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By: Elizabeth Varadan
Blog: Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish
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, clam shell
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I am visiting my nephew and his family in France. Their home is just on the edge of the small village of Moissin, about 20 minutes away from Geneva. I'm able to make this visit because I had mileage with United—miles I had to use before October 31st or lose them. I hadn't seen my nephew's family for some time, so it seemed a wonderful opportunity.
The flight route was from Sacramento to Chicago, then from Chicago to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Geneva. The last leg is an hour long flight, and I had the good fortune to be on the side of the plane that looked out onto the wonder of the Alps. Like Galicia and California, this part of the world has had an unseasonably warm fall. But there has been snow on the highest mountains. Consequently, I looked out onto an endless, white craggy range of mountain peaks with pale blue shadows, peaks that seemed to rise out of an ocean of clouds. It was a scene of white on white. Everywhere I looked there were sharp angles of white, rolls of foamy white, wisps of white, and all of it under a blue sky that was deepening toward dusk. I don't think I will ever forget it—and much to my frustration, even though I had my camera hanging on a strap from my neck, it didn't even occur to me to take a picture! My return flight won't be through Frankfurt, it goes from Geneva to Washington instead, so I won't be able to recoup my loss. But, above, I've made use of two free photos of the French Alps. Imagine these rising out of clouds upon clouds instead above of the scenery you see in the pictures.
As it turns out, a small chapel at the top of a hill in the village of Moissin is one of the pilgrim stops for pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela. A road edging the village has the familiar clam shell icon that signifies St. James and the pilgram's road. I must say, having looked at similar si
By: Elizabeth Varadan
Blog: Elizabeth Varadan's Fourth Wish
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, Adega do Carlos
, cafe con leche
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We left Sacramento Sunday morning, and already the week is drifting by. How can Saturday have come so soon?
It’s a long flight from Sacramento to Santiago. We changed at Dallas and again at Madrid, with generous wait times between flights to make sure any delayed flight would not make us miss the next. Our friends met us in Santiago. By the time we picked up our baggage, it was 6:30 in the evening. They drove us to Monforte, a drive of about an hour and a half, where we shopped for basic groceries. Then we all had dinner around 8:30 at a cafe-bar-restaurant called O Pincho. (Dinner at 8:30 or later . . . . That’s when you know you are in Spain.)
After trudging through airports and lugging carry-ons around for close to 26 hours, we practically fell into bed Monday night and had a good long sleep. One of our last, I might add, because jet lag kicked in the next day and is only starting to fade: we become sleepy or wide awake at very odd hours.
It’s wonderful to be here, taking short walks with our neighbors in the village, driving into Escairon for café con leche, or into Monforte to sit at an outdoor table in the big plaza, enjoying a glass of wine. Or going to Adega do Carlos for raciones at lunchtime (which is between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. in these parts.) Or meeting our neighbors again, late in the day, at the bench down the lane, sitting and talking with them until clouds turn pink and the air turns suddenly cool. Already these lovely friends have loaded us up with potatoes, figs, tomatoes, peppers, and home-made wine. In addition, we’ve been setting up lunch and dinner dates with friends we haven’t seen since our last trip, and tomorrow night is the Fiesta in Tuiriz (a village/town within walking distance, although we will drive, since we won’t go until around 9:30 or so.)
9 Comments on We’re Here in the Land of Mist and Mañana, last added: 9/26/2011
By: Mark Peter Hughes,
Blog: Lemonade Mouth Across America! Blog
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MARK: Today I had help from Lucy, age 8, with today’s update. I asked her to talk about our stays in Bryan and Austin, TX while I typed what she said. Full disclosure – I took what she said and changed the order of some sentences so that it goes in chronological order. Otherwise, though, this is what she said. Her comments are in the larger font.
LUCY: When we came into Texas, we were listening to a song named "After Breakfast Let’s Go to Texas.” My mom and dad are in a band that’s called the Church Ladies and it's their song.
We went to Bryan, Texas and stayed with Petey, my mom’s friend. Petey is a really nice man. We walked around Texas A and M. It was really hot out and I liked it a lot. Petey told us about butterflies and Texas Rangers and trees.
MARK: For the Texas A&M football team, there is great importance given to "The Twelveth Man." Here's Karen with her hand on the thigh of that hallowed player.
Also, in Bryan we finally got our antenna fixed! Yay! Here's a picture with Daniel from the Honda dealer. Such a nice guy!
LUCY: We went to a restaurant. It was my dad’s birthday. It was a Mexican restaurant and I tried Sopapillas and I loved them. In the Sopapillas we put a candle and sang Happy Birthday to my dad.
Another day we went to Aunt Pat and Uncle Frank’s house in Austin, Texas. We saw Suzanne and Stephen my second cousins and Francesco, which is a baby, my new cousin. Francesco was 3 months old when I met him. He was really cute. I love the way that he holded on to my finger.
MARK: Here's Zoe with lovely Francesco, and then my family:
MARK: While we were at in Austin, Lucy decided to play with my aunt’s weight set and promptly dropped a 5lb weight hard on her left ring finger. It then proceeded to turn purple and swell up. It’s still purple and swelled, but a bit better now. And she can move it around, so we’ve decided it must be okay. Yet another adventure with Lucy.
(I have a picture of Lucy's finger but Karen seems to have hidden the camera and she's asleep right now -- the nerve! -- so I can't download it. But I'll put it up here soon)
LUCY: We went to lots of bookstores and me and Zoe got these little stuffed animals and my brother got a hat. We went in the kids section and played with the trains.
MARK: We loved the beautiful state capital building -- where we arrived just in time for an amazing tour. And we remembered the Alamo...
We visited an amazing independent bookstore in Autsin called Book People. They were very kind to us!
At a Barnes and Noble in Austin we had an unlikely encounter too strange for fiction: I was standing there talking with a bookseller when I heard a woman’s voice behind me say, “Mark? Mark Hughes, is that you?” I turned around and there, out of the blue, stood a familiar face from Rhode Island. Beverly Pettine is a friend of the family who used to work with my mother. Beverly doesn’t live down here in Texas--it was just a strange coincidence that she just happened to be visiting her sister in Austin (who knew?) and just happened to be in exactly the right the bookstore with her sister and niece when she saw a sign announcing that I was going to be appearing here. She looked at the time and my appearance just happened to be exactly when she was here. If I were to put that in a story, no one would believe it. Yet, here’s the proof: Here I am with Beverly in front of our car in Austin, TX, of all places. Whoda thunk? :-)
We also had a very nice afternoon with friends of friends. Our neighbor, Jay, grew up in the Dallas area so we were very pleased to meet Brad, Holly, Katie, and Grace, who live in Austin. Lovely people and our new friends in Texas. :-)
LUCY: Yesterday we went to Stephen and Jonathan’s house and they have five dogs. Their names were Max, Casey, Billy, Toby, and Lloyd. They were cute. I loved to pick Max up. He was the littlest but he was 31 years old. We went in Stephen and Jonathan’s pool and swam. Stephen and my dad and mom threw us in. It was really fun.
Right now my brother and sister are filling their stomachs with Cheetos. We’re driving to Dallas, Texas. We’re going to stay with Gigi. We were just listening to High School Musical in the car.
MARK: A sad note: I just got some terribly disappointing news from NPR – they are not going to air the road-trip stories after all. Given their already busy line up and the fact that the producer working with me will be away in Alaska for a month starting this week, they made their decision not to go forward with the road-trip stories. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am about this. I sent out the message about NPRs decision earlier this morning and was truly touched by the many, many the kind emails people sent in reply. I’m grateful to have such a supportive network.
On the other hand, I’ve already learned a great deal from working with NPR so far, and the experience has been a lot of fun. Perhaps after the summer is over I’ll submit some commentaries in the style of the first one, where I talked about quitting my job. We’ll see.
In any case, this is so far the only significant set-back in an otherwise successful and happy road trip/book tour. And I’m determined to get over it before we reach Dallas. :-)
I appreciate your friendship.
LEMONADE MOUTH (Delacorte Press, 2007)
I AM THE WALLPAPER (Delacorte Press, 2005)
Here is my husband Bill, self proclaimed barbarian, playing guitar upstairs at La Casa Roja. Notice the high ceilings. The hostel was once a mansion, and Simon, the owner, has worked hard to restore the building and to provide all sorts of services for its guests, including ski trips to the Andes.
I was amazed at all the young people from England, Ireland, Australia, and Germany who are traveling around the world. It seems to be a rite of passage to finish school, or take a break during college, and to get a ticket that allows them to stop where they like, as long as they keep going in the same direction. There were VERY few Americans and Canadians, and the ones we met were generally a bit older, often teachers visiting Chile during "summer" break. I loved hearing different languages spoken as I'd walk through the halls. Snowboarders from Spain next door to our room drunkenly sang in Catalan a couple of nights. Very rowdy, but nice young men, all the same.
Most of these young people were visiting many of the countries in South America. A young woman from Israel volunteered at an animal sanctuary in Bolivia. On Bill's trip in February, he met a Danish woman who had worked at the same place whose responsibility was to walk a puma on a leash through the rain forest. Traveling from hostel to hostel, friendships are made; people meet up with each other quite frequently. Going to Bolivia seems to be must do, as well as Peru. I heard wonderful things about countries like Colombia, where I'd be hesitant to visit. A young woman from Australia said it was her favorite country and "only heard gunfire one night in my hammock."
According to the Lonely Planet Guidebook, Santiago is one of the safest big cities in South America. In certain areas, "starving students" might ask you to buy a poem that they have "written." Be aware. Take pictures, but don't be flashy as a tourist, and chances are there won't be any hassles.
The city rises on a plain up to the foothills of the Andes; the higher in elevation, the more wealthy the neighborhood. The Barrio Brasil, where we stayed, is near Santiago Central, and long ago was where the wealthy lived. Over time, it fell into decline, but now it's experiencing a revival, kind of a South of Market thing that has happened in San Francisco. I grew to love it because of the atmosphere of the neo-colonial buildings, the energy of the university students who seemed to be everywhere, the wonderful park where children played late at night, and the coffee we found in cafes.
Bill and I probably walked at least five miles a day. We'd head from La Casa Roja to Central where the Palacio De Moneda, the presidential palace, is. The financial sector and shopping areas are found here, too. I felt I was in Europe as I walked along the streets. By the way, street vendors sell wonderful sweaters, shawls, and scarves made from soft non-scratchy alpaca, as well as jewelry, often made from lapis lazuli.
We strolled down the Ahumada, a pedestrian thoroughfare full of stores, street vendors, musicians, and acrobats to the Plaza De Armas. The first day we were there, there was a gay pride celebration with a drag queen singing. Another time, there was traditional music and dancing, and the last visit we listened to the band of the Carboneros, the Chilean police.
We walked through the Mercado Central. The first building was a fish market, with restaurants. Acres of fish of all sorts. The second building had acres of fruits and vegetables. Cutting through Bellavista, we ended up at Cerro San Cristobal, the highest point in the city. This is a view of Santiago from an funicular that takes people almost to the top.
Can you see the smog? The first day I was there, I could taste it. It reminded me of growing up in southern California, but winter is the time of the year when smog gets worse. I joked that it was a southern hemisphere phenomenon where things were opposite from California. Actually, the Andes are so nearby that the cold air doesn't rise, but gets compacted in the basin. Smog settles in. Unless it rains, that is. Right before we left, a cold front came through, leaving snow in Lo Barnechea, the highest part of the city. Our last day was glorious: crisp air, bright blue skies, and I felt I could reach my arm out to touch the Andes.
(Here's a shot from the fruit market. Bill bought a kilo of kiwi for about 250 pesos, about 50 cents.)
We climbed to the top of San Cristobal. I went into the chapel and said a centering prayer while Bill waited for me. Good thing because we then rode down the mountain in a sky bucket, a long steep ride with a magnificent view which I enjoyed as I clasped my seat with an iron grip.
Then we "landed" in Provedencia and took the subway back to Barrio Brasil. Over a million people a day ride the subway in Santiago. It's a great way to travel during off-peek hours, though I practiced breathing calmly during rush hour when we were squished. BUT that brings me to one of the things I loved the most. People were unfailingly polite. I loved hearing the gently sound of "permiso" as people squeezed through others as they got off.
Graffiti was everywhere. I started to look on the it as art, but one of the biggest pleasures was turning a corner and finding wonderful murals like this. The Bellavista area, in particular, abounded with houses that were true works of art.
Bill frequently mentions that Chile is in its springtime. Chile has the highest standard of living in South America; though poverty is a still an issue, the country has recovered from it's dark era of repression and is going at full throttle to take its place as a modern democratic country.
Detail of mural, Concha y Toro Barrio, Santiago Chile
Santiago in the summer is hot; unlike Los Angeles which has a similar latitude, there is less smog than in winter . . . I chalk this up to how things are just different in South America like dealing cards right to left and putting guacamole on hot dogs because . . . well, I'm not sure why. Chilenos don't understand why we gringos find completos unappetizing. Complete Mural
There's also the chorrellano, a meal of saugage, beef and chicken covered with greasy French fries and an egg sunnyside up that people love here. Just looking at it makes your arteries want to close up.
I'm more used to Santiago in winter when everyone is bundled up with scarfs over their mouths, babies are thoroughly wrapped in blankets, and hostels and restaurants are quite cold as there is little central heating. In summer, the pace is just as fast, but a veneer of sweat stays with you until the evening. After a long subway ride or being in a stuffy bus, I look forward to the helados aguas, fruit popcicles that are incredibly rich in flavor, the best I've ever had; so much better than soda to quench a thirst. I was surprised to find that manzana (apple) flavored ones are sold along with ones you might expect: moro (berry), naranja (orange), pina (pineapple), fruitilla (strawberry) and, on lucky days, frambuesa (raspberry).
Evenings are wonderful, and there are plenty of sidewalk cafes (albiet the majority with smokers) to sit and linger in. The murals above were taken in one of our favorites places, the small barrio of Concha y Toro, near Barrio Brasil, where the neo-colonial architecture has been preserved. We had orange cake and coffee on a terrace overlooking the Plaza Libertad de Prensas. Lovers, including two young women, kissed on the benches that surrounded the fountain below, while the little daughter of the owners of the tienda circled the plaza on what might have been her Christmas bike.
We spent two days in Santiago before heading to the Lake District and Isla de Chiloe. As we travel, like the good consumers we are, we dream of an export business and are drawn into stores and artesan workshops. There are two ferias we know of in Santiago: one more centrally located across from Cerro Santa Lucia, which, generally is more inexpensive than El Pueblito San Dominico, larger and more upscale, in the Los Condes area. It is here that those large buses pull up filled with tourists with plenty of cameras and VISA cards. If you don't have time to explore more of the country, handicrafts are represented here from all over the country. But if you do have a chance for more travel, buying things from the areas they are actual