While in Santiago, our base of operations is the Casa Moro Bed and Breakfast. Located on a quiet side street, about a fifteen minute walk from the Plaza des Armas (the heart of the historic city, and the point on which Santiago was founded), it's convenient to everything we wanted to do or see. (It's also the number one B&B in Santiago on TripAdvisor.com.)
Casa Moro's strong suit? Its people. Walter (one of the owners, together with his partner, Marcello, who hails from Easter Island) met us at the airport, steering us around the circle of pirate taxis and navigating the aggressive Friday morning rush hour traffic like a pro. One we arrived, his primary concern was making sure we had breakfast: fresh-baked bread dusted with raw sugar and spread with jam ... homemade muffins ... and hot coffee. (Having just gotten off a nine-hour flight, this was a nice "welcome home.")
Our rooms weren't quite ready -- we arrived very early, after all -- so we explored the house. Casa Moro has three levels. The first floor is a cool, shady space: tile floors, painted concrete walls, high ceilings. Native art (huge masks, voluptuous pottery, wooden carvings) and modern nudes adorn the walls. Plants (succulents, peppers, ferns, and a bewildering variety of potted greenery) dance in the constant breeze. In the inner courtyard, the grey tabby stares up at a bamboo cage of canaries.
The family dogs -- adopted from the street -- said hello, but quickly went back to lounging and sprawling. The grey tabby took all of five minutes to find Clyde's lap and plant herself there.
Upstairs, at the top of the landing, a cluster of spacious rooms awaits. We're in Room 2, a space saturated with color and light. The bed's good enough, and the WiFi is servicable. On our first night, we regretted having a room facing the street -- Chileans like to party, and locals squealed and called to each other until about 3:00 in the morning. Closing the windows helped but deprived us of a delicious cross-breeze I really missed! If you ever follow us here, I recommend requesting one of the rooms that doesn't face the street-- especially if your stay includes a Friday night. (On Saturday and Sunday night, the street was quiet as could be.)
Along with the hosts, the other guests have added a great deal to our enjoyment of the place. Today, we met (and went on the Spicy Chile Walking Tour) with J. and A., a fifty-something husband and wife from San Diego. During a stop at a local bakery (for empanadas and iced coffee), J., the husband, asked me where I'd met Clyde.
"At a church," I said.
He raised his eyebrow. "I'd like to go to that church!"
Turns out that, just two years ago, J. and A.'s son came out as a young gay man. He'd trusted a brother and sister with the secret, but it took a while to work up the courage to tell Mom and Dad (even though the family, J. tells us, is about as liberal and accepting as any family could be). "If you were ever gonna have a family you could come out to without fear," J. said, "it'd be ours."
The son isn't partnered yet, but A. -- his mom, a judge -- is adamant: "When he finds someone, I want to be the one to marry him." She hesitates. "If they ever approve marriage for you guys, that is."
We swapped many stories. Ultimately, J. wound up telling us why he felt such a need to accept everyone just as they are. "My Dad was Catholic, and my mother converted. But because Dad was Irish, and the Catholics and Protestants were always at war, he didn't want us all being on one side or the other, so three of his children were raised Catholic, and three were raised Protestant."
He pauses, blinking back tears. "They excommunicated him. Because he wouldn't raise us all Catholic, they threw him out. It broke his heart. And years later, he told me that, because he knew what it was like to be shunned and cast out just for being honest, he couldn't bear to see people mistreated or rejected because they were different."
I was blinking back tears, too.
A., his wife, nodded her head. "I'm staying in the Catholic church. That said: I think people who love each other should be able to marry. I think priests should marry. I think women should be priests if they want to be. And while I don't think any of these changes will happen in my lifetime, I am staying in my church because my staying there means there's one more voice urging the church toward decency and sensibility."
Turns out A. and J. are on our cruise, to boot -- so I'm looking forward to seeing more of them over the next two weeks. What an unexpected pleasure -- all thanks to the way Casa Moro brings people together.