Last day of vacation

Trip Start Jan 28, 2008
Trip End Feb 08, 2008

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We missed our day at the Ranch, due to yours truly not checking our flight tickets before booking the day trip.  Let's just say it caused some problems; the solution was to go today. Our phone just rang it is our infamous guide who tells us that it is raining in Spain or Patagonia or wherever and that means rain at our ranch and that means "I wouldn't recommend you going today..." (As if we had another day available). Then he tells us there will be a 50% cancellation fee. One is not born 'this' close to a bed of four leaf clovers just to have this stuff put over - one isn't, are they then?  No siree, no trip - OK, but no pay is the only way!  We paid nuttin' and even got our guide to drive us to the airport gratis.  So, what did we do for the day of rain in Spain or whatever. We decided to downtown Santiago - and again, what a decision that was! We would have missed much if we had not ventured in! This is how I wrote it in me l'il livre noire:
Our first full day in the city we headed to el centro (downtown) and cruised through Plaza de Armas and the streets in and around.  Plaza de Armas was a great place to watch street performers, artists, those selling a 'cause', sidewalk merchants and to regard the other tourists watching all this themselves.
Ingrid is talking to some guy who has noticed her accent and is already talking about Canada and Germany and one can see that soon he will asking for change for something. It turns out that he is working for a good cause and with all the credentials that go with it, so we give him a donation. In turn he starts to tell us where we can visit, how to get there, what other people miss etc. Thus, it turns out our favour to his cause was more than returned by his helping ours!  He mentions a large vegetable/fruit market and we are interested in checking it out. He also tells us the tale behind the sculpture of the head held up as if on display. It is intended to pay homage, respect and carry forward the memories of so many who have sacrificed their lives in this square fighting for their city, country and personal values. We couldn't get the artist. The statue was unmarked and unidentified.
Now walking around the square and stopping for a seat on a park bench we start to notice the buildings laced together with motley and eclectic styles of modern, Roman/Greco, Spanish Art Deco, and others which we do not pretend to know enough about yet. Just looking at the architecture and use of a light indigo blue on the Post Office, we cannot help but compare it with the Museum of Art, and the modern bronze statues of two men in a spiritual locking of what? - their souls leaving a battle field? Unfortunately we do not have the time to take in any of the insides of these edifices. We do note, however that on the outside, they are both different eras, unique statements, messages of a history that tells them apart.
Walking over to the cathedral we see it reflected in the modern all-glass towering office buildings behind them and we get a sense that the something is anachronistic and perhaps it is the people on the street! For the market that our gentleman guide had told us about,  it takes us a bit to locate it. We pass a large clothing district in which there are blocks of clothing stores, mostly cheap ones, and they all have their own original displays with much of their merchandise outside.  For some of the monuments, memorials and statues we see, there is no indication of their significance and we would love to find out. So far we have not found a guide book that provides this information and the internet has not yet yielded these secrets to us.
It is swarming with people and they seem to me to float in the heat and haze. We have a lot of opportunities to seek refuge, shade, refreshment and we do.   Then we walk right into Vega Central.  The amount of produce, the freshness, the size of produce were all mind-boggling; the photo below of the corn cob alone is a good indication of this.  The market is easily the size of an entire city block.  Next to it, equal in size, is another market filled with meats, dry goods, and household goods; stall after stall - vendor next to vendor. We feel like we are finding something with more local ambiance than touristy, it is good, but frazzles Ingrid a bit as she wonders about our safety. 
She has good reason to be cautious as she can see we are a minority in a mayhem of locals involved in their own daily commerce and livelihood. Yes, we are cautioned by vendors again on how to hold our bags, purses etc. But after a while we do realize they are saying it as much if not more for their own preservation of tourism and economic stimulus than the real fear that we will be pick-pocketed or worse. I tell Ingrid that I cannot see that we have to be anymore cautious here than any other city in the world. It takes one purse snatcher for someone to lose their money and that nefarious nicker could be as easily in my own home town (say in the By-town market) at high-noon in full daylight as here under the same conditions.
Ingrid was reluctant at first to venture in, touch, smell - wary she was. And then it all adjusted itself or she did and before long she was up to a stall and buying nuts in Spanish attempting to find out what two different types of almonds were although they looked alike. I have forgotten now, perhaps it was that one was organic or bleached or candy coated or whatever. I am sure when she reads this, she will correct my guesses with facts.
Now, as to the rest of the day; there was much to it. Much more walking, much more seen. But, like our whole vacation there is the strong sensation of seeing so little.  On one hand we are aware of the thought that tourists often see parts of a city and get to understand the personality of a city in one visit than many residents do in a lifetime. The difference is that the memories of the former fade and become revised with time and re-telling or re-thinking. With residents, reality is is like realty: youse pays a price for it, gets it and lives with it, termites and all...  It has been a fascinating, stimulating, cultural changing/adaptation vacation for both of us.
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