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.

coffee

20130821-212706.jpgChile is not known for their coffee, and many Chileans are self-professed tea drinkers.

In fact, despite producing some great coffee beans, no South American country I’ve ever visited has been known for making a great cup of coffee.

I have to say that I haven’t been to Colombia though, so they may be the exception.  But, when we were hiking through Peru a few years ago, I even remember being served some thick, coffee-rich syrup to add to hot water.  Disgusting!

It’s hard enough to order my coffee in South America.  What I order back home as a “long black” is considered politically incorrect (or worse) in some parts of the world and, although commonly known as an “americano” (including by the Italians, who know a thing about coffee!), I still often receive quizzical looks.  When you have to explain how to make it, you know it’s not a good sign.

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It’s also hard to rely on coffee recommendations.  What an American or a Brit tells me is a good coffee, may not be my idea of a good coffee.  Even someone who has milk and sugar in their coffee is going to have a different opinion to mine.  Melbourne seems to have gained a reputation around the world for our coffee-loving ways, so my standards are probably quite particular.

Thankfully, although you can’t just walk into any little coffee shop in any neighbourhood and get a good coffee, the news is not all bad.

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I mentioned a couple of my early finds and favourites in a post a while ago, such as Café Santiago and Café Sur, along with my all-time favourite and regular local hangout, Colmado, which not only has the great coffee, but also the personal service, good food and stylish decor of a small Melbourne café.

20140225-213035.jpgI’ve also enjoyed the coffee at Eric Kayser (which always comes with a little mini treat) when I’m in their part of town.  I’ve had good and bad a La Signorina in Bella Vista, and I was recently served a pretty good cup at Oporto, but “one sparrow does not a summer make”.

There are still places that come recommended that I am yet to try, such as Original Green Roasters, actually pretty close by in Providencia.

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So, all is not lost for a Melbourne girl living in Santiago.  Although the options aren’t endless, there are options and, since a good coffee is something that I love, those quality options are, in turn, something that I love about living in Santiago.

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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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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