As a guidebook writer, traveling in the Southern Cone countries, I work seven days a week from breakfast to bedtime, and my most frustrating time of the year is the "holidays" between Christmas and New Year's, when the closure of tourist offices and other services make it harder to do my job. Last night in the Chilean city of Concepción, for instance, nearly all the restaurants were closed, and I had to settle for a mediocre Chinese dinner in a restaurant that won't make the new edition of Moon Handbooks Chile that I am presently researching. More often than not, for me, holidays are obstacles.
In reality, Concepción isn't much of an attraction in its own right, but I had to time my visit for Friday - a work day - to be able to consult with the regional office of Sernatur, the Chilean government tourism agency. I'd sooner be in another part of the region, such as Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta (pictured here), where I spent one of my most memorable Xmases - as the only visitor in a beautiful national park that's one of the few places where the Araucaria (monkey puzzle tree) survives in the Chilean coast range.
While I'll be glad when the "holidays" are over, I was nevertheless partly responsible for providing a big Xmas gift for Kirby Johnstone of Vancouver B.C. In the course of my September-October book tour to promote the new edition of Moon Handbooks Patagonia, Kirby attended my talk at the city's Travel Bug bookstore, and won the raffle drawing for a free round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to Santiago or Buenos Aires, courtesy of LAN Airlines.