A Travellerspoint blog

Santiago, Chile (8th - 13th May)

We got 2 buses to the airport in Montevideo, which was a bit of a hassle I guess, though not hugely so - plus it was a lot cheaper than getting a taxi. The flight to Chile was then only about 3 hours. From the airport we got a bus to a subway station, then the subway to the city centre. It was then just a short walk to our hostel (Plaza De Armas Hostel). The location was great - really central, plus looking out onto the main plaza - it was up on the 6th floor and the view from the balcony was awesome. However, the hostel itself wasn't brilliant, which was a shame. Breakfast was a bit paltry - 2 slices of bread (which you could toast), a cheese slice and 2 slices of pepperoni. Plus tea and coffee of course, but still, not even cornflakes. There was one day that we also got a bonus little cake, though that was just the once. The bins in the toilets weren't emptied as often as they really needed to be either - which in general you wouldn't think of as being a big deal, but when you know that the toilet paper can't be flushed and has to go in the bins... yeah. The shower situation was a bit weird too - they were split into male and female, but mostly because you had to get changed and put all of your stuff in a communal area. As a modest Brit, that was a tad disconcerting to me - getting naked in front of strangers? Crikey! Happily the hostel wasn't that busy, so there was only once that I had other people showering at the same time as me, and then I managed to utilise the shower curtain to retain my modesty (or at least I think so - it wasn't totally opaque). The fact that the dividers between the 3 showers were practically transparent too was an added bit of pervy weirdness. Still, despite not being the best hostel, it was all right and we had a good time.

The view from the hostel:
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Santiago's a really nice city - it seemed pretty chilled out, maybe due to all the wine. Some of the things we did during our time there:

- We went on another free walking tour. This one was led by a Scot called Johnny. He was good and seemed to know his stuff. It was 3 1/2 hours long, though included a stop for a drink. Afterwards we went for more drinks with a Canadian lady we met on the tour.

- We went to a few museums. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights is generally considered the best museum in Santiago and we spent quite a while there. It's free to enter, though as the exhibits are in Spanish, it's useful to pay the 1,000 pesos (about $2) to get the English audio guide. It's all about the Pinochet regime and remembering all the people who were "disappeared" under it. My history knowledge (including things like that, which happened within my lifetime) is pretty bad, so I found it all really informative and interesting. We then went to a few other museums on the Sunday, as Sunday is free museums day! As in a day when museums are free, not a day when museums seek their independence. Those museums included a couple of art museums, which were both good, albeit pretty small.

- As you have to do when in Chile, we went on a vineyard tour and wine tasting. There are numerous options near Santiago, but we went for the Undurraga vineyard as it didn't sound overly commercial and had good reviews. We also had a discount voucher for it, so we got the tour for about $12 each. As we were the only people wanting an English tour at the time we selected, we got our own private tour from a guy called Dave. We got to walk around the vineyard itself and taste some of the grapes from the vines. We then saw the process the grapes go through and one of the wine cellars. Then finally came the tasting! We got to taste 4 wines - which is another reason why we opted for Undurraga - some of the other vineyards only offer 2 wines for tasting. We got to taste 1 white, 2 reds and a dessert wine. We then got to keep the glasses - bonus! Although, sadly, I managed to drop mine on the way back to the hostel. Doh! Jamie's given me his though (aww), so I'm currently carrying that about in my suitcase. Not hugely confident it's gonna make it back to the UK intact, but I'm hopeful. I'm padding it with pants and socks, so it'll either make it safely or I'll end up with glass in my underwear (ouch).

The vineyard:

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Posted by chantalpatton 18:50 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Montevideo, Uruguay (5th - 8th May)

We took the ferry from Buenos Aires over to Colonia in Uruguay, then a bus from Colonia to Montevideo and another bus to Pocitos (the area of Montevideo we were staying in). We stayed at Pocitos Hostel, which was a small hostel in an old house - quite a contrast to The Ritz in Buenos Aires, which was a pretty big hostel. It was a nice little place, albeit pretty basic. Breakfast was just cornflakes and toast (plus tea and coffee), though that's pretty standard for hostels really.

We only had 2 full days in Montevideo, but that was fine, there's not as much to see as there is in a place like Buenos Aires. On the first day we walked into the city centre and old town and checked out all the major sights, as well as popping into a few free museums. Then on the second day we stayed in the Pocitos area and went down to the beach and had a general walk around. It was a nice place and I enjoyed our time there, though I seemingly don't have much to say about it! I suppose I had developed a cold by this point too (which I'm still fighting off). I didn't take a huge amount of photos either, but here's one of Plaza Independencia (Independence Square):

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Posted by chantalpatton 09:30 Archived in Uruguay Comments (0)

Buenos Aires, Argentina (29th April - 5th May)

We had an overnight flight to Buenos Aires, though we had to change in Newark first. Despite all our previous travels, neither Jamie or I had ever had a connecting flight before. Thankfully it was all straightforward and smooth. The weirdest part was needing to go through US immigration, albeit whilst we were still in Canada. We got the stamp in our passports and everything.

When we arrived in Buenos Aires we got a taxi from the airport to our hostel - The Ritz (makes it sound fancier than it is!). It was an ok hostel, though nothing special. The best thing about it was that it had one of those old fashioned lifts where you have to open and close the doors by hand - that kept me entertained for our entire stay there (I'm easily entertained). We'd booked into a private room, albeit one of the 'basic' ones, which was pretty basic, though we had an ensuite and a TV, so not bad. The first room we were put in, however, had a broken toilet seat, plus some wires dangling from the wall, plus it was right next to the lift, which was pretty noisy. We complained about the toilet seat in the hope that they'd fix it or something, but instead they moved us to a different room. It was pretty much the same, except the toilet seat was fine, it didn't have dangling wires and although it was still next to the lift, it didn't seem as noisy, so a definite improvement! Breakfast in the hostel was decent - cornflakes, small croissants, bread rolls, coffee, tea, juice and yoghurt - although they weren't always great at keeping it all topped up. Plus the coffee was horrible, so minus points for that. The location was good though - very central.

One instantly noticeable thing about Buenos Aires is that there's a hell of a lot of traffic. The central area, particularly, is full of wide roads and always seems really busy. It takes away from the beauty a bit, but there's still plenty of beauty to see, you just often have to stop and look up, rather than viewing things at eye-level. There are lots of areas where your eye-level view will be of slightly-dingy shops, whereas there's some beautiful French-style architecture just above them. We have the free walking tour to thank for pointing that out to us. That was definitely a good thing to do - the tour guide, Gaston, was great - entertaining and informative - plus it's free! Tipping's recommended though, of course. It lasted about 3 hours, but the time just flew by.

Other things we did whilst in Buenos Aires, included...
- Walking around Recoleta Cemetery, which is huge and full of extravagant and ornate graves:

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- Going to the Museum of Decorative Art, which is free on Tuesdays (when we went).
- Going to the Cathedral, which doesn't obviously look like a cathedral from the outside, but does from the inside
- Walking around a few different neighbourhoods, like San Telmo and Palermo, where you get cobbled streets and such like.
- Going to the El Ateneo Grand Splendid book shop, which is in an old theatre:

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We also witnessed quite a few political protests going on. We thought we'd just arrived at a time that coincided with some kind of political movement, but no, apparently you get them practically every day! They all seemed really peaceful and good-natured though.

Food-wise, I don't think I've ever seen so many pizza places in one city! We ended up having it a couple of times, just because it was difficult to find anywhere else. Even when we didn't have pizza, it was generally Italian food. One evening we came across a place that had a great deal going - we had a main course with a side dish, a glass of beer, a dessert and a glass of limoncello, all for about $10 CAD (about £6.50). Awesome!

Posted by chantalpatton 08:02 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Toronto, Canada (27th - 28th April)

Next was a 24 hour pit stop back in Toronto. It was cheaper to do that than to fly from Cuba to Argentina (where we were headed next). We stayed with our friends Mark and Kathryn (who we'd been staying with for a couple of weeks before heading off to Cuba). We met them at a travellers' pub meet thing when we were living in New Zealand for a year and they were amazing friends to have during our time living in Toronto. From using their address and credit card, to staying in their spare room, we were very grateful for all their help. So it was great to have a final catch up and chill out with them on our return from Cuba. They made us an awesome dinner, plus Mark cooked up a pancake breakfast feast. We'll miss them (and their cats!).

Posted by chantalpatton 14:08 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Santa Clara, Cuba (25th - 27th April)

We left Trinidad the same way we arrived - by bus. At the bus station I needed the toilet. Alas, using public toilets in Cuba is a bit of a pain. They tend to be watched over by a toilet guardian who holds the toilet paper and will dispense a small amount to you in order to gain monetary reward. Because of this I'd carry my own supply around and thus avoid having to pay to wee. However, on this occasion, after I'd shown her I didn't need paper and I'd successfully made it past her and used the facilities, she still came into the bathroom as I was washing my hands and seemed to be demanding money regardless. I literally had no money on me, which I tried to convey and was able to then make my escape. But yes, using public toilets in Cuba is best avoided as much as possible. Even aside from the toilet guardians, there generally won't be a toilet seat, plus the doors are barely big enough to provide adequate cover and don't always lock. To then have to pay for the privilege seems a bit much.

Anyway, the journey to Santa Clara was about 3 hours and all fine. Again we were met at the station, though this time by a couple with a taxi and not the casa owner himself. They weren't displaying my name very prominently and didn't realise they were waiting for a couple, so it took us a few minutes to find them. We stayed at La Casona Jover and were met there by the owner Dennis. It was a really nice place and very different again to the previous 2 casas. It's an old colonial house, with high ceilings and such like. There was also work under way to merge it with the neighbouring house and add a fancy courtyard and possibly a small pool. We had dinner there on the first night and I went for the chicken fricassee. There must have been the equivalent of a whole chicken on my plate! I ate as much as I could, but there was still a large meal's worth left on my plate.

We only had the one full day in Santa Clara as there's not a huge amount of touristy things to do. The main thing we did was go to the Che Guevara memorial. There's the external monument, plus an internal memorial (with the eternal flame), as well as a small museum. All very tastefully done and all free! For dinner that evening, we ended up in a random pizza place, just because there were other people in it. It was decent enough, though my beer was so cold it had ice crystals in it!

The only negative aspect to our time in Santa Clara was when we were feasted on by mosquitoes as we slept. We were generally really good at keeping ourselves doused in spray, but we'd been a little lax that evening and sadly paid the consequence.

The Che Guevara memorial:
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Posted by chantalpatton 17:39 Archived in Cuba Comments (2)

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