Mis Padres Chilenos

I was extremely happy/excited to be back in Santiago was to see my Chilean parents.  A main reason I had such an unforgettable experience while studying in Chile was because of the family that I lived with.  Probably the nicest, most wonderful people I have ever met, Norma and Carlos truly made me feel like a member of their family.  We made plans to meet for dinner after the New Year, and I literally could not wait.  We shared a lovely meal (Norma is an amazing cook), and also had delicious homemade pisco sours.  It was so surreal to be back in their home (which feels so much like home to me), and to share dinner and catch up with mis padres chilenos.  It was also really nice to meet the new students from Delaware that were living there for Winter Session.  I am so glad that I was able to spend time with Norma and Carlos…they have taught me so much and I am so grateful to have met them.

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El Año Nuevo

We wanted to make New Year’s extra special, so we decided to make a nice meal before meeting up with some friends.  After a very delicious fajita dinner, we got ready for our New Year’s Eve festivities.  We shared a few delicious cocktails (pisco with Watt’s orange juice…so good) while chatting about our New Year’s traditions from home.  Steph (whose family is from El Salvador) had the most interesting traditions to share, some of which we actually reenacted in Santiago.  At midnight we walked towards the center of the city to watch an unbelievable firework show.  Upon Steph’s request we ate twelve grapes each (one for every month of the new year to bring goodluck in 2013) and shared a bottle of champagne as we walked towards Bella Vista to meet with some friends.  We celebrated the rest of the night at Galpon 9, and had such an amazing/interesting night.  As the clock struck twelve, I could not have been happier to start the New Year in such an amazing place while on one of the best adventures of my life…2012 was fantastic, but I am excited to see where 2013 takes me.

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Hill Conquering

I was also happy to be back in Santiago because there were so many things I did not get a chance to do while I was there for Winter Session.  The first place on my list to visit was Cerro Santa Lucia.  It’s hard to explain Santa Lucia, but it’s basically a hill in the middle of the city that has different pathways, gardens, and patios with phenomenal views of Santiago.  Its really beautiful and it was cool to walk all the way to the top (after having a brief anxiety attack due to the elevation).

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Another activity on my list was to hike to the top of Cerro San Cristobal.  An even bigger hill than Santa Lucia, Cerro San Cristobal towers over the city and makes up Parque Metropolitano.  At the top of the hill there is a huge statue of the Virgin Mary, which is illuminated at night and can be seen from all over the city.  Although there is a lift that takes visitors on a leisurely ride to the top of the hill, people can also hike to see the statue at the top.  We woke up early, had a nice breakfast (with real coffee!!), and headed out to conquer Cerro San Cristobal.  It was (like some friends had warned me) a little more strenuous than we originally anticipated, but it was really worth it.  The walk is beautiful and the views of the city are truly spectacular, and by the time we made it to the top I felt very accomplished and proud of myself (so I obviously rewarded myself with a Magnum ice cream bar).  Feeling pretty impressed with our hiking skills on the way up, we took a path down that was marked as being highly difficult.  It was a really fun hike down, probably because of Steph’s salsa dance breaks or Tim’s reenactments of his teenage mountain conquering days.

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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.

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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