Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chile, Day 3

Like yesterday, I got a late start to the day. Unlike the day before, however, it wasn’t because I needed to catch up on sleep. In fact, I hardly slept. I woke up early and ended up screwing around on the Internet, and I didn’t leave my hotel until around 11:30. I still had about an hour left of beautiful, spring-like weather to avail myself of, and then it got very hot. Because it was so hot, and not good for hoofing it around Santiago, I didn’t do very much today. I did visit two museums, though neither was especially noteworthy.

The first museum I went to was the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, which is certainly impressive from the outside. Next year this neoclassical building will turn 100 years old, so I’m sure there will be interesting things going on for that. Until then, however, you’ll have to settle for a mostly uninteresting group of exhibitions, which fortunately rotate. Fortunately, too, the museum’s centennial is only two days away – at least it becomes 2010 in two more days – so it shouldn’t be too long a wait. They do have a fair share of works by famed Chilean artists Roberto Matta and Luis Vargas Rosas, but most of the exhibits I saw weren’t very interesting. There were a lot of grainy black and white photographs and videos from the 70s of buildings being torn down, and images of cities as seen from holes in dilapidated structures. The museum also had some modern art, which I personally always have a hard time with, and some replicas of famous European sculptures. One major downside is that there is no information in English, so I had a hard time understanding what I was looking at. The museum was free on the day I went, though normally it costs 600 pesos (US$1.18) for an adult. It’s located right next to the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, and is open from 10 a.m. – 6:50 p.m. (yes, that’s 10 til 7) Tuesday through Sunday. Tel: 633-0655. Web:

After this I walked across town to see the Museo Colonial de San Francisco, which is tucked off to the side of the much grander Iglesia de San Francisco.

This museum cost 1000 pesos (~$2), which isn’t bad for what it offers. What I liked best about it was its dark, dingy atmosphere – it clearly hasn’t figured out how to incorporate electric lighting, and its aged effect is heightened somewhat by the “garden” (i.e., tangled mass of greenery) in the large first-floor courtyard. Of course, I don’t think everyone appreciates a dingy museum, but hey, it’s my blog and I’m going to recommend the place.

The religious artwork and artifacts are rather interesting – the old lock collection is sufficiently surprising so as not to be boring – and to the museum’s credit they include English translations of most items on display. Another interesting thing about the museum is that it houses a replica of Garbriela Mistral’s 1945 Nobel Prize medal as well as correspondence between the Chilean poet and other individuals and organizations. The museum is located on Avenida O’Higgins 834 and is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10-1 and 3-6, and on Sunday from 10-2. Web:

After this I walked back to my hotel and downed about a liter of water. Once I’d quenched my thirst I decided to grab some lunch. Since I needed to use the Internet to reserve accommodations for next week’s trips to Viña del Mar and La Serena, I took my computer over to Café de Las Artes (see yesterday’s entry) and ordered a salmon, cream cheese, and tomato sandwich on olive bread and a fruit juice.

It was good – nothing that special, and certainly not “Chilean” (though I’m finding that typical Chilean food is harder to come by than typical Peruvian and Ecuadorian food was in Peru and Ecuador respectively). I hogged my table for about an hour, then ordered a dulce café: espresso with vaporized milk and condensed milk, the last of which seemed to be an entire can’s worth that sat on the bottom of my glass. It was insanely sweet, and I couldn’t manage to finish it. For all of this I paid 7350 pesos (~$14.50), which is kind of a lot.

It was around five o’clock at this point, so I decided to hit the rooftop pool that guests of the hotel have access to (it’s actually atop an apartment building next door) and read. I wasn’t the only one who had the idea of cooling off up there, though, and seating was a little tight. After about an hour up there I went to research coastal bus travel out of Santiago, and then I decided I might as well go have dinner. (Again, more time has passed than my blog readily indicates – I’m not the eating machine I’m sure I make myself out to be here…)

Feeling tired, and wanting to stay close to the hotel, I decided to give South American sushi another shot. There’s a place called Kintaro Sushi across the street from where I’m staying, however they didn’t open until eight. Since I had time to kill I went to a sidewalk café called Vuelta next door and nursed a cold mora berry juice (which, as always, was about 15% seeds) and read a little more.

Finally Kintaro opened and I grabbed a seat in the back and ordered an awesome beer called Cerveza Austral as well as a sushi combination that, in the menu photo, looked a lot more exciting than the sushi I was served.

The sushi was fine – a bit mealy at times, a bit stringy at other times, and not that flavorful – definitely not worth the $15 I paid for it. However, the people working there were really nice. The Japanese owner sat at the register drinking beer, which kind of cracked me up, and my waiter turned out to be from Huanchaco, Peru, and was excited to learn that I’d visited his hometown a few weeks ago. His English was great, which was nice, as I haven’t had a lot of conversations with people so far in Chile. Kintaro Sushi is located at Monjitas 460. Tel: 638-2448. Web:

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