Having to leave Brazil due to an expired visa, I'm required to vacate the country for a good two months. Flying to another continent during European summer is pricey, so I opted for a round trip to the capital of Chile. I'm tempted to go to the far south, but during winter, that can be a very cold affair.
Santiago is as pleasant, and as European, as I remember it. Central European, perhaps, in its flavour, with the near-freezing night time temperatures and early twentieth century architecture downtown having more than a passing resemblance to some of the bigger cities in Mitteleuropa.
That said, the more affluent eastern suburbs are indistinguishable from any other big city suburbia the word over. Tall, evenly spaced apartment buildings, clean streets controlled by private security, malls on every fourth corner or so with Starbucks liberally sprinkled in between
Just before I left, Santiago had made front page news on the BBC for being exceptionally smog ridden this year. But, on my arrival, the sky was blue and the air quite fresh. I suppose I'm becoming accustomed to São Paulo weather.
Winter is supposed to be the rainy season, too, even if the country sees precious little rain throughout the year. Yet, it took a full week before I spotted the first clouds.
Now, with my improved Portuguese skills, I get mistaken even more for Brazilian, even when it's unintentional. Middle aged ladies come up to me (and others) as I lounge on a park bench reading my Kindle. With notebook and papers in hand, they presumably try to sell something. 'Yo no habla Espanol'. 'Ah, Brasiliero!'
A year earlier, I sat in a bar in northern Chile watching Chile play the World Cup. Now, it's Chile again, but in the Copa America, played right here in the capital.
The Copa America has such a small number of eligible countries, that the three pools of four teams are complemented by two guest countries. This year, these were Jamaica and Mexico. Last time, this included Japan.
Strolling around town on my second day, I stumbled upon a large demonstration related to educational reform. The year prior, I accidentally stumbled upon two demonstrations, in only a week here, also on education reform. Don't these students, well, study?
There's a general concensus in Latin America that Chileans love to demontrate.
On a more cuter note, on the same day, I spotted a man walking, clutching a leather bag to his chest. From the bag, which was open, a very curious kitten head was bobbing up and down, investigating everything that was happening around him.
Nearly within the city limits are two vinyards that are open for visitors. One of those is the largest winery in Chile, producing about 25% of the country's output, with vineyards in argentina and the U.S. Their tour, though, is less impressive.