Yesterday, around 2:30 p.m., my LAN Airlines flight from Los Angeles lifted off for an 11-hour non-stop - it actually arrived a little early - to Santiago de Chile. If you didn't know any better, though, you might think that the landscape depicted here - the Río Maipo canyon just outside the Chilean capital - could just as easily be parts of Southern California. As I've often remarked, and covered in some detail in other posts, Chile's central valley is a mirror image of California, and the warm autumn Saturday in Los Angeles was almost identical to the mild spring Sunday in Santiago. The sun set much later in Santiago, though.
Since I was last here in April, though, other things have changed for American travelers, who can expect to encounter a friendly curiosity for the foreseeable future. Chileans have rarely acted overtly anti-American - even those who were would usually be far too polite to say so - but my cab driver from the airport couldn't wait to ask me what I thought about Barack Obama's election victory. At 6:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m. California time), I was too disoriented to offer anything but platitudes about an event that I'm certain to be asked much more about in the coming days and months.
Meanwhile, I'm off shortly to see the new James Bond movie, part of which was filmed in Chile. At this point, I'm more intrigued by seeing Chilean response to a film that depicts parts of Chile as Bolivia; while nobody could ever suggest a Bond film was anything other than fiction, it did raise some local hackles during the filming, as I covered in an earlier post.