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Published: March 19th 2014
I did not find Santiago to be a very tourist friendly city. Certainly it was clean with nice wide streets and sidewalks, but I don’t recall ever seeing a sign pointing towards something a tourist might find interesting. Even on the internet I was not able to find good information on the changing of the guard at the Palacio de Gobierno "La Moneda". What help is it when they say that it occurs every other day? Is today the day? Was yesterday the day? Will it be tomorrow? It seemed like it was some sort of secret, so I took it upon myself to get up early, miss breakfast and coffee to head down and check it out. Was it going to happen? I didn’t know, but there were lots of police, the streets were barricaded, there was a huge video screen and score board in the center of the street. Well, unless they were awarding medals for best marching guard, I didn’t think this was it. I asked 3 separate pairs of carabineros, police men, if the changing of the guard was happening. None of them had any idea. All of a sudden bicyclists came swarming down the street and
Guess he is working until someone decides to organize a changing of the guard.
it became clear. There was some sort of city wide bike race. As it turns out it was a South American sporting competition and today was biking. Needless to say I soon realized that the changing of the guard was not taking place.
If I couldn’t watch the changing of the guard, I would head over to Cerro San Cristobal and ride either the funicular or the teleferico (gondola type cable car) to the top for some gorgeous shots of Santiago. My guide book told me which Metro stop to use for the teleferico, so that is where I went. It was a nice walk- warm, sunny, not too crowded. Without the help of any signage, I stumbled upon the teleferico station. Now, I accept some blame for this, but only a minor part. My guide book is quite old and said that the teleferico was closed in 2009 and hopefully would be open soon. That was 5 years ago, so it seemed plausible that it would be open. The hours of operation were plainly listed on a sign on the wall and everything seemed to be a go. No. It has never reopened. Yes, I can accept that,
but I would think that in 5 years someone might have done something like change the hours of operation to say something different, such as “closed until further notice”. Sitting outside waiting to see if it would open reminded me of photos I have seen of Six Flags New Orleans. Many of the shops and stalls were abandoned right before Hurricane Katrina and although they are much worse for wear now, they look almost as they did before the storm. This is how I felt sitting there seeing this abandoned gondola station slowly being overgrown by weeds and trees all the while having bright and shiny signs encouraging tourists to ride it.
A bit disgruntled I started the long walk back to the Metro station. By now I had still found no coffee because every shop, stall and restaurant was shuttered and closed. I was having what I call my figurative wedgie and I was none too pleased. On my hotel’s lively street I looked for a café or restaurant to suit my fancy. The one I liked had the tables out, chalk boards up and doors open, but wasn’t open until noon, only a short time away. I
Better read the blog for full details
wandered around until well after noon and went back. They still weren’t open and weren’t offering any time that they might be opening. Well, ok, I was over that place. Phooey on them. I went to my second choice and had a wonderful smoked salmon Panini, two café Americano and a lemon meringue tart for dessert that melted my crankiness. Once again life on the road was good. Karma rewarded me for my fantastic mood shift by showing me a free walking tour that I had been told about. It was offered not only at 10 as I had heard, but also at 3. This sounded like a good way to see and hear more about Santiago and make peace with the beautiful city.
I arrived at the Plaza de Armas at the appointed time, met a group of friendly travelers and headed off on the tour. Being that today was Sunday, many things were closed, but that simply meant that it was nice and quiet for our tour. We went to the Moneda palace where I found out that the changing of the guard would be the following day (he gave the wrong time, but I went early
and saw it anyhow). The guide was interesting, personable, full of humorous facts and I enjoyed the tour immensely. As we turned a corner we were faced with police in riot gear and a street full of protestors. Swept up in the protest, we plunged forward raising our fists in the air, chanting and rushing the police. Tear gas filled the streets, but we were in it for the cause. Onward we plunged, chanting and pumping our fists. We were committed; we didn’t care that we could barely see through the tear gas. Suddenly the Director shouted cut and we returned to our places for another take. Yeah, ok. We had come upon a television shoot for a series called Los 80’s and were asked if we would like to be part of the protest scene. We only did two takes, so the thought that we will actually be in the series is quite small; however, it was incredibly awesome to be able to do this. The coordinator of the extras was very happy with the free extras, so it was a win win all around.
Moving on from the protest, we wound our way back to
Bad Mood Be Gone!
How could I be cranky with this sitting in front of me?
the street my hotel is on. The ice cream place that I had gone to the day before was part of the tour. It is ranked as one of the 25 best ice cream places in the world on a website called thedailymeal.com How accurate this is I have no idea, but I do know that I wanted to come back for more ice cream. The queue was outrageous, so we weren’t able to get any right then, but hey, it is wicked close to my hotel… We crossed over the concrete river I had walked beside and went into another area full of yet more trendy restaurants, shops and such. The tour ended at the famous poet Pablo Neruda’s home. This was also only a few blocks from the funicular which was closing in 45 minutes, so I high tailed it down, bought my ticket and went up for some breathtaking views of Santiago and the Andes Mountains in the background. The mountains were brown, not snow covered since Chile is finishing its summer and heading into autumn. Still, the views were impressive. It was well worth the angst of trying to get to the top, so I made
it worthwhile by shooting plenty of pictures. I couldn’t stay up top very long, as I did not want to have to walk down at dusk (not recommended by the guidebooks).
On the way back towards the hotel, I stopped at the restaurant that was supposedly Pablo Neruda’s favorite restaurant. I was early, the first customer, so had my choice of tables and settled in beside giant windows overlooking the colorful street. I ordered scallops in white wine and cream with Parmesan, a side dish of vegetables and an Austral Patagonia IPA again. This was seriously one of the best simple meals I have had in ages. I swear that the scallops had been sitting in the walk-in cooler chatting with each other when I walked in the restaurant. They were just that fresh. They had the pale orange “coral” still attached, were seasoned perfectly and cooked to the most silky texture known to man. One bite and I was dancing my food dance in my chair. And please, don’t get me started on the vegetables. They were perfection. No, they weren’t beautifully diced or presented, but the flavor was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe how simple vegetables such as
cauliflower, zucchini, scallion and Portobello mushrooms could be so intense. I am grateful that I was the only diner because I know I was moaning while I was eating. How could I not be? If this really was Neruda’s favorite restaurant, then he knew food.
Completely happy and once again in love with Santiago I headed back towards the hotel. Do you know what I had to walk by on the way? I will give you a clue. It starts with ice and ends with cream. Oh happy day! The lines to the ice cream shop were less than outrageous, so I felt obligated to stop. Let me just say the words Dulce de Leche and Chocolate Orange. Roll those around in your mind. Think about how sinfully good they were. If you want a visual, check out the picture- it is the one where I am blissfully smiling like the cat that ate the canary. After this food frenzy, I kind of waddled back to the hotel and rather ungracefully plopped myself on the sofa. Yes, this was the way to experience Santiago. Taking it slow was nice, but this was full throttle, mind blowing awesome and I
was more than pleased.
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