18 September

20140227-235341.jpg“Dieciocho” for short but, for many of us, probably 18th September is much easier!  The time of year when Chile celebrates their patriotic holidays and Chileans are at their proudest.

What should be two public holidays, somehow becomes three if it leaves one day between the official holidays and a weekend (most of the time) and, in turn, unofficially becomes a week of holidays.

People are either partying, or they leave town, leaving Santiago with a dramatically reduced amount of traffic.  Many stores are closed, and it pays to stock up on supplies beforehand, making the stores as busy as the day before Christmas or New Year’s Eve.

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And the parties, well, they’re big.  Referred to as “fondas”, they are held all over town in public parks.  These days, there’s a queue and a fee to get in to most, and you pay an awful lot for food and drink once you’re in there. It certainly doesn’t seem to detract from people having a great time; dancing “cueca” (the national folk dance), watching live entertainment, eating traditional food, and drinking chicha or terremotos (“earthquakes”, a cocktail made with pineapple gelato and “pipeña”, young, bulk wine).

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Everybody is out for a good time, and many people dress in traditional costume – the old, the young, pets and, yes, even (ex) politicians aren’t opposed to throwing on a poncho!  (In fact, given the timing at the end of the presidential campaign, they probably lead the charge.)

20140227-235458.jpgSeptember is a windy month, and it’s a traditional time to fly kites. Although there’s been an influx on the market of cheap Chinese-made kites, you can still see a lot of artisan kite makers, and the streets are often lined with their colorful stalls.

It’s the biggest event of the year and, if they’re not celebrating in public, they’re celebrating with family, or just getting the hell out-of-town for a nice break after a chilly winter.

It’s a nice time to be in Chile, to share in the festivities and witness the burst of Chilean patriotism. Yes, definitely one of the things I love about living in Chile.

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PS.  Hmmm, one more post to go in my challenge!  I wonder what it will be.  There are lots of other little things I love … the sunny days, the cool nights, the lack of creepy crawlies (every Australian knows what I’m talking about here!), the historic town square, particular restaurants, the first half an hour after you clean your floor (the rest of the time, not so much!), the opportunity to speak another language … oh, what will it be?  I guess you’ll have to tune in to find out!  See you tomorrow.

Tirso de Molina

20140226-171017.jpgThis funny looking building with the strange roof in front of the river is Tirso de Molina, a “mini” market with a little bit of lots.

Closer to the city centre, I’m sure a lot of people get this far and think they’re at La Vega, not realising that they still have to cross the street to get to “La Vega Chica” and go another block further to even reach the entrance of the enormous “La Vega”.

Tirso de Molina also has a lot of the things that La Vega offers; fruit and vegetables, cheeses and cold meats, dried fruits and nuts, general produce stores, etc; but on a smaller scale, and generally a little more expensive.  It’s handy if you just need one or two things and can’t be bothered going the extra distance to La Vega.

20140226-170509.jpgUpstairs, it has a range of tacky clothing stalls, and lots of little restaurants, including a pretty decent Mexican and a Thai restaurant that I’ve heard good things about, as well as lots of traditional Chilean food.

It’s a good place for tourists or foreigners to experience “cheap ‘n’ cheerful” traditional food in a possibly more sanitary environment than La Vega proper.

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I like Tirso de Molina for the fresh fruit juice stands, where you can pick whichever combination of fresh fruit that you like to be blended up, right before your eyes.  Get in quick though to specify “no sugar” before they add half a cup or, worse still, that horrible artificial sweetener.

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So, whether as a quick alternative to its bigger neighbour, for a cheap bite to eat, or for a fresh juice, Tirso de Molina is one of the things I love about living in Santiago.

cazuela

20140224-194235.jpgSince food is obviously one of my big loves, I really wanted to include at least one Chilean dish in the list of things I love about living in Chile.  Sure, there was the “cordero al palo“, which is an obvious choice, but as far as a “prepared” dish goes, I love a good “cazuela”.

It is a delicious and comforting broth, made with either beef or chicken, and containing large chunks of vegetables, usually potato, pumpkin, and corn.  It is fortified with rice, and finished off with some chopped coriander or parsley.

20140224-194301.jpgBesides the flavour, another thing I like is that you can see what you’re eating!  It is usually made with a cheaper cut of meat that’s cooked until tender, so it’s good to be able to see which pieces of the meat you want to put to the side.  Plus, it’s a complete meal, with a balanced serve of protein and vegetables, the latter of which is often lacking in Chilean dishes.

You can get a good, and very cheap, cazuela in pretty much any Chilean “picada” around town or, if you want to be sure to get good quality, Gabriela (under GAM) does a good cazuela for two.

OK, now I’m hungry.  Yes, a good cazuela is definitely something to love about living in Chile!

 

Lastarria

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20140223-211518.jpgThis historical neighbourhood is my favourite part of town and, after a lot of searching for an apartment, I’m happy to call it home.

It’s full of beautiful buildings, leafy little streets, restaurants, bars, cafes, and even has its own little arthouse cinema.  It’s close to Parque Forestal, and the metro, making it easy to get around.  It’s popular amongst tourists and locals alike, and it’s one of the things I love most about living in Santiago.

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fun foodie events

20140221-172922.jpgWhen I first arrived in Santiago, it didn’t really seem to have a big culinary scene. Certainly, after the wide range of “puertas cerradas”, restaurants, parrillas and great bars in Buenos Aires, Santiago’s line up paled by comparison.

But, after much research, more time to get to know the city, and advise from people who had been around a lot longer, more options started to bubble to the surface. And not just the range of restaurants to try out, but in particular, those events that take place outside the standard confines of a restaurant.
The many different iterations of “cena escondida” (hidden dinner) events.

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Creative chefs who either don’t have their own permanent space, or want to use it a little differently, and try something new, without a standard menu that only changes once every couple of months.

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There are Chilean chefs who want to honour traditional recipes with quality produce, or take quality local and produce something creative, sometimes testing the boundaries, based on what’s fresh and in season.  There are chefs that have come from abroad, putting their own creative spin on the wide range of available ingredients.  The common underlying factor is that they want the freedom to express themselves through their food, and produce a quality product which, for the consumers, is great news.

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Most of the events are based on shared tables, making it suitable for solo diners but, of course, it is always nice to go with someone with shared interests so finding some fellow foodie friends here was a big bonus!

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It’s not as easy to keep up with what’s going on in these circles as it is to walk past your local restaurant and see if they’re open.  Many a time a local has asked me “but, how do you know about these things?”.  It’s really a case of keeping “an ear to the ground”, and social media and word-of-mouth goes a long way.

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So, despite my initial reservations upon arriving in Santiago, I now find there is such a wide variety of events that it’s sometimes impossible to keep up and, for the budget and the waistline, I can’t get to all of them.  Still, it’s great to seek out something new and interesting, and treat ourselves once in a while, definitely something I love about living in Chile!

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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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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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