Barrio Bellavista y Los Dominicos

It’s really not that cold but the Chileans are bundled up in all their winter gear, beanies, turtle neck sweaters, scarves, gloves, long parkas, boots.  It’s winter, one must wear winter gear.
We got off the metro at Baquedano and made our way out to the street level through crowded metro tunnels.  Young girls were standing at the top of the stairs with styrofoam cups asking for change so that they could buy candy at the stand across the way.  There’s a park that I recognize from the summer and I must take a photo of the pathway, both sides beautifully lined with trees, their leaves falling and street lights. 
Parque Forestral, Santiago de Chile
A woman in the backseat of a car stopped at a stoplight rolls down her window and poses, I shift the camera and snap her photo.  “De verdad?” (Seriously?) She shouts, a huge smile on her face. “Claro!, porque no?” (Of course, why not?) I call back. She asks where we’re from and after I tell her she inquires as to if it’s cold in California.  This is a very common question, you see the international synonym for California is Bay Watch. 
My Chilean friend posing for a picture
We cross the river, there’s lots of cool (and politically loaded) graffiti on the sides of the river.  There are people with blankets on the ground selling things, socks, angry bird beanies, phone adaptors, you name it.  At the end of the bridge there is a couple making copper chains and selling sandwiches.  This is very common I have found in Chile, people walk around with tupperwares selling “soy hamburgers” or sandwiches.  We stop and watch them at work and introduce ourselves, they are Lauren and Leo a sweet couple who let me take their pictures.

Graffiti on the side of the river, Santiago de Chile

close up of graffiti

Sopaipillas, fried dough sold on the street, served with ketchup, and various salsas. 

copper chain being made and sold on the streets of Santiago

Lauren and Leo, making copper chains

We were looking to get to Cerro San Cristobal, a hill that prides views of the whole city and is home to a huge statue of the Virgen Mary. Walking up the street, we are stopped by tour companies, “HALLO!” We nod and thank them for the 657th time and continue on our way.  We reach a park that has an information booth and a castle with “FUNICULAR” written on it.  Bingo.  The funicular is a 5 car train that goes up about 250 meters to the top of the hill; it works on a pully, the train going down pulls the one coming up, and there’s a section in the middle where the tracks split off for them to pass one another.  Brilliant! It was so cool! The funicular stops at the middle to drop passengers off at the Zoológico Nacional (National Zoo) and continues on its way.  The view from the top is breathtaking, there are snow-covered mountains to our right and the view of the city is spectacular.  
cute little gargoyle  things holding up a pillar at the funicular station in the Parque Municipal de Santiago

Awesome funicular track.  This is the section where the two cars, the one ascending and the one descending pass one another

squishy and his squishy friend (#Mags)

proud Chilean man 🙂

statue of the Virgin Mary at Cerro San Cristobol

cute couple at Cerro San Cristobol

candelabra at the base of the Virgen Mary Statue

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notes, photos, relics of thanks to the Virgen Mary that people leave at the statue after their prayers have been answered.  It seems that many people come here to pray to the Virgen Mary when they are having difficulty conceiving

I wind my way around the top of the hill and enter the small church.  It’s empty except for a man who is cleaning the baptismal font near the altar.  He is using a small plastic cup and emptying the water into a larger bucket, one cupfull at a time.  I quietly make my way to the front of the church.  Upon closer look I notice that the man is cross-eyed; he wears jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt.  He works diligently and I try to make my observation of him discrete.  I kneel in the front pew to say a prayer and then go to light a candle, except there are no candles.  I ask the man where I can buy candles and he says at the gift shop but wait right there, I will bring you some.  He puts his tools down gently, unlocks a door and disappears behind the altar.  He returns a few minutes later with a bag of candles and a box of matches.  I thank him and light my candle; afterwards he tells me to leave hte candles and matches on the candelabra for the next person. 

Holy water in a big clam shell

Church at Cerro San Cristobol

The candle I lit for you

Super cool, palm tree in the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the background! 

pretty flowers

Me on the funicular ride back down to town

View from halfway up the hill

After getting down to the bottom of the hill, we wander the streets a bit.  There’s a man selling gorgeous copper jewelry and we stop to admire his work and of course chat with him.  The most common gifts we see here are jewelry made of copper often with blue lapis stone.  Chile is the number 1 producer of copper in the world. Silver is also very common and so is a metal they refer to as “alpacca.”  Alpacca, also known as “nickel silver,” is a copper alloy with nickel and zinc.  The precious and semi-precious stones are also very common.  Anyway, the man was very friendly and pulled out a binder with photos of himself with various famous people and models.  He explained to us that his expertise is metal clothing.  Well, clothing is a stretch, I should say metal wear – bikinis and lingerie made in the style of chainmail.  He said he is one of two people in Chile that does this type of work and that his prices are cheaper because he doesn’t have any overhead costs, he sells off the street.   Before we left I asked if he could recommend a place for us to have lunch and he pointed us to La Venezia, the oldest restaurant in this neighborhood, he boasted.  Chile is like the U.S. in that as a nation, it is very young.  Obviously there have been people living in the land that is now the nation of Chile (i.e. the Mapucha or Altacamena) but as the country we know it, it is new.  So this restaurant is from 1930.  Hehe. 

La Venezia is a mom and pop kind of place.  You walk in and seat yourself, the tablecloths are that thin red and white plastic, there’s momma sitting behind a cash register and everyone is happily eating.  We sit down and are handed menus and also a food-stained piece of paper with the days specials written on it by hand.  The waiter runs off to attend to other people and comes back with a pen and crosses out some of the daily specials.  We order and the waiter comes back quickly with bread, butter, a tomato salsa (served here with bread, pre-meal) and our drinks.  They do not serve wine by the glass so I ordered a half bottle of wine and figured I would take what I could not finish home.  Our food arrives and we are taken back by the generous portions.  I ordered albacore and it’s topped with butter and smoked pepper powder.  Two men walk in and one of them looks over at my plate and says yum, what’s that.  I tell him and he asks where I’m from and we start to chat.  Halfway into my meal I offer my new friend, Juan, a glass of wine.  He says no thank you although he really wants some, but he has a meeting at four.  “It’s just one glass,” I insist and he quickly concedes. He makes a toast to our safe travels and reminds me that one must look in the eyes of their drinking companion when toasting.  You hear this in many cultures, the French say that you have seven years of bad luck in  bed if you don’t, I’ve heard others say that it’s simply bad luck to not.  I think it’s just polite to look in someone’s eyes but I have a further explanation.  I’ve heard two reasons for why people touch their glasses when they make a toast.  The first is that when you drink, you are invoking 4 of the 5 sense, touch, smell, taste and sight but sound is missing, so when you hit glasses, you are now making the act of drinking involve all five senses.  The other explanation I have heard is that back in the day, kings would often poison their enemy’s drink over a meal by slipping the (poisonous) contents of their ring into their dining companion’s (read: enemy’s) drink.  The “guest”  of the king would then clink his glass to the king’s and make sure some of his drink spilled into the king’s; if the king drank it the guest was safe.  When you look into someone’s eyes you are holding them accountable on a nonverbal level.  I have gone off on a tangent, so please excuse me. 

La Venezia en barrio Bellavista, Santiago de Chile (La Venezia restaurant in Bellavista neighborhood/district, Santiago, Chile)


nifty way to pour lemon juice, slits in a cork (Papa B will love this!)


Sunday in Santiago

We made it to Santiago after much delay, ahem, American Airline sucks, ahem. We enjoyed a good night’s rest and played tourist all Sunday. 
First stop, Catedral Metropolitana in Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral in the main square in Santiago.  As we ascend the steps out of the metro, we see the Carabinero de Chile, the Chilean gendarmie (uniformed national police force), dressed in their olive green uniforms and funny looking hats.  Although it’s the middle of winter, there are people sitting on benches in the main square, lolling about.  Regal equestrian police stand, as if posing for a painting.  It’s charming. 
Catedral Metropolitana en la Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile
We make our way to the entrance of the cathedral, weaving through children, stray dogs, families, ladies selling rosaries and through the 10+ foot wooden front doors.  As in any Catholic church, the entryway is flanked with Holy Water fonts.  Old ladies, purses clenched under their arms are elbowing their way to dip their fingers in the Holy Water and cross themselves; this is done with purpose, they are on a mission.  It’s beautiful.  The cathedral is dimly lit which adds to its enchantment, the hymns are in Spanish (well, the whole mass is in Spanish, we’re in Chile) and it’s just lovely.  On our way out, I piss off a rosary vendor.  I had intended to buy a rosary (or three) from her but when she told me the (clearly plastic) rosary was real pearl and I questioned her, she got upset.  Sorry.
Virgen con niño
artist: anonymous
medium: chalk on sidewalk 
Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile
We walked across the Plaza to the Museo Historico Nacional (National History Museum).  Turns out Sunday is free day, even better!  The museum is small and we go from room to room, admiring the paintings and trinkets salvaged from days of old.  A young girl hears my companion speaking English and asks her where she is from.  Sheresponds, “California.”  The girl says, “wow, that’s so cool!”  In a different exhibit, I hear the girl telling her brother, in Spanish this time, “..and I asked her where she was from and she said California!” I couldn’t help but smile and my eavesdropping was discovered.  She was a typical teenager, she wore skin-tight jeans and athough it is the middle of winter an inch her midriff is showing.  Her eyelashes are mascara’d like perfect little spider legs and she has the ambitious aire of youth.  She points at me,  “are you from California, too?”  “Yes,” I respond and we have a nice conversation, she speaks lovely English and I encourage her to study abroad in California. Turns out her dream is to be an English teacher.
Courtyard of the Museo Historico Nacional – Plaza de Armas, Santiago de Chile
We take Catedral St. all the way down, walking a little under 3 km to the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of  Memory and Human Rights).  On our way, we walk through a run-down part of town – graffiti all over the walls and garbage littering the streets.  We pass Chinese restaurants and “urban gardens;” the smell of pollo asado drifting from kitchen windows.  Oh metropolitana.  The museum is sad and serves as a memorial to those who suffered during the military dictatorship of Pinochet from 1973-1990.  There is a great emphasis on human rights, in fact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is written on the entry way to the museum.  In addition to what the Museum symbolizes, the architecture is super modern and striking.  (Side note, I had dinner with one of the architects of the museum.  She was on our flight from Dallas to Santiago; she had been standing in line behind us waiting to receive hotel accomodations from American Airlines when our flight was 12 hours delayed.  She and another Chilean woman did not speak English and asked that I translate what the gate agent was saying.  We ended up taking a shuttle to the hotel together, having dinner and sharing a cab to the airport the following morning.  She recommended we visit the museum.)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the facade of the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos
Across the street is a park, but I am stopped by the smell of peanuts boiling in sugar.  I buy a packet of warm, sugar-coated mani (peanuts) and trot along, happily on my way.  In the park, there are children riding bikes, a llama dressed in hat and poncho, people selling candied apples, pickles and olives in plastic bags, popcorn, lollipops.  There are children feeding the ducks and fathers playing soccer with their kids.  A row of vendors has set up shop selling natural products: essential oils, knitted beanies, mate gourds and straws, loose tobacco.  I buy some chocolate truffles: mint, orange, coffee and an alfajore (a sweet typical of Latin America, it’s 2 cookies filled with dulce de leche (liquidy caramel) and dipped in choclate; alfajores come from Spain where they came from the Arab world but that is a story all on its own, to be left for another blog post), I tuck them in my bag for after dinner. 
The entry to the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (Chilean Natural History Museum) is from the park.  We enter and are pleased to discover that Sunday is free entry day here, too!  It’s a small museum, with great exhibits of all the different terrains in Chile, from the high plains in the north, to the Austral zone, down to the Antarctic.  There are all sorts of cool embalmed animals on display and very informative exhibits. 
caramelied peanuts!

My friend making sugar-coated mani; the smell is exquisite!

At this point, it’s getting cold and we’ve been out touristing for hours. We find our way to the metro station, and back to our hotel. The metro in Santiago is quite easily navigable, and clean!

Iris…in the middle of winter…made me think of Yelena 🙂

By the time we get back to the hotel, my feet are happily swollen from walking all day; we turn in early for the night – we have a long work week ahead of us. 

Jack’s Peak, Saturday hike

Another beautiful Saturday morning hike in Monterey.  Papa B and I went to Jack’s Peak and had a great hike.

When I was in highschool, my cross country team would regularly race there.  It was one of my favorite places to race because I loved being in the solitude of nature, boiling with competitive juices and adrenaline, not to mention the gorgeous view of the Monterey Bay.

We did our cross country course, backwards and then some.  We walked and talked and laughed.  There is one section that has switchbacks, it makes the really steep incline seem not so steep.  I kept telling Papa B, we used to run here and there and that was the start and there was the finish.  At the switchbacks I told him, we used to run this!  He said (switching to English, which he does for dramatic emphasis), “used to is in the past tense, Sally, you need to think in the present.”  Woah!  He’s totally right.

We hiked along, enjoying the scenery, smelling the pine trees – slightly green and sour smelling.  In the background you could hear the concert that was happening at the Fair Grounds.  Also occasionally we would hear planes taking off or landing, Jack’s Peak is just up the road from the Monterey Airport.  There were bugs glistening in the sun light and if you pay attention you could hear the woodpeckers high up in the trees.  It was a really wonderful hike.  I hope you get there someday. 

We unfortunately did not see any mountain lions
View of the bay
Monterey bay through the trees 🙂
The trail
A fallen tree covered in moss and pine needles
A banana slug!!! Hi buddy.
Spider web

After our hike we came home and had lunch with Mama B.  Life is good, isn’t it?

Lunch! Green beans with garlic, olives, red cabbage and sesame salad, cut vegies

Point Lobos with Papa B

It was a gorgeous Indian Summer day here in beautiful Monterey so Papa B and I decided to go down to Point Lobos for a hike. (For those of you who unfamiliar with the concept of Indian Summer – it’s a phenomenon that occurs in the Northern Hemisphere marked by warmer than expected weather in late-September-November, we definitely experience it here in Pacific Grove).  

Point Lobos is a State Natural Reserve a bit down the coast from Monterey.  We headed down and parked just outside of the park and walked in.  There were many people out today, it’s Saturday and a clear day – it’s great to see so many people out! 
We walked through the trees, it was a bit cooler than out in the sun and a little darker.  After some time, we saw blue and turquoise through the trees.  Although I have grown up on the Pacific Ocean, I find it amazing how diverse it is – it amazes me every time.  It’s completely variable depending on the weather, the lighting, the time of day, the tide, the wildlife, etc.  Today was especially spectacular.  
The ocean through the trees 
Gorgeous cove!
Looking across to Carmel, Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove
We admired the ocean, told jokes and “hello-ed” people as we passed them on the trails.  Going around a little cove made me think of “Island of the Blue Dolphins” a book we had to read in the 4th grade.  It’s about a Native American girl that lives on an island off the coast of California.  I haven’t read the book in over 10 years but I guess the imagery stuck in my subconscious.  
This is what reminds me of “Island of the Blue Dolphins”
There were scuba divers preparing to go out – how cool!  I wonder what all they see down there?  
We were lucky enough to see a vulture fly by overhead, its wings spread magnificently with the ends sticking up like fingers.
The water was pretty calm, when the waves were well behaved, the water looked super smooth and the sun reflected brilliantly off of it.  
It looks like glass, doesn’t it!
At one point we sat on a bench and admired the coast.  There were rose petals all around the bench and Papa B said there must have been a girl here reciting “he loves me, he loves me not.”  
I love seeing the crushed abalone shells in the ground, their metallic color always catches the light just right and reflects up at you.  It’s like a silver, green, pink, purple color.  
Broken abalone shells, can you see the metallic coloration?
Eventually we came upon a little cabin with whale bones around it.  One rib was about the length of my height!  There was also what looked like the hip bone of a whale and the vertebrae of a whale.  On the side of the cabin was framed baleen – the filter in the mouths of baleen whales.  (S)He consume a huge volume of water that hopefully has lots of krill in it, the whale then pushes the water out but the krill are trapped in the whale’s mouth – dinner! 
Whale bones!
It looks like where the vertebrae would connect, but I’m not too familiar with whale anatomy…
Whale ribs, vertebrae, fin and baleen 
Next we went around a different bend and encountered some deer.  It is rutting season for the deer here.  That means they are mating.  This usually happens right before daylight savings time and there is a drastic change in their hormone levels.  They behave abnormally, more agressive, and if they don’t move out of your way – you should get out of theirs.  We saw three young males and clapped at them, they looked at us a bit and didn’t budge, we went down a different trail.  
We came upon another bench overlooking another little cover.  There were three seals resting on the rocks.  
Seals on the rocks! Can you see them?
Looking across to Carmel 
We admired from afar and eventually had to get down to the water.  Luckily there was a bonafide trail and we slowly made our way down to the rocky beach.  I quickly lost my shoes and socks and tried to run to the water, it was difficult to do on a non-sand beach.  The water was refreshingly cool.  It was low tide and so there were uncovered rocks filled with sea anemones.  You can’t really see them unless you’re looking because they are closed and have bits of sand and rocks stuck to them.  I touched them just to watch them shrivel back – I hope I wasn’t harming them, they’re just so amazing, and I couldn’t help it!  
Rocky beach 🙂
Sea anemones!  They close up during low tide
More sea anemones 
We eventually walked back to the car, retracing our footsteps.  If you are observant enough, you can notice slight changes in the light, coloration, etc. in the trails that you walked in not too long before.  There was the same creaking noise from a tree when we walked back as when we had walked past the first time.  It would stop as we walked by and pick up again after we were past the tree.  I therefore am convinced that it was an animal but my dad claims it was just the wind causing the tree to creak.  

Tour of the BBC

We came back to London from Kettering on the train.  There were lots of kids riding the East Midlands train  home from school which just blew my mind!  I grew up in a small town and to think that these kids are riding public transport to go to school at such a young age was so unusual to me!  I’m sure kids in SF, NY, etc. do it all the time but not kids from PG.  

It was awful on the tube getting to our hotel during rush hour.  We are only traveling with backpacks and mine makes me 3x as wide as I normally am so I turn around and push people or knock them over and it’s rather embarrassing and I get lots of looks.  Anyways, we made it to our hotel, checked in, dropped off our stuff and RAN to meet up with my friend.  
My friend works at the BBC and offered to take us on a tour!  How cool!  
We met my friend and got visitor passes, (which now resides in my trusty journal) and went up to the different floors to see all the different sections, or departments of the BBC.  It’s amazing, it felt so, happening.  Like everything that is happening in the world is being covered there.  There were so many languages being spoken.  It was also super cool to see how people’s looks changed when you went to the different language regions.  We got to go into BBC Arabic and they were just getting ready to go on air, make-up-ing the reporter.  The teleprompter was even in Arabic!  
The building has cutting edge technology, which you would imagine for the BBC.  There are booth-style tables kind of set apart from all the work stations for people to go and talk and have a little bit of peace, as you approach the tables, the lights turn on via a sensor mechanism and depending on the language that that table is dedicated to, there is a background photo of a city in a country which that language is spoken.  
My friend told us that it gets pretty loud there, too.  Reporters are calling people all over the world to do interviews and maybe the country they are calling has a bad connection so they are shouting and the person next to them then has to shout too to hear her/his interviewee on the other end of the line in say, Timbuktu, this results in a very loud building which I imagine to be multilingual shouting.  I think it would be rather chaotic but in the best possible way.    
the new addition to the BBC building 
the BBC!
view from the BBC building, overlooking Regents st., All Souls church and at the end is Oxford Circus tube stop
Recording studio for radio shows 
a picture of Jerusalem at the BBC building in London
After our tour, my friend took us to Samarqand restaurant for Uzbeki food (they served some Russian and Georgian food, too).  It was lovely.  Afterwards we walked around the chilly evening streets of London and had ice cream, the perfect end to a perfect day.