Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Repair Shops of Santiago

One of the benefits of Santiago is the number of repair places, for your clothes, your shoes, your electronics, etc.  Handiwork seems to still be valued here, and it's a great thing to pay a few pesos to get a favorite clothing item back in useful condition.

I recently had piled up a small stack of clothing that needed a repair -- jeans with a hole in the crotch (don't ask), dress pants (that I had just bought) with a 3-inch tear at the back, and a button-up shirt with multiple seams falling apart.  I made my way to my tried-and-true repair shop (that I used before for a few items), Josephine's Taller de Costura in Providencia.  The cheerful lady said she could get the repair done in less than a week for 9,000 pesos (USD$19).  The next Thursday I picked up my garments, all repaired with care, and snapped a very proud photo of Josephine (and least I think she's Josephine....I'll ask next time).

After I picked up my clothes I grabbed lunch at the little diner next door.  I enjoyed a tasty meal of a quiche-like thing (with vegetables), a salad, rice, a drink and watermelon for dessert.

I had another problem with my dress belt -- one of the two screws that attached it to the leather belt had gone missing.  I took it to a shoe/leather repair shop (that also makes keys), and the guy quickly put a rivet in the buckle to make it as good as new again.  An awesome deal for about USD$2.

Josephine's Taller de Costura (Sewing Workshop), my go-to place for clothing repairs.
One of the ladies of the packed workshop. (Could it be Josephine?  I don't know, will have to ask next time.)
$4 lunch next door to Josephine's.
Key and shoe repairshop, a location for a belt repair.
The inside of the shop, taken from the perspective of the shoe-vice tool.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Run on Cerro San Cristóbal (St. Christopher Hill)

For exercise I'm fortunate to have access to Cerro San Cristóbal, a hill that rises about 1,000 feet from the rest of Santiago.  Running the 4 blocks to the hill takes me past Pablo Neruda's home, now a museum, and up past the National Zoo.  The smells can be strong and there is usually a bit of activity from visitors and cyclists on the paved paths on the hill.

The climb to the top is fairly steep, and the views of the city are impressive.  Round trip for the path I take (which goes about 2/3 of the way up) takes about 45 minutes.  Running near sunset is best, with nice views of the shadows on the surrounding hills.

Stretching out in front of my building.
Past Pablo Neruda's old home, now a museum.  This is an outdoor ampitheatre just outside the museum.  During events it becomes a water sculpture, with water being released from the top level and running down in-between the seats.
The main entrance to the park. 
Past the Zoo on the hill.  The animal smells here are quite strong!
Many biciclists frequent the roads on the hill.  A hard workout going up and a thrill to fly back down.
A view of the city.  The tower there being built will be the tallest in South America when it opens in the next year.
Past the palm trees in this very tranquil area.
View from the back of the hill.  I love how the shadows appear on the angular parts of the hills in the evening.
Street art on the way back home.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Trip to Mendoza, Argentina's Wine Country

Julia and I set out in late February for a trip to Mendoza, the center of wine country in west Argentina, about 120 miles northeast from Santiago.  The trip takes about 7 hours by bus, including a one to two-hour stop at the customs office at the border, deep within the mountains.

Our trip started out at 10 pm on Friday night in the bus station in Santiago.  We rolled out shortly after, making our way toward the mountains.  The clear, starry sky could be seen from the bus windown in-between light segments of sleep.  At about 2 am the bus slowed after the steepest climb of the trip -- nearly 30 back-and-forth switchbacks that brought us up to the Chile-Argentina customs office.  After standing in line in the chilly air, getting our passports stamped and processed we made our way back to the bus which finally took us to Mendoza by about 5 am.

Julia and I slept on the uncomfortable bus station benches until the station coffee shop opened and we could get some authentic café con leche and medialunas (pastries).  We then made our way to Hostal Lao, whose #1 rating (in South America) wasn't hard to believe -- we were greeted courteously and found the place to be clean and stylish.

I had contacted a fellow Ohio State Alum who had given us some advice for Mendoza -- namely, to take a bike tour of the wineries and to attend the evening wine festival in the center of town.  Taking Leti's advice, Julia and I finally were able to grab a bus for the 45-minute bus ride to the south of town where we connected with Bicicletas Baccus (Baccus meaning the God of the Grape Harvest), picked up our two-wheeled rides, and cruised the lazy, rocky streets to two wineries.  At the first, Nieto Senetiner, we experienced the typical tour and wine tasting.  At the second we just had a simple lunch and glass of wine.  Personally the experience was fun (riding bikes, seeing the city), but the specific wine tour I could take or leave (IMO -- once you've seen one of 'em, you've seen 'em all).

In the evening Julia and I shared a 1 kilogram steak at the stylish Florentino Café Bistro in Mendoza, then made our way to the wine festival where we met up with Leti (and thanked her for all her good advice), cruised the booths, and drank a few glasses of the area wines.

The trip was capped off with the busride back through the mountains on Sunday afternoon.  The views are breathtaking and the switchbacks were relentless (about 30 hair-pin turns in total). 

A wait in the wine cellar signing paperwork for our rental bikes.
Cruising the tree-lined streets in south Mendoza.
Our first winery.
Rows of grapes next to one of the winery buildings.
Streets of Mendoza.  Large trees run down just about every street.
Saturday night wine festival.
Hostal Lao backyard.
Back to Chile over the Andes.
Rolling past deserted ski lodges and tiny villages.