So far my on again off again years of Spanish language lessons has held me in good stead – I can say please, thankyou, I dont understand, and “como se dice in espanol?” We have managed to buy food, get directions, catch a taxi and even mind a young lady’s lunch for a short time whilst she found a friend. I am sure when I wake up tomorrow refreshed and in peak condition all of those well practised sentences will start coming to mind and I may even find myself having Spanish conversations!
The only real setback at the moment is a couple of rather savage injuries to my feet. It seems I now have quite impressive circles of bare flesh as the blisters acquired at my nieces wedding have decided to graduate to something more appropriate for hiking in Patagonia. This combined with the unplanned ankle twist the week before are only minor barriers I am sure. Using the mantra I recently saw on someone’s facebook page – I can be sore tomorrow or I can be sorry tomorrow – I intend to apply the necessary first aid and soldier on with our current sight seeing plan. I am only hopeful that I am not both sore and sorry tomorrow and that it is actually only possible to be one or tother!
What did we actually see then on our first day in Chile? Santiago has shown itself to be quite a modern city with a mix of poverty around the edges. As with all modern metropolis’s Santiago has the mandatory double decker hop on hop off bus and we were quite pleased to have taken this option for our introduction. We hopped off at the funicular which is just over one hundred years old and transported us up a rather steep incline to the most unusual outdoor Catholic church I have ever seen with an alter perched high on the hill. With signs “Silencio” scattered around and memorial walls seemingly housing ashes around the base, there was a rather impressive statue of the Virgin Mary looking out over the city and beyond and it felt like we were on sacred ground. The reason this was most unusual and just a tad disturbing was that we could also see an even more impressive mobile phone tower overshadowing Mary on the hill. If you could imagine the hill in Rio on a smaller scale you can imagine how important this would be to the people of Santiago however it was rather obivious that town planning restrictions were overshadowed by the growing need for mobile phone access in this vast city – it is a pity that no-one figured out that these antennae could be housed in something more appropriate for the hill – maybe an extra large cross or an even bigger statue of Mary. Note how small Mary is.
Anyway back on the bus we meandered our way past all the historic sites, many of which we will visit later, and we hopped off again at the largest shopping mall in Chile. The reason for the hop off here was two fold – I needed bandaids and I needed bandaids in a big way and secondly, the zip on my high security pacsafe shoulder bag gave way and I needed to replace it pronto! Sadly the shopping centre was not particularly hispanic and was not unlike any shopping centre we would see in Oz except to say that no-one, and I mean no-one, spoke a word of English and I had no idea how to say bandaid or travel bag.
Now this is where it gets interesting. Chilean Spanish is apparantly to Spain what Glaswegian English is to the rest of the English speaking world – unintelligible! (According to a young man at the bus counter the Northern Chileans cant understand the Southern Chileans either so they must be like the Scouses and the Scots!). The one saving grace was that my basic Spanish was based on the Spanish equivalent to the Queens English and they could occasionally understand me! Well maybe not but showing them my broken zipper and the bare flesh on my feet did help too me thinks. So success with the bandaids and minor success with the bag – the quality available ranged from high end Gucci with a sudden jump down in quality to Kmart. There was no in between. Suffice to say I did not go with the Gucci and I miss my Pacsafe immensely already and I havent even ventured downtown to the mercado yet! (The market is where pickpockets are likely to proliferate I am told).
So we finally made it back to our lovely heated room (chuckle chuckle) and after a brief siesta we headed out to dinner. Our lovely hotel lady sent us to a nice local restaurant which she informed us had atmosphere and was not too expensive. She was right! Again my basic Spanish helped but not enough – I was communicating with Chilean Glaswegians remember – no queso (cheese) no carne (meat) and only one pescado (fish) on the menu – I had no idea what it all said! Thankfully Chileans have proven to be exceptionally helpful and patient with us and our waiter (lets call him Eduardo) rattled off something Glaswegian and ran off to find an interpreter. We told Eduardo’s friend we liked meat and chicken and chillies and allowed him to order accordingly – he muttered something about scallops as he ran past a second time and before we knew it Eduardo was serving our table with bread, salsa, lemon and scallops. Did I mention the scallops? Roe on and cooked in a white wine vinagrette of some description – when Eduardo came to take the bowl I informed him that they were “no muy beuno!” (not very good) “ero fantastico!” (they were fantastic!)
We were, as usual, able to order the international drink of choice with little difficulty – dos cervezas por favor! Two beers please. I was also able to try my first pisco sour – it too was fantastico! Think lemony refreshing high alcohol and you are thinking pisco sour! Not sure what was in it but I guess I’ll have to get that recipe along with the scallop one. Main course consisted of meat and chicken cooked in garlic and chilli and other unknown herbs and spices – our son Liam would have been in seventh heaven – beautiful tender meat and chicken and there were absolutely no vegetables whatsoever! As a last minute challenge I ordered ensalada (salad) and patat (potatoes) to accompany and had no hope at all of eating all of the food on my plate. Well dinner number one was impressive. Lets hope Chile continues to impress our taste buds but doesnt increase our waistlines!
Pisco Sour numero uno! These photos were taken incognito with my phone so please excuse the quality – just wanted to share with you.