Santiago and Valparaíso: an eventful return to the city...

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Here we are in Santiago, the Chilean capital, where we plan to spend two days before heading to Valparaíso to enjoy the Pacific waves... A bit of a special stay for several reasons!

First of all, the return to a city of this size comes as a shock that is hard to get used to... Even if we had stopped in Salta and Mendoza in the previous weeks (see our article on the North-West of Argentina), we mostly crossed desert immensities on roads where we didn't meet anyone... And enjoyed the calm and the open air! Finding 4 lanes and crowded and noisy streets is therefore not particularly part of our ambitions at the moment...

Then, because we arrive at about the same time as the country starts to burn... We witness the beginning of the most significant violence since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship: an impressive intensity! We are lucky enough to get out of these two cities quickly to fly to Easter Island... But this doesn't prevent us from getting stuck in the car in the first demonstrations in Santiago, between burning barricades, water cannons and stones thrown at the military... A rather average moment of serenity, we admit (especially for me, who wonders how Pierre is going to get out of the car if something happens to us... We don't think about it after all! Besides, Pierre doesn't think about it: he doesn't seem to understand my hysteria at the moment...)!

In short, a mixed experience made worse by the curfew that followed... It won't leave us with an unforgettable memory, although we are sure that Santiago is a very pleasant city to live in at normal times!

In order not to leave you completely empty-handed on this trip, which we will gladly call "the wrong place at the wrong time", here are a few practical tips and recommendations based on what we have seen...

Practical information
Where to sleep?

In Santiago 

We learnt a few weeks after our departure - with great sadness for its staff - that the Mercure Santiago Centro in which we were staying had been burnt down by demonstrators the day after our departure from the city...

In a different range, we also stay at theIbis Estación Central, which has the advantage of being completely accessible and located opposite the Santiago bus station: handy when you have a bus to catch!

In Valparaíso

You don't change a winning team... We also choose an Ibis for our stay in Valparaíso ! Like its neighbour in Santiago, it is completely accessible and has a car park, which is very convenient when you arrive by car... It is located in the lower part of the city, at the foot of Cerro Concepción.

Where to eat?

We have time to try a few restaurants and bars before things get tough... Here is a selection of our favourites:

In Santiago

  • Jardín Mallinkrodt for its relaxed atmosphere and its choice of foodtrucks to enjoy on the terrace,
  • La República Independiente del Pisco, for its choice of cocktails (all made with Pisco of course) and its Peruvian-Chilean menu which includes excellent Ceviches!
  • The bar Bravo 591for its choice of beers, its colourful setting and its atmosphere!

In Valparaíso

We were rather disappointed by the restaurants in Valparaíso, rather expensive and of variable quality (for us who don't like our seafood covered with melted cheese anyway...).

On the other hand, we enjoy a lunch at Fauna, a hotel/restaurant whose terrace offers a breathtaking view of Cerro Concepción and its buildings with painted walls (there are about ten steps to get there, but their staff gladly helps us climb them...).

We recommend
In Santiago

1. Discover the city with a Free Tour !

They last between 2 and 3 hours and are conducted by local guides, in English or Spanish depending on the organisation.

2. Strolling through the streets of Bellavista

A nice area for its bars and restaurants and street art!

3. Visit the Museum of Memory and Human Rights

A poignant visit that retraces the history of the dictatorship and the life of Chileans at that time... A must-see (free admission)!

In Valparaiso

1. Walk through the narrow streets of Cerros Concepción and Alegre

The two most beautiful in the city in our opinion! If the "centre" (the lower part of the city) doesn't move us too much, we loved strolling through the alleys covered with colourful frescos of the "Cerros", the hills on which the city is built.

To get there, nothing could be easier! The most courageous will take the steep streets... The others can easily take one of the funiculars (accessible and free for PRM) for the modest sum of 300 CLP (or 0,50€ when we were there, but the social crisis has strongly impacted the exchange rate in our "favour" since then)...

In a wheelchair

If the funiculars are accessible, the traffic on the hills is not easy! Between cobblestones and consequent slopes, it is better to have good wheels and good arms or an electric assistance... Not to mention that the bars / restaurants / hotels perched on the cerros have to adapt to the relief: it is therefore not uncommon to find many steps... These districts are a bit complicated, so it is better to visit them accompanied!

2. Jumping into the waves in the surf

The waves are beautiful in this part of the Pacific and the coast is covered with resorts... If the architecture is not really to our taste, the place is perfect to enjoy the waves... And learn to surf!

We choose to take a course with Chile Extremo: two hours in the waves with two private teachers (one each) for 22,000 CLP per person... A joy!

In a wheelchair

Extremo Chile does not have an adapted board or special facilities for people with disabilities... Nevertheless :

  • Their premises are "relatively" accessible: a ramp leads to a large wooden terrace where the changing rooms (the booths are a bit small to enter in a wheelchair), the boards and the reception are located,
  • Once on the terrace, a step and then a ramp lead to the hard sand beach: they are there to help us and everything goes smoothly until the water's edge!
  • For a first try, they choose a wide and stable board for Pierre. Sitting on it and with the help of one of the two instructors, he just let himself slide into the waves, as close to the water as possible.

If we have to remember one thing, it's that this school and its instructors don't know much about disability... And so much the better! Despite (or because of) this, they are so attentive and available that everything goes well! An incredible experience for both of us, with a similar level of enjoyment: it doesn't take much...

In our next article

We are leaving Chile in crisis... Without completely leaving it! 3,700 kilometres from the Chilean coast, Easter Island (or Rapa Nui) is a paradise lost in the middle of the Pacific. Here, no violence despite some demonstrations: the magic of the place calls for calm. A moment completely out of time, 5 days of perfect happiness to discover the mysteries of this multifaceted island...

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