Today it’s time for some lessons from the road:
- Keep track of the compromises you made
- Remember where the hip neighborhood is (and that you were a few minutes walk from it)
- Wide-angle lenses lie (which we knew but …)
Perhaps it was partly because Patagonia was so magical, but even before we got to Santiago, we deflated. I looked back at our AirBnB listing only to find that the WiFi was inadequate. To be fair, the host had told us that, but we have no recollection about why we thought that was OK. Steven is very diligent about work and I could feel his anxiety ramping up.
We got there without any trouble, headed up to the ninth floor, opened the door and … the apartment was smaller and a bit more, how shall we say it — basic — than we remembered. The view is of some rundown buildings and a patch of dry grass. Certainly no snow-capped volcano. After the host’s very nice niece departed, we realized there was only one small AC unit in the living room and the place was hot. Late afternoon is the hottest time of day, so that didn’t do much for our spirits.
Then, Steven took a shower. Well, he tried to take a shower, but water merely dribbled out of the shower head. Sigh. I tried the shower in the other bathroom, but I could barely turn around to get my back wet. It was not shaping up well.
We did have a very delicious dinner at Le Bistrot Viet (yay! Asian food with many vegan options!!) a 10-minute walk away, but on the way there, the city seemed desolate. Lots of metal grates covering closed shops. Plus, we were one of three couples eating (of course it was VERY early, 7:30). We were not feeling hopeful. Also, the streets seem to be lined with people selling what our Spanish tutor, Marcela, calls tanteria, or crap.
It didn’t really improve when, after a 25-minute walk with the host’s other niece, who speaks no English, and 2-hour wait at the Entel store, I returned with a hot spot that did not really improve the WiFi speed. Oy!
We had high hopes for the grocery store because we went to one in Puerto Varas and it was large and had a selection of the food we like, but the one near us here is smaller and not as well stocked.
Finally, there’s a state of emergency in Lima and we are understandably reluctant to go there, sooooo we were searching for alternatives. The AirBnB market is getting tight (more on that in another blog) and our options were limited. We thought we would just move up Medellin and hope that Lima would clear up, but we came to the conclusion that we want to stay somewhere for more than six weeks. Because, by the time we settle in, we have four weeks of routine and exploration and one week of getting ready to leave before we move on. Just not enough time. We are hoping, instead, to spend three months in Mexico City. Fingers crossed that our AirBnB comes through.
We did enjoy the party after Argentina won the World Cup, but I wish we had been in Buenos Aires for that.
And now for the good news …
Steven’s life philosophy is: It’ll work out. Sometimes, when he says it, it’s calming, but other times, I want to strangle him (or put a pillow over my head when I am sleeping – luckily I sleep with one eye open). THINGS DON’T JUST WORK OUT. But, actually, they do!
- We have settled into the apartment and it’s just fine, if not luxurious.
- I fiddled with the shower head and now the water pressure is adequate (again, not luxurious, but fine).
- There’s no humidity, so while temperatures get into the 80s around 4ish, it’s in the 60s at night and heats slowly during the day, so the one AC unit is fine.
- If we go to the supermarket in the morning, they have a better selection and we found a semi-bare Chinese market that had a few of our staples.
- Best of all, we decided to go for a walk yesterday (the coffee we bought at the market is yucky and I saw a hipstery-looking cafe that I hoped would sell bulk coffee) and found a great neighborhood! The streets were still lined with people selling things, but it was art fair not cheap socks. I even found Frida! Plus, the streets were also lined with cafes full of people.
But wait, it gets better! We wandered up and down the street and decided to sit at a wine bar, BocaNariz. I mostly did it because I thought it would help up acclimate and feel better about Santiago. Boy, did it work!
Not only did we try flights of Chilean wine, but we made new friends who I hope will be lasting ones (Hi Ken and Natacha!!!). They were sitting next to us and we struck up a conversation. They are writers who live in San Francisco, although Natacha is French (and speaks great Spanish!). She was meeting up with colleagues, so we sat and bent Ken’s ear for a few more hours while we shared a bottle of wine.
The street was lively and full of performers. A group (see video) danced in the street and cars (mostly) good-naturedly waited them out.
Oh, and I haven’t mentioned that Chileans are warm, friendly, helpful people who will talk to you in the grocery store, give you guidance, and speak English if you ask or Spanish if you want to try.
We walked home feeling much, much better about Santiago.
Later today, we are headed to the Colchagua Valley wine country. Nothing is open here or there on Christmas, but we figured it would be nicer to be in the hills and go for a nice death march (nice death march? Isn’t that a tautology?) than to be in the city. Stay tuned.