Unlike in Italy, there are Starbucks in Chile. This fact we confirmed after sleeping late and missing breakfast at our hotel. Becky hit the streets to find coffee and came back with Starbucks. It seemed better than the other nearby option, Dunkin’ Donuts! Its scary when you are 5,930 miles from home and these are your two coffee choices. Hopefully, this was just a Sunday morning thing and we will have more options later in the week.
The weather in Santiago was warm and reminiscent of Los Angeles in October—not too hot and just a little bit smoggy. It was pleasant, short-sleeved weather for our day of light sightseeing.
From the room, we headed to the Metro. Sorting out the details was more complicated than typical as the signs were, by in large, only in Spanish. As the day progressed, we’d find that the largest and most metropolitan city in Chile is largely Spanish only. We suspect that a Spanish only speaking person coming to Los Angeles would have a comparable language challenge to us visiting Santiago. Nonetheless, a Metro is a Metro and some things are pretty much universal so we were quickly on way to the Centro District to see some of Santiago’s major sights.
The Centro has some of Santiago’s most important churches and governmental buildings built in grand style. Fundamentally, the buildings look like similar structures in Europe. Yet, like most New World construction, they have an unmistakable “newness” to them, perhaps because they were “only” constructed in the 19th Century. Either that, or they just lack the knack of the artful decay of the Old World.
Our access to the buildings was limited by a large contingent of riot police equipped with water canon tanks and buses cum paddy wagons with every glass surface covered with metal mesh. Now, I’ve become pretty accustomed to seeing the natives wanting to riot when Becky arrives in town, and who can blame them, but this seemed to be much more than the usual response. Becky talked to one of the policeman and he said that there was a nearby event that last time had ended in a riot but this time everything was calm now. It also turned out that Prince Charles was visiting at the time, so that may have also been a factor.
One place where we were able to see the inside was the “Museo de Chileno de Arte Precolumbino” or in English, the “Chilean Museum of Precolumbian Art”. I’m usually not keen on this type of museum as I typically find them somewhat dry. But, it was Sunday and entry was free, so we went on in. Despite my initial misgivings, the collection was quite interesting and certainly “art” worthy, even with modern tastes. Many of the items were beautifully crafted and decorated. I’d be happy to have the pieces in my home, though the museum security people seemed to object to me starting my own collection from theirs. Most often, the pieces had practical uses. One section displayed smoking pipes. Another display had what were called jugs but they sure looked like bongs to us. Maybe they were just multi-taskers!
After the museum, we continued wandering. We are always on the look out for something different to taste when we travel. I suspect this will someday be our end, but so far, so good. This time we tried “Copihue: Jugo de Huesillos.” Google Translator tells me that this is “Chilean Bellfower: Juice of the Bones.” Perhaps, in this case, Google was not giving the complete story. At least I hope it is not the complete story. The drink seemed like it was sweet tea with a dried apricot and softened wheat, though further research would be required to verify this ingredient list. In any event, it was good, a little sweet, slightly malty from the wheat, and with the strong aromatics of the apricot and the tea coming through. It’s a good thing that we didn’t do the translation first!
More pictures from Santiago: http://picasaweb.google.com/AnotherHeader/Santiago#