Argentina and Chile – April 2016

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Santiago, Chile – Barrio Bellavista

Photo’s are here or you can just click on the photograph above.

Next time we head to the southern hemisphere where the world is upside down and spring becomes autumn overnight we’ll remember to pack hats, scarves and gloves instead of 3 pairs of shorts each and a collection of summery tops 😉

To be fair, something cold and wintery blew in unexpectedly (courtesy of El Nino) so it wasn’t entirely my fault that we were inappropriately attired for the more “autumnal” days.

In any event, the sunny days were spectacular and the colder days gave me the opportunity to explore the coffee shops checking out the provenance of the beans and the finer points of the roasting process so that Geoff could be successfully maneuvered around the charming neighborhoods of both Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile on his weekend days off. Anyone who knows him well will be acquainted with his exceedingly high demands when it comes to coffee worthy of his refined palate. It can make or break a day of aimless city weekend wandering if a single bean has been burnt in the production of his macchiato or cappuccino. For me, so long as my decaf soy latte comes with a side of cheesecake I am far less pernickety 😉

For reference… anyone heading to Buenos Aires need look no further than Full City Coffee House in Palermo (the coolest, hippest, trendiest, and coincidentally, our favorite part of town). And when in Santiago don’t waste your precious latte savoring time anywhere other than Original Green Roasters in Providencia. Thoughtfully, I’ve saved you all the unnecessary calories acquired in finding the perfect New York cheesecake… it’s there too… how fortunate!!! 😉 🙂

…and to make it a thoroughly perfect day you can then skip across Parque Bustamante on a caffeine and sugar induced high and head down into Barrio Italia… my favorite part of Santiago 🙂

In case anyone thinks all I did was sample my way from one coffee shop to the next in these 2 wonderful cities, I did manage to squeeze in the usual criss-crossing through neighborhoods and parks.

This time, however, I was kicking leaves in Buenos Aires as they swirled around me rather than skipping through a carpet of purple jacaranda blossom as per our visit in spring (November) a few years ago. Buenos Aires is still fabulous in fall on a sunny day but it is far more fabulous in spring 🙂

For those interested in seeing the city at its most glorious here is the link to Buenos Aires in spring 🙂

I didn’t have time to revisit the famous cemetery or La Boca during this trip but photos of these other unmissable areas are in the above link.

The slightly more “autumnal” days brought to mind very (very) distant memories of  grey, miserable wintery weather in London… in fact, the very days from which we enthusiastically escaped nearly 20 years ago when we emigrated to the US 😉

Travel has taught us many things about the world and, in our case, sometimes reminds us of the reasons we aren’t terribly well suited to the rigors of 4 seasons. Despite my occasional protestations and declarations that I want to return to Europe, with hindsight, I think we’ll probably stick to the year round sun in our retirements after all 😉

On matters other than weather in Buenos Aires… watching life go by in the Plaza de Mayo in front of the presidential palace Casa Rosada (where Eva Peron used to address her beloved nation) was as lively as ever. You can never go far without tripping over a protest or uprising of one nature or another in South or Central America. This visit the banks were closed and there were various murmurings of discontent across the city which culminated in tens of thousands of white flyers finding their way unceremoniously floating down to litter the parks and streets. They certainly don’t conduct a tidy protest in this part of the world 😉

It was a delight to revisit the decaying beauty of the historic neighborhood of San Telmo, where you can see couples dancing tango in the park and its famous Sunday antiques and craft market fills the streets with the bizarre and the creative. San Telmo remains our second favorite part of Buenos Aires. The Centro area around Plaza de Mayo is bustling with government and office buildings, shops, shoe shiners, well-heeled (and polished) businessmen, newspaper stands, lottery ticket hawkers and the usual slightly chaotic street life of South America. As usual, we loved it all 🙂 The protesters demanding the return of the Falkland Island (las Malvinas) from the UK are still there in their park encampments surrounded by billboards covered in old newspaper cuttings of various events of the conflict. Fortunately, it seems from casual conversation, that the majority of the population realize that the ongoing prodding at the Falklands issue is a diversionary tactic by the government. Recoleta is the poshest part of the city with its Parisian style balconied properties. The street art in Palermo was just as spectacular as ever decorating the trendiest part of the city. And Puerto Madero is the newest part of the city with it’s ever-increasing numbers of ultra modern high rise offices and apartment blocks running along the banks of the optimistically named Rio de la Plata (Silver River 😉 ).

Geoff’s work successfully completed, we hopped on a spectacular 2 hour flight and headed north over the Andes to Santiago, Chile for the first time. Just as we stepped out from the airport we realized that we might need to consider investing in a scarf each. We headed straight to lunch hoping to find somewhere memorable in the historic centre. As it turns out it was quite memorable. By taking a wrong turn towards the Palacio de la Moneda, rather than find somewhere delectable for lunch, we were unexpectedly swept up in a fever of mass mourning for ex-president Patricio Aylwin.

Having inadvertently gate-crashed the state funeral of a clearly beloved leader we had absolutely no choice but to be dragged along in a mass of humanity, cameras, the state police, reporters and another political rally. A friend of mine from Chile once told me never to go to South or Central America in an election year… or whenever there are mass protests… she might also have mentioned not to wander blithely into a presidential state funeral. In a log jam of writhing humans all pushing in different directions there doesn’t appear to be any psychological or physical breaking point at which one group of Chileans will concede defeat and let the oncoming swarm of people pass. For a few minutes as more and more people tried to squish into a smaller and smaller gap between walls, barricades, lines of police and cameras I felt sure that I was having the air sucked out of me and that if Geoff (to whom I was glued) had tripped or fallen I would surely have been trampled underfoot. There was no unpleasantness or aggression, everyone was quite demure befitting the solemnity of the occasion, it’s just that Chileans don’t seem to understand that if you keep pushing and squeezing more people into a tiny gap rather than let someone pass and escape from the mass that someone in the middle of the scrum might actually die 😉

Just an observation…

Still… it was excellent practice for coping with the subway with which I became very well acquainted for the rest of the week whilst Geoff was working in his glamorous, glittering skyscraper in the Las Condes part of the city. Some of the most interesting sculptures are in the upmarket El Golf and Las Condes sections of the city where we were based. From every glass tower in this area you would have a view of the Andes – not a bad start to the day watching the sun rise on the Andes over your cornflakes 🙂

Santiago is a highly walkable city. Most of the historical neighborhoods of interest are close to each other, the Plaza de Armas, the Palacio de la Moneda, Barrio Italia (my favorite) with its boutique shops, courtyard cafes and antique furniture stores where you can watch the craftsmen at work on the sidewalk, Barrio Bellavista (the slightly grungy university area with street art almost to rival Palermo, Buenos Aires), Barrio Paris-Londres (2 cross streets with architecture reminiscent of Europe), Cerro Santa Lucia with Neptune’s fountain, Cerro San Cristobal with views over the city and the Andes and finally, Barrio Lastarria with its pretty street cafes, coffee shops and craft market. Strolling these areas (and testing out the various purveyors of cheesecake) kept me quite busy until the weekend when I took Geoff on the usual breakneck paced guided tour.

I saved testing out the fish market at Mercado Central until the weekend (mainly because it didn’t involve cake 😉 ) and I didn’t want to visit alone the Museo de la Memoria y Derechos Humanos with its chilling story of the Pinochet coup and subsequent dictatorial regime. To put the gate-crashed state funeral into the context of the national psyche, ex-president Patricio Aylwin was a democratic politician at the centre of the movement to defeat Pinochet and the first elected president after the demise of the Pinochet regime. His election marked the Chilean transition to democracy in 1990 and he was a staunch supporter of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission exposing the horrors of the previous regime.

On a lighter note, I also saved the trip to Pueblito Los Dominicos until the weekend because I was planning a big spending spree at the arts and crafts market and I needed someone to carry the shopping bags 😉 😉

Final stop before leaving another trip to fabulous South America behind us – the funicular ride to the top of Cerro San Cristobal to see the city with its backdrop of the Andes. In the time it took us to ride up the funicular the cloud had descended and the Andes had all but disappeared… oh well… maybe next time! 🙂

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