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Christmas Day - Santiago
On arrival in Chile, you get given what looks for all the world like the receipt from a coffee bar, but we gather that losing it will cause us major aggravation.
So, into Santiago, the capital city, where we'll spend a couple of days before heading South.
We're staying at the Hotel Magnolia, which doesn't look too exotic from the outside, but it has a definitely personality inside.
The legs are walking normally, it's just that the bodies have turned into stripes. We presume this is a video art installation, not a broken monitor.
This is probably the first overt sign we've seen that Chile has even heard of Christmas.
Over the years, we've spent Christmas in quite a few places around the world, many with little or no Western Christian tradition, and we've seen some weird and wonderful interpretations. It's all very low-key here, though, despite the Spanish history.
There's a nice little lobby bar, although it's a bit devoid of staff. This is Christmas Day, of course, and while the lights and decorations may be few and far between, it seems that people are happy to have a day of holiday anyway. On the way from the airport, we were told it's not normally this quiet on the roads.
We do manage to attract some attention and get a little spot of lunch.
The room is not particularly fancy, but it's comfortable and clean and has all the necessities.
As it's now mid-afternoon and we're reasonably rested and not badly out of sync time-wise, we're going to go for a little local walk. Tomorrow we've got an organised city tour, but the sun is shining and it's pleasantly warm without being excessively hot, so we are keen to enjoy it.
This is the hill of "Cerro Santa Lucia", a short walk from the hotel, and we've been recommended to visit it.
It's a bit of a climb to the top.
Santiago sits in what is pretty much a flat plane apart from the odd Santa Lucia, but it's not far to the mountains.
The reflection shows the colonial-era fort built on the hill.
Well there's some curious graffiti! For the non-Spanish-literate who are too lazy to use Google Translate, it means "Long live the lesbians!" Can't argue with that. [For the avoidance of doubt, I must stress that we also wish long life to our straight female friends and family.]
We descend the hill and continue our walk to Balmaceda Park. Probably not named after the airport town, I imagine they're both named after some important figure. Let me Google: ah, maybe José Manuel Balmaceda, president of Chile from 1886 to 1891, but there's no immediate suggestion that either place is related to him. Disregard that theory, there is no supporting evidence. LONG LIVE THE LESBIANS!
I'm pretty sure he's not a lesbian; but a fellow-traveller? Could well be. This is from a fountain in the park, of course, which is in the form of a rather extravagant boat sculpture,
A bit more context. Probably doesn't help, but if I tell you it's somehow connected with Germany (gift? collaboration? homage? whatever: it's not clear) maybe I can deflect questions of meaning into nonsense about Lohengrin and swan-powered boats (even if there are no swans here; but see later) and if that doesn't work, I'll just say things like 'Bauhaus' and 'Jugendstil' as if I knew what they meant.
Makes a change from padlocks! Prettier, less pretentious and less damaging to the civil engineering infrastructure, so that's a triple win! (I'd really like to know how long the average eternal-love-lock couple actually remain together.)
The Mapocho River runs down the middle of Santiago, not unlike the Thames in London. But unlike the Thames, it's reduced to little more than a fast-flowing stream right now. By contrast, Wikipedia tells us, "In April 2016, following heavy rain, the swollen river flooded property in Santiago and contaminated the drinking water supply for millions of people."
The graffiti/street art is basically a declaration of indigenous identity. 'Mapuche' as the name of a group of people is not TTBOMK related to 'Mapocho', the name of the river, despite being similar-looking words.
We head back to the hotel...
We're not totally lacking in Christmas themes.
Which brings us back to the fact that it's Christmas Day, and after seeing the hotel a bit short-staffed at lunchtime, what will be the situation for dinner? There's a back-story here. A month or so previously, Lauren (our Audley specialist) had told us that there would be a special gala dinner, and would we like to book it? We were not 100% convinced, but then we were told that it would be the only dining option available, and that Audley would cover the cost as a thank-you for our standing by them over the years. Well, ok, still not 100% convinced, but if it's the only option, thank you very much.
Our lack of enthusiasm for gala events is born out of many years' experience of hotels valuing style over substance without actually having any style. Getting dressed up like a dog's dinner in order to eat a dog's dinner just isn't our thing. We've been known to choose peanuts and crisps and a decent bottle of wine in our room over a celebratory extravaganza before now. But we'll see...
So yes, please book for us, we had said, but then it turned out that there isn't this special Christmas menu on Christmas Day itself, just the normal restaurant fare. Are you confused? We certainy were.
And now that we're here and the hour is upon us, the confusion doesn't immediately clear! The main restaurant is actually closed today, because they don't have the staff. The rooftop terrace cafe/bar is the only place that's open, and while we do seem to have some kind of reservation, it takes everyone a while to figure out who's who, where's where and what's what.
Finally all is resolved, and we can sit out on a warm evening with a very decent bite to eat and some fine Chilean wine.
Strictly speaking, we've probably ordered a bit too much food, but it's always a problem when you're in an unfamiliar place and don't really know what any given dish on the menu might be in reality. It's very tasty, though, so we don't insult the chef by leaving any. [Unless a clean plate insults the chef by implying you weren't given enough in the first place. Tricky things, cultural values.]
And so to bed.
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