Feliz Navidad... and beyond! Dec 25-26, 2013
And a Merry Christmas to all from two happy wanderers in Punta Arenas, Chile. Certainly this was not a traditional Christmas for us, tho we've had our share of nontraditional Christmases since we've been together (2001). Two separate years, while visiting son, Matt, we three rode our bikes on Southern California beach bike trails, and did w/o the "normal" holiday meal. Or decorated tree! This year, however, was way over the top!
Our Pan de Pascua (Christmas bread), a typical Chilean cake traditionally eaten at Christmas. Similar to our fruitcake, but less so, and much tastier. Toasted and buttered, it was delicious.
After breakfast, we knew where we wanted to go. On our way to Plaza de Armas, we encountered yesterday's messy leftovers. The streets were empty, but the street vendors forgot to pick up their junk.
It didn't seem possible, but today was even windier than what we've known the past few days. We wore our Tilly hats with the chin strap firmly fastened, or those hats would've flown to Argentina! Posing at Magellan Monument again, with four "guard" dogs. Notice the black one in front? He looks very comfortable! Strange as it may seem to USA folks, many vendors were set up in the plaza w/ their wares for sale... on Christmas Day!
Care to guess why?
The Golden Princess - the same ship we left in Valparaiso - cruised into Punta Arenas this morning. She is on her way to Rio. We knew she'd be in port today, and we figured we'd see shipboard people we knew at the plaza. We did! Our two Australian lady friends took the photo of us at the statue (above). Look how big that ship looks parked in the Straight of Magellan!
She was actually anchored way offshore and passengers were tendered ashore.
While we were milling around the plaza, church bells rang from the beautiful Cathedral of the Sacred Heart across the street. We'd tried to see inside it previously, but its gate was locked. Today, while bells rang joyously, the gate was open wide, and we got our chance.
We like churches - any denomination (or flavor! as I am apt to say) - and being here today seemed special. We'd talked about going to a church service, even Midnight Mass, but we were asleep early on Christmas eve. Sitting in one of the rows behind the small white table, trying to surreptitiously take a picture or two, one of the assistant priests came out and beckoned everyone forward. "Come, come," he said, sweeping his hands forward. OK. In our new seats, joined by others, the Mass procession began. Viola! We attended the Noon Christmas Mass (in Spanish, of course). Didn't hurt us a bit!
Later, we wanted to eat a nice dinner out on Christmas Day, and were advised (we already pretty much knew) that the only restaurant open would be in the Hotel Dreams Casino - a fancy glass building we'd been in before. (Looking for a baño. They have new, modern bathrooms here, with toilet paper in each stall. In South America, I've been caught literally with my pants around my ankles, and no toilet paper in sight. The TP dispenser is located just inside the entrance of many baños. Tear off what you need BEFORE entering the stall. I usually had paper in a pocket... usually, but not always.)
Anyway, Jimmy and I enjoyed a fine buffet at the casino restaurant. Full tummies!
This stylish Meteorological Clock is a most-photographed icon at the dock. Located next to Punta Arenas port facilities' main entrance, the cast iron clock not only shows time, but it's equipped with a barometer and hygrometer, providing meteorological information. We are so lucky that Punta Arenas is compact enough to explore on foot. We surely did, every day. We had a lovely Christmas day!
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Dec. 26th. Our five days in Punta Arenas are over, but before our flight to Santiago, we had time for lunch at La Luna, recommended by our ApartHotel host. I wasn't sure what the heck I ordered, but it turned out to be a seafood chowder, the thought of which today, makes my mouth water! La Luna was quite the place. How about that table on the ceiling?
Again, we were the first to arrive, and soon the tables were full - in the vein of, "if you build it, they will come."
That afternoon (Dec. 26th), we boarded our LAN jet bound for Santiago. We sat on the starboard side again, so we could hopefully see the Andes. Punta Arenas was cold and windy, with spotty rain showers, every day, and Jimmy felt puny a few of the days we were here, and it looked like I was next, based on how sore my throat felt; nevertheless, we leave grateful to have experienced life at the end of the world. We enjoyed it all!
The clouds didn't want to part as we flew over Torres del Paine (Andes), but I was able to catch glimpses of snow-capped peaks, and an ice-blue glacier at the bottom in the last picture.
Further north, snow-clad volcanoes dotted the scene below.
And then we began our descent to Santiago, capital of Chile. Another whole chapter of adventure awaits.
Bring it on!