Entering Santiago

Trip Start Jan 28, 2008
Trip End Feb 08, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Saturday, February 9, 2008

Panorama image from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org
(Click on the image to enlarge)
The air is Antarctic clean compared to the oft diesel entrapped fumes of Buenos Aires. Not that the pollution takes much away from the smorgasbord of delights BA offers a tourist. However the freshness of Santiago screams 'you are at the base of the Andes and a pebble jump from the ocean' and thusly one's vision will encompass all horizons and beyond. It is as if one sees the history and culture in Santiago and feels or listens to the same in BA. Two very different sensory reactions and/or approaches.

Note the photo of the Hotel I entered before we left Ottawa. The photo does not do it justice. This is as a small Swiss hotel in Zermat where Heidi would stay, would be except that it is small Chilean hotel not in the Andes but at sea-level and where two entranced Canadian 60 year olds are staying. Ingrid and I are getting used to eating at midnight, exploring the areas around the chosen restaurant and getting to bed at 2:00 am or.... An Argentinian told us that they 'live for the night'. Not only do we believe it, see it and understand it, but we are becoming part of it because we want to. The night opens up a life not seen during the day; music tumbles into the streets with laughter, merriment and friendship - during the day it is restrained for the business that must be conducted, even if is a simple matter of shopping or a post office errand.
Like most foreign countries and no matter how many times one can go a different one, there is never an end to the examples of different approaches to do things, market stuff, employ tools, invent resources etc... This holiday is no different as we learn how to flush toilets with mechanisms that astound us; find toasters attached to the side of micro-ovens; discover soap bar rounds on the end of metal rods that hang above sinks ready for use as hand cleaners but never having to be put down and left in a pool of water; garbage picked up by laborers in carts and hauled to one spot where the typical Canadian garbage truck will come and pick up -AFTER those same laborers have sorted the recyclables and squashed all the cardboard boxes etc... and on and on.
AND we still have not found the moon yet. I recall seeing it in South Africa where I was taken aback by the crescent at the top of the round instead of the side. I wanted to show it to Ingrid here. Can't do it if it can't be seen. Perhaps there is no moon in South America - perhaps the Incas hid it along with their suns! Enough for today. I did get some photos up yesterday. I will try again tomorrow, but more and more I believe the photos are going to get woven in after I return home... I should say that the trip to the airport was courtesy of Mr. Tomorrow himself. He apologized all the way including screwing up our expedition to the Iguassu falls and to the Andes. Both of which was for the former our choice and for the latter my error.
But we took his apologies anyway as he did screw up royally in other areas. He deserves a friendly and vacation type aaarrrr gghhhh only! The flight was uneventful expect for meeting some wonderful people all going back to Toronto and no one getting off in Santiago. One Torontonian told us that he had been on business for 2-3 days and he would never come back to BA because of .... litany, litany, yada yada (you know how Torontonians talk when they are abroad, like nothing is worth commenting on if it doesn't sound like Maple Leafs or rhyme with Bloor!) None of his comments made any sense and he missed every possible reason he would want to come back. He gets a big touristy raspberry he does.

TIP: A note to first timers to Santiago is that one can book a taxi right out front of the airport and get a voucher for a predetermined rate so that you know what your paying up front no matter what route he takes you to! Mind you, as the story unwinds, you will note that our travels in Chile were spotlessly clean of issues, being taken, confusion and what/not - everybody we came across wanted to help, assist, show caring, compassion, give directions, tell us how to hold onto our bags properly when walking down a street... and that was in what has probably been one of the safest parts of the world we could be traveling in!

Anyway, enjoy the photos of the hotel, cause that's all you get today. I am still downloading from BA! BTW the view from our window is akin to Zurich with the Alps in the background or Geneva with the Juras dark and hilly on one side and Mt. Blanc looming on the other.

OK, I have decided to add some history and background for those interested; a lot of this comes from our readings and Wikipedia so don't expect too much original or (as usual) exaggerated stuff... (except for my reference to Isabel Allende and her novel Ines of My Soul.
"Santiago, officially Santiago de Chile, is the capital of Chile.  It is situated at an elevation of 520 m (1700 ft) in the country's central valley. Although Santiago is the capital, the government  meets in nearby Valparaiso.
(It took us a while to understand how the country had two capitals - and we are still not entirely sure - I am guessing that politicians would rather be by the sea shore where they can build sand castles and/or watch the bikinis go by while making public policy on governance and other stuff they pretend to know about).
Approximately two decades of uninterrupted economic growth have transformed Santiago into one of Latin America 's most sophisticated metropolitan areas, with extensive suburban development, dozens of shopping malls, and impressive high-rise architecture. The city also boasts some of Latin America's most spectacular infrastructure, such as the Santiago Metro and the sparkling new Costanera Norte,  a highway system that passes below downtown and connects the Eastern and Western extremes of the city in 40 minutes. Santiago is headquarters to many important companies and is a regional financial center.
Santiago was founded by Pedro de Valdivia on February 12, 1541 on Huelén Hill (later renamed Cerro Santa Lucía). Valdivia chose the location of Santiago because of its moderate climate and the ease with which it could be defended - Mapocho River then split into two branches around Huelen hill, and rejoined further downstream, forming an island.

TIP: Read this novel  And this is where our novelist comes in: Isabel Allende, in Ines of My Soul, uses the real-life account of a fascinating historically named woman, Ines Suarez, as the basis for her historical novel. Suarez was the lone woman to accompany the Conquistadors to the New World. She came in search of her missing husband, but eventually became mistress to Don Pedro de Valdivia, the conqueror of Chile. In Allende's passionate account, Valdivia and Suarez have dreams of a Christian utopia that are undone by their drive for glory which, is also a metaphor for the undoing of all succumbed to the need for glory: power, wealth, fame. Even the Mapuche natives and their chief Michimalonco fell in the end to their own greed and requirement for glory.

The city was destroyed on September 11, 1541 by the native forces under the chief Michimalonco, which led to the Arauco War. The first buildings were erected with the help of the native Picunche Indians. The south bank of the Mapocho River was later drained and converted into a public promenade, known as the Alameda (now Avenida Alameda Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins, the city's main avenue). The city was slightly damaged during the War of Independence (1810-18), during the Battle of Maipú, which was fought south -west of the city. Santiago was named capital in 1818.  During the early 19th century, Santiago remained a small town with few buildings excepting Palacio de La Moneda, the building used as the Chilean mint during the Spanish period, and a few churches and other civic buildings. The Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús caught fire during an 1863 church service, and 2000 people died, one of the worst modern fires. In the 1880s extraction of nitrate fertilizer in Northern Chile brought prosperity to the country, and promoted the capital city's development. Important landmarks were built in 1910 during the Centennial celebrations of independence from Spain, such as the National Library, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Mapocho Train Station (Estación Mapocho, now an events center). Santiago began its transformation into a modern city in the 1930s, with the building of the Barrio Cívico. The city also grew in population, due to migration from the north and south of Chile. In 1985 an earthquake destroyed some historically significant buildings in the downtown area.
Note: In the guide books, there are warnings that the streets are unsafe and people will be constantly warning tourists to look after our handbags, purses, backpacks and keep watching people around us. They say that the streets are dirty with a lot of garbage lying around all over.  There is also a complaint that "people stare at us constantly and make us uncomfortable".  We find none of this. One exception: we have been told how to hold our bags 'just in case'. We can't see that is any different than how we would watch our valuables in any North American or European city. I think they just want to protect a large budding industry of theirs: tourism. Now dirty and garage and unsafe? We just came from Buenos Aires - that is dirty and polluted, but garbage or unsafe - no, not there either. We have seen more unsafe and more garbage in the streets in many North American cities than one can find here.

p.s. Re-reading this a month later and from back home; I would move here and I would live here and so would Ingrid. The only drawback is the language and when has that ever been insurmountable. I will just get Ingrid to learn Spanish!

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gwaymar on

Hi Kim
Ingrid here...

We arrived at Santiago tonight around 8 pm. It looks lovely from high up surrounded by the Chilean Andes, and the air smelled fresher than in Buenos Aires. We are looking forward to exploring on our own tomorrow and then taking a day trip (bus tour) into the high Andes, as well as a trip to Valparaiso on the Chilean coast. The city is a world heritage place and by all accounts a real gem. Stay tuned...

Hope you are not missing me too much...


tiggerval on

Different approaches
Well, at least the toaster wasn't attached to the flusher and the microwave wasn't hanging off the garbage truck!!

Sounds like you are both having a great time. For now, I am living and travelling vicariously through you while I amuse myself trying to beat Keith at Scrabulous.

Love and hugs, Valerie

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