Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile

Friday 11th July. We made it in to our lovely hotel, the first one for this trip, at about 1am this morning. That was after leaving the jungle on Friday at 3am via the white cayman and piranha infested waters on our fateful boat trip! We are still getting over this ridiculous part of our adventure. We kept hoping that Martha and James, our NY friends, did not have to endure a similar fate the next day. They were not due to leave until Saturday but, only time will tell. The Hotel Orly is located in the trendy shopping and restaurant district of Provedencia. It is ideally located within walking distance to most amenities and tourist attractions. There is an Internet cafe directly across the road, laundry around the corner and cafes right below us. This was the only part of the trip that I booked and I wished now that I had controlled the whole trip. You live and learn, or at least some do. I have had exceptions to this rule in various of my classrooms over the years! Santiago lies in the middle of a fertile basin surrounded by mountains. It is flanked by the Andes on the east, north and south and by the Pacific coast on the west. Thus, there is a lot more green space around this city compared to the others we have visited. Walking around the quiet suburban streets has a Canberra feel to the place whilst wandering the busy shopping district has more of a Barcelona feel. Unfortunately, this basin has the dual effect of trapping all of the smog and pollution in a similar way to that of Lima. Thus, the air is thick and the blue sky, if any, is difficult to see. Given our early morning arrival, we did not rise until about 10am and spent the rest of the morning wandering around the shopping district near our hotel. We noticed a few things. The people are taller, being more European and less Andean in appearance, there are fewer children around although it could have been a school day, the shops are more up-market and the stray dogs are bigger and much healthier looking than any other Lat Am specimen we have seen. Santiago is clearly doing much better than its South American relatives! Our guide, later in the day, confirmed this fact saying that the relatively stable government of Chile over recent decades has meant more foreign investment and, thus, greater wealth for the city. We took a half day city tour for the afternoon which covered the main sights around the city. We met a nice girl, Lisa, who was here on business. She is originally from the UK but currently working out of Miami. We were going to have dinner with her until we found out about the absurd smoking rules here in Santiago. Most restaurants allow smoking and, if they do, children are not allowed. So, the restaurant that our guide recommended, as with most other places we sought, was off limits to us and Tom. We agreed to catch up the next day and so at about 7pm Mark, Tom and I went on search for a place to eat. This was not an easy task. We ended up at a very touristy, revolving restaurant with ´so so´ food but great views of the city. Saturday 12th July We caught up with Lisa this morning and went to the Metropolitan Parque near our hotel. This is a smallish mountain in the city which has a funicular and cable car ride. We took the funicular up and cable car down. Again, more eucalyptus and even some wattle. Home seems to be calling us where ever we go. We were lucky to be able to explore this area before the rain set in, which it did as soon as we made down the mountain. We decided to walk on though towards Mercado Central, the fishing market area of the city. we were rather drenched by the time we arrived so, wandered around for a bit and then sat down for a quick bite and a cerveza for Mark! We were all too wet and cold to continue exploring so we are not sure whether there was more to this market area or not. Lisa then had to leave us as she was catching a flight back to Miami that afternoon so we decided to get out of the rain and go back to the warmth and luxury of our hotel to read for the afternoon. Dinner was at a small vegetarian restaurant around the corner from our hotel a sit was the only non smoking venue within walking distance! Sunday 13th July Luckily, the rain had cleared and the day was sunny for our trip to the coast. Our day was spent on a private tour out through the coastal valleys, west of Santiago. The countryside was very green and covered with more gum trees and wattle and quite reminiscent of home. We visited a vineyard in the Casablanca Valley, famous for its white wines yet we preferred the reds! From there we went to the coastal town of Ilsa Negra to visit the home of Pablo Neruda, a poet and Noble prize winner for literature. Lunch was in a restaurant in the quirky pottery area of Pomaire. We dined on the local specialty of pork and now won´t need to eat for another week or so! The locals are extremely proud of their ceramic crafts but, to us, it was all stuff that was very kitch and would be headed for the tip if in my house! The satellite suburbs outside of Santiago city were quite depressing to view as we headed back to the hotel though. The homes, although colourful, were simple fibro type constructions packed tightly together without yards or any vegetation and arranged row after endless row. There were no trees or lawn along the narrow streets either. We passed many of these suburbs as we headed back into town. An amazing juxtaposition with such an ugly urban landscape set against the magnificent backdrop of the beautiful snow capped Andes mountains. The whole scene was quite surreal. Once back to the hotel we went for walk to try and burn off some of the pork before taking Tom to the Internet cafe. Tomorrow is our last day and we are taking another tour out to the coast but further south to the sea side area of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. Thus, this will be the last blog. I am really tired so, please forgive the typo and grammar!!! Cheers

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