New Year’s Eve in Santiago (and some “adventures” along the way)
Today was the first day we were able to sleep in a little (which was really nice). We decided since a lot of places would be closed tomorrow (and we leave for Valparaiso on the 2nd) there are some errands that we needed to run for our stay here.
Cell phone plan
We had mentioned in a previous post that we had plans of getting a prepaid SIM card while here in Chile. Update: we didn’t get it at the airport. We decided since our hotel was pretty close to a shopping center, we’d try to get one there. We started walking down the main road by us and dropped into an Entel store. A woman greeted us and we asked if anyone spoke English (because, let’s be real – we were going to have a lot of questions and our vocabulary isn’t very robust yet). No one spoke English, shoot. We did find out how to say “prepaid” in Spanish, so that helped, but we were walking around pretty lost in the store trying to get help from someone. So we just gave up there and kept walking.
We walked a little farther and found a Claro store. Let’s try this again. So we walked in and asked if anyone spoke English. The man in the entrance was very helpful and led us to a woman who spoke English (and was great). She helped us set up our SIM card and phone, and walked us through a lot of the steps to get it set up (with a few small hiccups, but hey, we have a cell phone now!). So, we should be set with that, we just have to reload it every 30 days. For anyone that is curious – our Chilean cell phone number is +56 9 8894 1372 (you’d need to text us via WhatsApp).
This one is a doozy. So here’s the deal: we have to pick up Lemmy (our 2004 PT Cruiser) on the morning of the 2nd, but we can’t drive it unless we have the required SOAP insurance, so we had to get this figured out today. We walked by an HDI Seguros (a large insurance agency in Chile) and asked if anyone spoke English, since we’ll definitely have a lot of questions here too. No dice on this location, but the main branch does. So we took an Uber to the second branch and asked if anyone spoke English. “She just left,” I was able to decipher from Spanish. Alright, let’s try this in Spanish then.
We explained we need SOAP insurance for our car, had the example from the previous owners of their insurance, but we can’t enter all the digits of the license plate online (US plates have 7 digits, Chilean plates have 6). This was the struggle the entire time. Technically, only Chilean cars can have SOAP, but how did the other owners get it? We were there for about 40 minutes, trying to talk to a few people there, asking them for help.
This was the first real struggle of language. Overall, we’ve found Santiago to be pretty easy to navigate language-wise. I could pick up words that they were saying (basically that we couldn’t get SOAP with a US-plated car) but we didn’t want to give up because this was our only chance to figure it out. I was starting to feel mentally exhausted (and maybe the lack of lunch), and I could tell Nick was feeling the same way, along with some frustration. One of the women suggested SOAPEX, for foreign plated vehicles. It was time for the building to close early for New Year’s Eve, so I turned to Nick and suggested that we go back to the hotel and look up SOAPEX with translated pages (because I did not have the mental capacity to try to translate it in front of the people at HDI under pressure). So, we left and decided to grab some lunch before digging into the research.
Our first fuente de soda experience
Let me just take a second to tell you about this fuente de soda (or soda fountain) experience. It was fantastic. It was just like an old diner, with bright booths and a bar. It’s interesting; every table at most quick service restaurants have three bottles—hot sauce (red), ketchup (green), and mustard (yellow). Just a fun tidbit. Anyways, the food was fabulous, we had a slow-roasted pot roast with pasta and a shrimp salad-stuffed avocado. I grabbed a pint of pilsner from a Patagonia brewery. I needed it after the insurance place!
Quick update on car insurance research: we went with SOAPEX, and it was pretty easy to get online once we figured out what it covered. Yay, we’re insured!
San Cristobal Hike
We thought a great way to start our New Year’s celebration was to work off some of that frustration with a hike! There is a ~40 minute hike to the top of San Cristobal hill, where there is a statue of the Virgin that overlooks the city. We had met some New Yorkers on our walking tour that mentioned it was pretty easy, there were just about 10 minutes that were difficult. Nick and I did not find that to be true, haha. It was 30 minutes of straight incline. Another motivator to get in shape! The views were pretty fantastic on the way up. We planned to watch the sunset from the top of the hill.
One surprise when we got up there: the path to the very top where the statue is was closed off. That was a bit of a bummer, but maybe we’ll try again another time.
Something that was really cool, though, was as we were waiting for the sunset, families starting piling in. They brought little pop-up tables, chairs, and a little picnic! We regretted not bringing a few cans of beer to enjoy at the top. There was a family that was next to us that had a fantastic spread. Nick was ogling over the brie, saying how much he wanted some. Come to find out – one of the family members spoke English and could probably hear everything we were saying, haha! Everyone was up there to watch the fireworks from above. We were very tempted to stay another 3 hours and catch the fireworks from the birds-eye view, but wanted to get down to La Moneda, near the presidential palace, where they were having a street festival. Another tidbit, I tried my first mote con huesillo, which is a local drink of peach nectar, canned peaches, and grain. It was interesting, and filling. 5 out of 10 rating.
We had quite the adventure coming down; it was getting darker and darker, and becoming more dangerous to be walking on the main road (which was suggested to take after dark). We even saw the aftermath of a collision of a biker and a walker, so we wanted to get down the hill. It took us almost an hour to get down, and we exited on the opposite side that we entered, so it derailed some hopes of stopping by a local brewery for a post-hike beer. We decided to head straight to La Moneda, and man did we get our steps in trying to get there!
The streets of La Moneda
The streets around La Moneda were buzzing. There was so much to look at! Families were all around with confetti poppers, silly string, foam “snow”, and fun glasses and hats. Street vendors were selling meats, sweets, and popcorn. Nick and I snagged some popcorn (since we really didn’t have dinner) and walked around. There was a big stage that seemed to be streaming in some sort of concert? I’m not sure where it was, but it provided some good music to get in the spirit. We brought in the new year being showered with silly string, foam, and confetti.
We made our way out of the crowds and tried to make it back to an area that we could find a cab or snag some WIFI to grab an uber. It was pure madness — we were being pushed in all directions from all directions! Fast forward an hour and a half later, we found this gas station that was open and had WIFI. I saw some people walking out with fries and decided we needed them to carry on. It was perfect, we were able to grab an uber, which would arrive in 15 minutes, and leave us enough time to get some papas fritas! It was pretty great watching everyone get their drunk food like hamburgers and hot dogs. It was a great way to end our very long search for a way home.
All-in-all, New Year’s Eve in Santiago was fantastic! Feliz Año Nuevo!