Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Weekend in La Serena

Not too close, not too far away. The coastal twin cities of La Serena and Coquimbo are a great spot for a quick retreat. At least that´s what I and Macarena thought this weekend when we took the bus northbound. Thanks to calm conditions on the job front, I retired early from the office on Friday and joined up with M on the bus terminal and soon we were on our way.
It´s remarkable how beautiful the landscape is when you´ve left the capital. Could it be that your eyes are so used to the unseductive streets and buildings of the city, that nature is like Vitamin C to them? I think my question was rhetoric enough.
We stayed at the very comfortable Apart Hotel Peñuelas, strategically located between the two towns. With a mere 100 m or so to the beach, the silence was only changelled by crashing waves.
On Saturday we strolled extensively through La Serena, with it´s colonial architecture and always (?) cloudy weather. I asked myself if we were never going to find the Lighthouse, a local landmark, and suddenly it was right before us.
As night fell, we teamed up with Virginia and had a drink at a place with live music. On stage was a singer and his guitarrist, interpreting songs of cuban Silvio Henriquez. It was not a very well-visited event, saying that four people entering the pub doubled the audience. The singer also complained over dull applauses. This made me make an effort to give the least appreciative applause I can.
To our great joy, Sunday turned out to be one of the region´s non-clouded days of the year. If any day is to be seized, this was the one. It was dedicated to the less wealthy but equally charming Coquimbo. After a visit to the gigantic Cross of the Third Millenium on the municipality´s highest point we lunched in a park watching old men napping in the sun, children playing with the fountain, and dogs doing absolutely nothing. Just the kind of tranquil small town activities you learn to appreciate in a bustling metropolis.
By midnight we were settling in for a cosy night on the bus back to Santiago.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

We have a new president

As of today, there is a new boss in the presidencial palace. Her name is Michelle Bachelet, and she´s the first woman ever to assume the Chilean presidency. Former number one, Ricardo Lagos, handed over the presidency and it´s accessories (a red-white-blue ribbon, some medals) in a ceremony in the Congressional building in Valparaiso.
Later, me and Macarena went downtown to check the pulse of the city. We arrived to the Palace just in time to see some famous people stroll out the main doors. I´m not very well oriented in chilean celebrity, but apparently we saw two persons known from tv. We lingered for a while, hoping that a rumoured appearance of the newly installed Ms President would come true, but soon the massive police presence marched off and the crowds followed shortly thereafter.
On our way home we passed the enormous Hotel Hyatt. Condolezza Rice is staying there tonight, and no other guests are welcome. Apparently, Hugo Chavez intended to stay there too but had to find another place to crash. Now, Ms Rice, don´t be rude, surely there must be a bed left for Hugo...
Evo Morales, Bolivian president, pulled a joke on Ms Bachelet when he gave her a charango for "Happy Presidency" present. You see, a few weeks ago Lagos awarded the same thing to Bono of U2 when they visited the country. This puzzled the Bolivians, who consider the instrument to be a symbol of their culture, rather than Chile´s. Bachelet caught on fast and gave Morales the "You crack me up" look.