It is Sunday evening here in Santiago and we are somewhat recovered from our travel. The flight was good. We got some sleep on the plane since we brought along some Sleepytime Tea with Valerian. We awoke to the sight of the Andes and Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America. Of course, we got in the slow line at customs and by time we made it to baggage claim, they were gathering up the few bags that remained. We spotted two of our bags but my bag was not there. Oh no... not Italy over again. We started our lost claim when George spotted a carabinero (security) with a rather distressed woman in tow. She had picked up my bag by mistake. Major Sigh of relief. And so our adventure began.
We went in search of an ATM. Of course, the first one we found was out of order. Second minor panic attack since we did not have any Chilean money. But we found another one and figured out how to get money. We took the bus into Santiago, and then the Metro on to our Hotel. It took us about 2 hours to get through customs and to our hotel. Our room was ready even though we were early. Hotel Orly is very nice. The exterior and interior is very French with a curving stair and antiques reproductions. Our room faces the street and is noisy but we have ear plugs.
After a shower and brief rest we headed down to the heart of Santiago. The tourist office was closed for some anniversary so we had to rely on our maps in our guide books. The Metro is excellent, clean and cheap. It costs about 50cents a ride and the train seems to always come in a few minutes. The buses meanwhile are very chaotic, dirty, curtained with no organization. They speed along the avenues spewing diseil fumes.
We went to Conaf (National Parks) headquarter for a few brochures, finally got a map, and sat around Plaza des Armes for a while. Boy is it hot. The temperatures have been in the upper 80s and 90s. I have not been drinking enough water. I need to do a better job. We headed back to the hotel and had hoped to get a late lunch but we hadn't yet figured out the Santiago eating times. Lunch is 1pm-3pm and Dinner is at 9pm-11pm. We ended up going back out in the evening. We ate at El Huerto, a vegetarian restaurant that was quite good. We had our first Pisco Sours, a potent apertif of white brandy distilled from Moscatel grapes, lemon juice and sugar. We finished our meal with some herbal tea and fell promptly to sleep.
Saturday was our culture day. We started off with a tour of Chascona, Pablo Neruda's house. He built it for his mistress who later became his third wife. He designed the house himself in a nautical theme. He was enamored and inspired by the sea. The rooms were made to look like rooms on a ship or a light house in three levels. It was still decorated with many of his furnishing from the 60s and his art collection which included several gifts from painters like Legar and Diego Rivera. It is at the food of Cerro San Cristobal a huge peak overlooking Santiago and includes one of the largest urban parks in the world. George wanted to go in search of the Botanical Garden. We took the funicular up to the top and then started down in the noon day sun looking for it. After walking down for 15 minutes, Marta was getting pretty grumpy. Fortunately for George there was another cable car station so we could take it back up.
We had learned our lesson from yesterday and headed to lunch. We had an extra half hour and came across a free exhibit of Joan Miro paintings and sculptures at the Telephone company headquarters. Then off to lunch. We had a great fish lunch with a bottle of wine and a pisco sour at Aqui esta Coco. We decided to take in another park and headed to Cerro Santa Lucia where we sat in the shade and watched the couples. We meandered back to the Plaza des Armes where we watched a mime and a crazy guy doing Tai Chi. We decided to head back to La Moneda for a photograph and came across another chance art exhibit. The was an outdoors photography exhibit by a French photographer. All the photos were taken from the air. We spend over an hour viewing the photos.
Today is Sunday. Most everything is closed including a lot of the restaurants. We headed to the Mercado Centrale to see the fish market and have lunch. Talk about pressure sales. The fish and restaurant hawkers start the moment you walk in. It was great to see the different fishes. I've already had conger eel which isn't an eel but is a rockfish. I also had Reinite which was a firm white fish somewhat like trout. George has had corvina which is a sea bass. We had some time before lunch so we walked over to the vegetable market. Totally different feel. There were very few tourists in this market and stalls upon stalls. Most selling vegetables but some selling meat, chicken, and even pet food (dry Purina chow). It wasn't emaculate like the other markets but it stillwas someone clean and we didn't feel unsafe. We really like the Chermoyia fruit. It is also called custard apple and has a great taste.
We finally burned out and has taken refuge in our hotel. It has airconditioning which really helps. Tomorrow we leave for Arica and the North. This should be a totally different experience. Until then,