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Archive for the ‘Santiago’ Category

Awake at 6am for final packing and breakfast. We had another phone call at twenty to midnight last night, and Kirsten promptly unplugged the phone rather than answer it. Is it the receptionist’s idea of a merry prank?

Their next little joke was to ignore our request for a taxi at 7am, which we made yesterday. So a delay of 15 minutes while they phoned one up and we waited for it to arrive.

We got to the airport just behind a large group of Japanese tourists, so we queued at check-in for nearly half an hour – followed by a long wait while the girl behind the desk made a series of phone calls (with no explanation forthcoming). Eventually she told us it was about seating, and perhaps her efforts were unsuccessful because I was placed four rows in front of Hannah, Ellen and Kirsten. (None of this front-row treatment this time, but probably because we were not early enough in the check-in process.)

We were waiting to board the aircraft and suddenly heard my name over the tannoy-system.  Thanks to Ellen being only 6 we were classed as priority and boarded the aircraft before anyone else. We took off around 9.45am; estimated flight time 5 hours and 25 minutes. Like the New York – Lima plane, this one had LCD screens offering films, games, music, etc., so no need for the Zens today. I took the opportunity to see two recent films, Whatever Works (by Woody Allen) and 500 Days of Summer (seemingly based on a true story of unrequited love). Both curiously coming to the same conclusion about how our lives (and loves) are shaped to such a large extent by random events.

We landed pretty much on schedule and emerged to a sun-kissed Pacific isle of palm trees and sandy coves. Not. Driving rain under a leaden sky, more like. (Just so you don’t get too jealous back at home.) We were reassured that it’s not usually like this; perhaps related to El Nino. So we’re just really unlucky, then – is that any great reassurance?

We were met outside by the owner of Hostal Aukara, who decorated the girls and us with a fresh flower necklace each.
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She then gave us a quick tour of Hanga Roa in her 4×4 before taking us to our room. Here the shops, there the small beach, bank, market. All within walking distance, but not so pleasant in this weather. Our room is basic but adequate (beds, chairs, shelves and a shower room), and set in a delightful lush garden. Breakfast is included (we’ll see what it’s like tomorrow) and we have the use of a kitchen if we pay $5,000 per day for the gas we use.

Our room.
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We dumped our bags and went out to explore the surrounding streets. Various small mini-markets, some restaurants and cafes (few prices on view). We bought a large bag of crisps, a medium bottle of Canada Dry and two small drinks cartons, all coming to a good £9. This place is pricy, perhaps the most expensive of our entire trip. And we’re here for over a week.

Main street, Hanga Roa.
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Hanga Roa’s small beach.
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The girls had a good play in the garden while we rested, and then around 6pm we went out again for supper. Our first choice, Cafe Ra’a, had just filled its three tables and turned us away. Our second attempt had nothing appealing on the menu apart from salmon with vegetables, and then we were told that the accompanying vegetables were not available. The third establishment offered WiFi access and a limited choice, so we went for a plate of fish, chicken and beef with chips to share between the four of us (a bit like in Casa Adobe, San Pedro). But this alone came to an eye-watering £24, and then there were drinks to add on top of this. We now see that it could be worth paying the £6-a-day gas tax and doing our own cooking – if we can afford the ingredients.

Back to our room in the rain; the two-hour time change makes it extra-late for the girls, and we are tired as well. Hope we get some better weather tomorrow.

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All MIMsy

We planned to have our own breakfast this morning – cereal, yogurt, fruit – rather than the hotel’s offering. And yet we were miffed when we weren’t even given the opportunity to turn down the included breakfast; it never even appeared! Kirsten did take the precaution of unplugging the phone after 11pm last night, so perhaps they tried to contact us at some unsociable hour again, and no response = no breakfast.

We passed a laundry yesterday, so this morning we took a bag of washing along to see if they could do it before tomorrow. No problem (ready by 4pm), but for once it wasn’t a per-kilo pricing system but a fixed sum for one machine load; $4,000.

Then on to our nearest Metro station eight blocks away (one month from now they’re opening a string of new extension stations, one very close to our hotel, but that was of no use right now). To the interchange joining the red line to the green line, and then south to Pedrero station. My internet research advised us to get off here, then take a colectivo taxi no. 5066 to the Punta Arenas entrance to the Museo Interactivo Mirador – or MIM for short.

But once at the station, we saw no taxis and couldn’t work out which way to head. The second local we asked for help pointed us towards bus stop no. 2 where we should take bus E05. (The first local simply advised us to walk.) So we got on the next E05 – and promptly realised that we needed a special ‘BIP’ card to pay for our journey. But the bus was on its wy by now, so a kind fellow passenger bipped us on her card and we repaid her in cash. Another passenger said she’d show us where to get off (as that was another concern of ours).

The only problem was that we were deposited at the Sebastopol entrance to MIM, which only functions at weekends. So we had an 800m walk to the other entrance where we could buy our tickets. Fortunately it was a grey day so not too hot.

So at 10.20am we managed to get into the museum, along with a constant stream of little ones from all the surrounding primary schools, it seemed. I quickly booked seats for us in the 3D cinema (the history of the universe) but the first available time was 12.45pm – probably the final showing of the day, as the museum closed at 1.30pm on Mondays.

In the meantime we browsed the interactive exhibits on offer; good fun for the girls and for grown-ups as well. Indeed, during our three hours there (including the film and lunch) we didn’t quite manage to get round every room. There were themed areas; light, sound, fluids, mechanics, electricity, the Earth, etc. Chaotic pendulums, vortex rings of air, Bernoulli beachballs, colour mixing with light, wavy mirrors, a giant weighing balance (Kirsten and I had apparently lost 10% of our pre-trip mass, but we don’t know if this was an accurate measurement), a pedal car with square wheels, a mirrored cube offering reflections to infinity, variations on Pepper’s Ghost, ferromagnetic fluids doing their hedgehog thing, zoetropes, music from around the world, a ‘bed of nails’ to capture the shape of your face, body and hands.

El Museo Interactivo Mirador (MIM).
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Too many ice creams…
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Accidental tourists.
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Flat tyres.
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Film star.
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Pillars of society.
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Metamorphosis (no photo editing involved).
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Timfinity.
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At the appointed time we reported to the 3D cinema (those flat 2D ones are a devil to squeeze into, aren’t they?) and took our seats in the second row. School parties filled up all the other rows, the older ones at the back. Funny big polarising glasses on, and ready for the show.

No stereotypical mad scientists here…
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Unfortunately it was the history of the universe with added big bangs (of the audio variety) and gratuitous scary bits, so Ellen cowered in Kirsten’s arms for much of the time. Asteroids zooming out of the screen and into your head, a shark and a T Rex coming for you, jaws wide open. We could see the children behind us grasping in the air for the flying objects (e.g. man’s landmark artefacts over the last 2000 years which for no valid reason were made to speed towards you like moths into a windscreen at night).

There was a fair amount of sound information in the film, but if anything the 3D effects distracted and detracted from the message. And not that much of it was about the universe; the first few minutes only, then we got onto life on Earth, especially the big, scary animals. (Not many rabbits or kittens scampering about the auditorium.)

A bit more time in the museum, then it shut and we were asked to leave. We ended up walking back to the Metro station because we couldn’t find any buses or taxis; not too far, as it turned out.

As we travelled back on the underground, Kirsten felt faint so we got off for a while. Then as we attempted to squeeze on to the connecting train the doors suddenly closed on Ellen’s head (without the usual warning beeps) so we retreated and waited for the next one.

At Escuela Militar (our destination station) we took a different exit and fortuitously found ourselves near a nice pastry shop. So we paused there for a drink and a small Berliner before walking the eight blocks back to the hotel. On the way we picked up the laundry (ready by 3.15pm) and once back we flopped for a while.

Out for supper to the mall, where Kirsten took the opportunity to buy a new pair of shoes to replace her broken, hurty pair. Shoes, bags and other leather goods are very good value here, but books – especially English language ones – are alarmingly expensive.

A Subway sandwich for Ellen and burgers for the rest of us, then back to base. We bought too much food (sadly not main meals) at the supermarket on our first day here, and we won’t manage to get through all of it, unfortunately. We’ll take some to Easter Island if possible, as all food is understandably pricy over there.

Some packing tonight, ready for a 6am start tomorrow. Taxi at 7am with our flight due to leave at 9.30am. See you in the South Pacific…

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Miró, Miró, Andy Warhol

First of all, I’m astonished that a quick Google returns no hits for that obvious but painful play on words. (My back-up choice was ‘Walls of Géricault’, but that’s been done a few times.)

Anyway, Artequin was a big hit with the girls. In brief, it’s a gallery with reproductions of the World’s Most Famous Paintings all at kiddy height. What’s in and what’s out is always going to be a contentious issue, but it was a fair attempt, ranging from Giotto to a recent US artist with a French name who died at the age of 28 whose name escapes me.
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Most artists were accorded just one representative work, and there must have been 60+ paintings on display (there were a few gaps, for ‘restoration’, I assume – i.e. where overenthusiastic toddlers had poked holes in the polystyrene-mounted prints).

Marilyn Monroe was there, but I confess I didn’t see a Miró… (So perhaps I should modify the title to ‘¡Mira, mira, Andy Warhol!’.)

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Background information? This was largely down to the accompanying adults. A rack of little cards offered grown-up explanations in Spanish, but there was nothing immediately accessible to children – and guided tours didn’t seem to be on offer. There was an introductory film (in which Degas’ little ballerina came to life and talked to characters in some of the paintings) but this was merely a taster. And some artworks appearing in the video were frustratingly absent from the current exhibition…

Upstairs a few interactive bits and pieces where you had to group paintings into categories or pair up images on spinning blocks, but it wasn’t as clear or fun as it could have been.

Still, it’s a good way to give children a whistle-stop tour of 700 years of Western art without all that tiring walking round a big gallery (or without visiting London/Paris/Madrid/Florence/New York to see the originals). And seeing framed reproductions hung on walls does have the edge on flicking through pages in a book or on a computer screen.

So here’s an interactive challenge for readers of this blog: name ten paintings that must have been featured (other than those you can see in the above photos). Remember – no more than one per artist.

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Underground, overground

Well, even though I was pretty tired yesterday evening, I didn’t sleep as well as I had hoped. It didn’t help that the phone on my bedside table started ringing at 11.30pm! Thinking someone had dialled the wrong number I picked up the receiver and put it down again, only for the phone to start ringing again. It was the receptionist asking what time we would like breakfast brought up to our apartment! We didn’t even realise breakfast was included so I very sleepily decided we would like it at 8am. I must have got some sleep though, as Tim mentioned someone tearfully declaring his love to a lost girlfriend in the middle of the night, which I hadn’t heard… Luckily the girls, who are sleeping in the sitting room, slept through everything.

At about 8.15am our breakfast was brought upstairs. We were each given a tray with a small glass of fruit juice, a bread roll, butter & jam, a very small fruit salad and the tiniest slice of cake I’ve ever seen. Tim & I opted for cafe con leche, which is a cup full of hot milk with a tiny bit of strong black coffee, except we were each given a sachet of instant coffee. I thought South America produced coffee beans, so why can’t we have freshly made coffee instead?

While the girls were getting ready for the day, I decided to skype home and catch up on the latest news. Mum looked very well after finishing her last chemo session. Let’s hope that’s it now – Tim & I had celebrated the end earlier this week by drinking a whole bottle of Chilean white wine!

When we were all ready we headed out towards the tube station to catch Linea 1 (red line) towards Santa Lucia.

The streets of Santiago.
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One for JTP…
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Tim asked in Spanish about tickets and we ended up buying 10 single tickets for the day, again both girls were free but each time had to squeeze through the barrier with one of us. We slightly overshot, so returned one stop and got off. It was a lovely change to be able to walk through a green park (Cerro Santa Lucia) as opposed to dusty roads or deserts.
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We walked slightly uphill and saw several fountains, then out on the other side of the park and off to the Plaza de Armas, the main square.

Church on the way to Plaza de Armas.
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Plaza de Armas.
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Once there we didn’t see all that much of it, as we were in search of lunch and headed down one of the side streets. We found a nice little eating place (they did ice cream as well – maybe for later?) and both girls opted for “un desayuno executivo” or business breakfast. They would have the hot ham & cheese sandwich and fruit juice and Tim & I would have the hot drinks (tea for T, coffee for me). Tim chose a Ranchera pizza (tomato sauce, cheese, beef, pepperoni and sweetcorn) and I had a triple sandwich with chicken, red peppers and mayonnaise. All very nice, and very filling.

After lunch we walked across the Plaza de Armas diagonally to catch metro Linea 5 (green line) to the end stop at Parque Quinta Normal. We wanted to visit Museo Artequin and Tim had been told we could walk through the park and out the other side, cross the road and there would be the museum. But of course it wasn’t that simple. None of the exits at the other end of the park were open, which meant returning to the original entrance and walking alongside the park.

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I think it took us at least a good half hour but we found it in the end. Both girls coped well with the walk and the heat (about 30ºC by now).

(For information about the museum I would like to refer you to Tim’s entry.)

Two hours in the museum seemed a good length of time and we went back to our lunch place to treat ourselves to some icecreams. Both girls chose a “Pinki” which was a dollop of cream with banana icecream (Ellen)/raspberry icecream (Hannah) on top, smarties and biscuits. Tim & I shared a massive bowl with four scoops, stracciatella, tiramisu, cherry and lemon on top of some fruit. We also got two cuchuflies, a very thin biscuity tube filled with light caramel and covered in chocolate.

Then time to head back to the apartment to cool off and have a rest.

Supper consisted of cereal and yoghurt for the girls and salad for the grown-ups.

Santiago skyline from our apartment.
Santiago panorama

As the evenings last longer here we let the girls stay up a little longer, but as I’m typing this (it’s now 9.45pm) they have only just gone quiet…

Santiago by night.
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A broken night’s sleep; more noise than usual last night and the usual waking up in the early hours to check ‘is it time to get up yet?’. My desired shower was impossible because San Pedro had run out of water the previous evening – the flow only returned as we set off.

Anyway, we stuffed the last-minute items into our bags, had a quick bowl of cereal and Jorge loaded up the car. We were off by 6.20am; the long, 90km journey to Calama. (Every time they want to pop to the supermarket, it’s a 120-mile round trip!) Maria Antonieta came too (perhaps to do some more shopping – with us paying a substantial £48 towards their petrol…).

Life on Earth is remarkably adaptable and resilient, but pretty well nothing had a foothold in this bleak, dry terrain – miles and miles of barren landscape, made even less welcoming by the landmines to our right (a remnant from the Pinochet era).

Markers counted down the kilometres in 5km intervals while I watched my watch. The journey took longer than the promised hour, so we were glad to have set off slightly early. At last the first oasis town since San Pedro came into view – it was Calama. We looped off before it and found the airport, pulling up just behind a coach from San Pedro (this would have been cheaper, but we would have had to get our bags into the centre of town).

We had about an hour before take-off, but we passed smoothly through the check-in desk and through security – they are not bothered about liquids in hand-luggage in this part of the world (we each took a 600ml bottle of water on board).

Advice to round-the-world travellers; take a six-year-old with you (or younger). This way you (usually) get priority boarding and front-row seats with lots of legroom… (And the six-year-old will get free admission into lots of places.)

All was rather boringly straightforward; we took our seats, the plane departed on time, it was a smooth flight down through the top half of Chile with the Andes all the way on our left and the coast all the way on our right. Oh yes, it got greener as we travelled 900 miles south, and the Andes started acting their height, with a liberal sprinkling of snow on the peaks.

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We landed at 10.15am at Santiago airport, and here began our Country Mouse experience. We saw shops! Not just little stalls selling drinks and nibbles, but jewellery, designer goods – Lacoste, etc. Shiny and expensive luxuries instead of the everyday necessities. Yes, this is how things are in some parts of the world, but we had quickly forgotten.

Bags collected, we took a taxi to our hotel. $15,000 (although they conveniently omit the thousands when giving you a price, to make it sound more reasonable). Yes – so this is what motorways are like…

Our driver didn’t know where our road was in Las Condes, so he made a couple of phone calls (now mobile phones have been ubiquitous throughout South America, so no culture shock there). But eventually he found the address and deposited us.

We couldn’t check in until 1pm (by now it was 11.30am) so we left our bags and went off in search of lunch.

Four blocks down, a modest shopping centre. We gazed in open-mouthed wonderment at sparkling displays of yet more jewellery, clothes shops, shoe shops (whose wares now owed more to fashion than to practicality). And on the top floor, a paean to fast food; everyone but Big Mac was represented. We were flummoxed by the choice – Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC (although we never seriously considered it), Subway, Burger King, Fritz (German fast food), Doggis (hot dogs) and at least four other outlets.

[We eventually settled on a small Sub for Hannah, a quarter chicken with mediocre chips and veg for Ellen and Kirsten and a couple of Burritos for Tim and Kirsten.]

Back to the hotel to get the key to our room; it was not quite ready. (Apparently another UK family had checked out only this morning – they might well be RTWing too…) After ten minutes we were given the go-ahead, and we’re happy with our choice once again. A small kitchen, bathroom (with a bath), bedroom and living room with a convertible sofa bed – and a balcony. The reproductions on the walls are Van Gogh, though, not Dali – Blue Irises, Cafe Terrace, Road with Cypress and Star.

Out around tea time to have a drink and something to eat, then to wallow in the prodigal profusion of produce in the (proper) supermarket opposite the mall. We got mince, eggs and onion to make meatballs as well as a stack of other essentials and not-so-essentials (honey-roasted nuts we haven’t seen for a while).

Supper with a glass of Chilean Rose and Berliners for dessert (they are nearly as good as the Belgian ones).
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The sun sets later here, nearly 1000 miles further south, and we can look forward to many more increasingly long, light evenings.

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