December 16, 2011: A day in Los Andes

How on earth did it get to be only nine days before Christmas? It’s a balmy 81º F (27º C) here, and my shoulders are sunburned, and all the trees are in bloom! This makes no sense.

We had a lovely morning of sleeping in, followed by a breakfast that our Host-Mum-for-the-Moment prepared for us: pan with avocado, jam, or butter, as well as coffee and cookies. South American breakfasts are very tasty, but consistently sweet and heavy; if I had to live on them for years, I suspect I would slowly inflate.

After breakfast, all of us (including B. and her mum) headed to San Felipe, a nearby town. Once there, we wandered through the park, over paths sprinkled with jacaranda flowers and with a cool pink flower I didn’t know, which had sandpaper-like sepals.

Fallen, scattered flowers.
What to do when you don't know a flower? Photograph it profusely!

The park was hung with large, white Christmas decorations, from a giant winged dove to a few bafflingly futuristic pointy things (I have no idea what they were supposed to be). The sun gleamed off patches of silver on the decorations; I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but this Christmas-in-summer thing is so strange to me.

The one at the top is the unnecessarily-large dove.

After the park, we wandered through a regular mercado, and then through an artisan mercado. The latter had a fascinating variety of items handmade by local people: honey, delicate leather jewelry, rings carved from coconuts, scented soaps, and so on. I picked up some local honey to bring home for V.

I liked these statues of lasses hefting armloads of grapes and/or flowers.

We went to lunch at a restaurant decorated with a variety of sorta-old items, like rotary telephones and antique radios. We ordered the menú del día, which started with an empanada (mine was napolitano: tomato, cheese, herbs). After the empanadas, we felt stuffed, but the main course was yet to come: the soup cazuela de vacuno (cow), specifically with ossobuco, a type of veal cut. I had previously tried cazuela de ave (chicken), and after these two tastings of cazuela, I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite Chilean dish so far. Still, I didn’t manage to finish all of today’s; too full!

We stopped by the colossal Jumbo supermarket, where M., R., and I bought an “Almond Mistery” ice cream dish (made by Magnum, an ice cream company we all knew and savored from our own countries). We took a new, scenic route back to the house, getting to see a different half of Los Andes. Then, we chatted in the warm shade of the patio for a while, before B. had to head to work.

Once again, we had dinner with the lovely mum: bread, chicken slices, and vegetables, piled into sandwiches according to our preferences. The owners of M.’s hostel (one of whom is B.’s brother) arrived in the evening for a visit. We shared the Magnum ice cream and watched part of Forrest Gump, in English with Spanish subtitles. I wondered whether the movie read any differently for the Spanish-speakers, as the subtitles gave no indication of the qualities of Forrest’s accent.

We had considered going out for dinner or to a bar in Los Andes that evening, but, as we were still wiped out from Mendoza, we decided to stay in. A much less exciting day than the latter few, but relaxing.

Another fantastic bit of Spanish terminology I learned today: perros bien educadas (literally, well-educated dogs) is used to mean well-behaved dogs.

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