Santiago: who knew?

IMG_7540 Our first full day day in Santiago, after the previous day of no sleep, got off to a great start. Our hotel had a lovely breakfast, included in our room package. Our van, with driver and guide, picked us up promptly at 9 am and we began our tour of the city. We started with the walking portion to beat the midday heat. Santiago was a pleasant surprise to all of us. I realize we were in quite a nice neighbourhood, but we were impressed by the number of healthy trees and beautiful parks.

Chile has had a lot of earthquakes. They don’t even call the small ones earthquakes anymore, they call them tremours. As a result of all these earthquakes, at least the major ones, there are many newer buildings among the “survivors”.

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Due to Santiago’s location, between ocean and mountain ranges, Chile’s political history, and their geological history, the city has its very own, distinct vibe, and comes across as very modern, resilient and forward thinking. I think part of the reason we enjoyed it so much is because Chile, like Canada, is a mosaic (or melting pot, if you prefer) of so many cultures. It has the “new world” feel, but with a darker history and a much stronger European influence. The climate is fantastic. Although the summer temperatures can get pretty hot, it’s a dry heat. People come to Chile from all over the world and many of them never leave.

It’s hard to believe, even for a resident of the Cayman Islands, that the country is run without income tax,  In Chile, they sell institutions, such as the airports, to investors, who then commit to maintaining them for 20 years. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The petty crime is a problem, because the jails are too full and they don’t have an investor in the jails.

IMG_7492Plaza los Armas

Our tour of the city included a walk through downtown and Plaza los Armas. We had time to explore the indoor market.

 

IMG_7519This market is considered to be among the top five in the world!

 

IMG_7545At Cerro San Cristobal, you can walk, drive or take a funicular to the top. We took the funicular, it being a very hot time of day. We couldn’t drive up because there was a walk or run going on, as there often is in Santiago. As we drove around the city we often saw areas cordonned off for a bike race or similar event. The views from the top were fantastic. We could see the Andes on one side and and by walking around we could see the whole city. We had to do some climbing,as the funicular doesn’t go all the way to the top, where the statue of the Virgin Mary watches over Santiago.

We returned to our hotel with time to go for lunch, catch up on our emails and relax by the pool. One of the problems we had in Santiago was finding cash. Having spent most of our cash at dinner the previous evening,(and that’s another story!) we split up the group so some of us could find a place for lunch and some went looking for a place to exchange money. We had a two counts against us. It’s summer in Santiago, which means one third of the population is on vacation. The banks were closed for the weekend, and no exchange places were available in the neighbourhood.

We had a short walk to a shopping and restaurant area, but it was very busy and we were lucky to get a table for our large group. On the Sunday, we found many places were simply closed for the afternoon.

We could have returned to one of the museums that our guide had pointed out to us, but I think we were all pretty tired by afternoon. I am beginning to understand the siesta! Some of the museums were on strike, as well.

By the end of our 3 days in Santiago, which also included visits to wineries and a walking tour of Valparaiso, we were joking about buying a place and moving there.

 

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