Santiago, Chile - Week 2 (March 2014)

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April 2nd 2014
Published: April 2nd 2014
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24 March 2014 – Monday – Santiago, Chile

We began the first full day of our second week in Santiago by visiting the building of Antiquarian Bookdealers near the Manuel Mott metro station. This is a building, the ground floor of which is entirely made up of small antiquarian booksellers’ stores. They are not very large; some of them are very dusty; a few of them have some old English language books. We were hoping to trade-in a couple of the books we have finished with but didn’t find anything worth trying to negotiate for. Afterwards, I thought I should have traded or purchased a copy of The Short Novels of John Steinbeck. Joan has never read any of them and I would quite happily read them again. We had thought about buying a new copy of it in a Los Angeles Barnes & Noble but it was large and heavy to be carrying. We talked about the book later that evening and decided to go back to buy it later in the week.

Our lunch was an empanada in a small park near the booksellers’ building. We wandered around a bit and caught the metro back to the apartment block so that Joan could take advantage of the 27th floor terrace and top up her tan. I read and wrote and napped for the afternoon in the apartment. Later in the evening we walked to the nearby art-house cinema to see Inside Llewyn Davis, a film about the folk music scene in 1960s New York City, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. We miss having a DVD player and access to films and whenever we can find something worth seeing that isn’t dubbed into Spanish we make an effort to go.

25 March 2014 – Tuesday – Santiago, Chile

Today we started our day by visiting two museums that are very close to our apartment: the Fine Arts Museum and the Contemporary Arts Museum. In terms of National Museums, these are small but very beautiful neo-classical buildings. They are located in the long riverside Parque Forrestal. Their internal exhibition space is limited to less than a dozen rooms, but their entranceways and foyers are vast and open to dome-ceilings and quite dramatic. The actual exhibitions, however, were a bit of a disappointment. Neither of the museums seems to have much of a ‘permanent’ collection. The Fine Arts museum exhibition was titled: A Lyrical Quality of Lasting Charm: American and Chilean Painting at the Centenary of Chile, 1910. The Contemporary Arts Museum exhibition was of paintings by Chilean Tito Calderon whose work is marked by the political repression of the dictatorship years of Pinochet. These were unsettling and disturbing works. Accompanying this was an exhibition called ‘Artists for Democracy: Cecilia Vicuna’s Archive’ which focused on anti-dictatorship struggles. The most unusual exhibit was Antonio Becerro’s ‘They Found the Sky’ which consisted of a number of life-sized black dogs on cables stretching from in front of the museum through the foyer to an installation in one of the exhibition rooms. We have seen too many emaciated stray dogs throughout Chile and this exhibition claims to ‘rescue the image of the stray dog as a metaphor of the Chilean’.

Joan spent the afternoon 27 floors closer to the sun and I did my usual afternoon routine of reading, writing and napping!

In the evening we went to the Theolonious Jazz Club to hear a singer from Barcelona called Laia Vehi. She was very young and a bit nervous, accompanying herself on guitar. He voice was high-pitched and jumped up and down in tone. Her diction on the English-language songs was very poor; even with the songs we knew we couldn’t understand what she was saying. It was not jazz, and a bit disappointing as a singer-songwriter.

26 March 2014 – Wednesday – Day Trip to Casablanca Wine Valley, Chile

Today we went on a self-guided wine tour of the Casablanca Valley. (Already posted)

27 March 2014 – Thursday – Santiago, Chile

Our first place to visit this morning was the bookstores and bookstalls on Avienda San Diego. There are about a dozen of these stores at the top end of this street near the University. Most of these sell schoolbooks and textbooks. They were packed to the rafters with books, but not a single English language book was to be found amongst any of them. We were disappointed as our reading material is running low and we wanted to trade in a couple of the books we had finished with for something new to read.

Avienda San Diego opens out onto a wide boulevard with a tree-lined park in its centre. We could see in the distance some canopies which usually indicate a market of some kind and we headed in that direction. We could hear faint music in the air. When we arrived we discovered a gathering celebrating the new wine harvest. Three vineyards located south of Santiago were organising a weekend festival celebration and this was a promotional gathering for that event. There were barefoot women on a stage stomping around barefoot in a vat of grapes to the accompaniment of recorded music. A few people were dressed in costume and one of them, a lady with understandable English, latched on to us to explain the promotion and encourage us to attend. She introduced us to one of Chile’s champion dancers, who urged us to try another wine and was very proud to be going to Maryland soon to dance. There were three wineries involved in this promotion. It reminded us of the autumn ‘new wine’ celebrations we had attended in France.

We continued down Avienda San Diego eating a bunch of grapes that were given to us by the promoters. A second collection of bookstalls was further along. It consisted of purpose built cabinas on a small lot. There were about 50 of them. They stocked a range of Spanish-language books, from history and politics to art, cooking and children’s books, fiction and graphic novels. One lady had a small stack of English language books that consisted of about a dozen John Grisham novels and a couple by Mario Puzo. Amongst all the booksellers was one stall selling music. When I asked for ‘Chilean Jazz’ I received the by now expected frown and shake of the head and the universal ‘no jazz Chilean’.

Our next stop was Fuente Alemana. This is one of Chile’s famous ‘big sandwich’ restaurants. They are very like an American diner. You sit on stools on a long counter that wraps around the cooking and preparation area. The meat is grilled and the sandwich assembled and presented very quickly. They are huge and delicious, and the atmosphere is mighty. We consider it ‘lunch theatre’ and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the food, which consisted of a lomito (pork) sandwich for Joan and a churrusco (beef) for myself, washed down with two local lagers.

Joan again spent the afternoon 27 floors closer to the sun while I read and typed and went out for another walk Lastarria to avoid falling asleep. I stumbled upon a Tienda Nacional shop that had a couple cds in the window and didn’t they have an entire section of Chilean jazz cds – yippee! One of the staff had a bit of English and knowledge of Chilean jazz and assisted me in choosing a few recordings. I celebrated by having a large ice cream at a nearby Italian gelato cafe. I flipped through the pages of all the local newspapers while digging into the bowl of ice cream and then returned to our apartment to listen to my new Chilean jazz purchases!

28 March 2014 – Friday – Santiago, Chile

Our first destination this morning was Pueblito Artesan Village at Los Dominicos. It is a assemblage of about 100 small clay and thatch-roofed huts and workshop shacks that house artists and craftsmen, located adjacent to the San Vincent Ferrer Parish Church that is a National Monument. A bus load of Australian tourists had arrived just before we did, but they were dispersed quickly among the many small shops and a couple cafes. It is a very warm and comfortable area to stone paths and overhanging trees. There were jewellers and potters, knitwear scarves and shawls and rugs, painters, artists working in copper and tin and leather, furniture makers and basket weavers. There were also small animal and bird sellers and three large enclosures containing many birds including peacocks and parakeets and all manner of brightly-coloured feathered flyers, and you could buy a cage at the same time to house them. We window-shopped and only purchased some Chilean spice.

The Pueblito Artesan Village was located in the suburb of Las Condes, the last stop on the Red Line Metro, and was about 10 kilometres from our apartment in the historic centre. We decided to walk back as it was the one road all the way and we could always hop back onto the metro if we faltered. We strolled and sauntered along and found Fuente Chica for another typically-Chilean ‘big sandwich’ lunch. These sandwiches were enormous. The ‘normal’ sandwich, which we had, was the size of a full-sized dinner plate; the ‘giant’ was just as it sounded. We saw of few of these cut in half and shared. My ‘normal’ hamburger con queso was dripping with melted cheese and oozing with flavour. Joan had a quesadilla that was actually two good-sized quesadillas stuffed full of chicken and a side of guacamole. We ordered one small plate of french fries to share and the server brought us two and only charged us for one. Two local lagers from the Austral brewery and our total cost was 30k Chilean pesos (about 45 USD). This meal lasted us the entire day and fuelled our long walk home.

We were passing the Antiquarian Book-dealers building and stopped to buy the John Steinbeck Short Novels book I had spotted a few days before, but I could not find it again. About half of the book-dealers were not open and the most of the ones who had sale tables in the hallway had a mostly different range of books, many of them included English language books. I found three very early novels, one each by John O’Hara, Wade Miller and another John D. MacDonald priced at about 2 dollars each and the lady bookseller allowed me a straight swap on two books (one of which was the Chilean travel book which I am certain she could sell easily and quickly and for a good price). I had a couple of copy cds of jazz pianists in my backpack and I gave her these also.

We stopped for a very nice Italian ice cream on Merced Street (I had been there a couple days before on my own and mentioned it to Joan and she wanted to try it). The ice cream they serve there is the best we have yet had in South America and very close to Italian perfection!

I went again to the Thelonious Jazz Club and heard two bands, one consisting of five young guys in jackets and ties, four playing guitars and one percussionist, and singing folk-type songs. It was very pleasant although the main singer’s voice wavered at times. One of the guitarists achieved an especially beautiful sound from his instrument. I never got the name of the band or the names of the musicians (it just said ‘jam session’ on the website).

They were followed by the Martin Joseph trio. Martin Joseph was born in England in 1939 and he played with Buddy Tate and Dexter Gordon there. He began the long journey of his nomadic life as a world traveller, musician and teacher in 1970. He has lived in Santiago since 2005 and plays the Thelonious Jazz Club on a regular basis. His first set didn’t start until 11:30 but I was immediately enthralled as he played interpretations and variations one bebop standard after another. His original songs had a distinctive bebop sensibility and as this is my favourite period of jazz music I was one very happy jazzer! I even got to have a short chat with him between his sets as he waited at the bar for his fresh-squeezed strawberry juice to be prepared. He asked about jazz in Dublin and quizzed me about our travels in South America. The second set was more bebop, including Monk, Mingus, Bud Powell as well as a couple originals. His accompanying Chilean musicians were well-versed in the tradition and produced appealing solos on request. The last song faded into the crisp night air at 1:45 and I sauntered home with a happy bebop sway!

29 March 2014 – Saturday – Santiago, Chile

Late to rise this morning after a fitful as I did not get back to the apartment until after 2am from the jazz gig at Thelonious Jazz Club. We lounged and packed and wrote for the facebook update and read and caught up on emails and news of the missing Malaysian airliner and the suicide death of Mick Jagger’s partner on the internet. Lunch was massive burgers at Fletch in the Bella Vista Barrio. Joan had been reading about this restaurant and we had looked inside on another day and liked the sound and look of it ... and I liked the idea of another BIG burger! We walked a different route toward the restaurant and Joan purchased two pairs of very colourful baggy trousers that many women here wear. She had been looking for them for a couple weeks and finally found some with colours and pattern that she liked. Now she has to buy some tops to go with them.

The hamburger was apparently invented by a man named Fletch in Athens, Texas in 1880 and this restaurant has a distinctive American flavour to it. There are gangs of friends and many tables full of families having their Sunday lunch here. One man sitting at a table beside us sent back three separate burgers as they were too under-cooked for his satisfaction; he stomped out very unhappy. He was the exception. Everybody else seemed to be content and pleased and having a good time. The burgers were large and juicy and not under-cooked; the french fries arrived in a trendy small bucket; the beers were cold and refreshing; the sundae we split was very good.

On the way back to the apartment we stopped again at the Museum of Contemporary Art to view the four new exhibitions that had opened the previous day. Again, they were mostly under-whelming. The most interesting of the four was called Uso y Abuso (Use and Abuse) by the Chilean artist Patrick Steeger and consisted of a collection of three years of work in wood. The pieces are large and can be walked among and entered (like the huge gourd of which we have already posted photos). We passed a diverting, enjoyable hour or so there.

Glutton for punishment by jazz, I went back to the Thelonious Jazz Club for one more late night session. Starting at 11:30, another trio led by Jasper Huysentruyt. He is a young Belgian pianist who has relocated to Chile. Both his bassist, Nelson Alegria and drummer, Carlos Cortez, are Chilean. I had been hoping to hear all Chilean musicians but was quite content with the music presented. They played two sets of about 50 minutes, each consisting of four long songs, a couple originals and the others covers of contemporary jazz composers and musicians Ahmad Jamal, Gigi Gryce and Bill Evans and others from that era. Very enjoyable.

Having been to this jazz club five times in two weeks, I was recognized when I entered, a smile from the hostess and a nod from the bartender who put a bottle of the local Austal lager on the bar in front of me without me asking for it. I was a regular now and that always make one feel a little bit special!

After the gig I had a brief chat with the pianist to ask him if he had any cds for sale and learned that he had been working on a debut recording in Belgium which he had had to postpone when he moved to Santiago. He is a very talented young pianist in the mode of his contemporaries like Brad Mehdau and Ethan Iverson and his compatriot Jef Neve and is worth checking out online. He has a few tracks on Sound Cloud that are worth listening to.


3rd April 2014

Saying hello
Hello Greg and Joan, as always a very pleasurable to read report of your travels. I hope you are well and did not get stuck in the earthquake event. Take care, Gabi.
3rd April 2014

Chile and Earthquakes
We have moved from Chile and into Argentina. We are currently in Mendoza, a city that was entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1861!
3rd April 2014

Thank you for the update.
Travel safe...

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