Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Down By the Strait Side

Down at the southern end of the world there is a city called Punta Arenas. It is sort of small (by city standards), sort of hick (by outsider reckoning) and pretty cool (objectively speaking.) It is arguably the southern most city in the world. It lies on the Strait of Magellan. It has ski slopes just outside of town. It is a short drive away from the most beautiful place on earth. There are penguin-nesting grounds just up the road. Also, there is no way to put this just right, but it has the coolest cemetery anywhere.
One of the “insider” places to visit in Punta Arenas is Dino’s Pizza, on Bories street. It is a little hole-in-the-wall that serves… well Americans have a hard time reconciling it as Pizza, it is best just to treat it as a new sort of dish. There is a routine to Dino’s. As there are (or were, in the early nineties) just two or three tables in the back, you have to wait for a spot to open up for your group. Basically, you wait around staring at the people eating until they finally get up and leave. Then you ignore the people staring at you as you enjoy your pizza. Be adventurous. They have toppings on their pizza you don’t find just anywhere. King Crab is a good choice.
Another must see is the Plaza with its statue to Magellan. He is surrounded by a few Native American types, one of whom has a toe that is shinier than the rest of the copper memorial. This is due to the tradition people have of kissing said toe. You must kiss the toe if you ever want to return to Punta Arenas again. Yours truly is proof positive that you won’t if you don’t.

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