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Pole to Pole

Day 133: Santiago, Chile

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThis morning it's sunny at the foot of the Andes, with temperatures rising into the seventies, and the army band is parading outside the Moneda, the elaborate colonial-style presidential palace whose name means 'the Mint', which is what it was designed to be in 1805. It was here that President Allende committed suicide nineteen years ago after the building had been rocket-attacked by Hawker Hunter fighters ordered in by Pinochet and his rebellious armed forces.

A well-drilled changing of the guard takes place and then, with much preparation and flourish, the sixty-piece military band breaks into the unmistakable tones of 'Happy Birthday to You'. Not just one chorus, but a long symphonic variation which keeps a small crowd mystified for some five minutes. It's presumed that this is for the President, but no one seems at all sure.

We eat lunch in the glorious covered market, a classical fašade outside and an elaborate and elegant cast-iron construction within. The produce looks plentiful and fresh - asparagus, strawberries, avocados, cherries and pineapples, and a rich and exotic selection of sea fare, especially conger eel and some things called picorocos, strange sightless rubbery creatures living in rocks. In order to eat them you have to buy the rock as well and drop it in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Piures, an even less attractive delicacy, resemble marine cowpats and contain some evil-looking orange parasites which Patricio recommends highly.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 133
  • Country/sea: Chile
  • Place: Santiago
  • Book page no: 295

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