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Once were Gondwanan

Santiago Dec 2011

CHILE | Wednesday, 14 December 2011 | Views [942]

I’m back! – With an over-packed suitcase and poor Spanish grammar, here I am. And I’m loving it! Before I came, I deliberately played down the excitement to myself – I worked up until a few days before I left and purposely didn’t organise too many things before I got here. And that’s how it went, but in a way I think I robbed myself of the anticipation that is often one of the joys of the journey. That is a blog in itself; attitudes to visiting and revisiting a place, and how much preparation is appropriate.

So, two weeks ago, I arrived in Santiago, Chile, and that was a great re-introduction to South America. At first I was a bit worried about my lack of Spanish skills – I tried to buy something at a hole-in-the-wall shop, and the shop owner couldn’t really understand me. Some self-talk about the fact that I hadn’t really practised for a few years (it would come back to me) and that Chileans do have a different dialect, reassured me that I could manage. I spent four days in Santiago and had a lovely time. I enjoyed revisiting the parks and plazas that I remembered. It is a safe, modern city, with charm and individuality. This isn’t really a travel guide, so I won’t go on too much. But it was so lovely to have that pleasant reminiscent experience – street stalls selling stuff that I can’t imagine many people would want to buy, seafood galore (although the abalone was a big disappointment – boiled whole until nearly all semblance of flavour was gone) and taxis beeping at you as they go past, to see if you want a ride. In the Plaza de Armas, the man with miniature pretend horses was still offering, for a fee, to photograph children sitting on the horses. I had forgotten all about that service. I have never actually seen anyone having their photo taken on the horses but I suppose it must be viable because there is still one the same in Quito and Cuenca too. It seems a bit sad to me that anyone would want to have a photo of themselves riding a fake horse, but I suppose that is as close as some people can get.

In Santiago I enjoyed some delicious cerviche (marinated fish or seafood, in my case it was the fish) and also an italiano (hotdog with sauce and mustard, one dollar at one of the arcades, including a soft drink – you stand at the bar and eat it). Sitting in the plaza (I think every town and city in South America must have them) and watching the people go by is an interesting and relaxing way to spend some time. In the Plaza de Armas in Santiago, there was a huge line-up to see one of the many Santas that were on duty in a big blow-up Santa’s Grotto that took up one length of the Plaza. That was about all I saw of Christmas preparations, aside from a few shop windows. Nobody was wishing Feliz Navidad or playing Christmas carols.

I didn’t revisit any of the main sight-seeing buildings or places, but one of my highlights in Santiago was discovering the suburb of Providencia. I needed to go to a travel agent there, and instead of taking public transport, I decided to walk there. I was so glad I did. Providencia is close to the city but has a completely different feel. There were bars, cafes and restaurants in a lovely leafy setting and an indoor produce market that made me wish I had a kitchen so I could buy all of the delicious fresh food.

After fairly full days of walking around the city, I enjoyed the opportunity to relax with a Pisco Sour at my hotel’s bar. The waiter was not the fastest cab off the rank (I refer to his work speed, not his mental capacity) and had the convenient manner of not catching the customer’s eye in case they wanted something, but it was a nice place to sit, on the pavement outside the hotel, with shrubbery screening the traffic but no the passers-by.

I enjoyed my time in Santiago and although I didn’t do anything particularly exciting, it was a relaxed start to my trip.

 On to Quito……………

Tags: chile, santiago, south america, travel


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