Home Sweet Home

It is hard to wrap our arms around this giant trip. It already seems like we were in Santiago months ago. So much has happened in just 2 weeks, perhaps our brains just have a hard time processing so much information. We are glad to be home. I’m looking forward to planning our next trip south, there is so much more I want to see. I’m glad we stuck to the cities this time for the history lessons and architecture. Next trip, I want to escape the city life and see more of the country.

Highlights:

  • The Metro in Santiago. Travel within this city was easy, fast, and very affordable. Get a BIP! card at a machine or kiosk, and ride away. The train stations are underground, clean, and full of art. Trains come about every 2 minutes. Efficient, clean, beautiful, and affordable public transit? Why yes! Never once did we feel unsafe, intimidated, or uncomfortable.
  • The people in Santiago give up their Metro seat to the elderly, particularly older women. It was very heartwarming to witness, day in and day out, people offering their seats to others, even on a crowded train.
  • The Green Bicycle Tour of Santiago was worth it. It was called Parks and Politics – we visited parks and learned some political history of Chile. We were joined by two men from Brazil (one a huge NFL fan), our tour was in English, and we learned so much. The conclusion of our trip was riding through Santiago rush hour traffic – pedestrian and automobile. Because we survived, I can say I’m glad we did it. Next time, we pick an earlier tour time.
  • The GAM in Santiago, was Devlin’s favorite place of our entire trip. The Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (aka GAM) has significant historical and cultural play in this city. It was built by the people of the city by significant volunteer labor for a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in 1972, was overtaken by Pinochet during his brutal ruling and used as an “interrogation” center, and is now a community cultural center that is frequented day and night by local people, young and old.
  • Spanish varies, depending on where you are. There is no right or wrong dialect. Some areas are easy to get along with knowing the basics and others are not. And the next time someone tells me that Spanish from Madrid is the “correct” Spanish, I will ask them to go to Santiago, take a bus out of town, and see how far their “correct” Spanish gets them!
  • Food. The food everywhere was amazing. Empanadas! Steak (Bife de chroizo, bife de lomo)! Pastel de Choclo! Helado! Parrillada! We were adventurous (blood sausage anyone?) and open minded. We strictly ordered off the Spanish menu, except in one restaurant where they gave us an English one, and we were entirely confused because nothing translated to what we were used to seeing.
  • Pastel de Choclo is something I need to learn how to make. Oh my! Creamy corn atop of a mixture of ground beef, chicken pieces, olives, raisins, hard boiled eggs, onions.
  • Pedestrians in Santiago expect the right of way ALWAYS – to cars, bicycles, and other pedestrians. No one yields. You must be bold.
  • Watching NFL games in Spanish is more fun than you think! Watching Marshawn Lynch score a touchdown and hearing the Spanish commentary was a highlight of the game for us.
  • Bus travel in Chile is cheap and very nice. Think Greyhound, but better.
  • Taxis were cheap in Buenos Aires, provided they were ordered through “secure” channels. It is not recommended for a tourist to hail them off the street.
  • The city of Buenos Aires could save millions of pesos a year by not painting lane lines on the roads. No one uses them. A single left turn lane will be 3 cars wide.
  • Mr Hugo Bikes in Maipu, outside of Mendoza, is all that plus more. If you want a family friendly, family run business to support, rent your bike here and enjoy the wine country. He and his family will entertain you with wine after your ride while you wait for the bus or taxi back to your lodging.
  • Buenos Aires is beautiful. The Feria de San Telmo (San Telmo market) on Sunday is a must. Buy or not, it’s worth the walk through the entire thing. And do it twice, just in case you missed something on the way down. You might want to pack an empty bag just for this experience. Buy some fresh pressed orange juice and some churros while you browse the tens of thousands of vendors.
  • LAN Airlines knows how to efficiently move passengers via air. The US-based airlines need to re-look at their boarding procedures. LAN gets it done faster and with less chaos and stress. Oh, and they still give free snack boxes!
  • Non-native children who speak Spanish (or try) are much appreciated and respected. They bring extra patience, smiles, and many compliments from the locals.

And for some media entertainment – Live music at a Metro station in Santiago:

Electric guitar in Buenos Aires:

Street music at the San Telmo Sunday market:

And a final slideshow with some favorite memories!

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The Green Bicycle

We started the day with a walk to the closest Metro station – perhaps 20 minutes from our hotel. It’s beautiful and the walk was nice after a great night’s sleep.

Devlin’s Spanish was great as he helped us buy Metro cards (Bip!) and the machines would only take small bills, and of course we needed more pesos on the cards than we had small bills. So off to the counter he went to chat with a human. A few minutes later and we had our cards and were on the train.

I will say that Metro here is amazing – clean and easy to follow. There seems to be a train every couple of minutes. This system makes the Metro in Washington DC look like a dump. It was busy even at 10:am, but nothing intimidating.

Off to lunch in the Barrio (neighborhood) Lastarria. I had crab empanadas. Devlin ordered himself a grilled roast beef and cheese sandwich. David enjoyed grilled ham and cheese. Devlin says the lemonade was fantastic.

The big adventure was our bicycle tour of the city – art and politics. We arrived at the Green Bicycle tours for a 2:30 tour and were joined by 2 men from Brazil. The tour was in English, but the pre-tour chatter was in Spanish with Devlin and another tour guide. And funny enough, one of the Brazilians had just been in Portland for the International Beer Festival!

The tour was great. The cultural and history lessons were beneficial to say the least. Democracy here is so fresh. And with many not having money to spend on political campaigns, here they express themselves in graffiti.

I will say this, a bike tour, or riding any bike for that matter, in Santiago during evening rush hour is not for the faint of heart. Let’s just say that I am not sure I can describe the absolute insanity, volume of people, and masses of cars as a pedestrian, and we were on bikes. It might take me a day to recover from repeatedly being near panic! Our tour guide was sure to point out to Devlin that he can go home and tell his friends how “badass” he was riding a bike here.

We celebrated our survival with a walk up Santa Lucia Hill and a visit to Castle Hidalgo. The views of this massive city were impressive. And afterward we were more than ready to sit and relax at dinner.

Ah dinner. Ceviche for me, pasta for the men. Post dinner meant ice cream at a local helado shop. We had to wait out the Metro crowds (think sardines in moving vehicles) anyway, and the area was fun to explore.

We are debating tomorrow and our next steps. I want something with less adrenaline.

It was explained to us today that Chileans don’t speak Spanish, they speak Chilean! And so things like strawberries are not fresas but rather fruitilla (likely spelled wrong). Crab is not cangrejo but something now I can’t even remember. But we are getting by thanks to our 10-year old translator. And yes, the kid translator gets many smiles and extra patience from the locals!

Until tomorrow, enjoy a few pictures from today.

Crab empanadas for lunch

Crab empanadas for lunch

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The Green Bicycle – La Bicicleta Verde – our tour company

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Art from the roof of the GAM – Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral

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Castle Hidalgo at Santa Lucia hill.

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View from the top of Santa Lucia. Santiago is a huge city.

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My ceviche dinner – Ceviche del norte – fish, shrimp, scallops

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Helado = ice cream

Two Birds

We have arrived safe and sound in Santiago, Chile after two uneventful airplane rides (the two birds). None of us managed to get much sleep, but we made it through today without any issues. But we are ready for bed!

Temps are in the low 80s and we spent much of the day outside trying to avoid sleeping the day away. We walked around Parque Arauco, a giant and beautiful park not far from our hotel. After a lunch (pizza, sorry!), we hit the pool deck to get re-acquainted with our books, and some of us may have had a quick nap in the shade.

As expected, we have run into no-one outside the hotel that speaks English, so Devlin is helping with some of the basics. We have a few things to figure out ASAP: 1) We have not found a functional ATM and 2) Buying produce is more complicated than bringing it to the checkout counter. And because we won’t be spending $30 USD each for breakfast at the hotel, we need to get some basics like bananas in the room so we are not starving in the morning.

We are still forming plans for tomorrow. I suspect we will tackle Metro and see some of the city on bicycle, hunt down some empanadas, and eat some helado (ice cream). We will try to get out of town on Saturday, and explore more parks and areas in town Sunday and Monday.

We didn’t take many photos today, but here are a few:

Check those ingredients - azucar!

Coca Cola de Chile – Check those ingredients – azucar!

At Parque Arauco

At Parque Arauco

Yes, the Chileans and Argentinians call their cuts of beef differently. See the cart and animal diagram for explanations.

Yes, the Chileans and Argentinians use different names for their cuts of beef . See the cart and animal diagram for explanations at the grocery store.

Unique and beautiful.

At Parque de Arauco – Unique and beautiful sculpture.