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Day 100 – Santiago in One Day

January 18, 2011

Location: Santiago, Chile

Date: Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Santiago is Los Angeles. Sure, Santiago has a better public transportation system; it’s south of the equator, not north; it doesn’t have the Lakers; and L.A’s full of Mexicans, not Chileans.

But, standing on a hill overlooking the urban sprawl; the fog of smog; hearing the low hum of a thousand cars; and seeing the low, surrounding hills, it’s hard to tell the difference. Throw in a beach, herds of women who are convinced they’re prettier with rearranged collagen, and a bunch of douchebags in flashy cars and you’d have L.A.

I don’t hate L.A., of course. I actually like it. The problem, though, with cities like it is that they take time to explore. They’re too big to effectively wander on foot. You need a local to show you around. And because Chile’s economy is doing quite well (best in South America besides maybe Brazil), staying here is not cheap. Cabs cost significant money. Rooms can’t be had for a song (more like a record collection and a vintage hi-fi). Street food does not easily abide.

This all adds up to an abbreviated stay in this place. One day. Sorta like Valparaiso.

And, sort of like Valparaiso, Santiago let’s me ride her funicular.

Of course, this is all impression. Santiago could be nothing like Los Angeles. It could be a small, quaint city. That might not be smog out there, just fog. Maybe there aren’t any freeways. Perhaps most people get around on foot.

It’s all part of the traveler’s dilemma. You get the CliffsNotes version. There’s no way to get a real sense of a place without staying for more than a day. Or two days. Or three. Or a few months. The fact that I must leave because of time and money pressure just exaggerates a naturally occurring traveling phenomenon: you can only know a place so well.

Then again, I’d rather take this conundrum over having to decide whether the cover for the company presentation should be red or blue. Whether I should wear my gray slacks or blue slacks to the office. Whether I’d rather gets stuck in traffic on the I-10 or the I-405.

I might feel different tomorrow, though. You know why? Because I going to be spending another day on a bus. Goodbye Chile. Mendoza, Argentina, here I come!

I Put It in My Mouth – A Periodic Feature on Food Told with At Least One Picture

At the top of the hill with the funicular waited a Chilean classic: mote con huesillo which amounts to a sweet liquid made of dried peaches (huesillo) boiled with sugar, cinnamon, and water that’s mixed with husked wheat (mote). The sliced up preserved peach is what makes this drink, snack, whatever. The grains of wheat are mostly tasteless and mostly provide texture and bulk. They don’t do harm and arguably make mote con huesillo “healthy.” I’m always down with rationalizing imbibing something sweet. Rock on Chile.

GALLERY: Click through to see bonus pics of Santiago’s skyline, some more funicular shots, and graffiti.

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