Overall we loved Santiago and would definitely return after learning more Spanish! Looking back on our week here, we noticed:
There are stray dogs everywhere. During our first full day, we went jogging in a park where we became concerned about packs of stray dogs patrolling the area. However, they didn't bother us, and mainly chased pigeons, motorbikes and each other. On our guided walking tour of the city, two strays accompanied us on the entire, four-hour tour, thereby keeping our tour pigeon- and motorbike-free. They were super well-behaved! Apparently stray dogs are part of the Santiago community.
Chileans are late to rise and late to bed. Technically the time zone is one hour ahead of US Eastern Time, yet people live as if they're in the Pacific Time zone. On our first day here, we were up very early and were distraught to learn that no coffee shops open until 8am!!!
In fact, Chileans seem to eat lunch around 3pm and dinner around 9, so whenever we tried to eat our noon lunch, we could only find sandwich shops open. Hence, we tried a lot of empanadas. For dinner, we felt like senior citizens at the early-bird special--we were either alone in the restaurant, or the restaurant didn't open for dinner until 8pm.
The city is very walkable and bustling with activity. We had almost nothing planned for this trip, yet each day we inadvertently discovered something to do - a parade downtown, a free Andy Warhol exhibit, a live band in Bellavista. We never needed to take a taxi or metro because we were able to walk everywhere. Plus, we loved the "running man" pedestrian traffic lights!
Santiago does have some drawbacks: Mucho smokers, mucho litter, and the smog in Santiago obscures what would otherwise be stunning views.
Darcie's biggest learning: toilet paper is not always available in women's bathroom stalls. Sometimes there is one, communal toilet paper roll near the sinks, and you are supposed take what you need before entering a stall. This lesson is rapidly earned after only 1 experience, FYI and TMI.
Dale's biggest learning: SIM card use is different in Chile. Except for the first day, Dale could not get his local SIM card to work in his phone, and no one could explain why or resolve the issue. Add a language barrier and Dale's obsession around fixing technology failures, and the trip did not start off well for Dale (and therefore, Darcie). Our savior turned out to be an Apple Reseller (Reifstore) employee who knew immediately what the problem was. Less than one month before our arrival, Chile passed a law that foreign cell phones had to be registered with the government through specific cellular providers in order for SIM cards to work. Apparently, no one knows about this law except one guy in Reifstore, and none of the cell phone providers has a support system set up for this new law. But, at least Dale learned the root cause and it was not related to the card, his phone or the carrier.
On October 19, we bid adios to Santiago and headed to Panama City.