It just happens that when I open my eyes the first couple of seconds (five perhaps) I wonder: "Where am I?" Yesterday it was Taltal in the north of Chile, the night before La Serena, and 24 hours earlier Lanchile... Today I woke up with the wonderful view of the Andes, the mountain chain covered in snow. It made it easier for me to remember that I am in Santiago de Chile. We all become so "northcentric" that everybody I speak to back in NY is amazed when I tell them that down here is cold and that the hotel lobby is full of excited skiers. I hesitate: "should I go skiing?" but I quickly decide that I rather avoid an injury (I should not forget that I am a very tropical skier who saw snow for the first time when I was 17). A good lunch always trumps exercise, I hail a taxi and ask him to take me to the "Mercado Central" where the strangest creatures from the Pacific come to rest. "Donde Augusto" is the name of the restaurant, what a place, right in the middle of the market a stone's throw away from the fishmongers, strategically located in the middle of the action. I sit down and, as usual, I order the signature dish the "Don Augusto platter" a huge sampler of delicacies (not too kosher I have to admit). A good beer, lots of lemon, and I am ready to plunge myself into what looks more like a Cousteau documentary than a local dish. Several kilos later I leave the restaurant and head to my next stop: "La Chascona", Pablo Neruda's home in Santiago. My guide, an affable long haired student with a UCV look, took us (me and three Brazilians who did not understand a word of Spanish) around every corner of the house where Matilde Urrutia lived until her death in 1985. Extravagant furniture, a colorful hopscotch of objects from around the world surrounded by paintings from his friends and contemporaries (Matta, Mario Carreno and even a Feliciano Carvallo). A more or less accurate reconstruction that Matilde undertook after the house was vandalized in the midst of the coup in 1973. A picture of Neruda and a young Marcel Marceau caught my attention, Neruda and Marceau, verbosity and silence, embraced and smiling. By coincidence today is July 12, the day Neruda was born 104 years ago and here I am, in a sort of pilgrimage with my new Brazilian friends, up and down the stairs digesting a trove of eyes, claws and antennas in Neruda's home. From la Chascona I go for a little shopping (some books, a sweater -yes, I also forgot it was winter down here-) and alfajores of which I cannot have enough.
Tomorrow Uruguay and Tuesday New York.