So another day in Santiago saw us walking, walking, walking. We caught the subway to Plaza de Armas, the point from where all distances are measured in Chile. We circled around this main square and through one of the museums and then headed for the mercedo central (thought I should test out security on my new bag). All went well but the bag was proving quite a nuisance to get things out of so my camera stayed in my hand and we stayed alert and finished the visit without incident
Before leaving the centre of Santiago we found an arcade that specialised in sharp things and we were botth impressed with the number of manicure kits. Strangley enough it is almost impossible to find a good quality manicure kit in Australia these days – maybe because there are nail bars on every corner and we arent supposed to file our own nails anymore. Anyway for whatever reason I was impressed and managed to communicate my desire to have the address written down so that I can return an maybe purchase before returning to Australia.
The walking really began when we headed up to Barrio Bellavista to see Pablo Neruda’s house. I told my beloved we must see Pablo Neruda’s house and he agreed saying “absolutely I could not imagine a visit to Santiago without a visit to Pablo’s house – who exactly is Pablo Neruda?” Well he was a Nobel prize winning poet who wrote under a pseudonym so as not to upset his dear old dad. After a stint in Spain and one in Paris he was a strong member of the Communist party which was most recently overthrown in the early 70’s when the country was taken over by a military dictator by the name of Pinochet who seemingly liked to torture and kill his detractors. Prior to this Pablo had also spent some time in exile around the time he expressed support for Stalin and complained about an earlier Chilean regime. Anyway the Pinochet dictatorship lasted until the early 90’s when Pinochet died and the next guy decided to see if the people would prefer a democracy – at least that’s what the taxi driver said. Apparently as Pablo died soon after Pinochet had taken over, his funeral turned into the first real protest under the Pinochet regime and many Chileans (but not all) still hold him in high regard even today. The question most asked by my beloved husband and I was how the hell did a poet manage to travel the world and live a life of luxury whilst writing love poems and political critiques – especially if he was a true communist and not a capitalist in any way? The answer – I should have known – work for the public service.
Clearly the accuracy of my historical facts can be checked against wikipedia (cause obviously that is a more reliable source) or you can just accept this as enough information and go and read some of Pablo’s love poems which he wrote for his lovers and wives over time. Communist, adulterer, poet, party animal – it was an interesting visit anyway you look at it as he had quite an eclectic collection of items which he used to entertain guests – including a salt and pepper shaker marked as morphine and marijuana. The house also had a view over santiago (fast disappearing with new construction in front of it).
Whilst wandering around on foot we discovered a couple of little known facts about Santiago. 1. There are dogs everywhere just sleeping around and seemingly owned by no-one. 2. There are private hospitals on almost every corner. 3. There is a high proportion of the population that seem to smoke. Not sure if any of these three points are related but there you go, interesting facts on Santiago that we didnt read in a guidebook. Perhaps the number of hospitals is a direct correlation to the number of smokers and I am convinced the dogs are lying around because they are so hungry and thirsty that they dont have the energy to bark or annoy anyone.
Our wandering took us to a local eatery which we decided to try for lunch. This again was a challenge for my language skills but I impressed myself with my ability to be understood and we decided on the Menu of the day which included 3 courses and was exceptionally good value. For under $10 we had the mandatory bread with salsa, ensalada and a chicken and a beef dish – we declined the included postre (dessert) as we were so full. The tastes were unique again using herbs and spices that we could not identify. I will assume those flavours are unique to Chile as neither of us could identify flavours we had ever tasted before.
(Photos will have to come later as the internet here is somewhat lacking and we are going out of range for about 5 days – remember to follow this blog and I’ll up date it when we come back.)