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Published: March 18th 2014
Although I really enjoyed myself in La Paz, and Bolivia in general, I was looking forward to transitioning to the next phase of my trip. The thought of being closer to sea level and being able to walk a full block without huffing, puffing and wheezing was very appealing. My flight was at 4:40 so after leaving Tara near the Dutch restaurant I caught a taxi at 1:30 and headed to El Alto Airport. Traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated, so I arrived in plenty of time. Along with having to fill out more paperwork than I had anticipated, there was some confusion over an exit fee of $25 USD. I had researched it so was prepared, but the 4 Australians who had also come from my hotel were panicking. They only needed $20 more, so I gave it to them in keeping with pay it forward. If I had been standing there sweating and struggling I hope someone would do the same for me. I did have to find and ATM that dispensed US dollars for my reciprocity fee to enter Chile. I had to pay $135 USD to enter Bolivia plus the $25 to exit, leaving
Everything was so fresh and beautiful
me with very little USD to enter Chile. The Intel I had said that they would take credit cards, but sometimes the machines were down and quite honestly I simply didn’t have it in me to deal with another money drama. Once that was taken care of, quite easily I might add, I headed through migration. Bolivia took a digital photo as I entered the country and took one as I left. I guess they match them to make sure the same person is using the passport. They also went through my carry-on bag quite thoroughly before sending me through the metal detector and finally into the waiting room. Once again I was glad that I had given myself plenty of time to deal with the unexpected.
The flight was going nicely, when all of a sudden we were told to prepare for landing. As far as I knew, it was a direct flight into Santiago, so I wasn’t sure what the deal was. We landed at Iquique, Chile and had to exit the aircraft to pass through migration. Where this came from I have no idea, but I followed along like a good traveler. It took forever. It
was hot, lines were long and they only had three agents for a full Airbus 320. I had frantically gone back into my carry-on to gather the money for the reciprocity fee; however, they never asked for it. The agent looked over my paperwork, stamped my passport and sent me on my way. Well, what the heck? I supposed that when I was ready to exit the Santiago airport I would pay at that time. We all lined up in two rows according to our seat assignments, but when the two people in front of me were ready to board, they were sent back to the end of the other line, as was I. If I can just say that I hate being herded like a sheep, especially when I am not told anything. But, I complied like the good sheep that I needed to be and finally was able to re-board the plane. It was another couple hours until we landed in Santiago.
The Santiago airport was a modern, nice airport. Our luggage came through relatively quickly and then we had to have our luggage X-rayed and turn in the paperwork that stated that we were not bringing
any produce or food into the country. Each step of the way I was waiting to fork over the $160, but no one asked for it and before I knew it I was at a taxi stand organizing my ride to the hotel. I later found out that as of Feb 26, 2014 the fee has been waived. Visitors fromChile are going to be able to visit the US without paying a visa fee, so Chile returned the favor. Score! I could tell as soon as I reached the clean, shiny, new taxi and we headed out of the airport on wide, paved roads that Santiago was going to be a whole different experience than Bolivia was. There was nothing wrong at all with Bolivia mind you, but Santiago just seemed and felt much more European and cosmopolitan. Within about a half hour I was at my hotel, checked in and ready for bed. So far on this trip the longest I have spent in the same hotel room is two nights, and the majority of the stays were only one night stays. I was ready for three nights in the same bed, three nights of not having to pack
Smoked Salmon Bagel and Coffee
Now this is how to start a day in a new country!
everything up and three mornings with no alarm clocks beeping me awake.
Blissfully I slept in until almost 11. I haven’t done that in forever it seems. The hotel desk man pointed me in the direction of a coffee shop/café across the street, where I promptly went. My Spanish is almost all surrounding food and the kitchen, so it was easy for me to figure out the menu. What I wanted was a smoked salmon bagel with tomato and a café Americano. It was delicious. I sat outside in the clean late morning air and enjoyed myself immensely. That I had a whole day with nothing to do was almost as delicious as the bagel. My goal for the day was very simple; do as little as possible and enjoy it.
After the leisurely snack, I wandered down to the Plaza Armas which was not too far from the hotel. There, I stopped at the most magnificent post office to buy my stamps. The Plaza is undergoing renovation, so it is completely surrounded by a solid fence. I was fine with it, but won’t have any pictures of the graceful and green Plaza to post. Well, shucks, such
is life. Since that was off the table, I found the Metro station, bought some tickets, figured out which direction to go, where to transfer to another line and hopped aboard the Metro towards the Mercado Central, also known as the Fish Market. I was surprised at how easily the Metro was to use. I was also surprised to see that the cars run on actual tires. The third rail is there to power the cars, but the other tracks are used as guides to keep the tires on the platforms. I will post a picture. Take a look, because it is pretty interesting I thought. The Mercado Central was right outside the Metro, making it easy to find. As I walked around, I thought of Pike’s Market in Seattle. The fish here looks beautiful and fresh as can be. I saw sea urchins, clams, some barnacle things that I had seen on tv as well as many many other types of fish. Every where one looks there are restaurants, and at each restaurant there is someone trying to draw in business. I’m sure they are all very good, and probably all very similar, but I wanted something with a
bit more grit, more oomph if you will. I ignored all of the salespeople and walked until I saw a hole in the wall with a smeared dry erase board menu and tacky plastic table cloths. Like a moth to a flame I was drawn to this. This, I knew, was where the locals and market workers ate. All I ordered was ceviche and water con gas, but they brought bread with the most sensational, spicy salsa. The ceviche was fresh, acidic and flavorful, but the bread and salsa had my attention. Really, how much raw citrus fish can one person eat? I guess the answer for me would be a half portion, but the full basket of bread and salsa was all mine. Spicy food is not something I crave or seek, but there was something about the salsa that made me want it.
Fully satisfied and pleased with myself for finding such a nice lunch, I set off exploring a bit. There was an old train station that is now a museum and though it had great architecture, I didn’t go in. Rather, I sat in the shade and watched the Saturday parade of people pass by
Plaza de Armas
They were letting a truck in, so I snapped a quick shot to see the inside.
me. Eventually I moved on and wandered through a different market hall, seeing beautiful fruits, vegetables and more clothes and household knick-knack stuff than I could imagine. What I wanted to see what a coffee shop, but none were to be found. Slowly I walked through a park alongside a sunken concrete river. It was a pleasant day and felt good to be out walking in the warm air. I did venture into a museum that seemed to be hosting a party. The museum itself was lackluster, but the glass and iron ceiling made the side trip well worthwhile. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures since it was a museum, but I did enjoy it. Around a corner in the street I saw an ice cream shop. Not only did I see it, but I heard it. Like the Sirens to Odysseus, it was calling to me. I was weak, I was tired and most of all, I wanted ice cream! I am glad I did. I had a mixture of orange and tutti fruitti sorbet, both absolutely perfect on a warm autumn day. Overlooking a fountain in a park, I sat and celebrated my being out on the road
Old and New
The old is the cathedral on Plaza de Armas.
again. When I was finished, I walked back to the hotel and chatted on Facebook, spent some time on Travel Blog and relished an afternoon of sitting in the air conditioning with my feet up doing nothing. For many, that is what a vacation is all about. For me, that is what an afternoon of vacation is all about.
When late evening came, it came time to forage for food. I left my comfortable sofa and headed out to the streets in search of prey. It took a while, even though the street was filled with trendy cafes and restaurants. None of these places were what I wanted, though even I didn’t know what I wanted. Finally I saw it lurking on the chalkboard- empanadas. In I went and had a delightful dinner of ham and cheese empanadas and a plate of French fries with mustard and ketchup. To celebrate a successful hunt, I had two Austral Patagonia IPA beers and once again, life was good. It may not have been the finest dinner I have had, but it satisfied a craving. As I sauntered back to the hotel, I was quite content with my day of doing nothing
(well my version of doing nothing) and was pleased with Santiago.
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