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Published: October 19th 2019
Hats off to Air France for a fab flight...great selection of films (I watched The Favourite and Rocketman), delicious aeroplane food (yes, really...and champagne!) and most importantly, we got there safely.
Arrived to find Santiago in a state of emergency. The taxi driver described the previous night as a war zone. Protests over increases in metro fares sparked military intervention and he said about 300 arrests. At the hotel, the owner had prepared a letter advising guests to stay in the area (Barrio Italia), although she said it would be fine to go out for a wander, giving us a map and some routes.
Casasur Charming Hotel is a gorgeous boutique hotel where we got a warm welcome, coffee and lots of helpful advice before heading out to explore. We aimed for the Mercado Central and made it there without really seeing any action or disturbance. In one block of flats there were people doing a ‘cacerolada’ - banging saucepans with spoons, but that’s about it. At Mercado Central, the main fish market, we were beckoned by countless waiters to visit their restaurant. A bit of a pain, and we had no idea which one to choose, so we
just found what looked like the main area and gave in, going to Donde Agosto which seemed to have a bit of a monopoly. Our larger than life waiter was very friendly and helped us choose our dishes: centejo al ajillo (garlic crab), mixed ceviche and a variety of (hopefully) local fish, washed down with a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (I didn’t check the label to see what we had, but it was good). A group of musicians played and sang several song. It was lovely and not intrusive and reminded me of Los Panchos. The TVs around the place started to show a football match before switching to the news, which was only about patches of unrest in parts of Santiago. All the waiters were gathered around their nearest screen to watch what was happening. Our bill came to CLP88.000 I think, so almost £100 plus $15 tip and we gave the musicians $5 and took a photo with them. One warned us to take lemons to suck in case of tear gas and so the waiter fetched us 3 halves of lemon. Pretty expensive, but really enjoyable and we’re too tired to hunt around for options.
We continued our walk visiting Plaza de Armas which is a large, pleasant square full of trees, benches, a fountain and statue. Probably the equivalent of Trafalgar Square. As we walked more we could see some military presence and some pockets of protesters. As the afternoon went on the activity was growing with some burning rubbish and other fires, someone letting off a fire extinguisher, people dismantling traffic lights and lots of car horns. It doesn’t feel threatening, but it does feel like momentum is building. Back at our hotel for a siesta there is a constant sound of car horns, crowd noise and overhead helicopters. Our tour guide for tomorrow has Whatsapped me concerned that we don’t go out tonight and that we leave early for the airport tomorrow!
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