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.

South America

20140211-202151.jpgOr “location, location, location!”

Let’s face it, I’m not just living in a new country, but also a new continent, which brings with it a variety of different places, people and culture, and fantastic opportunities to explore.

It’s not like I’m on the move all the time like last time I visited South America and covered 7 countries in five months.  I work and have some form of daily/weekly routine that keeps me in Santiago most of the time.

But living here allows me to get out from time to time, and get to know places that would be   s o   f a r   away if I was still in Australia.

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I have managed to see a little more of Chile, flying up to San Pedro de Atacama when a friend visited, taking a road trip up the coast and into Valle de Elqui with another visiting friend, and another road trip south as far as Valle de Maule with another friend. These latter two trips obviously incorporated some wine and, indeed, my interest in that field has also led me to explore, in depth, many of the wine regions around Santiago.

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I saw a lot of the rest of Chile when I was here last time, but I’m sure the opportunity will come up at some stage to revisit more of this beautiful country.

But there is, of course, also opportunity to get out to see a little more of the continent.

Last August, I took a truly-foodie trip to Lima with fellow-foodie-friend Fernando and, in addition to seeing some of the city’s sites, experienced the great range of Peruvian food, from the street, to China Town, to the city’s top two restaurants.  Although I would have liked to have seen the sun sometimes (Lima is notoriously cloudy), the trip was delicious, fun, and worth the extra 5 kilos!

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Over New Year, it was great to be able to take a friend up on a very kind invitation to spend some time on his country property in Uruguay.  After finding some reasonably priced flights, a group of four friends enjoyed a relaxing time together, sharing home cooked meals and exploring the coastline and surrounding areas.  Those of us who were visiting, albeit for a second or third time, got to know a different part of country and enjoy seeing it through the eyes of someone that had lived there for 10 years and knows it very well.

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When a Buenos Aires-based friend managed to get a free apartment for a week in Mendoza, I was able to find a very reasonable flight (US$140 return – cheaper and quicker than the bus) and join her and another friend for a girly week of wineries and restaurants.  With the exchange rate very much in our favour, it turned out to be an indulgent week with a relatively cheap price tag.

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So, I’ve managed to get to know some places a little better and it’s great to be able to jump at these opportunities, which would be so far from reality back home, when they arise.

This year, I plan to see some places that I’ve never been before, both of Chile (e.g. Easter Island), and abroad, like Colombia.

Although flights here are not cheap compared to Europe or the US, where competition is more intense, good offers come around and I will be keeping my eye on them to see what other opportunities present themselves.

So, I don’t just love living in Chile, I love living and experiencing all that a whole new continent has to offer!

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Santiago – friends and fiestas

Australia Day arrived, and I was excited because I had a BBQ to go to that night with my new horse riding friends.  Not a typical Aussie BBQ, but a Chilean asado and, what better way to spend Australia Day than outdoors with a group of friends and a few drinks around a BBQ?  In the meantime, I decided to check out the artisan market at Los Dominicos, which is at the end of the metro line.

20130212-121746.jpgWhen I arrived, there was a small Farmers’ Market set up on the promenade leading from the metro station to the church.  Handy, because I needed a few things for the BBQ that night.  There was a lot of colorful fresh fruit and vegetables, some interesting seafood, and delicious artisan cheeses.  The surrounding neighbourhoods are popular with Expats and there were a lot of foreigners shopping on the market, some just pointing and holding up fingers to indicate the desired quantity, and others trying out their various degrees of Spanish.

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20130212-121808.jpgLos Dominicos itself is a beautiful whitewashed colonial church, and the markets are located to the side of it.  The artisan markets are permanent installations and are opened every day, but some stallholders decide to take a day off here or there during the week and there’s a lot more activity on the weekends.  It’s a really pretty location, with bright coloured flowers popping against the white buildings with their terracotta roof tiles.

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It’s not your generic, mass-produced keyring and t-shirt kind of place, and amongst the range of jewellery, clothing, metalwork, ceramics, homewear and art, there’s bound to be something to suit everyone.  There’s also a couple of nice little cafés to sit at and eat lunch under the trees, a little art gallery with some quirky sculptures and artworks, and a bonsai garden where the caretaker encouraged me to hug a 400+ year old tree and soak up the benefits of its energy.  Overall, a very nice, cruisy Saturday afternoon.

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A quick stop in the food market to get my supplies and I headed home to make salad and guacamole for the evening’s asado at Antonio’s apartment.  Antonio lives in the beautiful downtown area of Lastarria, which is full of character and nice restaurants and bars.  He had secured the rooftop of his building for our asado, and we all pitched in to cart supplies from his apartment to the roof.  It was a beautiful night, and the view was amazing, particularly as the sun dipped and reflected off the surrounding mountains.

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Antonio had not entertained in this apartment before, but we are a resourceful group and we’d all brought along goodies to ensure there was plenty to eat and drink.  Antonio had bought a baby asado just for the occasion, and Fernando supplied an electric grill to cook the salchichas for the first course of choripan (snags in bread).  There was plenty of cheese, nibblies and salads, and the Colombian boys manned the newly christened grill and went about cooking the meat, which was delicious.  Antonio had even managed to organise a full moon, which had risen above the surrounding buildings and complemented the balmy night beautifully.  Natacha had prepared two different desserts, a rich chocolate specialty of Brazil that was a crowd pleaser, and a delicious apple tart that I loved.

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Once the food was out of the way, and the night progressed, we fired up the music and, this time, the Colombians led the charge with the salsa.  We took turns, switching partners and swinging around the rooftop to salsa music blaring from the sound deck.  It was an unplanned part of the evening and a lot of fun.  A great way to finish the night.

The following morning, feeling a little tired and sporting a salsa injury in the form of a blister under my big toe, I dragged myself out of bed to go and meet Dorothee for a recovery lunch.  We met at a metro station in Providencia and walked the short distance to La Jardin (The Garden), a “pop-up” restaurant.

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The entire place has been constructed using reclaimed materials, with a whole wall made out of old window frames, a canopy made from old clothes, vegetable beds made out of, well, beds, and a number of other inventive and creative fixtures and fittings.  It’s a temporary installation unfortunately as the land has been earmarked for development later in the year.

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We sat under the shade of a makeshift umbrella with an old cable spool for a table and ordered what anybody would for a decent recovery from the night before – pizza.  Unfortunately, the pizza arrived cold and, when we asked if they could heat it a little more, I think it met the same fate of being forgotten on a pass somewhere and, despite the 20 minute wait, still arrived tepid.  Although tasty, I couldn’t help but think how good it would have been hot and, although our waiter was pleasant and sympathetic, I don’t think I’ll go back.

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After lunch, we walked back towards Plaza Italia where Dorothee had to leave me to go and do some work.  I intended to jump on the Sunday Cultural Circuit bus, which is the price of a standard bus ticket and was established to encourage residents to explore the culture of their beautiful city.

20130212-122119.jpgI got distracted however, first by an open art exhibition, then by the temptation of an icecream from arguably the best gelato place in town, Emporio La Rosa.  They have a range of unique flavours, and I had Piña Thai (pineapple with ginger) and Lemon, Mint and Basil, which is my all-time favourite.  By that time, it was too late to think about getting on the bus, so I took my icecream to Parque Forestal to sit under a tree and enjoy the surroundings.  Another Sunday of people enjoying time with their friends, family and dogs in the beautiful outdoor spaces.

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There was a book fair in the park which I wandered through, then continued to wander aimlessly around the Bellas Artes area and the museum, before heading back through town.  By the time I arrived home, I had covered a lot of ground, experienced a bit more of Santiago, and thoroughly enjoyed the lazy afternoon that closed out a lovely weekend.