Kade at a very cold stream fed by the San Francisco Glacier at El Morado Natural Monument National Park - Chile (2+ hours outside Santiago, in the Andes Mountains). Mid-summer in Chile (Feb. here). We hiked about seven miles that day!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Foreign Currency

When I travel I always try to keep a few small notes as souvenirs.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Gift from Colombia

Our friend from Colombia gave us this item from her country.  Once I get more information about it, will add it here.  Based on a little research I have already done, it appears to be a replica of a pre-Colombian artifact.  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Sexy Handicrafts

My cousin purchased this for me on his stopover in Cozumel, Mexico while on his Caribbean cruise. Other stops they made were Grand Cayman and Jamaica.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Start of Journey

Use the map to see our itinerary.  You can open a new window, enlarge, zoom and click on sites for details.  We arrived in Santiago, ready to go.  Our checked luggage didn't make it, however.  It was lost in Miami!   Fortunately, it was recovered and sent to our apartment in Santiago the next day. Anyway, we were picked up at the airport by our driver (holding a funny sign!) and taken to our Airbnb apartment. Spent the first afternoon walking a bit around the neighborhood (in Providencia) and stocking up on some essentials for the kitchen.  Enjoyed seeing all the rollerbladers and bicyclists out having a good time.  It's an active city, I could quickly tell.  The time difference in Chile was not significant - just two hours ahead of us in the Eastern USA.  

My cover was immediately exposed!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Venturing Out

On our first full day in Santiago we headed to the city's main square (at least for tourists!) with the idea of joining one of the city's free walking tours.  We looked and looked for the tour guide holding up a sign at the designated hour, yet couldn't find them.  I had a particular tour company in mind, and had researched them thoroughly on the Internet long before we even arrived in Santiago.  We searched all over, but we couldn't find them.  After asking for some help, we then walked down to another possible meeting spot, and yet still no luck.  I was frustrated, and it was very hot.  I was already thinking about the negative review of the tour company I would put on TripAdvisor!  We ended up walking by ourselves, in the direction of San Cristobal Hill, and just made the best of the day.  Now the funny thing is, sometime the next day or the day after, we realized our smartphones, which we rely on for keeping up with the time, did not automatically reset once we arrived in Chile. We were a full two hours off!  And that explains the mix-up with the tour company.  Thank goodness I did not send in that review!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Using Santiago's Metro

One of the challenges you have to overcome when visiting a foreign country where your language is not spoken is learning to use public transportation systems and deciphering the maps that help you use them. Even in your own language, when you're simply going from a city with no metro (e.g. Asheville or Charlotte) to one with an extensive network (e.g. New York City), this task can be very daunting.  So, imagine arriving in NYC and maps being in a different language, and everyone around you speaking a different language!  The stress and bewilderment get multiplied significantly.  Yet, to know a city means to really explore it.  And there's no better way to work your way around a city than to use mass transportation.  In Santiago, a city of 3 million, it was no different.  Although not nearly overwhelming as our initial struggles with metro maps in Seoul and Moscow, we had our frustrations. We walked down the metro steps very close to our apartment, and we approached one of the big wall maps.  We had a little notebook with the name of the stop where we wanted to go.  And we simply counted the number of stops from where we were.  After that, we wrote down our destination on a slip of paper, slid it under the glass at the ticket window, and then waited for the lady to tell us how much.  We signaled two tickets with our fingers.  She nodded and spoke in Spanish, which we didn't understand.  After realizing that the cash machine's register was not turned so we could read the amount, we pulled out our calculator and pushed it to her.  She smiled, keyed in the amount and then we passed her the cash.  The metro was so noisy and busy, and the line behind us (and on both sides!) was filled with locals who were in an obvious hurry.  But because we were prepared (name on paper, calculator, money ready), we moved through about as fast as anybody.  And on that first day, just overcoming that early dread and doing it, we created a system that made it easy over the next several days.  And yes, I did try on occasion, when the metro ticket window wasn't as busy, speaking the name in Spanish.  After the third attempt at this, we realized it was less worrisome for us and less irritating to them, simply to pull out the slip of paper with the name on it.  Almost always, I would get a smile.  I think they appreciated our efforts in making the transaction more efficient. Of course, after getting your ticket, the next step was finding the right line, heading in the right direction and getting off at the right spot.  Sometimes that's fairly easy (the more you do, the easier it becomes), and other times you can get really turned around.  Again, with the right partner and a bit of patience, it's very manageable.  And, you never know.... like we did on our first metro ride, you might get some help from a local.  A couple of stops before our exit, I talked with a young Indian guy - from my travel experience, I knew could speak some English -  who was super-friendly, and living and working in Santiago.  Although I was fairly confident of our stop, I used that moment to confirm it.  Everything worked out, and easily by day three we were using Santiago's metro with confidence.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

You Will Know Them by Their Fruits

Desirable countries produce succulent fruits.  Chile has just about any fruit you'd like.  Of the fruits we tried, cherries, plums, watermelon and nectarines were standouts.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

San Francisco Glacier

I climbed a path and from the top looked up-stream towards Chile. I could see the river, glinting and sliding through the bone-white cliffs with strips of emerald cultivation either side. Away from the cliffs was the desert. There was no sound but the wind, whirring through thorns and whistling through dead grass, and no other sign of life but a hawk, and a black beetle easing over white stones.

On our third day in Chile we went on a day-hike in the Andes Mountains, a little more than two hours southeast of the capital, Santiago.  We had signed up with Hike Chile several weeks before our vacation began, and I made the decision to go with them after carefully considering a number of outfitters.  Our destination:  The San Francisco Glacier at El Morado Natural Monument National Park.  Click here for TripAdvisor reviews, including mine.

a volcano

the glacier up ahead

On the drive to the park we pulled over at a mom-and-pop grocery store, where I bought some homemade bread and some delicious peach preserves (local, of course).  All I can say is, "Good choice."

After we had gotten back into the vehicle and were exiting the park, we bought ice-cold Coca-Colas from a vendor.  How refreshing!  Later, on the return to Santiago, we ate some empanadas at a local restaurant, just before stopping off at a farmers market for sweet fruits.  Our guide was superb!