short winters

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5th May – still in short sleeves

Let’s get one thing straight, I will never “love” winter, but it’s a case of “grin and make the most of it”, at least until I’m rich enough to spend each southern winter in Europe.

Winter in Chile certainly seemed a lot shorter than I’m used to back home, maybe because it was SO different, that the novelty of it seemed to make it go faster.

Sure, the average “low” temperatures are lower, but the average “high” temperatures are higher, and the sun is so often out.  Plus, unlike Melbourne, there’s no wind and hardly any rain so, yes, you have to rug up, but at least you don’t have to carry half your wardrobe and an umbrella.

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29th May – snow & blue skies

The downside is that, with minimal wind and rain, but more cloud and moisture, the pollution is at its worst in the winter, and sometimes you can literally see the smog cloud at the end of your street.

But, there’s snow!  Not like in England, where it falls on the ground in the cities and goes mushy, and gets slippery and dirty and, although it looks pretty for a while, it makes you want to stay indoors.

No, here, it snows in the surrounding mountains, while we carry on our normal daily routine in the city, enjoying the blue skies and sugar-coated view of the mountains.

18th Jul - cold but sunny
18th Jul – cold but sunny

I remember my excitement the first time I glanced out an office window and realised I could actually see the first big snow of the season falling on the distance peaks.

I must have looked like an excited little kid, and the receptionist was extremely amused.

And, snow brings skiing!  We went for a day last year, and somehow managed to pick the worst weather day of the season, but still had a blast.

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24th Aug – snowy, cold & fun

The ski fields are easily accessible on a day trip from the city.  You can leave early in the morning, spend the day skiing, and be bathing in your own warm tub (with a glass of red) by 9pm.

I’ll be sure to take more opportunities to ski this year!

It only seemed to be really cold in July and August, and was then on the up-and-up.  I hope my memory serves me correctly, and I can survive another Chilean winter.

It really is very pretty and, despite the cold and the pollution, it’s unlike any other winter I’ve experienced before, and something that I love about living in Chile.

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14th Sep – still rugged up in the hills

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20th Sep – single layers on the coast

architecture

20140220-163004.jpgSantiago possesses a large variety of interesting and beautiful architecture, as indeed, do other parts of Chile and South America. Big and beautiful, European influenced buildings that are a rarity in Australia.

In fact, there’s so many examples of beautiful old homes and buildings in Santiago, that many are left in ruin, from either earthquake damage or just old age and neglect, with owners who can’t afford their upkeep, let alone their restoration.

20140220-163104.jpgMany are fenced off for the safety of the general public, lest some homeless person taking shelter should be injured by collapsing walls or ceilings.

Barrios Yungay and Brazil, and the little sub-barrio of Concha y Toro, house some of the best examples of these aging beauties that have seen their hey-day and, like yesteryear’s Hollywood starlets, are now in decline.

Others have been restored and maintained, often converted into boutique hotels or businesses. It would be a dream to own one of these beauties and restore it to its former glory, but it would take a LOT of money, patience and dedication.

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The historic downtown areas of Lastarria and Parque Forestal, and Bella Vista and its surrounds, provide many examples of the extremes between the renovated and the derelict.

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And it’s not just the inner city. You’ll find many fine examples in other neighbourhoods including, but not limited to, parts of Providencia and Ñuñoa.

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20140220-162931.jpgIn addition to old dwellings, Santiago has many beautiful commercial and public buildings (including churches, of course!), such as Estación Mapocho, Museo de Bellas Artes, “La Moneda” governmental palace, and many, many others.

It’s a pity that modern design and architecture is so often focused on speed-to-market and cost, and not on form and beauty.

These old gems make it a joy just to walk around and take in the impressive man-made beauty of the past. Another thing I love about living in Chile.

Do you have a favourite building in Santiago?

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helado, helado, helado…

20140219-164200.jpgSo goes the cry of the ice cream salesmen who walk through the streets, parks, and sporting venues, selling their wares.

And Chileans love their ice cream, in any form (even shoes?).  I mean, who doesn’t?  But, even in the heart of winter, you can often see people walking down the street with some form of ice cream.

I am fortunate (or unfortunate, depending from which perspective you look at it), to have three very good “heladerias” or ice cream parlours within a couple of blocks of my house.

The most famous is Emporio La Rosa, which boasts being voted in the World’s Top 25 ice cream parlours.  Their original, corner location is opposite Parque Forestal, offering the perfect place to find a shady spot to enjoy your ice cream, or take a seat in their nice outdoor seating area.

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There are now several locations around Santiago, and they offer some interesting flavours.  My favourite for a refreshing lift on a hot day is “lemon, basil and mint”, or for a bigger flavour punch, “raspberry and mint”.

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Just around the block is Café del Opera, also a popular spot with a good following.  I haven’t tried it personally, but I’m told it’s faithful to its Italian heritage, with delicious gelato flavours in both traditional and localised flavours.

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20140219-164520.jpgAnother favourite is Mo, close by on the corner of Mosqueto and Monjitas, a good place to head when the line at Emporio La Rosa is too long (most hot weekends) or just for a change.  My favourite flavour here is the “Passionfruit Pie”, for when I’m really looking to treat myself!

Yes, that’s a small size!

So, especially at this time of year, ice cream definitely makes my list of things to love about living in Chile.

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street dogs

20140217-191138.jpgFrom street art to street dogs, that’s how far this challenge has taken me so far.

Don’t worry, I doubt you’ll see “street people” make it on to the list, or even “street food” for that matter, but don’t get me started on THAT subject!

There are street dogs all over Santiago, and the rest of Chile for that matter. It’s obviously not good that the situation exists, a result of poor pet ownership, abandonment, and a lack of desexing, among other things. Still, I think it’s preferable to see these dogs living on the street, where they at least have a life and a possibility to be adopted, fed or cared for. In Australia, the situation is “sterilized”, removed from our sensitive view, with hundreds of thousands of dogs needlessly put down each year while people go on living their merry lives, happily oblivious to the problem.

Here, the problem is under your nose and many a kind hearted samaritan will take a lucky street dog (or more) into their home. I heard a story from a Chilean friend just today about how he took a street dog into his home who has now assimilated with his other two dogs and is very much a happy, well-adjusted, and very grateful and loving, member of the family.

It’s probably just as well I live in an apartment, otherwise I may have a small collection by now!

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The street dogs themselves are generally harmless, and happy to go about their lives without too much bother. They sleep wherever they want, whenever they want, and people seem to move around them without giving it a second thought.  I have often had to double-check to make sure a dog is sleeping and not, well, the unmentionable other alternative.

Stay still too long though, and somebody just may put a price tag on you at the flea market!  (In fun, of course)

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They are often looked after by the general public, with food and water bowls randomly left around, and even kennels left in Parque Forestal for them.  In winter, I’ve even seen street dogs wearing little furry coats that someone has bought for them.  People buy them “sopapillas” from street vendors, and generally the markets and the rubbish bins are popular feeding spots for them.

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Give one a friendly sideways glance at the traffic light and you may find yourself with a new best friend, trotting along beside you for a few blocks, until they get distracted by a potential food source or another dog.

They are often at San Cristobal in the mornings, happy to find company (dog or human) and take their morning exercise climbing the hill.  Last weekend, a lovely black mutt followed me up the hill, unfortunately after being kicked at by a less-friendly human who didn’t want her walking within two feet of her.

20140217-191239.jpgThis beautiful girl “adopted” us during a picnic in the park recently, patiently and peacefully waiting with big pleading eyes, knowing that she would receive a payoff of leftover scraps at the end of our meal. (She didn’t like the camera flash though!)

I know that there are a lot of people who have, or have had, problems with street dogs, like incessant barking at night or, worse, attacks or bites. I know there is a LOT that can be done to improve the situation, starting with education around responsible pet ownership and desexing.

I also know that there are many times when the antics, or just the presence, of a street dog has brought a smile to my face, and that’s why they make my list of things that I love about living in Chile.

Want to see more of Chile’s street dogs?  Check out this fantastic video, an initiative by two Chilean college students to raise awareness to their plight.

And, or course, if you have room in your home and heart to responsibly take in a dog, go ahead, it could change your life.

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La Vega

It’s no secret that La Vega is my favourite place to shop in Santiago, so it’s no surprise that it was going to turn up on this list of things that I love about living in Chile.

20140217-164328.jpgLa Vega was literally my first outing in Santiago when I arrived this time around, now over a year ago, and I continue to frequent the market on a regular basis.  The people, who originally beheld me with a level of curiosity, are now a little more open and talkative.  I have my regulars from whom I buy certain things, and others that I’m drawn to based on the produce on hand.  In addition to fruit and vegetables, I have my favourite “egg man”, and there’s even a stall where I find some pretty decent muesli (granola) that’s not overly processed or sweetened.

20140217-164405.jpgThere’s a couple of good “deli’s” too, and Quesos Arturito seems to be a favourite with both locals and foreigners in the know, stocking a wide range of produce at a fraction of the price of the popular supermarkets.  I’ve been know to buy the exact same brand of cheese in La Vega for one-third of the price on the major supermarkets.

I love watching the seasons change through La Vega and, although you can get a lot of products all year round, you can tell by the price and quality what’s really in season and at it’s best.

In addition to the previously mentioned berries, melons are in abundance right now and are so cheap, and make a good, refreshing juice is you overstock, and there’s lots of great corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, etc.

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Although some days I don’t feel like facing the hike to La Vega, I am always glad I did it, and I don’t think I will ever get sick of the colours, variety and faces of La Vega.

Clearly, one of the things I love about living in Chile.

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The Andes

20140216-182224.jpgWhether you’re looking at them, drinking wine at the foot of them, flying over them, skiing on them, riding horses on them, or trekking in them (yeah, right!), there is no denying that The Andes are one of Chile’s most beautiful and majestic features.

For someone that comes from a relatively flat country, I am still often blown away by the sight of them.

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They are particularly beautiful in winter, when they are snow-capped and catch the most amazing light of the sunset.  But even in the heat of summer, it amazes me that there is still snow up there.

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I can be walking down a city street, and suddenly catch a glimpse between tall buildings, or running through the park, and glance up and see the glacial tops. We even had some fresh snowfall yesterday, along with some very unexpected February rain in the city.

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They are truly amazing, completely different to anything in my home country, and one of the things I love about living in Chile.

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Eric Kayser

20140215-222747.jpgEric Kayser is obviously not Chilean.

It’s a French chain of artisan bakeries, proudly boasting international locations in Seoul, Tokyo, Kiev, New York – just to name a few.

In mid-2013, they added Santiago to their list, providing a delicious range of artisan breads, and amazing cakes and pastries, that only the French could have created.

Of course, Chileans have, and LOVE their bread, and are reported to be the world’s second biggest consumer of bread per capita, behind first-placed Germany.  I first heard this straight from a Chilean’s bread-filled mouth, but I fact-checked it and immediately found a rather reputable-looking source in the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service that supports the claim.

20140215-222637.jpgProbably the most famous of Chilean bread is the marraqueta, and Chileans are fiercely proud and protective of it.  It’s a little white bun that is folded and baked so that it comes out as four-pieces-in-one, ready to be easily snapped apart and gobbled up.  When it’s done well, it’s crunchy on the outside and fluffy in the middle, and is perfect for “choripan”, a popular “entrée” at Chilean barbecues consisting of “loganiza” (a fat juicy sausage) and “pebre”, a spiced salsa of tomatoes, onions and a little “aji” chilli.  It’s delicious, and fills the void while you’re waiting for the large quantity of meat to cook.

But I digress.  My point is, for me, the marraqueta is perfect for just such an occasion, but I was SO happy to discover Eric Kayser when they opened, and be provided with a variety of taste and texture.

20140215-222627.jpgI’m a particular fan of their Tourte de Meule, an airy-centred bread with a deliciously chewy crust.  Yum!  OK, so it’s not cheap at CLP $5.000 a loaf ($10), but they let you buy a half-loaf and will slice it to whatever thickness you want.

They also have a range of prepared lunches, including baguettes and sandwiches filled with quality fillings, quiches and croque monsieur, fresh salads, and yummy desserts.  If you’re eating in, they even make a reasonable coffee which comes accompanied with a mini financier or meringue.

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Their Santiago bakery is quite close to Plaza Peru, which is the perfect spot to enjoy a take-away baguette with jamon serrano, lettuce and cheese, and maybe a scrumptious tarte au citron if you’re treating yourself.

So, just when I was really starting to miss the delicious bread options back home, like the Rye and Sunflower from my local, Alison’s Handmade Bread, along came Eric Kayser, and firmly planted themselves on my list of things that I love about living in Chile.

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