Wandering the streets of Caracas

Trip Start Aug 27, 2005
Trip End Dec 09, 2005

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Flag of Venezuela  ,
Tuesday, September 6, 2005

This morning I met my friend Greg in the ship's lounge and we headed out to the terminal and the streets of La Guaira. We had both agreed that it was a good idea if we took very little into the city with us...less to carry and less of a chance of attracting attention as tourists. Besides my wallet, I took a Lonely Planet guide, a small notepad and a copy of my passport in case I needed to exchange money or go to the US Embassy for something. It all fit in my pocket.

We hailed a taxi in La Guaira haggled over the fare with the driver until finally he agreed to $20 US. He had wanted $40 originally. The taxi drivers know there are 700 college students around and have been price gouging. The ride to Caracas was uneventful.

We asked the driver to drop us of at Plaza Bolivar which is where the Venezuelan government buildings are located. This is on the west side of town, which is also the older side. We had heard that this was an area where political demonstrations occur and that if we saw one coming to leave immediately. There was a metro station nearby that we planned would be our escape if necessary. The metro in Caracas is very easy to use and a great way to get across the city. We walked around the plaza and it seemed safe. There was some sort of political meeting that was about to start. It looked like a speaker was expected and everyone was sitting in benches in red and yellow t-shirts waiting for something to begin. Greg and I went to some street markets near the Plaza where you could buy everything from lingerie to electric drills. I found a man selling Catholic pictures and figurines. I bought two pictures of Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez (looks exactly like Charlie Chaplin) who is considered by Venezuelans as their most important saint. He was a Venezuelan doctor in the late 1800s early 1900s that cared for the poor and has had many miracles attributed to him. When he died in 1919 an almost cult following developed and it is not uncommon for Venezuelans to have a picture of him in their house.

After checking out several streets of markets and vendors near the Plaza Bolivar, we went to the Metro station and headed to the east end of the city called Chacao. We had originally planned on heading to the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Modern Art Museum) but it is closed on Mondays. I guess that gives me something to do tomorrow.

Chacao is the heart of metropolitan Caracas. Huge high rise buildings, fancy malls and restaurants characterize this part of the city. We walked for a long while, just taking in the city, heading east in the general direction of a huge park called El Parque del Este. On the way we dodged into a fancy mall called Sambil to try to find something to eat. We found lots of fast food- Wendy's (which are everywhere in Venezuela) Pizza Hut, and others...but luckily we also found a Venezuelan restaurant too. I had an arepa con asado y aquacate (it's kind of like a steak and avocado sandwich). After lunch we left Sambil.

We continued walking eventually reaching El Parque del Este. It was closed...I did not know a park could close...but it was. It was open on Mondays from 5am-9am. There are museums in the park that we knew were closed on Monday but we did not know the whole park could close. Oh well.

Greg and I consulted the Lonely Planet and decided to take a cab to El Hatillo; a small town outside of Caracas that is supposed to have great restaurants and streets to walk. We hailed a cab and twenty minutes later we were in El Hatillo. It was farther away than we thought it was.

We wandered around the town for a while, not really knowing where to go. It was enjoyable nonetheless. We were both running low on money at this point in the day and were wondering if we had strayed too far from La Guaira to be able to afford to get back. We asked a taxi driver how much it would be to take us to the port in La Guaira and he told us 50,000 Bolivares. Between the two of us we had 53,000 Bolivares. We jumped at the chance to get back for that cheap (trust me that was a good deal). The drive took about an hour and we were tired by the time we got back to the ship.

Tomorrow morning I am scheduled to hike part of Mt. Avila and then I am going to try to make it to the Modern Art Museum with my friend Jacky from New York.
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seanmalonerules on

Re: Email
I get your e-mails you send through travelpod...they are routed through my usual email address malones@sonoma.edu I love ya Jen. I've met a ton of people from Pennsylvania on this trip and so many of them say they love Philly. All the more reason to come see you when I get home. -Sean

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