Friday June 28: Santiago
An Expensive Dinner
I slept fine last night. I went to sleep around 11pm, got up at 3, hit the bathroom, went back to bed, and slept until 6:30. At 7, the alarm went off, and we went downstairs to breakfast.
It was a buffet. The most interesting part was the fruits. They had slices of things that looked like slices of apple, but there was a hard inner part where apples would have seeds. They had things that looked like kiwis, but with something sprinkled on top of them. It wasn't kiwis, and those things were scattered throughout the fruit. They were little hard seeds. Amy and I spit them out, although someone said that it was star fruit and that you should just swallow the seeds.
Halfway through breakfast, Sheryl and Wally joined us. Sam went up to the room, while Amy and I stayed and chatted. Eventually we took our leave and went up to the room. I was feeling a bit chilled again, so I jumped under my comforter and warmed up.
After a short while I got up and took a shower. I was rather unimpressed. I had the water on full blast and full hot, and it was barely enough (both in flow and in temperature). It was slightly chilly getting out of the shower, but not too bad once I dried off.
I figured that if I was going to be doing a lot of standing around outside, particularly if it was sprinkling or raining, I might get cold, so I wore two tee-shirts, a heavier fleece, and my light down jacket. I brought my fanny pack with a bottle of water and my umbrella.
We went downstairs at 9:15, and then boarded the bus at 9:30. We took the bus to the presidential palace, which was about twice as far as we had gone last night. We wandered around there for about two hours, visiting among other things the cathedral. We went through the central market, which is known for its fish. They had long tables covered in fish of all kinds. They even had these things that apparently were giant barnacles, bigger than my fist. They looked almost like a rocky volcano, with some creature inside the mouth. The amazing part was that the creature was alive! Every few seconds it would move. It appeared like it was trying to sweep an appendage through the water, or perhaps to eat something.
Eventually we got back on the bus and drove to San Cristobal hill, where the funicular and cable cars go. We didn't drive to the top, however. We went around and along the ridge for a ways, then got out and a view of Santiago. It looked sort of covered with a layer of smog, and with overcast skies, it was not so picturesque. I think it would have been a pretty picture at night, however.
After that, it was essentially the end of the tour. The bus dropped a few people off at a large downtown mall. It dropped most of the people off at the hotel. As a favor, it took some of us back to the central market, where we wanted to have lunch. (They dropped the younger people off half way to look for trendy places to eat.) We ended up eating at a recommended seafood restaurant there. One couple, Sally and Steve were eating there, and we decided to eat there also. The other people went to eat elsewhere.
The waiter was pushing the king crab. They said that if we ordered that, we could get a large seafood sampler for free. I thought it was rather expensive, but Amy and Sam wanted to go for it, so we did. The crab was huge, the size of a dinner plate. It was quite an event. We took pictures with the crab and someone came out and took a "professional" photo of Sam holding the crab. (Later, she came to sell us a print. We kept saying that we were not interested, but in the end we bought a smaller one for 1.000--about a buck fifty.)
One saving grace was that they opened up the crab for you at the table. That made it much easier to eat. I figured that if we were going to splurge, we should do it properly, so I got a glass of wine for lunch, and Sam got one as well.
Apparently it is common in Chile to eat lunch around 2pm, although we didn't end up eating until around 3. I figured why not go all out, so after dinner I got a caramel flan and a cafe con leche. The flan was shared between Amy and myself, as Sam didn't want any.
This was probably the most expensive meal I've ever had, and certainly the most expensive for this trip. I'm guessing that this set us back by about $250 by the end.
After lunch/dinner, we left with Sally and Steve. It had rained while we were at dinner. I wasn't so keen on walking to the funicular, going up the mountain, and then down the cable car, and then walking back to the hotel, if it might start raining again. So we decided to join Sally and Steve and go to the Museum of Pre Columbian something or other.
That was interesting enough, but Sam was getting quite bored there. At one point we lost Sally. In the end we waited a few minutes for her at the exit, and she showed up. It turns out that we saw 2 of the 3 floors, and she did a world wind tour of the third floor.
We then walked a few blocks to the subway station. Along the way, Sally stopped at an ATM to get some cash. I tried with no success. I first tried a machine which only spoke Spanish, and apparently it was only for deposits, not for getting cash. I couldn't really tell if it had "forgotten" my card, or whether I had to cancel or sign out in some way. Eventually I switched to the other machines, that did withdrawals and which spoke at least limited English. I couldn't get it to work. After requesting the withdrawal, it put up some screen with Spanish, which I couldn't read. It sat there for a long time, without doing anything. Eventually I canceled it and tried a smaller amount. I thought that maybe it was saying that I was over my limit for how much I could withdraw, but Steve later said that he thought it said to wait while it was contacting my bank. So I eventually left with no cash. I really hope that the transactions didn't go through.
We stopped to give Amy a chance to sit for a minute or two while we watch a street performer dance apparently in the style of Michael Jackson. Then we proceeded to the subway station. You apparently had to buy a card, put money on it, and then use that to ride the subway. It seemed rather a waste to buy a card to use once. Fortunately Steve already had a card. So Sally added some money to it, and it got her and Steve through the turnstile. When Sam tried, there was not enough money, so we added some more, then Sam, myself, and Amy got through.
We rode for seven stops. It was a lot faster and easier than walking. I think it only cost us less than $2 each for the ride.
When we got out at the stop a few blocks from the hotel, I tried another ATM. Actually, I stood in line. The three people in front of me tried and got nothing from the machine, so I didn't bother. But then I tried the machine inside the grocery store, and that worked. While we were there, Sam wanted to load up with snacks for the bus ride tomorrow, so we went on a junk food splurge.
Earlier in the day, during the morning's tour, I got a text message from Verizon telling me about my ability to use my phone in Chile. This ticked me off, because when I tried to access the network, it still didn't work.
Later in the day, I think when we went to the museum after dinner, my phone started to ring! I didn't answer it as it was junk mail (i.e. a number I didn't recognize). I checked out the phone, and it was connected to a different network than previously, and this one apparently worked. I thought that maybe it was the area we were in, so when I got back the area of the hotel, I checked again. It still showed the other network, and it still seemed to be working. Don't ask me what changed or why it suddenly started to spontaneously work. Of course, I was a bit miffed that it hadn't been working the previous night when we had been searching for that restaurant.
We then returned to the hotel, where I'm typing this up. I think we're planning to skip dinner, and consider that previous meal both lunch and dinner. I'm thinking that I might go out and look for some sort of dessert--a pastry or something.
Also, there apparently is a big football (soccer) match with Chile tonight, and so the guide was telling us that place was going to be bonkers around this time. So it might be interesting to see if I can notice any difference from last night.
Tonight we need to pack up all of our stuff, other than what we're going to wear tomorrow, so that we can check out and get all of our stuff on the bus early tomorrow.
I went out in search of pastry. Unfortunately, after 9pm is not the time to look for open pastry shops. Pretty much everything around here was closed. The only vaguely appropriate places I found open were Starbucks and McD's. I tried to send a text to Amy to see if she was interested. I was hoping that if her phone was connected to the hotel wifi, she might get it. For whatever reason, she did not.
So I got two McD sundaes, one chocolate and one berry and carried them back to the hotel. It turns out that both Sam and Amy were interested, so we split the two of them three ways.
It was perhaps a bit quieter on the streets than before, but nothing that would have struck me. Back at the hotel, there was suddenly a flurry of beeping horns outside. We think that Chile must have scored a goal at that time.
While I was looking at my phone, I saw that I had a voice mail. I figured it was probably junk mail, but when I looked at it, there was a transcript, and I saw that the message was from the DCU (my bank)! It was the fraud prevention service asking me if certain recent transactions were legit!
So I called them back. They had two transactions, one declined and one completed. I think that one of the two initial transactions that I made semi-went through, but I didn't wait long enough and canceled it. Then there was the completed transaction at the grocery store. I was slightly surprised that there was one that was canceled and not two, but what do I know. So I acknowledged the transactions, and they said that my card was free to use. I'm not sure what would have happened if I didn't have the phone working.
When I was walking past the Starbucks, there was an outdoor patio, which had some chairs with padded seats and backs. On one of them, there was a large dog curled up, apparently trying to sleep. The dog was not dumb. The chair would be both warmer and softer than trying to sleep on the concrete.
Time to hit the sack, so that we can get up, have breakfast, pack up, and get out on time.