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  • Day34

    Santiago, Chile

    November 26, 2017 in Chile ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Today started on a rough note.We docked in San Antonio, a rough looking industrial port. Barb Trodd has a bad case of the cold and elected to see the ship's doctor. The rest of us headed out to meet our Tours by Locals guide on a misty, overcast and cool day. Victor Hugo (the guide) was late due to traffic problems and when he arrived, advised that we should change our plans and go to Santiago, rather than Valparaiso. His reasoning was that Valparaiso was due to have foggy and rainy weather all day so the touring would be pour. Santiago, the capital city, was forecast to have sunny and hot weather. So, despite our disappointment, we decided to take his recommendation.

    In the end, this turned out to be a good choice. Wendy and I, in particular liked Santiago and felt that it would warrant a return, multi-day trip.

    Santiago is the capital of Chile and is a very attractive city. It's 49 public parks (which are watered year round) have a wide variety of tress and flowers. As we were visiting on a beautiful Sunday, they were well used by the city's 8 million people. The people we saw appeared prosperous. Lots of families and very few street people. During the day, this is a safe city to walk in as there is a heavy presence of Carbineros (armed police officers), who, according to our guide, did not accept bribes. Noteworthy in South America, I guess. Definitely noteworthy is that over 50% of the Carbineros are women.

    Santiago was founded in 1541 by the Spanish and built following a street grid model. A river ran through the centre of the city was eventually re-routed and the river bed was used to create a wide boulevard that crosses the whole city. In addition to at least 2 lanes of traffic in each direction, it has a park-like boulevard for it's entire length. 47 districts have developed within the city, each with its own mayor! Hard to believe, but the mayors must work together to address common needs. It seems to be working as the streets, sidewalks, parks, monuments etc all seem to be in good condition and well maintained. Web saw very little litter or graffiti.

    Many of the neighborhoods have specialties such as specific products (for example shoes or women's clothing), restaurants and nightclubs, upper class housing and so on. Of course, ground zero is the Playa de Armas where the Spanish founded the city. Here, as in much of the downtown core, there is a mix of ultra modern buildings and Colonial structures (with a distinct Spanish look). Some of the modern buildings have unique facades. This mix makes for a visually interesting city.

    Behind the Presidential palace, now an administrative building, we watched the changing of the guard. It was a ceremony with soldiers, horses, and a band and very reminiscent of the ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

    But it was the flowers everywhere that I will remember the most. We finished our tour in the lovely Estacia Santa Lucia which is a part at the highest city point. The profusion of trees and flowers, and the care taken with the gardens was unlike any we had seen elsewhere in South America. When we climbed to the highest point and looked out over the city with the Andes in the distance, Wendy commented that it reminded her of Vancouver. I had to agree.
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