Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Santiago 2

I have a theory about the fountains in any large city: if the fountains are operating and clean, the city's infrastructure is probably functioning quite well. Santiago's fountains are operating and are clean; the only fountain that was not working had a prominently displayed sign giving the dates of its closure for renovation. So from our point of view things seem to be working well in Stgo.
The best way to get a quick view of any new city is to take a bus tour. We have done this in Buenos Aires, LIma, and now, Santiago. TURISTIK does this in Santiago with red double-decker hop on/hop off buses that take about two hours to cover the mapped route. After looping around the historic Centro, it heads east to the upscale neighborhoods of Providencia and Las Condes. HIgh rise glass towers mark these areas as the new business and residential center (some call it Sanhattan) of greater Santiago. The tour was well narrated in Spanish and English; we enjoyed it very much.
Shades of India

Street Art in Barrio Bellavista
Two days later we did the walking tour of the Centro (outlined in our guide book), most of which we had seen from the bus but now could more thoroughly explore. It was Sunday morning and we stopped at the Catedral Metropolitana to listen to the mass and explore some of the chapels. Later, as we walked through the large plazas and saw the clean fountains, we had a more intimate feel for the city. Near the end of the walk, we came to Cerro Santa Lucia, signed in with the nice lady at the entrance, and climbed to the top via pathways and steep stone steps to a birdseye view of downtown. After a couple of hours on our feet, we just had to plop down at the first sidewalk cafe and have our juice, coffee, and media lunas!
Architectural Contrast

Catedral Door

There are a Lot of Stray Dogs in Santiago
Sculpture Along the Alameda
The Rich/The Poor
Fountain at the Base of Cerro Santa Lucia
Yesterday, we ponied up a bit more cash to TURISTIK and took a day tour to the Pacific Coast to visit the deep water port of Valparaiso and the Garden City of Vina del Mar. Valparaiso is the legislative seat of the Chilean government located about 80 miles northwest of Santiago. The city is built on 42 hills that radiate from the port area making it difficult to get around on foot. It is said that the women of Valparaiso have the most beautiful calves of all the women in Chile! We would to like to spend more time in this sprawling UNESCO World Heritage site; that may be next winter as it has been added to the growing list of places to see south of the equator.
Chilean Naval Headquarters in Valparaiso
A Building Within a Building!
By law the old building cannot be demolished, so after an earthquake the new building was built inside the walls of the old. This is adjacent to Plaza Sotomayer, the main square in downtown Valpo.

Harbor in Valpo

Flower Clock in Vina del Mar

A moai from Easter Island at the Museo de Arqueologia e Historia Francisco Fonck in Vina del Mar. He looks lonely and quite out of place!

It's a BIG door into the Apartment Building!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Santiago 1

Santiago is a city of approximately 5 million souls lying in the shadows of the Andes Mountains just to the east. The snow covered peaks make a nice back drop to the many tall buildings in the Centro and some of the outlying suburbs. It has many green areas, some along the Mapocho River and others on the small urban peaks of Cerro Santa Lucia and Cerro San Cristobal. One of the nice things about spending several days in a city with no set agenda is that we can pick and choose what we see and when we see it. We have a nice apartment to retreat to after several hours on foot exploring various areas of the city.

Sculpture Near Our Apartment

Cerro San Cristobal rises over 2800 feet above the city and is topped by the nearly 50 foot high statue of the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepcion. The funicular takes people to the Terraza Bellavista overlooking the city, but they must climb the stone steps to reach the base of the statue. Pope John Paul II said mass here in 1984--the park must have been absolutely overrun with the faithful!

The Ramblers Looking to Have Fun on the Funicular!

Meeting Halfway

Our building is the left of the two towers in the lower left-hand corner of the picture. The Central Market is the low building to the right with the cupola in the center.

Statue of Pope John Paul II on the Terraza Bellavista

Virgen de la Inmaculata Concepcion

Tree Branch with Seed Pods

On another day we walked to the Cementerio General, a literal City of the Dead with over two million graves on a 200+ acre plot of land. Many of the deceased are in mausoleums, but the wealthier folks have built family tombs that are more like temples. Salvador Allende, the president who died in the 1973 military coup, is here as well. The cemetery is divided into streets and avenues with many plazas scattered throughout.

Tomb of Salvador Allende

Allende Family Crypt

Family Tombs

I've Never Seen that Name Before

This is How the Majority of the People are Buried

The most sobering place, however, was the Memorial del Detenido Desaparecido y del Ejecutado Politico. The leader of the coup that put an end to Allende's rule was General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. He oversaw the torture of over 35000 political opponents during his 17-year reign; there were also over 3000 people who "disappeared." The thousands of names on the wall at the memorial is mind-numbing and the tombs of those who were executed for their political beliefs likewise. There are four faces peering out from four rough hewn blocks of stone on the small bridge in front of the memorial. We have once again come face-to-face with modern history in a foreign land.

The Wall

One of the Four Faces

Many of the deaths occurred in 1973 shortly after the coup.

Some of the tombs of those executed for their political beliefs; again, many in 1973 and many in their 20s and 30s!


Saturday, March 3, 2012


The Lonely Planet guide to Argentina says that Mendoza is a trap! We agree! Our five day stay there was only long enough to ensure that we will be back. It is a small, walkable city with some very attractive squares and parks, wide side walks lined with umbrella shaded eating establishments, and, of course, the center of Argentina's fast growing wine industry.

Mendoza lies just east of the Andes Mountains and is basically an oasis in the desert. The indigenous Huarpe people used the snowmelt from the Andes to irrigate their fields and this continues today augmented by the large aquifer that is beneath the region. Being in the foothills of the Andes, many of the wineries have vineyards located at different altitudes which enhances the quality of the wine they produce.

We did an all-day wine tour of Maipu visitng three wineries and having lunch at the old family home on the last visit of the day. Tempus Alba, Finca Flichman, and Luis Segundo Correas were the places we visited on our nine hour tour. If we had drunk all the wine presented to us, we would have consumed nearly 1 1/2 bottles of wine each! We paced ourselves in order to make it through the day. The mid-afternoon parilla (barbeque) meal on the veranda at San Luis capped off a wonderful field trip.

Tempus Albus

Ready to Taste at Finca Flichman

Flichman's Private Cellar

San Luis

The weekend we were in town the Megadegustacion (Megatasting) was being held. Two blocks of one of the main streets off the central square were blocked off and over 200 wineries were dispensing their wares from the tented booths. The weekend after we left was the annual Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (National Wine Harvest Festival) culminating in a parade and the coronation of the festival queen. McDonald's was even running a special for the occasion: a double hamburger, two empanadas, and small bottle of wine for $47 (that's pesos--about USD$11). Oh yes, most of the many fountains in the squares around town were spewing red/rose colored water while we were there--definitely a wine oriented place.

McDonald's Special

Colorful Fountains

One evening after an early dinner and stopping in at the Iglesia, Convento y Basilica de San Francisco (mass was being held) we heard a band playing in Plaza San Martin (General Jose de San Martin was instrumental in the independence movements in Argentina, Chile, and Peru in the early 1800s). We stopped for a look-see and spent the next 45 minutes there listening to music, speeches and watching traditional dance troupes from Argentina and Chile. It was a birthday party for San Martin whose statue dominates the center of the square!

General Jose de San Martin

The next evening we took a funky looking open top bus--La Bateau--on a ninety minute tour to the huge Parque General San Martin and the Cerro de la Gloria with an incedible monument to San Martin and his liberation forces.

La Bateau

Very Detailed Sculpture

A visit to Mendoza would not be complete without a late morning breakfast at a sidewalk cafe. Offerta #1 cost a little less than USD$3 and included a small juice, water with gas, cafe con leche, and two media-lunas (small, sweet croissants). In fact, it was so good, we ordered a third!!

Breakfast with the Ramblers

The return bus trip to Santiago was much more pleasant than one to Mendoza. The sky was clear over the Paso de la Libertadores, we saw Mount Aconcagua, got our jamon y queso sandwich lunch and only had to spend one hour at the border (a 6 1/2 hour trip vs the nearly 10 hour ride a few days earlier).

We are currently enjoying Santiago in our lovely small, but new and modern apartment located near the centro. We have only a few days left on our current South American experience, but are already thinking about and planning next year's winter get-away south of the equator!

View of Santiago Centro from our apartment balcony (yes, there are flying bicycles here!)