A Fun Weekend

Last weekend was excellent if I can be completely honest.  For starters there was no 10 mile walk (see previous post for details). Friday evening consisted of me meeting up with several of my second cousins (and one first cousin once removed if you’re keen on genealogical pedantry) who all live near/in SW London, along with their various partners.  It was a hugely enjoyable evening, and great to catch up with them all again.

Saturday I had a work social with some of my colleagues.  This involved going on a steam train that had two real ale breweries on board, selling various beers that they’d made.  Let’s be honest, it’s a pretty golden combination.  Steam trains and beer?  Hard to go wrong.

Sunday concluded the weekend with a visit to my parents and grandparents back on the other side of Surrey (where I originate from).  A delicious Sunday roast lamb kicked off proceedings, followed by various other goodies.

All in all, pretty successful!

Back to Santiago

First off, my form has been found, so I’m not going to be an illegal immigrant. Wooo!

Anyway, enough of that nonsense.  Last night I returned to Santiago for my free weekend, and it’s going really well so far.  After I arrived, I met up with JD, who’s the other intern based in Chile (although he’s at a different mine), and we went over to an Irish bar for supper near his flat.  We had fajitas and cheesy chips (good combination, you should try it some time), and had a good chat before heading home.

Today has been very busy.  I got up, and left my hotel at about 9:45. First I bought some postcards, and then went to a nearby shopping centre, to get a nice cup of tea.

Ahhh, lovely!

Ahhh, lovely!

I wrote the cards (to my family, TKC, PC, and LB), and got them all posted off at the nearby Correos.  After that, I topped up my phone with more internet, and then decided to go and see what Barrio Bellavista was like, having been recommended to go there.  I decided to get the Santiago version of an Oyster Card (called a tarjeta bip! – presumably because of the beep noise the machine makes when you scan it), and took the metro to Baquedano station.

El Metro

El Metro

I found the Patio Bellavista quite easily, which is a small area, with lots of shops and bars/restaurants.  I had some lunch, grabbed some cash from the ATM, and bought a large Chilean flag as a souvenir.  Then I went halfway up San Cristobal hill to Santiago Zoo to see what they had.

At the bottom of the hill.  Because llama.

At the bottom of the hill, in Bellavista. Because llama.

It was quite interesting.  In addition to the usual elephants/lions/giraffes/penguins/etc., they had some native Chilean animals (such as flamingos).  However, what I thought was great, was the fact that they had bog standard mute swans, and guinea fowl (for the latter, luckily I wasn’t hungry, as I’d just had lunch).

Yes, those are just normal swans.

Yes, those are just normal swans.

There was quite a good view from the zoo too.

Santiago from halfway up San Cristobal hill.

Santiago from halfway up San Cristobal hill.

Afterwards, I took the metro to Tobalaba station, which is past my hotel, as I wanted to walk back through all the various small shopping centres that pepper the area.

On the way back to the hotel from Tobalaba station.

On the way back to the hotel from Tobalaba station.

There was a huge amount of variety, and several were themed.  A couple consisted mainly of normal shops, that people use for everyday chores (e.g. cobblers, greengrocers, etc.).

Normal, small, local shopping  centre.

Normal, small, local shopping centre.

I came across a couple that were several floors high, but the floor was a helix, so it wound up and up.  Theme wise, there was a LOT of variation, including electronics, computer games, and… well, what made me think I was in Soho in the 1970s… (no photos of THAT I’m afraid haha)!  The electronics ones reminded me of the similar ones in Mong Kok in Hong Kong, with all the tiny shops selling cameras etc.

Oooooo spirals!

Oooooo spirals!

Anyway, I’m now back in my room, and will be meeting up with JD shortly to go back to Bellavista for the evening.

Until Next Time London!

Another grey day dawns over the Home Counties in South East England, the terraced inter-war houses of the London boroughs streak past as the train rushes to Victoria.  Thousands of homes, thousands of lives, each going about their own business, each with hopes and dreams, and worries and fears, and each trapped in their own small world, a harbour, an oasis from the vast stormy oceans, and baking arid deserts of the real world.

A large sweaty man in a blue vest cracks open a can of energy drink, the strong stench permeates the carriage, reminds me of unpleasant nights out, and ruins the imagery I’ve just constructed (aided by a bloke with a broken arm and a Big Mac who enters stage right).  This is London, the real London, not the London that is polished and made presentable to tourist boards and foreigners the world over.

The train arrives, the crowd surges towards the ticket barrier like some frenzied swarm of hornets.  A sudden thought strikes me, is my ticket valid before 10am?  I put it into the machine. And hope.  “Take ticket, seek assistance”, are the words that greet my eyes.  Ah.  I frantically scour my pockets for my railcard and show the inspector.  He waves me through.  I breathe a sigh of relief, and descend into the labyrinthine abyss of the tube.  That venerable underground rail network, keeping London moving for a century and a half beneath the streets, like arteries throughout the body.  Two stops, two lines, and I’m out, out of the baking heat, the stale air, and the cramped, crowded trains.

I emerge in St. James.  The tall Georgian buildings standing proud, built as a testament to the wealth and power of a long forgotten and hushed up era, when this tiny island really did rule the waves.  The only reminder of the past that dares to show that chapter of history today.  British embarrassment and awkwardness have taken hold, making the subject seldom spoken about in the 21st century.  War memorials and statues of famous leaders greet me as I pass them on the way to the office, a monument to Crimea, and a Viceroy of India.

Looking towards Regent Street from Piccadilly Circus.  Note statue of Britannia above the clock, and generic fancy looking buildings (click to enlarge).  Fun fact: Britannia featured somewhere on all British coins made between 1672-2008.

Looking towards Regent Street from Piccadilly Circus. Note statue of Britannia above the clock, and generic fancy looking buildings (click to enlarge). Fun fact: Britannia featured somewhere on all British coins made between 1672-2008.

The medical is over, and once more I’m spat out, back into the sprawling metropolis.  I sit in a café and nurse a cup of tea, waiting for my friend XYL.  She, like TKC, is returning home after university. However, she is from Shenzhen.  The result?  Much greater difficulty to meet up if she stays in Mainland China.  We both require visas to visit one another’s country.  Great expense and hassle for all parties. A good friendship put at risk by two powerful governments with an obsession, reverence, and adoration of the gods of bureaucracy. Modern life is fraught with complications.

We elected for 火锅 for lunch, and it was a feast for both eyes and stomach.  Lots of food, with plenty of variety were boiled in the bubbling soup, and we lunched and chatted for around 3 hours.

火锅

火锅 in London – Yum yum yum! (Click to enlarge)

Time now for the return journey, back through the warren of the underground, followed by the slow journey through the suburbs, back to the verdant Surrey Hills.

All in all, a good day!