Sunday, January 08, 2006

Santiago, Chile

Holiday Inn Express, Santiago, Chile

I think I've landed in the Beverly Hills of Chile. I went out this evening and discovered the people here are almost painfully beautiful. Well, I didn't really notice the men.

After a few hours' rest this afternoon, I asked at Reception for dining recommendations in the area. Just a block from the hotel, a restaurant district begins, featuring many of the familiar American chains: Bennigan's, TGI Friday's, Hooters, Starbucks, etc.

I picked one I didn't recognize, Tiramisu. It looked popular (in contrast to Hooters, which seemed dead.) Sat out at a sidewalk table, which offered a great people-watching vantage point. The buses that passed frequently reminded me that there's another reality in this city, where people can't afford to dine at these restaurants. From their windows, some riders seemed to look with envy on those enjoying food and drink along this boulevard.

I ordered a pizza and beer. I was actually quite surprised how good the pizza was. I had arrived ahead of the dinner crowd, about 6:00. As the restaurant filled up, I found it remarkable how many infants and toddlers there were: I counted at least eight just in the half of the restaurant I could see. Several were waddling around amongst the tables.

A very warm evening. This city reminds me very much of L.A. - at least of the "best" parts of L.A.! The warm breezes, wide boulevards, dramatic mountain backdrops, pale turquoise sky, and, of course, the beautiful (and, coincidentally, affluent) people. At 9:30, it was twilight, and I walked a few blocks to a plaza where a stage was being set up earlier for a flamenco show.

The show was in full swing, with hundreds of people gathered to watch the free concert. With seven dancers and seven musicians, it was an incredible show. The intense and vibrant performance was almost overwhelming. Such energy! (I think about popular American rock in contrast and how "laid back" it would appear compared to this!)

With nice, wide uncongested streets, and new cars, people tend to drive very fast in Santiago. Yet they display a courtesy that's refreshing after all these months in Latin America. It's all so civilized. However, if you're mowed down by a speeding car, it hardly matters if the driver was courteous.

I had to stop at Starbucks for a "night cappuccino".

***

Some residual stiffness in my lower leg from the fall near Machu Picchu, but things seem to be nearly back to normal. I suppose I didn’t crack any ribs, just bruised them.

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