About Emily Williams Cornejo

Latest Posts by Emily Williams Cornejo

Santiago Chile for Food? You Betcha!

February 4, 2012 by  


Ciudadano Restaurant in Santiago Chile gets a lot of love for two reasons: it’s good, and it’s cheap. What more could you ask for in a restaurant, right? Well, how bout putting it in a funkily decorated old house smack in Barrio Italia, a district filled with some great Santiago restaurants and boutiques?

Ciudadano Restaurant Santiago

Ciudadano Santiago

I’ve been here three times now, and the first two times both I and everyone I was with loved our dishes. This time, unfortunately, things weren’t so great, although I’m willing to take some of the blame for my choices. I guess I shouldn’t have gotten so excited to see fried mozzarella sticks on the menu, but I haven’t had those forever, and they sounded good. The breaded, only semi-melted cheese sticks we got weren’t exactly what I’d hoped for. I guess delicacies like deep fried cheese are best left to the gringos.

Mozzarella sticks

Ciudadano Restaurant is known for its pizzas. At under US$8 for most of these large, thin crust pies, it’s hard to imagine a better deal. I decided to branch out and try smoked salmon and capers, and I think that combination was to blame for my so-so feeling about this one. Then again, the cheese and sauce didn’t seem like anything special either, so it might have just been an off night for the kitchen.

Ciudadano pizza

Rodolfo’s ossobuco pasta sounded delicious, with a mushroom and champagne sauce to compliment the strong flavor of ossobuco-filled raviolis, but the sauce was thin and insipid, with none of the bold flavors the ingredients led us to expect. And this one certainly wasn’t my fault.

Ossobuco ravioli

This probably all sounds like a list of reasons never to go to Ciudadano, but the truth is that I’d still recommend it on the strength of previous visits. Anywhere can have an off night, and I’m willing to give Ciudadano the benefit of the doubt. With a bill under US$40 for two raspberry mojitos (no complaints here, the bar was working just fine), a starter and two mains, it’s a risk I can afford to take.

Ciudadano Restaurant

The Magic of Chile’s Valparaíso

February 2, 2012 by  


1. Because to get there, you have to walk by the naval monument

The monument itself is big, and there’s a flame to honor the unknown dead (please note I do not call it an eternal flame as it was not in fact burning when Laura and I were there). As far as monuments go, it’s a solid one. But the real draw is that there are often little mini-sailors around with their silly pants looking totally out of place among the crowds of tourists.

Chilean navy

2. You also might just have to walk by some chinchineros

Chinchineros are, as far as I know, unique to Chile. Not only do they play a drum strapped on like a backpack with their hands and a cymbal with their feet, they do it all while dancing and spinning around like whirling dervishes.


They’re always male, and the art is often passed on from generation to generation, but I’d never seen such a tiny chinchinero as this little guy who couldn’t have been more than four. (He recovered just fine from his fall, by the way, and seemed more embarrassed than hurt)

3. Boats are picturesque

I really don’t think I have to spell this one out, they just are. Even if they smell not-so-faintly of gasoline and fish.

Valparaíso harbor

4. Orange is a really flattering color

These life jackets would not in a million years have saved our lives. Mine didn’t even fasten properly, so in all likelihood I would have just ended up getting tangled in it and suffocating even if I managed to avoid drowning. These also smelled like fish and gasoline. Have I convinced you that this is a good idea yet?

Valparaíso boat tour

5. It’s nice to get a new perspective on the city

Valparaíso’s views from above are hard to beat, it’s true. But after a while, those photos of hillsides covered in colorful houses, sloping down to meet the see? They start to look a little bit the same. Switching things up with a sea-level view allowed us to appreciate all those hills we’d been climbing.

Valparaíso by sea

6. Sea lions!

And you get so close to them! These do not smell like gasoline. They do smell like fish, but that’s understandable.

Sea lion in Valparaíso

Sea lions

7. More boats.

Naval boats. Boats that look like they came out of a history book.

Valparaíso navy ship

Valparaíso boat

Most exciting to us, however, were the container boats. It’s not as if my nerd-dom was ever in doubt, but let’s just solidify it, shall we? Laura and I were fascinated by the process of getting the containers off the ships, wondering how long it must take them to unload, unpack, repack and then reload all those containers, where the ships had come from and where they were headed next. It was cool, ok?!

Valparaíso container ship

Seven is kind of an awkward number, but that’s all I got. I’ve been to Valparaíso a bunch of times and never taken a boat ride, but the success of our Iquique boat tour inspired me to give it a whirl this time. For $3.000 (US$6), I’m glad we did it – even with that whole gasoline and fish thing.

Valparaíso at night

Torres del Paine: Chilean Patagonia – The End of the World

February 9, 2011 by  


Torres del Paine. Chilean Patagonia. The end of the world. For so many people, it’s a once in a lifetime destination which requires significant time both to get there and to enjoy being there. Luckily for us, it’s a bit closer, so we took advantage of a sale on flights and decided to make it into a little weekend getaway.

Perhaps because our trip wasn’t the usual jaunt to Torres del Paine to hike the multi-day W circuit (or even longer O trek), I didn’t find all that much information online from people who’d done something similar. We more or less decided our destination on a whim based purely on the cheap flights and the fact that Rodolfo had previously wanted to go, and all I really did in advance was book our lodging. In the end, we can’t imagine how things could possible have turned out better, and if you ever find yourself with a spare 3 days in Santiago, you too can have a fabulous long weekend in Patagonia.

Getting there:

We flew LAN from Santiago to Punta Arenas with a stop in Puerto Montt (4.5 hours total). There are several flights a day, some of them direct. Sky Airlines also makes the trip.

Getting around:

We rented a car, which was essential for such a short trip. We chose to stay in the national park itself in order to maximize time there, and the first bus leaves Torres del Paine at 2pm each day, which would not have gotten us back to Punta Arenas in time for our flight. By car, it took us 2.5 hours from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales and another 2 hours between Puerto Natales and the Laguna Amarga entrance to the park.

The car cost us $80.000 (US$160) for 2 days because the windshield had a crack in it. It was literally the only car left in Punta Arenas though, and we were actually quite happy to take the crack – which we were told posed no danger of exploding glass into our faces – in exchange for deal on the price. Renting a car isn’t cheap, and if you plan to do it during high season I’d book in advance, but it was what made our trip possible and was well worth it.

We were pretty sure the buses were out due to our flight schedule, but we wanted to check before spending money on a car. The owner of the guest house in Punta Arenas said not to bother going to the bus companies early in the morning since they opened at 9. Lies – the first bus to Puerto Natales leaves at 8, followed by one at 9, and then only Buses Pacheco has an 11am bus while others wait until 1pm. Since you have to get to Puerto Natales, which is a 3 hour trip, by 2:30pm in order to catch the last bus to Torres del Paine, you need to be on one of the earliest buses if you plan to do the entire trip in a day.


We spent our first night at a guest house in Punta Arenas since we arrived at 11:30pm. I made a reservation at a place my in-laws had recommended for its low prices only to be told by the owner that we had no reservation, there were no rooms available, and it wasn’t her fault. We ended up staying next door for twice the price. It was fine, but I’m sure you could do better.

I booked Refugio Las Torres well in advance since a lot of online information warns that the refugios book up during summer, and we wanted to spend two nights in the park in order to have a full day for hiking. I think this may be more for the refugios along the W and O trekking routes since there was plenty of space at Las Torres – we were even moved from the older (cheaper) Torre Norte building to the newer and nicer Torre Central building at no cost.

It’s still ruinously expensive as it’s your only non-hotel/non-camping option – $25.000 (US$50) per person for a shared 6-bunk room – but I was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming it was. We also paid for dinner both nights – again, crazy expensive at $10.000 (US$20) each – and were happy to find that it was actually quite delicious. The current chef is on vacation from his normal job working on cruise ships, so we may have gotten lucky.

I’m no Torres del Paine expert after 3 days, but things worked out pretty well for us, and I’m happy to share tips or answer any questions if you’re planning a trip of your own to Chilean Patagonia. And stay tuned for the rest of the week to see some more gorgeous countryside and a very lucky clear view of torres themselves.

Chileans and Family Ties

January 26, 2011 by  

I have been laughing at my in-laws for the past couple of days. Not in a mean way, you understand. It’s just that they were in Curicó with family since my mother-in-law is off from work. They came home this week to take care of Lola. The friend who’s been taking her out every day is leaving the country, and my in-laws decided that instead of me having to find someone else to take her out they would just come and pick her up from my apartment, play with her all day, and then bring her back. Every day.

Now, I am supremely grateful. With our usual dog walkers currently all out of Santiago, I was struggling to think of who might have the flexible schedule and a thing for dogs. My in-laws are making my life much easier. But who does that? Who drives 2.5 hours back from hanging out with family to drive an hour round-trip twice a day to take care of someone else’s dog?

These people. The people who took the doggies to the river over Christmas.
The answer, of course, is my in-laws. Not only because they are fabulous but because they are Chilean. I am on record as saying that I don’t think Chilean families are by and large tighter-knit than American families. I stand by that. However I do think that the way families interact is at least partially cultural.

My dad would do just about anything for me. If he had been in my in-laws’ position, and I’d asked him for help with Lola, I’m sure he would have come through. However I also know that he is aware that I’m not a little girl any longer, and as such he respects my space. If I said to him “oh don’t worry about it, I don’t have someone lined up for Lola yet, but I’m sure I will soon,” he would have felt like he was intruding if he called me back later that day to say he was on his way to rescue me.

Rodolfo’s parents, on the other hand, always do things like this. I used to be offended that my mother-in-law would walk into my apartment and immediately start washing my dishes or cleaning my kitchen, but now I know that she’s not judging my housekeeping skills, she’s just trying to help. When I’m alone for a weekend while Rodolfo is off playing handball, my father-in-law calls asking if I would like him to come pick me up and take me to their house for lunch – nevermind the fact that I have a car and a scooter to drive myself there.

I think similar behaviors can be seen in many more gringo and Chilean families. In the US and UK, children get to an age at which they demand more independence, and parents are expected to respect that. In Chile, I don’t see that happen as much. Rather, I see parents continuing to drop everything for their kids even as those kids grow up. And, by extension, they race to the rescue of their children’s partners, especially when those partners are all alone in a foreign country.
And especially when there are little drowned-rat-looking dogs who would like their grandparents to take them for a swim.
Like I said, I don’t think that the Chilean approach means Chilean families love each other more. I think plenty of people from other cultures would feel stifled and meddled with if their parents suddenly starting forcing help on them. I did at first because it was so different from what I was used to. Now, however, I’ve realized that my in-laws aren’t trying to take over my life, they’re just trying to help. And if help comes in the form of taking Lola on a picnic so that I don’t have to worry about her being alone all day, then I am extremely happy to accept that offer.

Chilean Culture: Child’s Play

January 23, 2011 by  


After spending over 4 years total living in Santiago, I managed to understand most things about Chilean culture. Now, I’ve gotten to the stage where I understand most of the headlines of satirical paper The Clinic which pretty much means that I’ve got Chile down.

You’ve got to be up on your current events and Chilean slang to have a prayer of catching the jokes

There is, however, a rather large blind spot in my otherwise decent knowledge of Chilean culture: the essentials of childhood. I will never forget the day Rodolfo asked me over and over again if I had REALLY never heard of El Chavo del Ocho, a popular TV show that every Chilean grew up watching. “But it’s from Mexico!” he insisted. “You live right by Mexico!” I had to explain that while Californians may love our Mexican food, for the most part we don’t pay attention to the rest of the culture.

It’s not just a TV show. I had to have the phenomenon of albums explained to me. These apparently were little magazine-type books that you could buy at the local news kiosk. You’d then buy the corresponding sticker package to try to “illustrate” the scenes in your album…I think. To be totally honest, I’m not 100% clear on the concept because while I’m sure it’s great fun as a kid, as a grown-up it just seemed a little weird. I think albums are still around, but from what I’ve gathered they are no longer the craze they were when Rodolfo was younger. But don’t trust me on that.

Luckily for me, I can get through about 99% of my daily life without knowledge of things people did when they were 6. And over time, as they come up, I am learning about those references to childhood, it’s just that they don’t come up very often, so I’ve still got plenty to learn.

Case in point: yesterday at soccer practice, our coach explained that we would each have a ball and need to dribble inside a certain area. One person would paint, and when she painted someone, that person would paint too. I’m sorry – what? Turns out that pintar in that context means tag, as in “tag, you’re it.” A lesson I learned when the coach blew the whistle, I stood still waiting to see what everyone else did and was promptly the first person to be tagged.

I have also learned through soccer that what I would call monkey in the middle is known here as tontito, which translates to “dummy.” I don’t know that two kids keeping the ball away from a third kid being referred to as dummy would fly on the PC playgrounds in the US these days.

So I admit it: I have a weak spot when it comes to thinking I’m an expert on Chile. Luckily I have already found a solution. Yesterday I was playing with a friend’s 2 and a half year old daughter, and she is pretty much the most adorable thing in the world and decided I was her friend, so I will steal her and learn about childhood through her eyes. It’s a foolproof plan!

A Close Barrio: The Neighborhood Feel in Santiago

January 22, 2011 by  


Lola and I just went for a walk to pick up sushi, and once again I found myself thinking how much I love my barrio.

Barrio means neighborhood, and just like in English, the word doesn’t simply refer to a physical location. It evokes the vibe of a place, the neighbors and local businesses, everything that comes together to make a simple collection of streets feel like a cohesive area.

Santiago’s got plenty of great barrios. When we were looking at apartments, we loved the Parque Forestal/Lastarria neighborhood, and although for me it’s been a more recent discovery, Barrio Yungay was appealing enough that I didn’t even mind getting lost there — if you look at these pictures, it’s not hard to see why.

That said, although I’m sure there are plenty of places in the city where we could live, we were lucky enough to buy an apartment in the exact area that I’d dreamed of calling home. For me, much as I enjoy other areas, the sector of Providencia that I currently live in is the perfect balance of quiet and residential but also well-connected and full of things to do.

It’s not just about the tree-lined streets or the nearby good restaurants, however. We’re talking about the neighborhood feeling, and after two years here, I still love running into examples of it.

I like that the guy who sells newspapers on the corner knows me, as does the taxi driver who is often parked there. Having a dog is a great way to meet neighbors, and it’s fun to run into fellow dog owners and chat about how the pups are doing. The owner of the aforementioned sushi restaurant recognizes us, as do the doormen of neighboring buildings.

Perhaps my latest and greatest barrio-esque moment happened this weekend.

I tweetedAdvantage of buying at the neighborhood minimarket: when you’re $700 short, they let you take your food and promise to pay later.” I had gone to buy an empanada for lunch and once there decided I really wanted two empanadas.

I was on my way to the park with Lola, and rather than having to go home to get the equivalent of US$1.50 right that second, the guy behind the register — who again, knows Lola and me — told me just to pay him sometime before he closed at 11pm.

He knew I was good for it and that in the absolute worst case scenario I have to walk by the minimarket every day and could be apprehended, and it made my afternoon so much more enjoyable. I really appreciated it, and that’s not something that happens at your local faceless supermarket or in a place where you don’t have those neighborly connections.

I’ve been thinking about this feeling of barrio a lot lately, probably because Rodolfo is gone. Even without him to make my apartment feel like a home, I find myself starting to smile as I get closer to my building.

Of course it helps that I have an adorable pup waiting for me and that my apartment is looking good these days, but it’s more than that. I’m in a good mood as I take Lola on her walk and run into people I know or just see the neighborhood characters. I feel like I’m a part of the daily routine of this little section of the city I call home, and that feeling of belonging, especially of belonging to an area I love so much, is pretty special.

PS. Sorry for the lack of photos… Rodolfo currently has the camera with him in Sweden and is probably using it to take pictures of snow and boys playing practical jokes on each other.

El Jogo Bonito

January 16, 2011 by  


In high school, for three months a year, life pretty much revolved around soccer. With my dad as my coach, not only did I go to practice, I also spent every car ride home, dinner and evening discussing the sport with him. I loved it.

I gave up soccer in college not because I particularly wanted to but because I was being realistic. UCLA has one of the best soccer programs in the country, which means that the people who weren’t quite good enough to make the varsity team are still really ridiculously good. As a result, the club team, on which I could have played, was full of these people who were far better than I was, and I decided that rather than sit on a bench for four years, I’d stick with lacrosse, my other high school sport, and actually get some game time. I don’t regret that decision for a minute since my experiences on the lacrosse team were some of the best moments of my college career.
Blue suit and grey suit ready to take on rivals Cal Poly. Yes, our sweatsuits had official names.
Ahh college and the binge drinking…of water. I am wearing that same shirt right now
That said, I still missed soccer. Once I moved to Chile, I started missing both sports – running may have taken their place somewhat, but it just isn’t as fun as goofing off with your friends and getting a workout in at the same time. I’d half-heartedly toyed with the idea of joining a soccer team here (no lacrosse in Chile, sadly), but I never actually made the effort to make it work.
Playing assistant coach because I kind of sort of got a red card in the previous game. Oops.
Luckily for me, a coworker did. My company organized a tournament that pitted the male employees against each other, and on the day of the final they invited women to make teams and have a game. There were only 10 of us, but we had a great time, and one of the girls in particular was talking about the idea of forming a company team. A lot of companies in Chile, including mine, have men’s teams that they support financially with stuff like uniforms and league fees, so the idea of asking for equal support for women wasn’t totally out there. Although with only 10 women interested – 8 of whom had never played before – it seemed like it might be a challenge.
Again, luckily for me, enough buzz got out about this idea that we now have a group of 20 or so. We practice twice a week on our own with a coach – which costs us about US$10 each, a pretty reasonable amount – and as of last week we’re going to an organized soccer school on Saturdays on the company’s dime. After two months of soccer school, if we’ve proven that we’re serious, the company will pay for uniforms, and we’ll join a league. I’m excited! I will be the first to say that right now we’re pretty terrible. I mean practice number 1 involved learning how to pass, and even though my previous soccer days are 8 years behind me, I am by far the most experienced player. That said, I don’t mind starting from scratch if people are putting in the work to improve, and so far they are. Plus just being part of a team again makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, and I can’t wait to get to know the rest of the girls better.
Even though I made the decision to join the team all the way back in 2010, I’m counting it as part of my “do”-ing for 2011. Much as I enjoy soccer, I paused before committing because having something to do til almost 9 twice a week in addition to a 2 hour appointment on Saturday mornings is quite a bit. But I figured I could always quit if I didn’t like it, and so far I’m liking it, so I think I made the right decision. Plus, we’re talking about pink uniforms. Totally worth the investment of time if I get to dress in head-to-toe fuchsia.

Sao Paulo’s Parque Ibirapuera: Home to More Than Just Museums

January 10, 2011 by  

As I explored Sao Paulo, I had wanted to go to Parque Ibirapuera in the afternoon, but my feet were hurting, and I was sweating, so I figured I’d rest for a bit first. It turned out to be a very small bit since one of the hostel employees and a couple other guests were headed to the park, and I decided to join them. Up I got, and off we went.
The park is about a 20 minute walk from the hostel, and the four of us enjoyed chatting. One of the guys was actually from Chico, California and living in Santiago about two blocks from my apartment during his exchange – seriously small world!
Parque Ibirapuera is home to several museums as well as plenty of open space. It’s pretty, but I am ashamed to admit that I was so exhausted by this point that I only got two pictures! The museums were closed – I’m not sure whether because it was Sunday or because it was election day – but from what we could see of the Afro-Brazilian Museum through the windows, it would be well worth a visit.
The buildings in Parque Ibirapuera were designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the famous Brazilian architect who designed pretty much the entire city of Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, as well as the UN building in New York. In addition to the permanent museums, there is an art exhibit called Bienal set up in one of the park’s buildings every two years. We happened to be there for it and went in – admission is free – to be totally overwhelmed. There was some stuff that I decidedly did not get, but there were also some really interesting exhibits, and with so many different works to see we barely even scratched the surface.
We went for a post-park beer and were hanging out at a bar when news started coming through that Dilma looked like the winner in the presidential race. Dilma Rousseff is Brazil’s first female president and was the candidate backed by former president Lula da Silva. Later that night, I made my way out to dinner and saw traffic all along Avendia Paulista, Sao Paulo’s main drag. People were honking, playing music and throwing confetti. Although the timing of my trip to coincide with the election had been an accident, I was glad to get the chance to be there on such a big day. After a yummy dinner at a Brazilian churrascaria – where they come around with meat on swords, and the goal seems to be to eat as much as you possibly can – I headed to bed. No free caipirinhas for me tonight – I’d walked 8 miles, no wonder I was so tired!

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