It started as an innocent pub crawl. It ended at 9am after three clubs, getting stuck in the Santiago Marathon, a blazing row on which direction to go, then a three-hour drunken stumble home!
We crash landed straight in Santiago’s party central neighbourhood of Bellavista on a Friday night. It was Lollapolooza weekend, Chile’s biggest festival, so the streets were buzzing with people and there were street performances on every corner.
We should have realised things would get messy! More on this later…
We really liked Santiago. It doesn’t have the colonial architecture of Buenos Aires or the world class landmarks of Rio, but it was buzzing with life and was beautiful and grubby in equal measure.
We started by grabbing the funicular railway to the top of San Cristobal Hill for amazing panoramic views of the city.
Its Virgin Mary statue looking down over Santiago isn’t as impressive as Christ the Redeemer, but it’s a great way to spend a morning nonetheless.
Birmingham connections to places we’ve travelled have been surprising us throughout our trip, and once again we found out Santiago’s Mercado Central was built in Brum and transported over in the late 19th century.
It’s mainly a fish market now, and the Brummie wrought ironwork has seen better days, but we really enjoyed choosing a locals’ restaurant and tucking in to an amazing sea bass soup and a cold beer.
Santiago can easily be explored on foot, so we trudged around in our usual way, spotting giant Chilean flags and presidential palaces, the giant central Plaza Des Armas with its street performers, beggars and preachers, and the riverside Parque Forestal, which looked gorgeous bathed in the orange light of sunset reflecting on the tree lined promenade’s leaves.
Our hostel was amongst dozens of bars, restaurants and clubs. The paper-thin windows made sleep almost impossible, so on Saturday night these 30 something blokes only had one choice; if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
Undeterred by the prospect of partying with people we’re old enough to have fathered, we signed up for a weekly pub crawl around Bellavista.
It sounded a bit like organised fun, but we ended up meeting lots of fascinating people, including a Hillary Clinton campaign manager, a girl who’d fled corruption and economic collapse in Venezuela to start a new life in Chile, and Aimee and Ellie, who we met in Buenos Aires (remember we nearly checked in Aimee’s bag at the airport?!) and have bumped in to several times since.
The all-you-can-drink beer from 10-11pm set the tone for the night and although a couple of the bars were empty, we ended up in a pretty cool and heaving club with mostly locals dancing to Spanish pop. What’s not to love?!
The official crawl ended at 3am but, undeterred, we took ourselves off to another club, Bunker, which is less subversive than it sounds! More Lady Gaga than gimp masks.
In there we met some locals who insisted we went along to an after hours club across town.
Housed in a colonial mansion with vaulted ceilings, we danced til dawn, downing Piscolas (Pisco and Coke) as we went. The only problem; we had no idea where we were.
Leaving a club in broad daylight is never a pleasant experience; this one was made exponentially worse by the hundreds of fresh faced marathon runners streaming past us in blinding sunshine as we tried to negotiate our sorry selves across the road.
Our uber driver wasn’t any luckier, getting stuck in marathon traffic and kicking us out a couple of miles from home.
Phones dead and with hangovers kicking in, what should have been a 45 minute walk home turned in to 2 hours for James and 3 for Chris, who decided the hostel was in the completely opposite direction.
A boozy argument took us different ways; James wasn’t at all smug his instinct was right!
Broken and battered, we checked out of our grotty hostel and into a plush Air BnB to convalesce.
It’s where we discovered the hillside Parque San Borja, a beautiful space right in the city centre to watch the sun set over this giant metropolis, with Andean peaks in every direction.
It was the perfect way to shake off another epic hangover, and not the first time on this trip we’ve uttered the words ‘we’re too old for this sh*t!’.