Wednesday, 10th December
Our full last day in Santiago and South America mainly consisted of us laying on the bed watching television. We started the day with our breakfast, Kirsty has been carrying around some gluten-free porridge since Miami and has finally got around to eating it. We had some laundry to do today so that we would make it to Cuba with a full set of clean clothes. Staying in a serviced apartment means there is generally a laundry room which makes it quicker and cheaper than handing your clothes over to a stranger to wash. With the laundry out of the way I went out in search of a post office to send the final postcards from South America home. I found one and it turned out to be the cheapest I think from the trip, less than USD1 for each postcard. Much cheaper than Argentina which as around USD6 if I remember correctly. Also, no queues and taking numbers to be seen. Just the traditional post office I am used to. I was prepared to waste half an hour on the exercise but was in and out in one minute.
We had dinner booked at ‘Bocanariz’ tonight, the same restaurant we went to last week and we are staying five minutes walk away so after a solid day of reading and watching television we dressed up and headed out around 8pm, around the corner. At ‘Bocanariz’ they specialise in wines and matching food with wines. On the menu there is a tasting menu which we both decided upon. This consists of a starter seafood platter (oysters, ceviche and seared tuna) matched with three tastings (50ml) of white wines. The main course which followed, we were allowed a choice. I ordered the rack of lamb and Kirsty the duck confit, each served with a full glass of red wine. For dessert we had a chocolate cake and ice-cream served with a sweet, dessert wine. It was a lovely meal and nice way to spend our final evening in Santiago. Over the past two weeks I would say our travelling has become more like that of a holiday-maker than that of a backpacker. We have not skimped on going out for nice meals and ordering the odd glass of wine. Something we wouldn’t have even considered just a month ago. It has been nice to end up this way and from what we have heard of Cuba, the food isn’t up to much there so we are getting our fill now. Here’s that we ate:
Sea Trilogy – Black rimmed oysters, rye bread and shallot vinegar / Pippin, Alaska cucumber, avocado and passionfruit ceviche / Red tuna Tataki
Wine Pairing – Sauvignon Gris, Leyda, Kadun Vineyard (Leyda) / Sauvignon Blanc, Viu Manent, Secreto (Casablanca) / Riesling, Undurraga, TH (Lo Abarca)
Me – Rack of Lamb in persillade, fried corn mash and cherry tomato puree
Wine Pairing – Syrah, Tabali, Payen (Limari)
Kirsty – Duck confit with potatoes a la sarladaise and ratatouille
Wine Pairing – Red Blend Antiyal (Carmenere / Cabernet Sauvignon / Syrah) Maipo
Valrhona chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream
Wine Pairing – Late Harvest, Indomita, Gewurtztraminer (Casablanca)
Thursday, 11th December
Our flight to Cuba left at 11:40pm at night so we had the full day to amuse ourselves in Santiago. We were awoken by someone blasting of a horn down on the street below. Generally they do this here to attract attention (it works) if they are selling something. This time though it was a protest outside the ‘Lider’ supermarket below which I think is owned by Walmart. It seemed to be workers protesting against their parent company (Walmart). We were too far away though to see why. At one point a passing musical band of circus performers joined in, creating a racket. The music was actually quite good and they played as they weaved along the street with cars having to swerve as they passed by.
We had a late checkout in this apartment, 2pm, so we didn’t get moving in the morning. We have booked so much accommodation through the website ‘booking.com’ that we are now getting benefits such as this late checkout. We just lazed around in bed, enjoying the comfort of our apartment and trying to block out the noise of the horn blasting away on the street below. When we did checkout we made straight for the bus terminal to leave our luggage there in the ‘custodia’, basically a left luggage office. We would be catching a bus to the airport from this bus terminal later on in the evening. Once that was out of the way we headed back to where we had come from (Lastarria) to hang out until around 7pm. We found a nice coffee place where we sat for a while. At one point I left Kirsty to go and get some more Euros. I was thinking about the US Dollar situation in Cuba and wanted to make sure we don’t get short-changed by having dollars (Cubans have a thing against America, of course). With a pocket full of Euros I went back to meet up with Kirsty whom I left at the cafe reading, and we walked to the ‘Museo des Belles Artes’, the fine art museum. This is the one with the massive pile of clothes in the central atrium. I had seen this last time in Santiago but not the rest of the gallery so we paid the USD1 entry fee and strolled around the relatively small but interesting gallery spaces. Other then the massive pile of clothes they had works by an artist (Christian Boltanski) that created all sorts of ghostly images using shadows and light in various rooms. Very eery and atmospheric.
It only took us around half an hour or so to walk around the gallery after which we made for the Bellavista neighbourhood over the river, where we stayed last time around in Santiago. We were heading for the restaurant ‘Galindo’ to have an early dinner. Kirsty opted for the ‘Pastel de Choclo’ (corn pie) again and I had a ‘Churassco’ sandwich. A massive sandwich of sliced beef with tomato and avocado. Both were delicious but we left feeling rather too full having just eaten a massive meal at a time in-between lunch and dinner. It was now time to head back to the bus terminal to make for the airport so we rode the Metro with the other rush hour commuters. I now understand why the guidebooks say don’t ride the Metro with luggage during rush hour. It is like sardines in those carriages and we arrived at our stop very relieved to be getting off and sweaty from the intimate ride. ‘Tur-bus’ run buses to the airport every twenty minutes so for the bargain price of USD3 each we caught the bus right to the terminal door.
We had managed to score an upgrade for our first flight so would be flying business class. I got sent an email from Copa Airlines which went along the lines of ‘we haven’t sold all the business class seats so you can bid for one if you like’. We put in the lowest bid possible and it came through. Only an extra US$120 each. This was even more pleasing on seeing the standard line to check-in. We could use the priority line and were seen to promptly, also getting our Cuban Tourist Cards (their way of making you pay for entry without having a visa fee) along with our boarding passes. We then headed for immigration, security screening and finally the Copa Airline lounge where we had some drinks and nibbles whilst waiting for our flight to board. Our flight to Havana, Cuba takes us through Panama on the way. We only have the business class for the leg to Panama but this is the overnight flight and the longer of the two flights. Next stop Havana, via Panama City. We’ve had a blast in South America and do intend on coming back someday.