A Spanish Lesson

30th Oct. 2016

Clock tower in the main squareThere is one extra vowel in the phrase doce y quince (12:15) over the phrase dos y quince (2:15). In my defence a) the ‘e’ & ‘y’ sounds are stuck together and so hard to pick up; and b) I’m generally pretty good on my numbers in Spanish. However, this time I got it wrong and the mistake came back to bite us.

Corvette Esmerelda (as close as we got!)Bell tower on the cathedralWe are heading for the corvette Esmerelda which is both a museum and has a lot of history associated with it. The boat is a replica of that commanded by Arturo Prat (yes, really, A Prat) in the War of the Pacific, and indeed he was killed in the naval battle of Iquique after the Esmerelda was rammed by a Peruvian vessel and he lead the charge onto the enemy vessel. Almost everywhere that we have been in Chile there is a Prat statue and a Prat street. So, this seems to be the equivalent in Britain of a combination of museum / memorial for Nelson located on the Cutty Sark.

You can only visit as part of a guided tour and on Sundays they are bookable on a first come, first served basis. When we get there, tours have already started and there is already a queue which we join and buy tickets for what I am convinced is the 2:15 tour. Well, you can guess how this ends a few hours later when we return. At least the attendant – after pointing out that the mistake was mine – tries but fails to get us on another tour that day. Oh well, at least we could take photos of the outside of the boat (which we wouldn’t be able to do once on board).

Fishing boats in the harbourAs (almost) always, we’d had a pretty good day up until that point:

·       Going past the Catedral de la Inmaculada Conception (which was pretty enough in its own right) there was a band outside and a litter with church icons in silver waiting to be lifted by purple clad church-goers;

·       Sussing out the bus station and booked our tickets to San Pedro de Atacama (back at 2,500m) with an overnight stop in Calama. Thanks to Alma who pointed out that this was a better option than a midnight departure from Iquique with a couple of change of buses and an early morning arrival in San Pedro de Atacama;

My bonus building!·       Getting good coffee in Chile is proving harder than elsewhere, but we succeeded in a café in the main square. Better still, the square was mostly empty and so we were able to photograph the clock tower with its fountains and other buildings such as the Moorish looking (but now empty) Casino Español;

·       Discovering Baquedano, a traffic free street with wooden boardwalks on either side and lined colonial era buildings. Janet is heading for one museum but gets distracted by another that has a section on the Chinchorro tribe (see Arica) and on the history & culture of Iquique. Sadly, the museum we were heading for was closed, but I’m happy enough taking pictures of the buildings along the street. We really like the vibe of this street and follow it down to the seafront.

·       After watching some (beginner, we assume) surfers for a little while, we decide that it is lunch time and head back into town where we find a restaurant that serves empanadas and draft beer (schop!). Another win!

Just checking there are no sea lions aroundAnd then it all comes crashing down as we head back to the Esmerelda at 2pm and discover my mistake. Our disappointment is mitigated, though, as we walk back along the sea front and find a larger version of the fishing jetty that we saw in Arica – only with 10 times more pelicans and sea-lions. The fishermen were emptying tubs of fish heads and innards into the sea and whenever they did, the sea would roil with sea-lions all vying for the scraps. The pelicans kept well away until all the fuss died down and then came looking for the leftovers.

Evening concert in the squareLike many other places, Iquique has grown on us as we have got to know it better. This is confirmed when we wander back to the main square after dark to find a free concert underway. We take advantage of the pricing structure that we like and have a listen for a while. It is in a modern operatic style, sung in Spanish. From what I could work out of the lyrics it seemed to be politically orientated about the rights of citizens and humanity. I suppose it was fitting that the day ended as it had begun – with a Spanish lesson.

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