A Travellerspoint blog

SCOTLAND STEROTYPES

SCOTCH, HAGGIS, BAGPIPES AND MEN IN SKIRTS

semi-overcast 15 °C

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I have enjoyed a nice afternoon in Edinburgh, Scotland and it was just like in the fairy tales so thought I would share a few pictures. I am opting out of writing much because it has been a long day. My flight on B777-300 was about the worst I have ever had. It was so cramped, the seats barely reclined and it was only 6 hours. I have become accustomed to longer flghts where I can wind down watching a movie, enjoy the in flight food and still have time for a long nap. Last night, not so much. I would say I got two hours tops. In any case, it was short and by the time I navigated Heathrow, my flight to Scotland was ready to board. I arrived around noon and decided to push on, skipping a nap, and to try and get on my new schedule which is 6 hours later than Montreal where I had been working for the last week.

I took a bus from the airport that literally stopped across the street from my hotel right beside the train station where I wll be departing from tommorrow.

After having a lovely cappacino and breakfast which included haggis (the black thing), I decided to get my bearings with a hop on hop off bus tour. It was great but I almost dozed a couple time so i figured I better get out in the fresh air and walk. It was about 15 degrees today and mostly bright with two small rain showers.

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I started by going to a graveyard that looked pretty neat.

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I then walked the Royal Mile and took it all that was happening around me. It was a really nice day in a really nice city and I am looking forward to seeing the castle tomorrow.

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Posted by curlygirl 13:44 Archived in Scotland Tagged edinburgh bagpipes kilts scotch Comments (0)

IF YOU ARE SPANISH AND YOU KNOW IT ADD AN “O”

REFLECTIONS ON ARGENTINA AND CHILE

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Here I sit in the Santiago airport reflecting on another wonderful holiday that has flown by. As always it has been a wonderful learning experience and tons of fun especially traveling with the Gabriels.

We have shared lots of laughs and none more than when we attempted to speak Spanish. Despite Sherry’s insistence that she was going to get us by with her university Spanish brushed up with a little iphone app, I am taking credit for the best application. Still, we must give credit to Isaac for his ability to loudly ask for the check at every restaurant. “ La quenta por favor” which Sherry could only manage when she pulled back her shoulders and thrust out her chest. Tony, however, gets the award for effort with his approach to simply add an “o” to any English word. Oddly enough it worked a lot. An ice cream cone is a cono, festival is festivo but sadly, no one understood when he said “keep the chango”.

I have to mention our big laugh of the day when Isaac tripped over his own feet this morning at a small gift shop in the market and fell into the wall. The funniest part was seeing the shop keeper still cracking up laughing 10 minutes later. Those feet have held up incredibly well this trip.

There are lots of things I will remember about Argentina and Chile.

Things I will remember about Argentina:

1. Every restaurant charges a cubierto per person and it is not optional. It is the “cover charge” for the fork, knife, placemats and bread you receive at the table. It costs between $2 and $4 dollars.
2. The Tango is a real part of life and young people go to bars or Milonga’s to dance.
3. Meat, meat and more meat. A serving is often 12+ ounces.
4. Dulce de leche on everything at every meal.
5. The Chimichurri sauce.
6. Taxis are cheap and easy to flag in the streets except when the downtown area in Buenos Aires is too full and they refuse to take you.
7. Everyone seemed to understand Celiac’s disease and gluten free food. There is a law that says restaurants must accommodate celiacs.
8. There is very little English, but why should there be?
9. The neighborhoods of San Telmo and La Boca in Buenos Aires, full of color and character.
10. How friendly and helpful people are.
11. There are 7 Argentina Pesos in a Canadian Dollar (official rate). The Blue rate is more like 10.
12. Great wines.

Thing I will remember about Chile

1. Not being certain we would get in the country having failed to research entry for single parents with a minor.
2. The crazy hairpin turns on the highway as we crossed into Chile on our amazing bus ride.
3. The people making out in public absolutely everywhere. Serious making out.
4. The excellent subway system in Santiago.
5. The incredibly beautiful city of Valparasio with all the street art.
6. All the stray dogs, and the dog poop all over Valparasio.
7. That there is even less English than in Argentina.
8. How friendly and helpful people are.
9. No one seemed to understand Celiac’s disease or gluten free food.
10. The beautiful view of the mountains surrounding Santiago.
11. There are 500 Chilean Pesos in a Canadian Dollar.
12. Great wines.
13. PISCO SOURS!!

I will also remember the many different names I had when guides were picking us up. We have been Shelley, Ashley, Gloria, Isaac and Bailey. Just about any combination of those but never the Gabriels.

As always, I am grateful for the gift of travel. I have touched soil on my 6th continent at the ripe ole age of 47 and my son has accomplished the same at 16. Wow. Anyone want to help fund a trip to Antarctica?

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Posted by curlygirl 03:53 Archived in Chile Comments (6)

FIVE STUFFED LIKE AN EMPANADA

LEARNING CHILEAN CULTURE THROUGH THE FOOD AND WINE

sunny 30 °C

We have had the most wonderful day at our Chilean cooking class. This was recommended by a friend who lived in Santiago last year and it was an awesome day.

We met our chef Matias in the Mercado Central at 10 am this morning so we could go to the markets to get some fresh produce to cook today. What a great way to experience the traditional Chilean way of life. We visited 4 different markets, including a fish market, flower market, meat market and one with fruits and vegetables. Each was a flurry of activity and we seemed to always be in the way but it is the chaos I love. Matias pointed out products that might be different than ones we get home and explained how they are used in Chilean cuisine. We met one man who has been running his fruit and vegetable booth for 68 years and he is now 82 years old. He was lovely. We learned how the cuisine was changing with Peruvian influence from the many immigrants.

Lots of manual labor in these markets.

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The kids got a kick out of this booth. Can you guess what they are selling?

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From there we took two taxis to Uncorked’s super clean and organized kitchen we were started in on our amazing menu. There was one addition since Sherry could not eat the empanadas. We made a dish that was similar to a Sheppard’s Pie but contained chicken, beef and a topping of a sweet corn mash.

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We first learned to make the salsa that is served in every restaurant and then served them up with a pumpkin bread. Yum.

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Next were the Pisco Sours. We had a demo and then each of us made our own drink. It was important to be sure the kids learned how to make them because each drink contains 3 ounces of Picso (35% alcohol) and after one, you are half cut and will not be able to make a second but will be desperate for another. They did a great job.

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Next was dessert. We had to get them cooked early. I can’t believe flan is so easy to make. I remember having these when mom’s Pilipino friends would make them. Another carry over from the Spanish. I will be making this soon.

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We mixed up the beef and chicken for the pies and empanadas. We took a little break to try a white Chilean wine, a sauvignon blanc. Quite good considering I don’t usually like white. After Matias made the dough we all learned to roll out and form the empanadas. This was great fun and Tony, Ellen and Isaac took the lead. I sipped the wine even though I was still feeling the effects of the Pisco Sours. Perhaps that’s why I forgot to remove the seeds from my olives when I put them in my empanadas. And maybe that is why my empanadas had holes. But I was having fun.

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Our last, and my favorite dish was the ceviche. I love ceviche and eat it whenever I see it in my travels. It is a very fresh tasting dish made from raw fish, citrus, onion and herbs. The citrus prevents any bacteria from growing on the fish and it actually tastes cooked. Today’s variety also had avocado. Yum!

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Next we moved on to tasting the red wine and eating our fantastic meal. Each of us plated our own dishes and we enjoyed great conversation and laughs through the meal. Matias was a wealth of information and made us feel like we were at home with friends. There was no shortage of food or wine and everything was delicious. We also had the help of a local lady, Kristy, who was cleaning up behind us every step of the way. We all agreed this was a trip highlight and can't wait to try the recipes at home.

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I love the quote that was in the kitchen. Enjoying local cuisine is such a great way to understand the culture in a new country.

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It was a full day and with our bellies full, we made our way back to the hotel, stopping to buy some Pisco on the way. We figured we would take some time to relax and pack up since we leave tomorrow evening. It is hard to believe it has been two weeks today since we left home. It has been an excellent adventure with amazing weather. It is fall here but every day has been sunny. In Santiago, the days have been much like our summer back home. The days start out at about 10 degrees put peak between 4pm and 5pm at 30 degrees.

Not sure what we will do tomorrow. We may relax by the pool but Sherry is working hard to find a more active plan.

If you curious about the Pisco Sour, here's what I learned on the internet.

Chilean wine is famous the world over, but in the fertile northern valleys of the country, you’ll see wide green areas planted with grapes for making pisco, a grape-based distilled alcohol that varies from 30-43 % alcohol. But most importantly, where there’s pisco, you’ll find the tart, refreshing pisco sour.

The Chilean pisco sour (Peru has a version as well) is a mix of juice from the small lemons called limon de pica (key limes might make a good substitute if you can’t get this fruit at home), a few fingers of pisco, powdered sugar to taste and ice. Some versions also have a bit of raw egg white (which gives it a nice froth on top), simple syrup instead of powdered sugar, and Angostura bitters on top. The drink is blended or stirred well, poured into tall, narrow glasses.

Posted by curlygirl 16:37 Archived in Chile Tagged santiago wine cooking Comments (2)

CRABBY ABOUT LUNCH

AN OTHERWISE GREAT DAY IN SANTIAGO

sunny 30 °C

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We are just back from a very busy day with lots of walking. We met our very friendly and beautiful guide, Robert at 9 am this morning and went for half day tour of Santiago. Santiago is so pretty and although it is reputed to be one of the most polluted cities in South American, it seems be very clean and very green. There is a slight haze hanging over the city but not near as bad as other places I have been. The scenery is amazing. Santiago sits in a valley between two mountain ranges, one being the Andes. We have been told that the Rockies are actually part of the same mountain range.

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Our tour took us to a huge nearby park.

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To the downtown area where we saw the presidential palace and the changing of the guards.

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The central market

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And up to a park in the mountains which offered incredible views.

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We ended our morning at the Mercado Central where we opted to spend $150 on King Crab for the 3 of us. We were told that this place was amazing and that the crab was its specialty. What a disappointment. We really need to appreciate the cold water shellfish we get home because this had no taste.

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Our next stop was the Human Rights museum where we learned about Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship. The museum was a bit disorganized but parts of it, although horrifying, were really interesting. Once again I am floored by the things that have gone on in the world in the 70s and 80s without international intervention.

We made our way back to the Bellavista area where we popped into a market. The market didn’t have much but the area was gorgeous. Even the paths were artistic. We stopped to watch some street performers but never really understood what they were doing.

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This evening we walked around the “Beverly Hills” area and ate supper outside at a nice restaurant where I enjoyed a couple of very strong Pisco Sours. The Celiac issue isn’t as understood here so Sherry’s eating has been a bit more challenging but we lucked into a good spot tonight.

We did all our navigating on the subway which is super clean and costs about $1.25 to ride. It is simple and efficient. We were a little freaked out at one point thought when we saw a guy who looked to be a security guard on our train. He was wearing a holster with a hand gun and a string of bullets around his waist. It seemed like I could have just grabbed both. We were glad he got off at the first stop after we noticed him.

I tied to get Isaac in front of a fast moving subway car but the car slowed down too much.

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We still can’t get over how fast it gets dark. Two nights in a row, we got on the subway in daylight and 3 stops later got off in the dark. It takes about 7 minutes for the sun to set.

Other than the crab, meals cost about the same as home. Certainly not cheap considering the local salaries. There are 500 Chilean Pesos in a Canadian dollar so we are carrying around some rather large bills.

That’s it for tonight. I am beat from the heat and the walking and we have an early rise again tomorrow.

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Posted by curlygirl 19:52 Archived in Chile Tagged markets chile santiago Comments (1)

STREET ART AND ARTISAN MARKETS

LEAVING VALPARAISO FOR SANTIAGO.

25 °C

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Hola from Santiago, the final stop on our South American adventure.

We had an early start to our day to fit in a final tour before leaving Valparaiso. We had an early breakfast at 7:30 and were shocked to be eating in the dark. We are a latitude of 33 degrees south and it is Fall so the days are getting shorter. The sun came up really fast and set just as quickly tonight.

Here is our breakfast view.

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We elected to do a street art tour to try and better understand how this city became covered in all this beauty. We picked the tour company from trip advisor because it had excellent reviews. It is the first time that trip advisor disappointed. We did really enjoy it but it was expensive and we did not meet the artists as was advertised. We did learn lots about the street art culture from our hippie like guide, who the kids thought might be stoned. We learned that in many cases street art is not done by one person but by crews and each crew may have a couple of members or many, even spread out to different cities around the world. All crews, in addition to making murals, have to build their reputations with tags in the form of bubble letters known as bombs or throw ups. Two of the more famous Chilean crews are PLUS and 056 whose bombs are everywhere.

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This is quite different than bando art, which is also part of the culture but is known as “the ugly graffiti”.

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Most of the street art is done by commission and the artists are quite famous.

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Can you find Marlon Brando?

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At 12:30, we left Valparaiso in a van with a non-English speaking driver and a high pitched enthusiastic English speaking guide. This was a brutal two hours even though the scenery was lovely. Poor Sherry was up front and could not escape the non-stop talking of Mary. She was so hard to understand that you had to be fully engaged and focused at all times. Tony zoned out playing a game. Ellen and Isaac had a nap and I even dozed a little. But when she thought we couldn’t hear, she pulled out a mic which made her high pitched jumbled English even louder. After every sentence she said “you know” and repeated herself several times over. She constantly told us we were staying in a very exclusive area of Santiago and it was very expensive. Sherry looked completely fried when we arrived so it was good that Mary got the details on our hotel right. It is lovely and is on par with a Sheraton or Delta at home.

We sat for a quick lunch and a complementary drink. I had the traditional Chilean drink, the Pisco Sour. I love it! Can we get Pisco Sour at home?

We decided to hop on the subway on go to a local artisan market. It was really nice and many of the artisans were working in their shops. Prices were higher than in Valparaiso but it was still nice to poke around. Isaac got a nice leather belt and I got a pin for my new Alpaca cape that I got in Valparaiso and saw here for more than double the price.

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The people in Argentina and Chile have been so warm and helpful. Any time that we have asked for help, people have been more than obliging. Tonight on our return from the market we went to use the subway tickets we bought earlier but they wouldn't work. This young girl got out of the line and tried to explain the issue but of course we could not understand. I think there is less English here than in Argentina. She took us and all our tickets to the ticket booth, explained the problem to the ticket agent, and we finally caught on. The ticket prices go up by 60 pesos each during rush hour so our tickets did not have enough value. Once she sorted us out and we paid the difference, she waited to make sure we got through and went on her way. Serious kindness at play.

We are in Santiago for 3 days before flying out late on Saturday evening. We are not looking forward to leaving this spectacular climate. It is hard to believe this is low season since the weather has been perfect every day. Apparently it is very crowded in January and February but also close to 40 degrees. We have been in comfort, with temperatures in the mid to high twenties every day and barely another tourist in sight.

A few more funicular rides today.

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Dogs roam freely but this guy had a home and a view

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A few more from Valparaiso to give you the city feel.

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Posted by curlygirl 18:08 Archived in Chile Tagged art markets street santiago valparaiso Comments (2)

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