After a good night’s sleep and long showers we are both feeling much better. The changing of the guards in front of La Moneda is at 10am (every other day, we know from our ADSMundo rep that it is on today) but a late breakfast gets the vote. The setting is glorious: we are sat on a rooftop terrace, by the poolside, with views overlooking the city and the Andes not too far in the background. I treat myself to fried eggs and bacon – had a taste for that several days now – and fresh orange juice. We’re the last to arrive for breakfast; in fact, the tables outside had already been set for lunch so when Ness picked a table outside this was greeted with a raised eyebrow, so what? The next guy who turns up is politely directed to the 2nd floor (gents club) bar – ha ha!
We have a few things to arrange before exploring Santiago: hotel, flight, car hire, all to be revised so we can arrive a day earlier in Temuco/Pucon. ADSMundo can do the hotel and we will have to do the flight ourselves. Lan Chile’s phone systems keeps repeating that “all our operators are busy” so we go to the nearest Lan Chile office. We’re number 112 in the queue. While we’re waiting Ness nudges me and says “isn’t that whats-her-face-from-sailing-from-Deloitte?” Sure enough, it’s Karen, looking very much the traveller-on-a-budget part. She is here with another guy, Ed, a Canadian, who is booking his flight home, although he doesn’t seem to have much of one – he seems to be in a permanent state of travelling off the beaten track in a big way, including a few days spent with Amazonian Indians taking part in their hallucinatory ceremonies and shrinking monkey heads. Ness inadvertently sends our drinks and Karen’s camera flying, which prompts a spiel from Karen about how she has had the camera for five years, etc. (it’s knackered, fell on the grille below the table), angling for some kind of apology/compensation but none is offered by Ness so I’m not sure what to do – keep quiet I decide. Conversation earlier was about our respective trips, but now we have a few uncomfortable minutes. Then Ed comes back and we go our separate ways after another drink. The little drama is soon forgotten and, after having taken care of last details for Temuco (car hire) and changing into shorts and sandals we’re off wandering about town.
Forgot to mention: we were able to watch the changing of the guards from our rooftop perch! You couldn’t have wished for a better view, it all worked out beautifully. They looked like tin soldiers from the roof – oh for a pea shooter!
The centre of town, in fact all of it, is laid out in the familiar grid system and feels much like Buenos Aires. I’m wary of street people, all too soon confirmed by the presence of a few grubby urchins with hands that seem to fly about everywhere. It’s going to be a watch-your-wallet day. Our first visit is to find Bernie, on the plaza-something on the other side of La Moneda. We carry on strolling, not stopping anywhere in particular until we reach a little square next to Cerro Santa Lucia (?). The hill forms a small park in the middle of the city, crowded with fantasy build buildings, gates, mini-plazas, fountains. We climb the hill along the stairs, getting great views of the city and Andes along the way. At the top we have a great 360° panorama. On the way down we stop at one of the little gardens with a lily-filled fountain. A tour bus about to leave has to wait while the tour guide runs around trying to find a missing person. We stroll on, sticking to shade wherever we find it. The walk takes us through the Parque Forestal and round to the Plaza de Armas, buzzing with people, vendors, etc. Everywhere in the parks people were snoozing and schmoozing. Starting to feel peckish now and a McDonald’s is hard to resist, but we resist the temptation and opt for the alternative of a piccie-by-the-pool (our childish name for “pisco sour”) The rooftop pool has a bit of sun left before it disappears behind the restaurant and we have a short swim. The water is cold at first but soon feels comfortable albeit heavily chlorinated.
Our evening in Santiago lies ahead and we feel like a good dinner. A taxi takes us to Bosque Norte, a street in the smart Las Condes part of the city. The driver suggests Puerto Marisko, a good fish restaurant, and drops us right in front of the place, where eager doormen usher us straight into the restaurant. Our plans for a wander up and down are scuppered. Marisko looks very smart, with waiters dressed in captain’s uniforms (blue blazer and silly hat). We are shown to our table and asked for our choice of aperitif with the efficiency you would expect from a five-start business restaurant. A table near us as four suits schmoozing, two x Chilean, two x Brit/Yank. The Brits/Yanks represent a shipping company. The menu is extensive, with selections arranged under the headings “Coastal”, “High Seas” (main courses), “Life Savers” (for non-fish eaters), “On Dry Land” (desert). Ness chooses a mixture of Chilean crustaceans as starter and turbot as main, and I’m experimenting and go for picorocos gratinados (success) and abalone with spinach and Roquefort. The latter is big failure. Abalone is some kind of mollusc and I’ve got pink chewy semi-circles of the stuff to work my way through. I give up after putting a brave face on it for a few bites. The restaurant can arrange a taxi back for us so we don’t even have to wander around, but still get a bit of a view from the cab. Final drink back at the hotel. We have already packed most of our stuff earlier on. Glad to be moving on. Santiago was brief but long enough. City is just not something we feel like right now.