Trip Start Feb 10, 2008
Trip End Aug 14, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Thursday, February 28, 2008

This is the start of our South American adventure and we certainly feel as if we are in a foreign country.
Our flight in from New Zealand was the first time we had flown with LAN airlines and, despite warnings of delays with South American airlines everything went smoothly and we arrived 25 minutes early in Santiago. The service and food were excellent and we had our first 'Pisco Sours', the national dink of Chile.They are a blend of grape spirit with lemon juice, sugar and egg yolk and are delicious drunk as an aperitif.
No problems getting from the airport to our hotel which is very comfortable. Centrally located close to a metro stop (easy and safe metro to use) and in a quiet district with walks through parks into the city. Some guide books suggest that Santiago is just a stopover on the way to more interesting areas of Chile but we are pleased that we booked for 4 days here. We have not rushed around sight-seeing but have wandered at leisure around different areas of the city, just strolling and observing. Each day we have seen amazing sights. On our way to the Museum de Belle Artes we saw 2 jugglers on unicycles entertaining traffic stopped at red lights. They had to jump off pretty quickly when the lights changed and traffic surrounded them. On our second day we saw a man holding his dog by the paw to 'walk' across a busy highway. Next day there were 2 boys washing(soaping up etc) in a water feature in the centre of a busy city-centre roundabout. They were having fun and so were all  the passers-by. The people here are so friendly and smile a lot. They seem to have a certain 'joie de vivre'; a Latin quality. The city is a mix of old and new as seen in the architecture but we find it attractive such as the small hidden squares one happens upon.
The main Plaza De Armas, with its statues and artists, is an interesting place and the Mercado Central with its fish market and restaurants is full of life.

Today we took a funicular up to the statue of the Virgin at the top of the Cerro San Cristobal(over 800m above the city) then a cable car down. The views of the city surrounded by snow-capped Andes is amazing. It is around 30 degrees in Santiago. The photos are not very clear because of the usual city smog here(if you click on the photos they will appear in a larger size).Our overall impression is of a city full of life and excitement and a friendly, helpful people.

We  were a little concerned about language problems but are doing OK with the help of our phrase book which is well-worn already. The staff at the hotel are great at helping us with any language problems.
The food is delicious. Fresh seafood and local dishes such as Empanadas( a sort of Cornish Pasty and a bit stodgy) and Ceviche(a delicious raw fish dish 'cooked' by adding lemon juice, herbs and onions). Love the fresh bread. David reckons he had the best Creme Brulee ever last night. I love the quince paste served with cheese and also for breakfast with the jams etc.
We will be sad to leave here tomorrow but are heading south by car. That will be a real adventure trying to negotiate the roads and drivers here.
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Where I stayed

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