Welcome to Chile. You’re Busted.
Leaving for Santiago, Chile. The flight was crowded, long and uneventful. But not a problem for me – I just kept thinking about the adventure ahead. In his famous poem Descubridores de Chile, the country’s beloved poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda romanticizes his homeland as a “slim nation” made of “night, snow, and sand.” And we are about to see it for ourselves. . .
Welcome to Chile. You’re busted. That was our story when 3 out of 4 of us tried to enter the country carrying in some big time contraband. Two apples, a sealed hotel jar (2 tablespoons full) of honey and some Trader Joe’s roasted almonds sealed in a bag. We were reprimanded, hauled into a little corner, ushered into a back room, mildly threatened with jail and then told to pay big fines – $80 each for the apples alone.Honestly – couldn’t they just have taken them away? It was such an unpleasant introduction to Chile. It is apparent to me now that this is a government inside joke – “let’s get some money out of the tourists in high season”. But honestly – fining someone $150 for bringing SEALED microwave popcorn into the country? They should be ashamed.Tourism is a big business and I would not want to risk the bad PR that can come from a shakedown like this. Are you listening to me, Ms. Chilean Minister of Tourism? More than an hour later we were released. Criminals each one, but free to go. Hello to Marilyn, our guide and a quick trip into town for hotel check in at El Bosque Suites near the Providencia area. It’s a wonderful hotel, the suites are huge, and each has a small kitchen and living room in addition to he bedroom and big bathroom. It’s within walking distance of plenty of small shops, restaurants, etc. and a good choice if you don’t need to be downtown.
That set up the first evening’s activities in Santiago – search for an Apple Store, since I had left my power cord in DFW. Lo and behold – there is one – in the Parque Arauco shopping mall. $140 (!) later, I was powered up and ready to go. And we decided to have a drink at an outdoor café – “Let’s try a Pisco Sour” – a local concoction. Famous last words. . . let me tell you something about these cute, sweet local drinks – they are deadly! One drink and we were – how shall I say this? – delightfully tipsy (looped would be another way to put it). A few plates of delicious empanadas (and a second Pisco Sour later) we headed back to the hotel.