World Wide Chile

I was extra-excited to be in Santiago because a lot of the friends we made in Mendoza would be there as well.  We met our friends at La Casa de la Luna Azul, which quickly became a more beloved spot that all of my favorites on Manuel Montt.  The resto-bar is on the second floor of a beautiful old building in Providencia.  I instantly fell in love with the black and white checkered floor in the entry room, and how the restaurant is made up of multiple rooms, each with its own personality.  The bar is cozy with dark wood walls and a fireplace, and upon walking in we were greeted by our friends and introduced to some locals.  We quickly recognized the owner from when we had studied abroad…he also owns a company called World Wide Chile that planed excursions for us while we were studying in Santiago.  As soon as we made the connection, it was like we were family.

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After enjoying a few drinks and reminiscing a little, we made our way to a place called El Tunel.  This club was very cool as well.  You walk in and immediately take a spiral staircase down to enter the bar.  The music was perfect and the company was even better.  We stayed until the sun started coming up, and then said farewell to all of our Mendoza friends.

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Back on Manuel Montt

I remember being a sophomore in college and trying to decide where I was going to study abroad.  As a Spanish minor, I really wanted to go somewhere to practice my language skills.  Costa Rica and Spain were at the top of my list, and I was a little disappointed when I learned that these trips did not offer the classes that I needed.  Chile ended up being the only abroad trip that offered upper level courses, so I quickly applied and hoped that I would be accepted into the program.  My acceptance came one June afternoon while I was sitting in Central Park, and I was so excited and couldn’t wait to start planning my Winter Session trip.

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Fast-Forward to January 2011 when I finally arrived in Santiago de Chile.  The whole experience was amazing and unforgettable.  Needless to say, I was ecstatic to be back in one of my very favorite cities to see my host parents and old friends, and to visit my favorite spots from my study abroad trip.

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It was incredibly surreal to be back in Providencia (the neighborhood where I lived).  On our first night in Santiago, we went back to Avenida Manuel Montt where our university was.  We went to one of our favorite bars Zouk, where we would all meet up and have a few drinks before going out for the evening.  After enjoying a few piscolas at Zouk, we wanted to continue the trend of reliving study abroad 2011, so we went to another favorite spot called Gran Central.  I have so many fond memories from Gran Central…it was the first place we ever went to in the city, and it was where we spent our last night in Santiago before going back to the states.  As we turned the familiar corner off of Avenida 11 de Septiembre, I was very excited and couldn’t wait to be there again…however to my surprise the bar was completely different.  The spot now goes by the name Zen, and is so far from what it used to be (so sad).

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A few days later, we still had the urge to re-live the glory days and brought some new friends of ours to Manuel Montt to visit a few more places.  We of course started back at Zouk, but then made our way to Mito for some dancing, which was so much fun.  Afterwards we got late-night food at one of the few places open called Maskipan.  Our study abroad group was obsessed with this place…I personally loved their French fries and Chilean hot dogs (topped with avocado, saurkraut, and tomatoes).  Overall, it was really good to be back in Chile and revisit all of the places that made my trip in 2011 so memorable.

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La Casa Roja

After having such an amazing experience at our hostel in Mendoza, we were really looking forward to our arrival at La Casa Roja in Santiago, especially since we had heard so many great things about it from Manuela.  Much bigger than Hostel Independencia, La Casa Roja is located in Barrio Brasil in a restored mansion.  The building is spectacular, with high ceilings and beautiful woodwork.  There are plenty of cozy places to sit throughout the hostel, which also has two courtyard patios and a lovely backyard with a pool and outdoor bar.  I really liked La Casa Roja and the surrounding neighborhood…Barrio Brasil is a very bohemian part of the city with colorful buildings and lots of quaint cafes and restuarants.  I was really excited to finally be back in Santiago and to stay in an area that I had never been to before.

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Ruta Panamericana

The next stop on our trip was Santiago de Chile.  Having studied abroad there two years ago, I was very excited to go back and to see parts of the city that I was not able to visit during my time there.  After a night of little sleep (I was too excited to sleep!), we arrived at the bus terminal (and actually made our bus) and I had plans of immediately falling asleep for the seven-hour bus ride.  However, I got distracted early on in the trip by the scenery that we were passing.  To get to Santiago from Mendoza you take part the Pan American Highway.  The highway goes right through the Andes Mountains and is incredibly beautiful.  I couldn’t help but continuously snap photos of my surroundings.  It was also nice that I was sitting next to a Chilean man who seemed more than eager to teach me about the area, and give me a brief history lesson…my new friend told me good spots to take pictures, and explained that Chilean customs/immigration was located very close to the highest point in the southern hemisphere, Aconcagua.  Although I was incredibly exhausted after the long ride, I was so happy that I stayed awake the entire time to witness the journey through the mountains.

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Winecycle

Some combinations just make sense; peanut butter and jelly, cookies and milk, burgers and fries (thanks Mia).  A popular activity in Mendoza is riding bikes from vineyard to vineyard for multiple wine tastings, which was a pairing that didn’t make much sense to me.  I had visions of starting off fine (and by fine I mean sober) and then eventually getting too drunk to operate my bike.  However, this combination could not be more perfect.  Riding throughout the Maipu area of Mendoza was truly beautiful and so much fun.  We got a later start than we had originally planned, but made it to Maipu after a thirty-minute bus ride.  We stopped at Mr. Hugo to rent bicycles, which unfortunately did not have baskets since we arrived later in the afternoon (bummer), and then went on our way.

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We decided that since we would be drinking, we should ride to the bodegas (vineyards) that were furthest away first and then make our way back to Mr. Hugo.  Our first stop was the bodega Familia Di Tommaso.  It was a much longer ride that we originally expected, but it was definitely worth it.  Familia Di Tommaso is the oldest vineyard in the area, quaintly situated on a tree-lined street far away from the busyness surrounding Mr. Hugo.  We went on a tour of the winery and then had a tasting.

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Once finished, we made our way to our next stop which was another bodega called Mevi.  The complete opposite of Familia Di Tommaso, Mevi is a newer, more modern vineyard with an outrageous view of the snow-capped Andes.  We ate lunch and sampled one of Mevi’s more popular wines before hopping back on our bikes towards our next destination.

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Since it was hot, we were craving something a little more refreshing than red wine, and opted to stop of the local beer garden.  The beer garden was so cool, set far off the road in a small house with an outdoor patio.  The bar was filled with random knick-knacks, and the patio had multi-colored chairs, big orange umbrellas, and tons of beautiful flowers.  The beer was really good and just what we needed after drinking lots of red wine.

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Our final stop was an olive oil factory.  For twenty pesos we got a tour of the factory and got to taste-test all of the products that the factory produces, which included amazing olive oil, chocolates, flavored liquors, dulce de leche, jams, and olive spreads (my favorites being the coconut dulce de leche and whisky apple jam).

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  After a long day biking and drinking, we went back to the hostel and relaxed.  We watched A Christmas Story with some of our new international friends, and realized how American the movie actually is.  We were sad that our time in Mendoza was coming to a close, but also very excited for the next leg of our trip…

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Couth Christmas

After a very interesting Christmas Eve, it was really nice to have a fairly mellow Christmas Day.  I sat out in the courtyard for most of the afternoon chatting with some of the other guests while uploading photos from our trip.  By free wine hour, the courtyard was packed with everyone staying at Hostel Independencia.  We told stories and listened to Christmas music before getting ready for round two of Christmas dinner.  This time we were prepared and made a reservation at a hotel around the corner from where we were staying.  The meal was outrageous and so delicious.  We ordered tempura prawns as an appetizer and a bottle of Malbec, and then got a pasta dish, veal, and lamb, which we all shared.  For dessert we got tirimisu and a dulce de leche cheesecake.  It was such a great meal and really made up for our kiosco sandwiches the night before.  After dinner we grabbed beers from one of our favorite spots back in Buenos Aires.  In the end it was a wonderful and very relaxing Christmas.

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Kiosco Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite nights of the year at home.  Its one of the few times during the winter that it is just the four of us in our Vermont house, so we get to spend a nice quiet holiday together.  My favorite meal (even more than Thanksgiving) is our Christmas Eve dinner (I’ve already requested it as my welcome home meal)… stuffed mushrooms, crabcakes, shrimp scampi, and lobster ravioli in a pink sauce.  I of course knew that it would be very difficult to match this night, but I did want to make a point to have a delicious meal on Christmas Eve in Mendoza.  When we woke up on the 24th, we decided to visit Parque General San Martin for the afternoon.  After a twenty-minute walk, we made it to the beautiful gates of the park.  Once inside, we explored the rose garden, which was on the edge of a huge man-made lake.  We sat for a while and relaxed, enjoying the view of the Andes from the park.

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We eventually started back towards town in hopes that we would come across a restaurant that we could eat at later on that night.  As we walked down the main road of the city, almost every restaurant was closing up, putting away all of their outdoor seating and pulling the gates down for the evening (not a good sign).  We also noticed that the wind had picked up significantly since we had started the walk, blowing dirt and leaves all over the streets of the city…we were told later that it was a once a year windstorm that hits Mendoza and makes it almost unbearable to walk around town for twenty-four hours.  With the weather and restaurant situation working against us, we got ready and went out hoping we’d find somewhere to eat.

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We did find one place open…a kiosco.  After wandering the city for a half hour we came to terms with the fact that our meal would be nothing like our respective family dinners at home.  We bought sandwiches, snacks, and champagne from the kiosco, and sat outside together (as the wind was violently whipping around us).  We shared each of our family’s Christmas traditions and laughed about how this year’s holiday was one for the books.  After our very classy kiosco dinner, we walked back to Hostel Independencia where our friends were starting to celebrate.  We shared the remainder of our snacks and played drinking games with the group using a mixture of international rules, which made the games unlike any I’ve ever played before.

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Once it was officially Christmas, we walked to Plaza Independencia to try and catch some fireworks before heading out for the night (Argentines usually spend Christmas Eve with their family, but once dinner is over and its Christmas, they go out and party).  Although unorthodox, it ended up being a very fun Christmas with good company and lots of laughs.

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Gauchos for a Day

While in Mendoza there were a few things we really wanted to accomplish.  We of course wanted to visit the vineyards and drink lots of Malbec, but we also wanted to do as many outdoor activities as possible.  Mendoza offers different excursions, from rafting and hiking to paragliding.  On our first day, after finally showering and having a normal meal, Manuela informed us of a horseback riding tour that was planned for that night.  Eager to start exploring Mendoza, we said yes and a few hours later found ourselves at a ranch in the middle of nowhere with a group from our hostel.  We rode up into the mountains for about three hours as the sun was setting.  Our ride ended at another ranch in the mountains where a traditional Argentine asado was waiting for us.  Our guides brought us endless plates of steak, chorizo, potatoes, and a tomato salad (while also constantly refilling our wine glasses).  After an amazing meal we gathered around a bonfire and our gaucho guides played the guitar, sang songs, and told scary stories.  It was so much fun and the view of Mendoza from the mountains was amazing.

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Hostel Independencia

Needless to say, once we were actually in Mendoza we were very excited.  We grabbed a cab from the bus terminal and before we knew it we were at our hostel.  Hostel Independencia is in the heart of Mendoza, less than a block away from the city’s center square, Plaza Independencia. The building has a lot of character, with dark wood walls in the reception and bar area that make it feel extra cozy.  There was also an amazing grapevine-covered patio with a huge asado and hammocks.  As much as I loved the actual building, it was Hostel Independencia’s staff and other guests that really made it the perfect place for us to spend the holidays.  Initially yelling at us for not properly closing the gate and being one day late, the owner Manuela is awesome and the perfect hostel hostess.  She made sure that her guests mingled with one another, especially during free wine hour every night (my roommate actually got scolded for using her laptop during the social hour).  She told story after story about her life and her travels, each one more interesting than the last.  Her staff was fantastic as well, all with very unique personalities, but who each made us feel at home.  My favorite part about Hostel Independencia was all of the people that we met and became friends with.  We really bonded with the other guests, who were from Holland, the United States, Australia, and England.  There were a few guests that were more on the strange side (a slightly creepy man who randomly started playing a fiddle in the courtyard one day), but it all added to the personality of the hostel.

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Mini Apocalypse

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After a busy week of working and moving out of my apartment, the city was literally kicking my butt, so I was obviously very excited for my two week vacation to Mendoza and Santiago de Chile. I was so busy running last-minute errands on December 21, 2012, I totally forgot that the world was potentially ending at any point that day.  Surprisingly, the move out of 4560 Guemes went smoothly and by early evening my travel companions and I were ready to start our journey west.  We grabbed a quick coffee before heading over to the Retiro bus station (three hours early) to catch our bus to Mendoza.  We got there without any problems, and with an hour and a half to spare, we made ourselves comfortable at the gate where our bus would be arriving.  The station was chaos, and many buses were running behind schedule, so to be on the safe side my roommate checked with the employees at the information desk to ensure that our bus had not yet arrived.  It hadn’t, so we waited a little longer before the first 9:00 PM bus to Mendoza appeared on the departures screen (30 minutes late).  Discouraged, we realized this must not be our bus because the bus company on our ticket did not match the company on the screen.  Just to be safe again, my roommate went to ask if this was in-fact our bus, while my other roommate and I relocated outside to see if the bus was there.  We were told that our bus had not yet arrived, and that it was on a delay.  By 9:45 we were tired and just wanted to get on our bus, jealous of another Mendoza-bound bus that was pulling away at our gate…

Fast-forward to 11:30 PM (after waiting for hours and asking the people at the  information desk every 30 minutes if our bus had arrived yet) when my roommate broke the news to me that our bus did leave, at 9:45 when we were standing outside watching it drive away.  ‘So this is what the end of the world feels like’ I thought to myself as I held back tears in the Retiro bus station.  My own personal apocalypse.

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things that kept me sane

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things that kept me sane

Looking back, it really wasn’t the end of the world.  No, I did not appreciate the lack of customer service here, or spending 24 hours in a bus station in South America (eating hot dogs and without a shower), but the whole scenario did make it clear that I have lots of things to appreciate and be grateful for (and makes for a good story).  After a very long wait, we finally got on a bus to Mendoza and had an amazing vacation.

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