Oops, it’s taken a bit longer to write this blog than we usually like to take, but I started Spanish school and Steven hit the ground running at work after a quiet holiday week. We were very exciting people on New Year’s Eve: we binge-watched “Bad Sisters” and had a glass of wine at midnight. In Santiago, people celebrate holidays by not working and this mostly includes the people who would serve you if you went out to a restaurant, so many of them are closed. Obviously, they are also closed for New Year’s Day and a lot was closed Monday, too.
First thing is school. I decided to keep going with Spanish classes even though people told me Chileans use a lot of slang, never enunciate the S, speak quickly, and don’t open their mouths when they talk. All this is true, but it’s still worth it. I am in the advanced class because I was good at the grammar test I took. Speaking is a lot more difficult, especially because my aging brain doesn’t retain vocabulary that well. The other person in the class is a MUCH better Spanish speaker than I am, but I am struggling along and learning a lot about Chile in general. Or at least, I am learning what I think I am understanding, but I’m not really sure.
We have been wanting to go to a movie in a Spanish-speaking country for a while and we finally made it. Unless they are massively popular movies that children and illiterates want to see, the movies here are in their original language with Spanish subtitles. We saw “El Menu,” which was very strange, darkly funny, and had excellent Spanish subtitles that I could mostly understand since everyone in the movie was speaking English! The theater was an old-fashioned, one-screen affair with a balcony and velvet seats. As far as I could tell, there was no popcorn, or any other refreshments. That didn’t matter because before the movie, Steven and I went to Papachecos, which serves fresh papas fritas (French fries) in a paper cone with the toppings of your choice. I’m not talking ketchup here (although it is available). I had sauteed mushrooms and tapenade and Steven had pollo mostada (mustard chicken) and salsa barbacoa (BBQ sauce). The fries are made on the spot and the line is always long, but moves pretty quickly (for South America). Yum!
The rest of the week moved on quickly and we had a trip to the coast to look forward to. Saturday morning, we headed to the airport to pick up a rental car. After a bit of confusion (which seems to be the norm when we do something new here), we were on the road. First we drove about 90 minutes due west to Isla Negra, where Pablo Neruda had a home on the ocean. Neruda seems to be the only internationally famous Chilean, unless you count the dictator whose name no one says here. We toured the museum/house, which was interesting, but the audio guide was a bit too detailed (some of the rooms had 5+minutes of narration), but the grounds and the view of the Pacific were spectacular. Our guide in the lakes region of Patagonia, Manuela, has a house there, and her grandparents were friends with Neruda, so that added to the fun. This also served as our Dead Person Bingo (short game, only one person), since Pablo and his third wife, Matilda, are buried on the grounds. Before heading to the museum, we grabbed some empanadas and they were freshly made, so that was also a nice surprise. Often, they are sitting in a display case waiting to be reheated.
From Isla Negra, we headed north to Viña del Mar, a resorty beach town. We decided that if we were going to go there, we should stay right on the beach. We got to the hotel around 4:30, headed up to our room and realized there was no reason to leave the grounds. We had a balcony with an ocean view and the pool and bar area was right on the water. Aaaaah. We spent the evening looking at the water. I sipped a pisco sour, Steven had beer and then we shared a vegan ceviche, which is basically veggies in lime sauce. Excellent. We were so enamored of our balcony that we just ordered room service and sat listening to the ocean and trying to see the stars. With the full moon, it was a bit tough, so the Southern Cross will have to wait until Atacama.
We had a bit of a cash incident in that we were unable to get cash. All the ATMs were shuttered on Saturday when we left Santiago and the machine in the hotel was broken. We learned this because two men had its guts open and one of them made the universal signal for dead — a finger swiped across the throat. We tried again Sunday, but were rewarded only with the message below.
The good news is that because we had to find a bank, we met a Dutch couple, Sabina and Jean Luc, and they were really nice! After a successful ATM transaction, we walked on the beach, bought our usual souvenirs (fridge magnets) and then headed back toward Santiago. It was lunch time so we stopped in the town of Casablanca. From Google, it looked like there were tons of restaurants on the main drag. One lesson we have learned: Don’t trust Google in Chile to find businesses. After driving in circles for a bit, we found a restaurant that turned out to have a nice patio — and two items on the menu. Fried fish for me and chicken for Steven. Not my first choice, but it was tasty and the people were (as usual) very nice.
After lunch we headed back to the airport, dropped the car, took a cab back to our Air BnB, grabbed our grocery bags and hit the Metro so we could go to the really nice supermarket. We shopped only for groceries at the Jumbo, which is in the fancy mall that has all the international brands, instead of the barely adequate one in our neighborhood. We hauled our six grocery bags out the door and right into a cab.
Another weekend in the books. I wonder what next week will bring?