Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chile can be Chilly

This weekend I'm in Santiago de Chile. Two hours' flying time from Buenos Aires, with the last bit of the journey over the spectacular Andes. It's clean and modern, with a compact and easy to navigate central area which has several pedestrianised streets.

The thing is, it's a holiday weekend. Not only is it the 200th anniversary of independence, but also the country's Military Day. Since these take up Saturday and Sunday, the government has made Friday and Monday holidays as well. Great for the Chilean people, but it means hardly anything is open. That, at least, makes it cheap.

A couple of hours after arrival I took a metro ride to Providencia, to visit my friend Felipe, who I met when he came to New Zealand. After admiring the view from his apartment balcony, we drove around the city and its suburbs, stopped for a walk in Parque Metropolitano (which has an even more expansive view), visited an artisan craft market and had drinks and some food in a nice cafe.

Saturday morning I went exploring. Very soon my attention was caught by the sound of a military band. There was a big event going on for the bicentennial, and a lot of streets were sealed off. So was the central Plaza de Armas, although I got back there when it was open later in the day. I was rewarded for waiting at my vantage point by seeing the President, Sebastian Pinera, go past in an open carriage as he reviewed the troops, only a couple of metres from me.

While I was waiting, it had been pretty cold. During the daytime, perhaps from 11 o'clock onwards, the temperature was up above 20 degrees. However, it drops away sharply overnight, down to the low single digits. Hardly surprising, with snow-covered mountains providing the scenic backdrop to the city.

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