They weren't joking. The layer of smog is thick as you begin to approach Santiago. It's reminicent of the Los Angeles of my youth. Thankfully, we no longer have days like this at home. This city has a completely different energy, of course. It's impossible to compare Santiago and Mendoza. I suppose the real comparisons will come after I've been able to spend some real time in BA. The largest difference, at the moment, is the accent. The Argentines have a very distinct accent, that's different from the rest of Latin America, changing their double Ls into a J sound. But here in Chile they speak Castilian, or so my taxi driver told me. And yes, their accent does sound a more similar to the Spanish from Spain but I'm not noticing a use of the "vosotros" here.
This city is massive and quite cosmopolitan. And though Santiago is huge and covered in a layer of smog, it's surprisingly clean. Driving through here I've noticed more of a Latin American influence overall than the European influence felt in Argentina. Not to say this isn't an international city. It is, just on first sight it's more difficult for me to blend in here.
I tried to settle into my hostel, and while it's nice, clean, quiet and I have my own room I don't quite feel it's secure enough to leave my computer and passport behind. My room is on the ground level with a large window that opens out onto the internal courtyard. While nice, not very safe, especially with the cracked out woman I saw near the front desk as I was checking in. I think it's safer to keep my valuables on my person for the moment, which is quite inconvenient, not to mention heavy.
My plan was to take the metro to a restaurant I read about in Barrio Providencia but after about 5 minutes on the street with my backpack full of valuables I thought better of it. I'm already conspicuous as it is with my blue eyes, fair skin and blonde hair. Plus I couldn't shake the feeling that I was being watched by a guy who kept inching closer to me at every corner even after I would move away through the crowd. He was probably harmless but if there is one thing I have learned while traveling it's to trust your instincts so I hopped in a cab instead. Funny thing is, I ended up having to give my cab drivers directions both there and back since I mapped it out and they got lost both ways. But dinner made everything worth it. The fresh fish here is divine. I mean, really, can you beat fresh Chilean Sea Bass in Chile? I don't think so.
Oh, and Lori, this Pisco Sour is for you!