This freezing Sunday, I felt inspired to go to Bio Bio, the largest flea market in Santiago. Perhaps because that’s where my cellphone, which was stolen, and I recovered on Wednesday night (good story, worth a click), would have ended up had I not retrieved it from my wayward pick pocketer. Maybe because it was bleak and awful out today, and I have spent many a bleak and awful day in Bio Bio, for reasons I cannot identify. It is not a terrifically friendly place at the moment, with street construction and piles of trash (ok, those are kind of always), but it’s a good place to take the pulse of another part of Santiago, the kind of place where you can get your phone unblocked, get a creative buzz cut under inadequate lighting, buy some furniture or some used books and otherwise get your wander on without anyone really asking or expecting anything of you.
I went with a friend, who had some hardware needs, but the first order of business was a greasy, noodly lunch at Franklin 610, at Lai Thai. It was what we needed for a day like today, and as a bonus, I got to be the cross-over point for passing the pizza between our aisle to the next one to a vendor who was waiting on her piping hot lunch. The food is adequate. You could make better at home if you were so inclined, but then you would not get to pass the pizza, and you would probably put less oil in it. Plus you cannot go hardware shopping at home.
Then we went shopping for bits and bobs, and my friend hit the jackpot at this hardware place, where, by the way, they have a box of something I was looking for when I first came to Chile, called an “espantacuco.” I had to circumlocute it, to the great entertainment of everyone at our main hardware and furnishings store. “It’s a thing, that you plug in in an outlet and leave it there at night, so you might illuminate the space without turning on the overhead light.” (in Spanish). Spoiler: nightlight. They’re the round item in the middle-most drawer piled on top of the other drawers. I no longer need one, so did not buy one.
For what its worth, I will never get used to the fact that you can buy surgical supplies at the flea market. I mean, the dental scrapers are weird enough, but things to do surgery? It just seems wrong. Also, an emesis basin in Spanish? “riñon” (kidney-shaped).
It was pretty late in the day by this point, and crowds were winding down, both because it was late, and because it was cold, and also, it’s school vacation and the city is a bit empty at this point. The “school books” booth (libros de colegio) was shuttered.
We were lucky enough to, just as we were both saying “we should get a cup of coffee,” find this place, a cute little café with a decent double espresso, a more than passable cinnamon roll, and very lovely staff who were tickled when I was really happy for them that business was going so well.
I was not expecting to find the café, because I didn’t know it was there. Nobody tells foreigners to come to Bio Bio because it’s mostly full of pretty eclectic finds, ponchy-ponchy music, a possibility of getting pick pocketed (they say), and because there’s “nothing interesting there.”
Which is why I choose these two dogs we saw on the long walk home, to finish this post. When you travel, you can look, or you can believe you’ve seen it all, already, or that just because the guidebook doesn’t send you, there’s nothing to see there. Here’s a gentle reminder to be red-coat dog sometimes, looking around to see what’s there (could be me!). And to go to Bio Bio on the weekends or a holiday if you want that cuppa joe. (The Weekend Cafe, Calle Victor Manuel 2292). Peruvian owned, brewing cafe Borbone, from Italy).