Monday, March 6, 2017

Wait for (e)ME!!

Do you recall the first Home Alone movie - the scene where the family was racing through the airport with luggage flying everywhere, boarding the plane practically as it pulled away from the gates? That was Mindy and me this morning, only our "plane" was a bus, and we weren't heading to Paris, France.

We left De Blasis B and B this morning with what we thought was plenty of time to catch the bus...except we went to the wrong bus station. (A miscommunication with our hosts.) traffic was worse than I had expected, and so time was a little tight - we had about 10 minutes until the bus' departure time to exchange our vouchers for tickets and load our bags. I was a little tense. Then I asked someone to direct me to the desk for EME buses....."Not here," he said. "That's at the other bus station." This other station was a mile away!!!

We raced back out to the street and flagged down the first cab we saw. "The other station. As fast as you can go." I stammered in my broken Spanish. He asked for money up front and I offered him 3,000 Chilean pesos (the veritable "fortune" of $6 Canadian). Given that this was about twice what the cab would have cost, he seemed highly motivated. Until - as far as I could tell from my map app on my phone - he turned down the wrong street and took us the long way around. My heart sank. I tried calling the bus company, but no answer. (Had they answered, it might not have helped with my limited handle on the language.) My stressed brain was trying to threaten me with thoughts about missing our flight home tomorrow as I watched the minutes tick by. The other part of my brain reminded me that - although we had spent the money on first class bus tickets - there were more (not as nice) buses that we could take later today. It would only be a waste of money...

Around the time that our bus was scheduled to leave, the cabby pulled over and pointed us down a one-way (opposite way) street toward the bus station. He had taken the fastest possible route, provided we could run the last bit. Mindy took off to find the bus while I trailed behind with two big suitcases. I watched her cross the street and followed her into the terminal. She was coming back out as I entered, telling me that we had to go to the other part of the terminal across the street. What terrible luck!! Mindy was off again with me following as quickly as I could. I got into the bus station and....I couldn't see her anywhere. Oh jeez!

I guessed that she might have gone down the first hallway, and so I turned. I found the EME bus counter and pleaded my case. The representative sprang to action, radioing the bus and telling me to follow her quickly. "Where is your wife?" she asked. I looked helpless. "I don't know." We arrived at the now empty platform for our bus as I looked around wildly for Mindy. Another passenger, waiting for a different bus, asked me if I was looking for my wife, and gestured down another passageway. The EME staff member and I raced through there to see Mindy walking with another EME representative toward the bus that had already left the station. The group of us raced across the parking lot and down the street to where the bus was lurching to the side of the road. We made it!!

The staff at EME were so kind and helpful, and we found our way to our premium seats - as nice as first class on an airplane. (They even provided snacks and drinks, included in the price of the ticket!)

Santiago is set between two mountain ranges - the Andes and the Cordillera, so for the first while, our view from the bus was of mountains on either side, with the landscape in between showing the dry semi-desert that characterises the wine regions. As we proceeded south, the mountains receded and the terrain became more lush; we could have been driving through Ontario!

Finally, we arrived in the city of Concepcion, and (discreetly) took an Uber from the bus station to our hotel.

Dressed in running clothes to explore the city, our first discovery was that garbage collection is by horse and cart!

We made our way along one of Concepcion's urban parks - which we were assured is daylight. For my part, stick a palm tree in the picture and it looks stunning to me!

Concepcion is set along a major river that affords some picturesque views.

(If you look out the opposite direction, you see a lot of industry...)

Running (quite literally) out of things to see in Concepcion, we detoured on the way home to check out the main square, full of people (who - with good reason - stared at us in our running clothes).

According to Trip Advisor, Lo Que Mas Quiero is the top restaurant in Concepcion. We tried to make a reservation before we left Santiago, but were assured that on a Monday night it wouldn't be a problem. We then tried to make a reservation from our hotel but no-one answered the phone. (We later learned that they close between lunch and dinner.) We took a chance and just showed up. 

Surprisingly, the restaurant manager speaks English fluently. This made it much easier for us to plead our case for a table and, after waiting about 20 minutes, being seated. While we were waiting, the manager asked if we wanted to go for a walk and come back. We asked whether there was anywhere nice nearby...she thought for a moment, then shook her head. "I wouldn't recommend you go out around here at this time of night." The manager seemed perplexed why Concepcion had made our honeymoon agenda; rather than explain the attempt to change our flight, we just brushed it off highlighting the cool things nearby (not in Concepcion) there were to see. As it turned out, this restaurant may have been the best thing about our jaunt to Concepcion!

With full stomachs and tired feet, we made our way back to the hotel for the night.

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