I must have packed and re-packed 3 times until I was able to prepare for all of my weird needs for the day — hot weather “walking around own” to easy check-in at the airport to “muy frio” when I land in Toronto. Once completed, I checked my luggage at the office to the apart-hotel and headed out to see a bit of Santiago “on my own.”
Since I wanted to see as much as possible, I opted for the Turist Bus tour — a 30 minute walk from my hotel to the Parque Arauco — an upscale mall. The attendants were very friendly and helpful — talking to me until the bus arrived. Unlike of other “hop on, hop off” bus tours, this one was only in 2 languages — Spanish and English. I was glad that someone else we navigating this bus — traffic and unexpected road closures made it interesting. The 9 stops were perfect, though — right where you would want to stop to see the highlights of this very large and busy city. Like many other cities, Santiago is made up of different neighborhoods — each with a different tale. An interesting on is the Providencia area which got the name from the sisters of Divine Providence who arrived in Santiago in 1853. These women were originally from Canada heading for Oregon. When they got there, there was a flood and they did not have anyway to get back to Canada. A Chilean ship’s captain volunteered to take them to Santiago and they setup a mission there.
I also loved the Santa Lucia area and Bellavista — which reminded me a little of the Boca area in Buenos Aires.
After touring around, I headed to a little park near my hotel to just take it easy in the heat — they way everyone seems to do. Then, it was on my way to the airport. Once we got the original check-in, the security area was a breeze — in that there was no long line and everything was smoothly handled. I found a little bar next to my gate and had my last Pisco Sour (YUM). a couple of my trivia friends saw me and shouted “Dancing Queen!” I guess I have a reputation! They were on their way home as well. The flight was nicely uneventful (although the food was worse than usual) and I arrived in TO at 6:25 AM. As I was in line at Canadian Immigration, I found myself behind the same couple I was in line with in Argentina! Everything comes around to the beginning …
Happy to be home — but what a fabulous adventure — definitely the trip of a lifetime!
Valparaiso and Santiago Chile Day 17
As with all days when you leave a ship – they start EARLY! The ship arrived in Santiago ay 3 AM – I know because that’s when I felt the moving stop. That also means we were 2 hours early. I had a tour scheduled from the ship to Santiago – it was a better value than a transfer from the port of Valparaiso which is ~ 90 minutes from the Santiago Airport. So, after a quick breakfast, it was on to meet the tour. After leaving the ship, we had to take a shuttle bus to the terminal, where we had to go through the Chilean Agriculture check – something we did at each stop in Chile (a beautiful golden lab had to sniff all my bags). This time, however, we turned in our forms. Then, it was onto the tour buses. We got a tour first of Valparaiso. It is built on seven hills that have several funiculars that can get you to the top within 3 minutes. There are also stairs – 365 stairs. Most locals will take the funicular up and walk down to save money. There are also a number of buildings that were damaged in many of the earthquakes that happen in this area. The facades of some of the buildings are protected by UNESCO as Heritage buildings – so to “repair” the building, they will build a brand new building behind the façade. There is also a lot of graffiti and stray dogs. In front of a museum is a statue from Easter Island – this area of Chile also controls the Island.
Our next stop was Vina del Mar and its famous flower clock. Some of the streets were blocked off for a marathon, se we did not get a lot of time to stop, but we also got to go to another beach community for a walk, coffee, etc. The drive reminded me of a portion of California Highway 1 near Malibu (where the restaurants are). On this trip, I walked on beaches on the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean – cool, eh? Today, I got to see surfers catch some pretty nice waves.
Next, we headed to Casablanca Valley – which is the Napa Valley of Chile and trust me, if you have never been to Napa and you come here – it is very similar. Out next stop was to the Estancia El Cuandro – a winery and special event centre. If you ever want to get married in Chile, this would be a beautiful spot. We had a traditional barbecue (the meat was AMAZING) and a large selection of fresh salads and dressings. We also had a choice of red or white wine – of course. I had the Pinot Noir and all I can say is WOW. The winery’s logo is also interesting – a dancing Pan carrying glasses of wine. There is also a very large, carved wooden statue of Pan in the entrance to the restaurant.
We then headed to Santiago and drove through the central area of downtown. A couple stops had to be cancelled because of special events – including the end of Chile’s version of the tour de France. But we did get to stop at Plaza de Armas where there are a number of beautiful buildings including the City Hall, Natural History Museum and the Post Office – which was built by one of the founders of Santiago for his lover. Overlooking all of this is the Metropolitan Cathedral. We then headed through the Bellas Artes neighbourhood on our way to San Cristobel Hill. There is a funicular that can take you all the way to the top – but the wait is very long. We drove up part way to a place where we could see the Andes Mountains. This road reminded me of a road in the Oakland Hills. I guess this part of Chile is a lot like California.
Then it was to the airport, where our luggage – and most people’s flights – awaited. I just needed to pick up my luggage, exchange some money and grab a cab to my hotel. There was one baggage assistant who really wanted to help me and nothing I said would get him to stop helping me. However I have to say he got me a nice cab driver who stopped at an ATM – which happened to be a Scotia Bank ATM (there seem to be as many Scotia Banks in Santiago as there are TDs in Toronto), and then he helped me find my hotel (which I may not have found without him). I guess sometimes I just need to trust (for some reason, I feel very “edgy” in Santiago as opposed to being adventurous in Buenos Aires). My hotel is one of the many apart-hotels in the Los Condes area of Santiago. When you walk into the main lobby, you get instructions to go to an apartment on the second floor. That is the office that manages the hotel apartments in the building. And what an apartment it is! I’m on the 17th floor overlooking one of the main boulevards in Santiago. There is a full living room and kitchen, a king-size bed and a nice bathroom. There is also a balcony that runs the full length of the apartment. Since I’d already had a full day, I opted for some down time at the roof-top pool and sun deck.
Now, I need to figure out how to repack things for the trip home – I need clothes for touring Santiago in 28 C. heat and I need to be able to find my cold weather clothes for when I land in Toronto. I know … life could have tougher choices.