March 11th, 2020:
From the municipality of Las Condes, where we stayed with Federico and his family for a few days, we could walk to the terminus of the red line of the Santiago metro system. Fede and Laurent used to work together in Basel, Switzerland, and he and his family have been living in Chile since last summer. They kindly gave us their hospitality, friendship, and a safe parking spot for Tommy so we could visit the city on foot and using public transportation.
On the way to the metro station we had a good view of the considerable pollution hanging over the city, which we had been warned about. We waited at the station for our friend Isabella to arrive and had plans to visit the city together. Isabella, a flight attendant from Canada, was in town on a 48 hour layover and by sheer coincidence we just happened to be in Santiago at the same time! We had less luck meeting up with other friends, Myriam and Bernard, who were still further south off the coast of Chile, before getting stuck on board their cruise ship when Chile closed its borders to land, air, and sea transportation.
Our visit started at the Palacio de la Moneda, the seat of the president of Chile, which was originally built as a mint and served this purpose for roughly 100 years. As we admired the building from afar, Laurent evoked the history of the original building, in which former president Salvador Allende committed suicide, when it was bombed during the military coup d’état in 1973. Considering the current social and political difficulties the country is experiencing, that particular page in history becomes even more vivid.
The main square, Plaza de Armas, is bordered by historical buildings including the neoclassical metropolitan cathedral which was constructed in the 1700s.
Being major foodies, our main objective for the day was to visit the city’s principal food markets, which are divided based on the produce they specialize in. We ended up visiting 3 of them, all within close proximity of each other. The seafood market (where we stopped for lunch), a dry goods market, and the city’s main central fruit and vegetable market. After checking out each and every aisle of the last market, we filled our bags with corn, avocados, limes, tomatoes, blueberries, and mangos. For our friend Paul in Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba, we wanted to let you know the local corn over here doesn’t even come close to yours (which we consider to be THE world benchmark)!
Given the fact that our mission was accomplished, and the 35° celsius weather, we headed back to Isabella’s hotel so she could get ready for the evening flight home. Thanks for the huge bottle of maple syrup! Isabella also provided us with a small supply of surgical masks and hand disinfectant gel which at the time we did not need. How quickly things change……one week later a 90 day state of emergency was decreed by the Chilean government, borders were closed, and we found ourselves in self-confinement in the south of the country. We are in our third week of confinement (or “de-confinement” as Laurent calls it, from our 8 m2 truck camper) and plan to wait it out in the safety and tranquility of our rental home. We are studying several future scenarios….and catching up on past-due blog posts!