4 September 2016
Wow those Pisco Sours have a kick.
We were befriended by a local, as you generally are at tourist sites, and there is always an angle. Yesterday we were ‘given’ a mass photocopied poem by a middle-aged man that later cost us $10. He explained that in Chile all universities are private, so the $10 was going towards a university education. I never found out whether the money was for his children or him. Hopefully for him, as the poem was one of the worst I think I have ever read; maybe its beauty was lost in the translation from Spanish to English. He did, however, pass on some sage advice that no university professor lectures on. Shaking my hand, this friendly hombre described the virtues of his homeland, finishing our interaction with “try some wonderful Chilean wine, the amazing seafood and the local drink Pisco. But try only one Pisco, because any more than one and you won’t remember finishing the second”. Well, I only had one Pisco Sour last night and boy does it pack some Chilean punch – my head is about as hazy as the polluted cloud that seems to permanently hover over Santiago.
Yesterday was dedicated to “Bellas Artes”. Most of the government-run galleries and museums are free on the weekend, so being the canny tourists that we are, we immersed ourselves in traditional and modern art.
It was my sort of day. Breakfast in a great cafe tucked off the street in a courtyard, followed by an antique shop, where my partner persuaded me that I didn’t really need to spend mucho dinero on something pretty that will just sit on a shelf. (I’m still not convinced, and besides, I already warned our cleaning lady that there will be more chachkas to dust following this trip.) From there, we toured the “Bellas Artes” gallery.
Museo de Bellas Artes, which lends its name to the whole barrio that it resides in, is a piece of art in itself, complete with its belle époque sweeping staircase and massive glass vaulted ceiling. The marble busts of famous generals, and Monet style ladies with parasols were, well, traditional. The modern art in the neighbouring gallery that has sprung from years of dictatorship was confronting and more inspiring.
We also managed some performance art and witnessed a mass Pokémon ‘happening’. We couldn’t work out why there were masses of people and portable phone charging stations throughout the local park. Yep, that famous yellow Japanese thing (I’m not sure, is Pokémon male or female?) has crossed the Andes. Now the Chileans can get sunburned necks as they head butt each other searching for that elusive character.
The live performance was a new one to me. You know those annoying guys who smear dirty water over your pristine car windscreen at traffic lights? The guy who you begrudgingly give two dollars to, wondering (a) why isn’t he in school?, and (b) why didn’t the lights change sooner? It’s a different angle in Santiago: rather than wondering why the lights are taking so long to change, you are entertained by everything from twins folk dancing in traditional dress to jugglers and even acrobats.
Now who wouldn’t pay two dollars to watch a strong man throw a young lady in the air or a Uni student juggle bowling pins between the change of red to green?