Category Archives: Chile

Travel sickness

It’s been one year today from when I landed in Santiago and began my 7 week adventure in Chile.  Where has the time gone??  I miss the sights of Chile, the food of Chile, the friendliness of the people and the time I spent I there.  So much has happened over this past year, but I look forward to 2019 with more travelling coming up.  In the meantime, some of my favourite pictures of Chile to share…

 

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Valle de la Luna

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Sunset in the desert

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Vina del Mar

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Santiago

Santiago

Santiago

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Arica and its beautiful beach

How do you cure the travelling blues?

It’s a warm rainy winter day here in Canada – yes you are reading that right!!  Today hit a record temperature of 17 degrees Celsius!!  Rained all day – but it felt good to not have to wear a heavy coat today!  It was a blue feeling day though – I am missing Prague a lot lately.  The beautiful sites, my friends, walking through the gorgeous scenery.

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I know the feeling will pass, as will as my missing of China.  Yes, I miss China (I NEVER thought I’d say that!).  The quirkiness of the city I lived in with all its crazy signs, the food (okay – this is really what I miss the MOST about China!  Why can’t I find a noodle place here???).  It was quite pretty in the area that I lived too – and I miss the sparsely decorated apartment I lived in.  The solitude.  I like my alone time very much.

 

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So how do I cure the travelling blues?   I scope out hotel websites, Wikipedia for different countries to travel to and read about, look up flight information for the best deals – does it help?  A bit – at least for a while.  If the sun would shine a bit more when I was off work, I would be less melancholy – I would be able to get outside and walk.  Take pictures of new areas.

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Life in Canada is good – I am happy to be back.  But I will continue to have the travelling blues until May when I will head to Ottawa for a few days!  In the meantime – I will dream of the beaches of Chile, the beauty of Prague and the food of China!!

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Battling “travel-sickness”

Being homesick is natural – you go off travelling, or get married and move away, or just move away from your hometown.  You eventually miss certain things of your home, the comfort of having family nearby, the comforts of familiar places to go to, whether its a shopping mall or favourite restaurant.  You get homesick.  It is normal.  But travelsickness?  Is that even a thing??

 

I believe it is.  I have heard this from fellow travellers who have experienced this.  They are away from home for a year or more, come back home and adjust to being back home, and then experience “travelsickness”.  That feeling of being on the road seeing new things, or living in another country and missing walking to the Castle in the evening (yes – I am talking about me!).

 

I am excited and happy to be back in Canada.  I truly am.  But I would be lying to say that I don’t miss being in Europe, or travelling through Chile, or teaching the kids in China.  I must state here that while I miss the kids in China a lot, I do not miss being in the country of China!

 

I miss Prague.  Especially now that the Christmas season is almost here – walking through the Christmas markets, the hot wine, the sounds and smells of Wenceslas Square, the serenity of Prague Castle at night, the busyness of Karluv Most, and the amazing friends I met there.  I miss Prague.  A lot.  I look back at my pictures and reminisce of my time there, and feel nostalgic.  Prague was my home for almost two years.  Living so close to Prague Castle was like a dream come true.  One day, I will go back and visit.  To inhale the aroma of the city.  To envelop myself within the city.  To see old friends and enjoy a beer in Letna Park, people watching, chatting and enjoying my time there once again.

 

I miss Chile.   The walks on the beach.  The warmth of the sun.  The amazingness of the Atacama desert.  The feeling of peace that I felt while I was there.  The feeling of joy that I experienced.  I discovered a lot of myself in Chile, and I treasure the time I got to spend there.  I have become an even more positive person from that trip through Chile.

 

So yes, I am happy to be back in Canada, but I miss my adventures of the past three years.  My adventures aren’t over – I am starting a new chapter in my life, which I know will be a positive one for me. But for now, I am going to accept the fact that I have travelsickness.  And it’s okay.

Best of Chile

My South American journey has come to an end.  I arrived back in Canada on Wednesday evening, after missed connections and travelling back to LAX and then to Toronto.  My son and his friend excitedly picked me up at the airport (to applause! – that was fun haha).

 

I had an amazing time in Chile, and can recommend to everyone to take some time to explore the entire country.  From Santiago north to Arica, there is so much to see and discover.  I have made a list of my highlights of my trip.

 

Santiago

Santiago was the first stop, and was a typical big city with some interesting barrios, delicious food and amazing scenery.

  1. The Andes – the incredible mountains looking over the city.  Absolutely stunning to see from all parts of the city.
  2. Cerro San Cristobal – the hike up to the top of the hill was breathtaking.  The statute was so amazing to see up close, and the entire trip to go up to the top was great exercise.  The ride down on the funicular was slightly terrifying for me, but was fun.
  3. Barrio Bellavista – the area at the bottom of Cerro San Cristobal is teeming with funky bars, restaurants, shops and graffiti filled buildings.

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Valparaiso/Vina del Mar

Second stop was Valparaiso.  The funkiest city I experienced in Chile.  It was cool, eclectic and had an edge to it.  I would travel back to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.

  1. Graffiti – almost every other building had street art or graffiti filling it. Incredible art to see.  Every turn found more art to view.  Stunning!
  2. The beaches – Vina del Mar had the most pristine beaches, the incredible first views of the Pacific Ocean and the walks along the beach.
  3. The food – so many different varieties of food to try, the aromas, the taste.  It was delicious to wander the streets and try new foods.

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La Serena

This pretty little town set between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean was breathtaking.  The sunsets over the ocean, viewed from my terrace at the hostel, was my evening ritual.  I couldn’t get enough of walking through the streets and seeing the sites.

  1. The festival square – I arrived on a Sunday morning and wandered down to the main square, where a festival was taking place.  The music, the food, the crowds of people – it was a feast for the eyes and nose!
  2. The views – most impressive views of the ocean.
  3. The calmness – I was impressed with how calm the city was.  Everyone walking around seemed so relaxed and happy – I would be happy living there too.

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Antofagasta

The “pearl of the north”.  Antofagasta is a city that offers so much – it is on the edge of the Atacama desert, so it is a dry city.  Not much rain falls here, but it is fascinating.  It prepared me for the dryness of the desert.

  1. The sea life – sea lions, pelicans – but sadly no penguins.  The fish. It was very cool to see the sea lions and pelicans.
  2. Seafood – the seafood of the Pacific is the best I have ever had.  Antofagasta has many restaurants to sample so many different fish dishes.
  3. The wharf – I spent most of my days wandering down to the wharf, to watch the fishing boats, to eat fresh fish, to people watch.  Antofagasta was a very pleasant surprise!

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San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro – the driest desert on earth.  It was dry, dusty, I felt like I was in the old west – the adobe buildings, the stray dogs – it had such an interesting feel to it.  I discovered a lot about myself here, and overcame fears I have had in my life.

  1. Valle de la Luna – the Moon Valley.  The most incredible part of my entire trip to Chile.  Sounds a bit corny but it truly was life-changing for me.
  2. Pukara de Quitor – a visitor’s area about 30 minute walk from San Pedro.  Walking across a river, climbing to the second rest stop, and looking out over the valley.  Worth the sunburn I got!
  3. The Milky Way – I  was lucky to have been in a hostel that I had another terrace to sit out on.  And we were far enough away from the town’s lights that I could look up in the sky and see millions of stars and the milky way.  Incredible!!

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Arica

Surf City!!  My last stop and I picked a great place to end my trip.  I spent almost every day on the beach.  Such a relaxing way to end this amazing trip.

  1. Playa Chinchorro – my beach of choice.  A 10 minute walk from my hostel.  A 5 km beach with white sand, warm waters, body boarders, and surfers.  Lots of fun to watch!!
  2. 21 Mayo Av – the pedestrian street in Arica – restaurants, little shops, street vendors, buskers (rapping in Spanish is always interesting to hear!) – something for everyone!
  3. San Marcos Cathedral – the Cathedral that was designed by Gustav Eiffel – such a unique cathedral to see.

Arica

I am now back in Canada for a couple of years – but I will still continue to take small trips while I am here.  For now, I am going to get back to being a Canadian and taking in all things Canadian.  I will enjoy being back with my family and friends.

 

So long Chile

Hostel living

When I decided to head to Chile, I started thinking of the most economical way to do it.  I knew I wanted to travel city to city but I knew hotels would be too expensive for me to stay at.

 

Not having any idea about what it was like to stay in a hostel, except with a misconception that they are dorm rooms with a lot of partying young people, I decided to at least take a look and see what the pictures show.  To my surprise, hostels are not only dorms!!  In fact, this is the best way to travel in my opinion!  I was able to get single rooms in all the hostels I have stayed at – and in fact, two of them I had full apartment style rooms.  With my own kitchen, my own bathroom, a table to sit at and a terrace to sit out on at night.  And luckily for me, they were both at my two favourite places of Chile – La Serena and San Pedro.  And I am happy to say that NONE of the hostels have had any loud parties that didn’t allow me to sleep.  For that, I am very grateful!

 

In Santiago, I was lucky enough to find an apartment for the week I was there – which was good.   It helped me just rest, be on my own, get over major jet lag and get used to a new country.  After that – it has been all hostels.  Single rooms, with a shared bathroom and a shared kitchen.  This time of year here in Chile, it is the end of winter so there are not as many people travelling and I was fortunate to be able to have the place in Valparaiso to myself for 4 of the nights I was there.

 

Most of them have been great, with great owners who are super friendly, meeting other travellers from all over the world.  And hostels are very reasonably priced.  Far cheaper than a hotel, with amenities like a kitchen to use.  I have only been disappointed with one (the first one I was at in Antofagasta – dirty kitchen and unfriendly hosts – I was happy to be there for only three nights!).

 

I know my travelling has not finished – there are so many other places I want to see – and I now know that staying in hostels is the way to go for me.  They aren’t for everybody, I know, but for anyone who is looking to save money and travel longer, definitely research hostels – single rooms are a bit more than the dorm rooms, but definitely worth it to check out!!

The trouble with WiFi…

This trip through Chile has been amazing, and amazingly frustrating at times!!   WiFi is not readily available in places, and in some hostels, while they advertise that you have “free WiFi in all areas”, it does not mean it is reliable WiFi!.

 

Take, for instance, where I am now.  They advertise free WiFi but what they neglect to tell you is that yes, it is free and available throughout the property, however, being that all the rooms are on the 2nd and 3rd floor, as you get further up, the WiFi is much less reliable.  And, for some odd reason, the WiFi here only seems to work on one electronic device at a time – so I need to turn WiFi off of my phone so I can use my laptop.  I know I know – first world problems right?

 

But in the age of instant communication, and when you have family wanting to make sure you are okay, it is very frustrating to have unreliable WiFi.

 

Another interesting thing about Chile – there are very few places you can go and get free WiFi.  In China, it seemed like every restaurant, mall and school had free WiFi.  Everywhere you went, you could connect (sometimes even on the bus!).  The same was true about Prague – I was always able to get on somewhere.  But not in Chile.  Which is good and bad.  It’s good, because you actually see people communicating with each other (shocking right??).  But again, it’s “bad” because for travellers, some times it is very important to have that luxury of WiFi connection.

 

While I have enjoyed not having WiFi all the time, I would like to have it when I am back in my room relaxing and wanting to search the web!

 

What do you think – should we have limited WiFi throughout the world so that we can communicate better with each other, or should there be more access to the internet??  I am interested in hearing other opinions!

San Pedro – more than just a desert town

My week started off with a late arrival on Sunday.  Monday had me wandering around the town, seeing what there was to offer and just getting a general feel of the area. It was dry and dusty – of course!  But there was a certain feel to the town.  A feeling, to me, that something was going to happen here but I just wasn’t sure what.  Monday ended with me sitting on my terrace of my two floor, apartment-style hostel (I really do love hostels!), watching the milky way and a million stars.  I had no idea just how spectacular it was to see the milky way!!

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The square of San Pedro

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The volcanoes of the Andes

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Tuesday I had booked the morning tour with Tours 4 Tips – again cannot say enough about this company!   If anyone is in Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Santiago or San Pedro – book the walking tours with these guys!  Absolutely phenomenal!!  Anyway – it turns out I was the only one scheduled for the tour so I had the pleasure of a private tour with a lovely guide by the name of Pauline, a French girl who fell in love with an Atacamen boy and stayed in San Pedro.  She was full of knowledge and so much energy – I had such a lovely time – and what was supposed to be a two hour tour was almost a three hour tour because we talked about so many other things.  She deserved even more of a tip than I gave her!

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My awesome private tour guide Pauline

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A very salty tree that grows in the desert

Tuesday night a big windstorm happened, and it continued all day on Wednesday.  I am not a fan of blowing sand in my eyes, so the day was spent doing very little.  I managed to go out and get some fruit and vegetables at the monthly market that Pauline told me about – it was awesome!  Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – was sold there.  Even a kitchen sink!!!  I spent about two hours browsing the market, sitting in the town square, getting some lunch, then headed back.  I had booked the Valle de la Luna tour for that night but it was cancelled because of the wind.  I re-booked for Friday afternoon.

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Licancabur Volcano in the distance

Thursday- I headed out to Pukara de Quitor, an area just outside of San Pedro.  I walked, and it took about an hour to walk there.  A local man said – oh just cross the river and walk for about 20 minutes – turns out you actually have to cross a river!  Good thing I was wearing my boots – my feet didn’t get wet at all traipsing through the river!  On to Pukara de Quitor – I had been told it was a hill you could climb and have a lovely view of San Pedro.  No one told me it was an actual visitor’s site that cost money – good thing I almost had enough – the lovely lady at the desk let me pay the student’s fee.  Gracias!  So, I headed to the “hill” – it was more than a hill but not quite a mountain.  I met a lovely mother and daughter and we ended up going up together.  I conquered a big fear that day – I normally do not climb anything that has no railing to grab on to in case I feel I need to – well there was no railing and I managed to get up to the second rest stop (almost to the top).  A HUGE feat for me.  I was very proud of  myself, and was also amazed at the view at this point.  Walked back down and headed back to town.  I was so proud of myself, that I took myself out to the best burger place in town – and it truly was the best burger.  Thursday, at that point, was the most amazing day of my entire trip.  Until….

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This view

Friday happened.  I woke up to a beautiful blue sky, no wind, the temperature was just right.  A perfect setting for my Valle de la Luna tour at 4pm.  I arrived, backpack ready with water, sunscreen and my coat for the cooler temperatures near the end of the tour.  With the group, we loaded on to the van to head out to the Valley.  I had asked if I needed to be in really good shape, was this difficult, etc., and I was assured that it was not that difficult.  Well, turns out, it was more difficult, both physically and mentally, for me than I had imagined it would be.  The beginning was easy, a nice easy sandy slope towards this hill.  As we got up a bit higher, I noticed that the people ahead of me were turning left, and some were stopping, gasping and looking up.  This did not bode well for my fear of heights!   As I got to that point – I stood there in complete shock.  This was not just a hill.  This was rock and sand, climbing up the side of the hill, about 200 metres (this is what Klaus, the guide, told us after).  I was petrified and frozen in the spot.  I looked up and just said No.  Klaus was encouraging me, saying I could do it, he would help me.  I just kept shaking my head and saying no.  I was so completely afraid, I didn’t know what to do.  But then I saw a couple about my age, maybe a bit older, going ahead and doing it and I thought I can do this too.  I just don’t look down.  Well, I got about half-way up – and couldn’t go any further.  I was frozen.  And on the verge of tears.  I was absolutely petrified.  And Klaus – my hero – told me to just wait and he would help me.  So there I was, on the side of a “hill”, waiting for someone to drag me up there.  He came back, talked to me, told me it was okay to cry, told me to take deep breaths, and that I could do it.  After several minutes (felt like hours), he finally got me on the right track, I put my foot and leg where he wanted me to, grabbed his arm and had complete faith in him that he was going to get me up – and I did it.  I made it up to the top.  The other members of the group were cheering me on, and congratulating me.  I just felt like crying and would not stand up LOL.  After that, there were two other hills but nothing like that.  I was shaking the whole time, but I DID IT!!!   I was so proud of myself, and proved to myself that no matter the obstacle, I can do it, with lots of encouragement and Klaus holding me up haha.  I made such a huge breakthrough that day – I have many fears and now I know that I just need to take deep breaths, tell myself I can do it – and just do it.  At the end of the tour, we went to the lookout to watch the sunset over the valley, and I said a little thank you to the universe/God/my spirits/my guardians.  Truly the best day of my time in Chile.

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The entrance to Valle de la Luna

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The three sisters

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The view from the “hill” – I made it!

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My hero, Klaus, and I standing at the top of the hill!

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The amazing sunset in the Valley

Saturday, it was my last day.  I did a final walking tour in the afternoon, enjoyed some lunch in the square and headed to the bus station for an overnight bus ride to Arica.

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After the Saturday tour, the group – three Canadians and two Australians!

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The square – one last time

San Pedro was amazing – I will never forget what this town, and this entire trip, has shown me about myself.  My strength, my attitude and my life – so many ways I have changed and all for the good.  I LOVE CHILE!!

Exploring the desert – San Pedro de Atacama

I arrived in San Pedro late Sunday afternoon, after an amazing drive through the desert.  I didn’t really know what to expect to see going through the desert – I had no idea just how awesome it really is!!

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San Pedro de Atacama is a small town located close to the Argentina and Bolivia borders, high in the Andes – I checked the altitude and it is over 2000 metres!  No wonder I had a pressure headache for the first two days here!  It is a very unique town with many interesting laws and rules – one being that there is no dancing allowed!  They have bars here, but in order to order an alcoholic beverage, you must also order food.  Apparently the small police force enforces this !!  And I found out that the fire department is hardly ever busy with fires, but are quite busy rescuing visitors from the desert who thought they could handle being out in the desert on a hike alone.  Not too bright !!!

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I have been a witness to a weather pattern that is apparently quite unusual for here – strong winds for three days, resulting in sand tornadoes (? – is that a thing?).  My tour out to the Valle de la Luna had to be postponed until Friday evening – which is okay.  I do NOT want to be out in the valley with this much wind.  The forecast is calling for the wind to die down tonight – I am crossing my fingers!  I am tired of having so much sand in my hair and in my eyes!!

 

I have learned some of the modern facts of the town, and tomorrow I will be going on another free walking tour to learn about the history of the town.  I am going to explore just outside the town tomorrow morning.  I really am enjoying it here – I just want the wind to stop!!!

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My time is quickly coming to an end in Chile though – in two weeks I will be back in Canada.  Wow, it has really gone by fast.  I still have more to see though and am looking forward to my last two weeks in South America!!!

 

​Discovering Chile ~ and myself

When I decided to travel through Chile, I did the basic research of the country, read information about each city I would see and looked at pictures.  I made myself a list of must~sees, but really I just wanted to discover what Chile was about. The people, the food, the way of life. What I didn’t expect was to discover so much about me.

Chile is a very long and narrow country.  The country has such a diverse nature to it.  From the glaciers in the south to the desert in the north, and the Andes creating a border with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru ~ there are so many unique qualities to this country it is staggering.  The natural beauty of this country is overwhelming. It has taken my breath away on more than one occasion.
There is also a great variety of food to be found. From Peruvian to sushi, from pizza to Chinese, you can find almost any kind of food here.  And the pastries!!  Its a good thing I walk at least three hours a day here!  I have yet to try Chilean wine or Pisco Sour but I will.
The people here struggle with English but are still anxious to help. They want to teach me Spanish and I have been trying ~ it is getting better.  I have met incredibly lovely people on my travels, and all ask where I am from, why am I in their city, have I tried Empanadas or the pescado, have I enjoyed a Pisco sour and, my favourite question ~ where is my husband? The older ladies seem genuinely concerned that I have no husband and am traveling solo! Their reaction amuses me.
The lifestyle here is similar to Europe ~ relaxed, easy going and very family oriented.  Siesta time is fascinating ~ stores close, families gather at a park, and they play, eat and rest. Such a difference from China where the children are so busy all the time that they are tired and not relaxed at all.
The thing that has struck me most is what I have discovered about myself.  I no longer care about materialistic things, I have all that I need.  I have discovered how strong I am, both physically and mentally. I have also discovered my limitations (Macchu Picchu is off my list).  But most of all, I have discovered that, regardless of what others think about me, I am very proud of what I have accomplished and how far I have come.
They say travel changes you. I don’t think it’s changed me. I think it has awakened me in how I view the world.  I have a different attitude now. I am more accepting. And I have said this many times but it bears repeating ~ I am so grateful for this amazing journey I am on.  I am grateful for the opportunities that have been give. And I know its not over ~ I have many years left.
So I am just going to keep on trekking and exploring!

Hidden Gems of Antofagasta

Most cities have their hidden gems – places that tourists aren’t likely to see but that the locals like to go to, probably to get away from the tourists!   I know a lot of tourists come to places to see the main sites, and then once they have seen them, hit a restaurant that has been recommended, and then they are done.  They start exploring elsewhere.

 

That’s what I love about the way I travel.  I don’t rush through cities.  I want to see what the locals do, so I explore down streets that you don’t see the tourists on.  I go into stores or markets that I see the locals going into, and not necessarily the tourists.  Today, I found some hidden gems in Antofagasta!!

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Shopping for the Fiesta!

One of the big tourist areas here is Arturo Prat Avenida.  I have heard the people I have met here simply call it Prat.  It is a big shopping street, pedestrian only, where you can see couples dancing to live music during the siesta, or people eating on the patios, or the dogs wandering around hoping for someone to drop some food.  I enjoyed walking down this street today – I took my time and even went into some of the stores to see what there was.  It is SO nice to be in a country where they have my actual size in clothes.  I cannot stress this fact enough!  I found an outfit that I think my son would look so handsome in!  HAHAHA

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Arturo Prat Square

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Awesome outfit!!

As I strolled around the area, as it was siesta time, it was quite busy and I was watching to see where the locals were walking to.  In a non- stalkerish way, I followed some of them into this building, where the aromas coming out of it were mouth-watering!!  It was the Mercado Municipalidad.  The scents of the numerous restaurants were delicious – meat cooking, chicken grilling, soups boiling – so many choices to make!!  After being gently (that’s a nice word – not really what she did lol) encouraged to enter this one restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised by the special of the day.  A chicken soup with vegetables and arroz and a chicken entrée, that came with arroz and sliced tomatoes.  Absolutely delicious!!  What a wonderful surprise for my lunch, and for only 3,000 pesos (under $6 Canadian).  It was just the right amount for me.

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This was soup!!

After my lunch (which because of the siestas everyone eats around 2pm and then has a late dinner at around 8pm – I cannot eat that late!), I went for a walk back to an area I have been several times already – the pier.  But I had noticed every time that I had been there that a lot of people walked down this road and I was curious.  So I walked down there today, and discovered a beautiful little alcove with a sandy beach and lots of families and teenagers there.  It’s an actual beach to swim in – and they were!  I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to swim in it (although it is shallow and, as you can see, protected from the big waves of the ocean).

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It is always so much fun to get out of the usual touristy areas and discover where the locals go to eat and relax!!