Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Day at the Beach

We should have more fotos!

Stairs to the beach at Algarrobo

Main beach that's safe for swimming

Further down the beach

I went to the beach yesterday!  (apologies to all my friends who got blizzard-ed on Friday)  Mi amiga, Eliana, had been to Algarrobo many times as a child and thought it would be a great excursion.  After the initial madhouse at the bus station (summer vacation time):

 we had a great trip to Algarrobo.  There are lots of bus companies that run between most of the cities in the country, and the busses are generally clean and comfortable to ride in.  The trip to Algarrobo (wiki: Algarrobo) took a little over an hour.  

An aside (as the authors said in Victorian novels)
There are advantages to living in one of the most litigious societies in the world, one of which is that because most people in the US, if they had an accident, would sue over a broken sidewalk or an obviously neglected stretch of road.  Not here!  The infrastucture is a more than a bit crumbly in a lot of places. Vina's sidewalks had holes large enough to break a leg or an ankle with one misstep and called for constant vigilance.  But, as you might expect, the newer parts of the big city of Santiago are a lot better, which led to my complete lack of concentration in Algarrobo.  There was a large chunk of concrete buried in the sand and dirt of a parking lot entrance and I found it with my right foot.  Cut to the cartoon footage of someone flying through the air towards certain serious injury...  Luckily for me, a scraped elbow was the extent of the problem, a day later and the thing that's most painful is the slow-mo film in my head.  A kind man at the vegetable market cut a piece of aloe for me and the scrape has been healing wonderfully.  

The day was a complete delight. It was one of those perfect beach days with a breeze, some high clouds and lots of sunshine.  We had almuerzo (lunch) at a great seafood restaurant:
Our table in the corner (you can actually see the water)

After lunch we took a long walk along the seafront down to the world's largest swimming pool.  

The world's largest swimming pool
 It IS actually big enough to sail or kayak in, in fact, there were a couple of Hobie Cats sailing down at the other end.  The pool is popular because the ocean is chilly, as in really cold.  The Humboldt current comes up the coast from Antarctica and keeps the temperature down.  The pool is salt water, but it warms in the sun and is filtered.  The resort is absolutely huge. There are 10 buildings, and another under consideration because the property is so well liked.  The condos start at $200/day, but everyone of them has an ocean front view and balcony.  

The good news is that the beach in front of it is close to deserted even in the height of summer.  There's a walk alongside the pool and we strolled north, then sat for awhile and watched the water and the birds.  (those are the pics up top)

There are other beach houses and a resort further north, much quieter than the southern end of the beach.  Yikes, I forgot to mention there's a yacht club and there were a bunch of boats out sailing, even a few racing!

We took the micro (meecro) back to the bus terminal and road comfortably back to Santiago.  (I got to ride the metro again!)  Home to the view:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lo Siento, lo siento! (I'm sorry)

I have been taken to task by someone who does it better than most for not updating this blog in two weeks! The suggested post follows:

"I'm OK but I can't be bothered to waste my precious time writing stuff for you pathetic voyeurs up in El Norte. Adios. Aunt B." 

Okay, okay... I think you deserve a bit more than this.  I've been a busy student.  Three more tenses and about 500 new words thrown at us have slowed my brain down to a crawl.  It also turns out to be more exhausting than I ever believed it could.  But I DO have to say it's incredibly rewarding when the right word finally mumbles out of my mouth.

Today had the incredible luck to mix up the verb cargar with another that means to evacuate one's bowels (to be fair, there's only one letter difference).  I was at the farmacia recharging my cell phone, and managed to thoroughly shock the woman behind the counter before she figured out I was American.  Luckily my friend Eliana was there to help out.  

Your friend Eliana, you say?  Do we know her?  Nope, let me introduce her to you.  Her name is Eliana Nolan, she was born here in Chile and has lived in the US since the '70s.  She was married to a giant, amiable Irish American man who recently went to the great pub in the sky and had come down here to take care of her mother who was quite ill with cancer.  I met her at the bus station in Vina when I was off to visit Santiago for a weekend (the one before last).  The bus was late, and I was trying to find out in mangled spanish what was up.  She rescued me, got us on the bus - the same one - and then through the metro system in Santiago.  Turns out she's from Petaluma (CA).  

Another incredibly lucky happenstance.  We met again in Vina, discovered a mutual love for the 49ers and watched the Super Bowl together at her apartment here in Santiago. It's been great to find such a wonderful new friend!

Yep, Santiago, capital of Chile, built at the foot of the Andes, which are pretty hard to see through the haze and pollution.  The weekend I spent wandering around was great.  For those of you who aren't on Facebook, it was the all out American experience.  A night at the Radisson, with a massage in the spa, right across the street from the biggest mall in S. America.  A great splurge!  And an interesting experience to boot.

This was the weekend of the South American Presidents' summit and one of the Presidentes was staying in my hotel.  There were police and men in black everywhere, plus an x-ray and metal detector at the entrance.  Did I mention the guards on every floor?  I felt pretty darn safe.  But all those big wigs put a real cramp into the "City Tour"via bus on Sunday.  Let's call it an "Un-tour". We spent an incredible amount of time trying to get close enough to see any of the public spaces, which were in lock down for the summit. It was interesting to get the back view of the main public buildings, something most tourists don't usually see.  The guide finally gave up and took us to the Cerro Sta Lucia, which is a public park (that really was ) built on a hill for the rich folks so they didn't have to mix with the non-rich.  Gorgeous climb up the hill, and today I discovered that there's way more park behind the hill that I didn't see.  

As is usual in these tour situations we HAD to stop at an authorized lapis lazuli (beautiful blue mineral stone) dealer for authentic and certified pieces of jewelry and figurines.  Needless to say, it was a bit expensive.  Chile is one of two places where there is lapis, the other being Afghanistan, so the prices are higher as the supply has been reduced, but really, $185 for earrings?  Creo que NO!

Spent the rest of the day walking the neighborhood and window shopping, hopped on the metro for the bus station, bought my ticket with no problems (I'm almost a local) and rode back to Vina.  It was a great break especially the pampering in the hotel, oh, and the unbelievably good dinner of Argentinian filet mignon with mushrooms, asparagus and baked potato, accompanied by a nice Chilean cabernet.  The beef was tasty, tender, terrific and grilled on a wood fire. Que rico!

It's time to get serious and study some more for tomorrow.  More later, I promise!