barrier, I soon realized what the problem was as I struggled to check in: they didn’t have my booking on file. Shiiite. To cut a long, traumatic story short, I had nowhere to rest my giant bag or my poor exhausted brain. Somewhere in the process of multiple sub-contracts, my travel agent, whom we shall henceforth call Fecking Frannie, had somehow sent a cancellation email to the hotel about 12 hours after my initial booking was made. The staffer at Apartamentos Plaza Suites soon became my new favourite person as she, with the help of a bilingual, French-Spanish speaking angel/guest, arranged a room for me with another company just two buildings away. Hallelujah!

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My adrenaline high subsided and the gaping pit which had replaced my stomach disappeared as I wandered the streets around my new digs, taking in the sights. It was a balmy afternoon, well into the high thirties, and the mixture of greenery and structures in the neighbourhood reminded me of the Upper East Side in Manhattan! I passed a patron eating a gorgeous meal at a curbside table early in my walk, so when my hangry alarm sounded later on I returned there to appease it. No rice for this Keto girl, but a chicken salad at a Japanese restaurant in Santiago? Why not!

The original plan for my night was to participate in a cycling tour of Santiago, but after the housing excitement, heat, and jet lag, I decided it would be best to take it easy instead. Plus, after successfully navigating a challenge, I figured I deserved a drink! I purchased a mini-bottle of Chilean wine and some chocolate from the local supermarket and returned to my room with my spoils. Feet up, I enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, bathed in the sounds of the city, accented by mountains on the northeast edge of town. All in all, I deemed day one a success. It certainly was an adventure – exactly as ordered.

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