Maybe you’ve heard that the world’s biggest pool is located in Chile. Way back in August, a colleague advertised that her beachfront condo was available to rent. Nancy and I sat on my sofa, looking at the photos of the apartment, and we realized it was located AT THE BIGGEST POOL IN THE WORLD! Although I cringed at the idea of building a humongous pool literally right next to the ocean, and I didn’t even want to speculate about the environmental impact, I also couldn’t help but admit it would be pretty dang cool to say I went to the biggest pool in the world. Nancy and I got all giddy and decided to book it for Tony’s birthday, a long weekend.
As I said, that was back in August. Once we booked the apartment, we didn’t even think about it again. We didn’t do any research. We just piled in the car after school on Thursday, Dec. 7, and headed toward Crystal Lagoon. After a slight misunderstanding with Google Maps, which had us drive on the beach for a bit, we arrived at the compound. We signed in at the gate and received our resort bracelets, pulled up to the parking area, and dashed around the building to see the pool and the beach beyond.
If this were a movie, the scene would freeze with a close-up on our perplexed expressions, and then pan out to a wide angle shot of the large-but-not-enormous pool, and then pan out further to show the construction site blocking the view of the ocean. The heavy overcast sky, the half-built concrete building, the swinging cranes, the churning sea – all colored gloomy gray – contributed to our sense of deflation.
For about a minute.
Then we had to face reality: We were not where we thought we were. And that sent Nancy and me into hysterics. Tony and I have lived in six countries and worked abroad for the last 17 years. Nancy has three passports and spent four years in India. We are not novice travelers. But this was a ridiculous, rookie travel-fail. And we couldn’t stop laughing. Seriously, for three days. Every time we passed the moderately-sized pool, we would crack up again. “How could we be so stupid?” we would titter.
The evening of our arrival, we drove around town looking for an open restaurant. No luck. We finally found a tiny take-away window (literally a hole in the wall), where we ordered chorillanas, a traditional Chilean dish of french fries, smothered in beef cubes and onions, with fried eggs on top. It was pretty greasy and delicious. However, we stressed a bit that we would have no other dining options during our visit.
The next morning was Tony’s birthday. He opened his present from me first thing: un sobrero de huaso! This is the traditional hat worn by Chile’s huasos – cowboys – and even some city slickers. It’s not just a prop. You see it everywhere. Nancy gave him a bottle of Bailey’s and a special glass. He was pretty stoked.
After a leisurely breakfast, we looked out the window at the drizzly weather and gave up on playing at the beach. Instead, Nancy and I decided to find a supermarket. We drove about half an hour south till we reached the town of Zapallar, while Tony hunkered down to grade papers at the apartment.
Nancy and I parked at a strip mall that had a huge ferreteria. I have seen the name before but never stopped to find out what it was. Of course, I really wanted it to be a sprawling pet store devoted to ferrets. I pictured them scampering around on carpeted towers and rolling across the room in extra-large hamster balls. Alas, as my trusty SpanishDict app confirmed, “ferreteria” means “hardware store.” So that was disappointing. It was basically a Home Depot. The supermarket was right next door. We stocked up on wine and snacks, bought a few empanadas for lunch, and headed back to our home away from home.
Lounging around the apartment was nice, but we could do that anywhere. We finally dragged our lazy booties out to explore. We walked through the compound to a gate that opened to the beach. Who knew? (To be fair, the apartment’s owner had actually told us a few details about the place, but the information didn’t stick.) The sky remained gray and dreary, so we all felt sluggish. We walked along a nice waterfront path, found a few promising restaurants, enjoyed the view of massive pelicans floating just a few feet above the waves, and then wandered home to get some work done. Unfortunately, Tony’s birthday always falls right when we have to write our report card comments for the end of the semester.
For dinner, we easily found a waterside table as the only other people eating at 7:30 p.m. were families with small children. Back at the casa, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Tony. Unbeknownst to me, the birthday candles I picked up at the supermarket were those “magic” ones that keep reigniting. That’s funny when you’re 10, but kind of annoying when you’re 52 and just want to eat your cake and ice cream.
The next day, we strolled along the sandy beach, waded in the chilly Pacific water, climbed on the rocks, and soaked up the seaside sounds and smells. There was no avoiding grading and writing report card comments, but we found it’s not so bad when you can reward yourself with occasional beachside breaks.