Friday, September 26, 2014

It's All About the Red, White and Blue in Chile, too!!!!

Hey all,

Sorry about missing last week.  As I mentioned, our internet was down and it was just fixed on Wednesday.  Apparently there was something disconnected down in the bowels of the hotel and it took forever for them to find it.

But they did, and now we're up and going again.  I can get online AND upload pics for the blog, which is what prevented me before.

Anyway, today's blog is about the really interesting time we had during the Chilean Independence Day holidays that take place on September 18th and 19th.  Actually, this country is sooooo into their independence activities, they sometimes start on Monday and go through the whole of the week!

This year's holiday fell on a Thursday and Friday, so that made it even better for the locals.  Many of them wound up with a four day weekend.  Cirque didn't even bother trying to put on shows on the 18th and 19th.  Everyone is so busy out celebrating, they knew no one would come to the performance!!!!!

Awesome for us because we had the two days off and we had a wonderful time seeing everything.  It was very different in some ways than what we do in the USA, but in other ways, it was a lot the same.  The celebrations may have been dissimilar, but the family get togethers--picnics and BBQs in the park--they were very much the same.  People hanging together and enjoying the day.

Thursday the 18th is the actual Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day) celebration.  This day celebrates the beginning of the war that freed Chile from Spanish rule.  You can read the particulars HERE.  Like we do in the states, there are festivities, parades and celebrations all over town.  Here is Santiago, you could find a party in almost every park in the city.  We went to two of them.  One on each day.

Thursday's park was where they was this HUGE exhibition, rodeo, arts and crafts fair, carnival and enough wonderful food and drink, you never wanted to leave.  We went because I was curious about what a Chilean rodeo was like (see HERE for info on that), but we stayed because that was just a part of the fun!  But it's easier to show you than tell you, so here are some pics of our day.

 The main reason I wanted to go to this park celebration was the rodeo.  Since I used to do some myself, I was curious as to what the Chilean's did.  And I discovered it's very different than ours.  Read the above Wikipedia info on it.  Here two riders guide the steer.  The horses are just amazing.  And the skill...I was very impressed.

This shows you some of the different chamantos (ponchos) the Huasos (cowboys) wear.  Each pair of riders wore the same colors. 

A lot of the crowd wore the traditional outfits and dancing broke out in different places.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

They also had a stage where they did a bunch of folk dancing.  The crowd was insane, but we enjoyed watching what we could.

Did I mention the amazing food?  Check these pics out...

A side of beef over an open fire.  Totally YUM!!!

 Of course once it's cooked, they make these brochettes.  Meat, peppers, bread and sausage.  They are huge and delicious.

And for desert, you can have your pic of sweets.  A huge assortment of candy...

Or, freshly made churros. With powdered sugar or stuffed with dulce leche.  Both so very good!!!

One of the performances.  The dance of the condor. 

Jonathon just liked the girls.  LOL

And finally, at the carnival, remember the old standard ring toss?  Well they do it right here in Chile.  Here they toss for alcohol!  Awesome!!!!

Then on Friday, we went to a different park.  O'Higgens, where they also had a festival, but because September 19th is what we would call Armed Forces day, they had several hours of military parades and displays.  And I have to say it was pretty impressive.  They had fly-overs by just about every kind of plane you can imagine.  Paratroopers that landed in the field before the actual parade started and then line upon line of every kind of soldier you can imagine.  And not just Chilean, either.  There were soldiers from other countries and even the UN.  There were military machines, calvery troops and even canines and their handlers.  It was pretty cool.

This park was were everyone flew their kites, which is another thing EVERYONE does on this holiday.  Seriously, I've never seen so many kites in the air.  And in the trees.  Remember the kite eating trees of Charlie Brown's cartoons?  Well, they are alive and well in Santiago, Chile.

But, again, so much easier to show you than write about it.  Here are some of the fun things we saw on this part of the holiday.

The entrance to the exhibition area.  Bright and colorful.

Music went on all day long.  This band, called Tikitiklip, showed native legends on the video while they sang the accompanying songs.  Very cool performance.

Food and wine Chilean style.

One of the traditional drinks here in Chile and a new favorite.  The Terremoto (earthquake).  Sweet white wine (or some vendors offered red), poured over pineapple ice cream/sherbet, then topped with grenadine.  Add a floater of vodka or tequila if you want.  Delicious!!!!!!

Part of the airshow.  Really beautiful to see all the planes in the air.

As I mentioned.  Lots of kids and kites.  These pics don't do it justice.  The sky was FILLED with kites.

Since I'm a dog lover, I enjoyed watching this part of the parade.  I was surprised when I didn't see dobermans and rottweilers.  Mostly German shepherds, Retrievers and Labradors.

There were at least a dozen horse brigades on parade.  The animals were so very beautiful and the riders so proud.

One of the many, many units on parade here.  There were over 150 different commands for the public to see and appreciate.

And of course, what's a parade without a band?  There were several here all playing traditional music for the holiday.

Even the UN showed off their stuff.  These vehicles were something right out of the movies.

A look at the huge crowd that filled the park.  And this was only on the grass.  Trying to get through the food vendors to the exit was crazy!

So you can see, it was a busy and totally fun two day holiday.  I love seeing how other cultures celebrate and this was one of the best we've done.  We had a blast, so much fun in fact, we came home and told everyone else about it so they could go out and do it themselves!  LOL

I may miss the USA, but at least here in Chile, I was able to have a taste of what I remember doing on our own 4th of July holiday.  They may celebrate it a bit differently down here, but I promise you, the fun, pride and respect for their past is very much the same.

Until next week...

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Woman's Heart is an Ocean of Secrets

Hey all,

I just got back from the most amazing trip to the coast.  Every once is a while I just need to get out of the city and breath fresh air.  And the scent of salt as I walk the beach is truly the way to my secret heart.

Sometimes you find a great little place on the ocean that you'd go back to again and again.  When we were in Brazil, we discovered Ilhabela Island, a great place to dive and a cute little community that I could have spent days wandering around in.

This time we discovered something very different, yet just as wonderful.  In the Los Vilos region of Chili on the coast, there is this tiny little town called Pichidangui. (see photo above of bay)  It is so small you may blink and miss it, but that's part of it's charm.

More a summer location (I'm assuming this because there was NOBODY there) it was still one of the nicest and friendliest towns we've visited.  They had a lovely boardwalk, some terrific restaurants and one of the best dive centers we've seen.  Ever.  In the whole world.  And that amazed us.  This great little setup in this small town.

Jonathon taught a couple of dive classes which is why we went there, but I'd go again just to wander the coastline and listen to the sound of the ocean crashing against the rocks.

We found a house with a view of the bay and several of the Cirque people stayed with us.  We had a fireplace, a BBQ, three full bathrooms (thank you, God) and everything except towels.  (And what was up with that?)

We got there Sunday night, dove on Monday and Tuesday, then came back to Santiago on Wednesday.  We had a wonderful time with friends and I loved going off and wandering the town and rocky shoreline.

There were pelicans everywhere, doing the Jurassic Park flyby all day long, as well as sneaking up on unsuspecting fisherman and stealing their catch.  In the bay we watched Humboldt penguins swim and splash.  There were also the biggest bloody seagulls I've ever seen.

But it was the scenery that really rocked my boat.  The rocky coastline really reminded me of the Oregon coast, which I adore.  I'd still love to have a place there.  I took hundreds of pictures--both coastline and sunset.  And the views were so gorgeous, it was difficult to take a poor one.  Check these out.

The view from our porch.  We could see the penguins from here as well as watch the boats go out.

 Sunset the first night.  Not a bad view from our front lawn!

 An old shack on the rocky beach south of town.  You can see the mudflat beach in the background.

A part of the boardwalk and the main beach.  Not sandy, more muddy, but not a shell or clam to be seen.  Kinda disappointing, really.  I love to beach comb.

One of the prettier areas of the coastline.  And the water was such a beautiful blue.

What I called Sunset Point (see my profile pic on FB) was a beach that was nothing but rocks and boulders.  It had beautiful tide pools, critters and pounding surf.  I had a blast climbing the rocks and doing some "beach" combing.

A day view of Sunset Point.  The tide is out here, but the surf was insane!  We sat for a long time just watching and listening.

On the other side of the promontory is this lovely walking path along the cliff side.  Flowers, plants, benches and wonderful views offer a quiet spot to reflect or recharge.

Another view from the walking path.  While the weather wasn't too good in the mornings, by mid afternoon, it was clear and beautiful.

 A quick look at the living room of the house we rented.  Comfortable, pretty clean and it had views, a BBQ and a fireplace.  Perfect!

This was the sunset on the last day.  The same cove in the pictures above, but with all the colors of a gorgeous Pacific sunset.  

Anyway, it was quiet and beautiful and since we had the last night there alone together--romantic.  A little wine, a crackling fire, and the sound of the sea, made it an evening to remember.  And since I adore the ocean and everything about it, the whole weekend will be one I never forget.  As Jacques Cousteau said, "The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."

And I, for one, am very happy to be it's prisoner.

Take care until next time.

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Friday, September 5, 2014

Are You a Pufferfish or a Swordfish?

Hey all,

I know the title is a little weird but it's my way of slipping you into one of my mad moments of traveling.  I thought you'd all enjoy what happened to me one day on the way home from the movies.

Before I do, let me remind you all that I am a writer.  Which usually means I work alone.  I'm much happier wandering alone in the woods than pushing my way through a crowd, even if it's in a beautiful interesting city.  In fact, I'm of the belief the world would be much better place if there were fewer humans in it.  LOL

So, knowing I don't play well with others, understand too that each time I go out into a crowd I would much rather be climbing a mountain or wading in an ice cold stream.  Alone.

But to do some things I have to go out into the world.  And I've learned to suck it up and make the best of it.

Now for the story...

As you know, we don't have a car down here so we take public transpo.  Mostly metro and it's usually a nice way to get from place to place.  The buses are okay, too, but it's difficult to know when to get off since most cities don't have their bus stops marked on maps.  (idiots)

So, the metro for us 90% of the time.  And we've learned NOT to take it at certain times.  Like when everyone and their brother are getting off work.  But we thought we were safe when we headed down to the metro last night around 6:30.  An hour and a half (we thought) after work day's end.


We should have known when we saw all the ^%#*^$%& people in the station.  But we'd been walking all day and were tired.  We didn't want to walk the mile back to the hotel, so we got in line and headed downstairs to catch the subway.

Sweet Baby Jesus there were soooooo many bodies.  Everywhere.  Pushing and shoving and looking at me.  Like they thought it was okay to be in my space.  I hate people like that, you know?

We had to wait three times to get on a train.  Though part of that was me just watching in amazement as grandmas older than dirt pushed their way onboard.  It was like a Youtube video of those places in India.  Truly scary.

We only got on because a completely empty train arrived.  Jonathon said they had to do that every once in a while or no one would get home.  So on we jumped and since we only had a couple of stops to go, I thought we were in the clear.  No worries.  How much more crowded could it get?

I'm not sure if it was all the popcorn I'd eaten at the movie or I was just having a major blond moment, but I was a total idiot.

The next stop I swear, a thousand people got on.  Crowding and shoving.  Luckily, I saw them coming, so we scooted over next to the door so we'd have it easy when we wanted to get off at the next stop.  We were so crowded I swear I could see up the nostrils of the guy standing next to me.  And I REALLY hope that was Jonathon's hand on my ass.  Really, I'm going to believe that.

But we were in and on our way and all of us holding our collective breaths.  I thought again, how much worse could it be.

Did I mention being an idiot?

But this time it wasn't the crowd around me.  When the subway came to a stop and we made to get out, that's when all HELL broke loose.  And I swear it wasn't my fault.


The car stops and the doors open and there are like a gazillion people waiting to get one.  Jonathon slides out and I follow him, but before any of us are out the door, this heifer of a woman tries to force her way in between us.

Oh no she didn't!

Really?  If you want room to get on, let ME get off first!  But not this cow.  She was pushing her way in and I must admit, me and my friend claustrophobia just snapped.  I couldn't puffer fish (think what a puffer fish does and you'll see what I mean)--we were all too crowded, so I did the next best thing I could to stop her from forcing me back onto the train.

I made like a swordfish and kinda poked (elbowed) her in the face.

She screeched and backed up and I took immediate advantage of her lapse and scooted around her before pushing her back into the multitudes.  I think I heard her curse at me before she was swallowed into the crowd.  I tried to feel bad about what I'd done, but at  the risk of sounding like an eight year old, "SHE STARTED IT!!!"  As the train pulled away, I saw her staring at me through the window.

Honestly?  I think her face looks much better that way.  All swollen and red and bruised. Maybe she'll think twice about being so damn rude and pushy.  And I bet she won't ever mess with THIS puffer / swordfish again.  Stupid, stupid heifer.  *grumble, growl*

Hey!  Maybe with my mad skills I'll take up roller derby?


Until next Friday!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams