Places we visited: Santiago, Valparaiso, Valdivia, Chiloe, Puerto Natales, Torres del
Paine National Park

Length of stay: 32 days

High point: Trekking "The W" in the powerfully beautiful Torres del Paine National Park
in Patagonia was one of the highlights of our entire trip!!  Learning a little Spanish in
Santiago.  Finding an inexpensive flight from Puerto Natales to Santiago--this might not
seem like a highlight but it took us 3-4 days to make our way from Santiago to Puerto
Natales over land, and we were thrilled to avoid a repeat journey.

Low Point: Chilean food--for the most part it is bland, bland, bland.  The length of
Chile was a low point, as it necessitated many long bus trips.

Local food/flavor: I'm sorry Chileans, but the food here is not very good.  Of course
there are delightful empanadas, but day to day the food is pretty unimaginative.  We
did really enjoy a few specific dishes, such as pastel de choclo, asado, and the Chiloe
seafood staple, curanto!!  We also commend the good and inexpensive Chilean wine.
A bottle of this made the bland food more enjoyable!

Language: Spanish

Currency: Chilean Peso

Unique Sights: Young and old couples seriously making out everywhere--in the park,
on the street corner, on the subway. We often felt like voyeurs as we walked through
the park. Mighty fine wine for U$2-3 USD (move over two buck Chuck, this stuff was
tasty!). At the store, the cosmetics/toiletry items, such as shampoo and hand lotion,
were locked up in a glass case. But the hard liqour--tequila, vodka, etc.--was out in the
open on a shelf.

Purchases: Funky looking wool slippers and a wool hat hand knitted by local women in
Chiloe, leather bracelet in Valparaiso, beaded necklace from an artesenal market in

Things we did:
  • Spent two weeks living with a slightly crabby family in Santiago.  All five boarders
    staying at this homestay suffered from a minor bout of food poisoning.  We also
    received a tonguelashing from the man of the house for watching the Super
    Tuesday US elections in English.
  • Enjoyed five hours a day of Spanish lessions for two weeks at the Natalis
    Language Center in Santiago.  We highly recommend this school, and our
    teacher Carlos!!!
  • Explored numerous neighborhoods in Santiago including Barrio Vista,
    Providencia, Barrio Brazil, Barrio Lastarria and our own neighborhood Santa
  • Picnicked in the parks around Baquedano while studying and practicing Spanish.
  • Shopped for lapis lazuli in several artesanal markets.  No purchase made.
  • Walked up to the viewpoint in Santa Lucia park which provides a nice view of
  • Sat in Plaza de Armas in Santiago and watched life go by. (every city in Chile
    seems to have a Plaza de Armas)
  • Watched the first half of the Super Bowl at an ex-pat bar. It felt like we were
    back in the States.  That freaked us out a little so we finished watching the
    Spanish broadcast of the game at our homestay.
  • Met a couple from France in our Spanish classes and became travel buddies!
  • Enjoyed an asado at the home of the Natalis Language Center director where
    we had the pleasure of consuming our first pisco sour, a well-known Chilean
  • Had a seafood lunch at Central Mercado in Santiago
  • Visited one of our favorite produce markets, the Mercado de Vega
  • Explored the many hills in our favorite city in Chile, Valparaiso, with our friends
    from France
  • Toured the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's home in Valparaiso
  • Increased our odds of having a heart attack by eating the traditional chorrillana
    dish at J. Cruz in Valparaiso
  • Felt like a foreigner twice over when we stayed at a French owned hotel in
    Valparaiso. Everyone staying there was from France and spoke only French.
  • Stayed one night in Valdivia where we strolled along the river and watched an
    intense game of sand volleyball.
  • Enjoyed the foggy, rainy mysteriousness of Chiloe Island and its many
    impressive wooden churches.
  • Took a boat ride in Castro to view the palafitos, waterfront homes built on stilts
  • Traveled to a couple small seaside fishing communities in Chiloe
  • Watched sack races, folk dancing, and singing at a local festival in Curaco de
    Velez on Chiloe Island
  • Went to Castro's annual festival where we ate asado de cordero, empanadas,
    and purchased wool slippers and hats
  • Spent a day in Puerto Natales planning our upcoming trek in Torres del Paine
    National Park by talking with our hotel owner, shopping for food and renting
    camping equipment
  • Spent four days trekking "the W" in Torres del Paine enjoying the magnificent
    sights of nature.
Chile Overview
Glacier Grey