We’d reached South America and found ourselves in an Ecohostel in a tidy enough room and with facilities to cook should that float our boat. Free breakfast was back on the cards and it was good. Long before we arrived in Santiago we’d found out that the World Press Photo 2012 exhibition was taking place in town; we’d visited the 2011 event in Krakow little over a week into the journey and really enjoyed it so it seemed like a fitting start to our time on this continent. We found it with little trouble and while it didn’t seem as good as the year before it was still a provocative and powerful exhibition of the best press photos from the past 12 months.
After we’d taken this in we decided to wander across town through Universidad Catholica to the main square in Bella Artes. This was called the Plaza De Armas and we’ve since found out that there’s pretty much a Plaza De Armas / Plaza Meyor in every Spanish speaking city in South America. On the plaza we found countless performers, most notably a troupe of traditional dancers living it up Chilean style. We wandered back and forth taking in some of the local markets before making the long walk back and taking a late siesta thanks to the jet lag / my inherent laziness. That evening we stayed in, finishing off the night before’s pizza alongside our first bottle of in-country Chilean red.
After another good breakfast we wandered to GAM which is some kind of art / architecture / library complex. We could absorb little in the way of information as it was all in Spanish but the building itself was very modern and very nice and the exhibitions were visually cool. They also had a Puma store complete with an array of limited edition footwear, a pair of which had I been at home I would have snapped up without a second thought but as a traveller demonstrated supreme and uncharacteristic resistance.
We wandered through Parc Forestal to MAC (the local modern art museum) which was almost completely disappointing – in my Neanderthal eyes it was full of every modern art cliché that gives the genre a bad name – save for a single room with some funky fem-comic paintings crammed in on a limited time exhibition. As the afternoon wore on we were getting peckish and went back to Plaza De Armas for our first taste of Chilean snacks – hello Empanadas! These are basically pasties so nothing too ground-breaking but when you’re on the road it’s important to consume as much local food as possible…at least I think that’s the rule. We returned to the hostel having picked up supplies to cook-in for the evening and save a little more.
The weather on our third day in Santiago was dodgy when we awoke so we decided to extend our stay by another night and spend the day pulling together a plan for moving on. We considering getting stuck in with Spanish lessons in Valparaiso – the next city on our list – but decided to wait and see what we thought of the place once we arrived. I took a wander into town to do a bit of shopping and flexed my weak Spanish in the purchase of a new, much more padded, guitar case with a zip that worked and an Americano in Starbucks. It’s the simple things.
I spent most of the rest of the day pottering about on the laptop, getting some guitar time in and even listened to the dulcet tones of Michel Thomas arguing with his students as he attempted to teach me Spanish on my IPod.