SA 23: Santiago

Well, we’re basically in Europe.

That’s how different Santiago feels from the rest of South America.  Everything is modern, prices have gone up, the city has things like crosswalks and wide sidewalks.  We’ve seen THREE McDonalds.

We’re in the first world here, folks.

The day started off pretty late today, as Daina and I had to sleep off the insanity of yesterday.  I think we got out of the Hotel at about noonish.  The place we’re staying is actually pretty neat.  It’s called the Hotel London and it’s in the Paris-Londres district of Santiago, where the streets all look like you’re in Paris and/or London.  This is definitely the nicest place we’ve stayed in South America, a boutique hotel as opposed to a hostel, with hot water, a comfortable bed, heating… the whole nine yards!

One thing about Sundays in Santiago – almost NOTHING  is open.  When a city doesn’t have to rely on tourism to survive, it can actually adhere to that whole “Rest on the Seventh Day” thing that Catholicism teachers.  Fast food is open, a couple of shops, but the downtown area is mostly a ghost town.

COLD this morning, too.  15 degrees but one of those wet, cold, windy 15 degree days.  Kind of Vancouver weather.  Don’t think it’s changing while we’re on the mainland.

After a quick McDonalds break (because it was open), we started our day at Cerro San Cristobal.  Great little hill in the middle of the city, tower on the top, beautiful fountain.  A couple of things made the whole trek interesting.

First, it was a hill and, by the time we got to the top, we weren’t completely winded.  Hoorah for sea level.

Second, had “mote con huesillo”, peach nectar with barley in a cup.  Really interesting local dish, mostly for the drinking as you can only have so much barley.  Views were pretty nice, too, as the cloud and cold went away for about fourty-five minutes.

 It came back by the time we made our next stop, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, or the Fine Arts Palace.  Tonnes of sculptures, paintings and other works, some of which you could take pictures of.  There was one really awesome picture of a mountain with two rainbows (What does it all mean?) which I took a picture of.  That’s when I found out that you couldn’t take pictures inside the galleries.  I politely put my camera away.  Five minutes later, D and me watched a local girl have a FIT when she was told not to photograph the pictures.  She continue to snap over the security guard’s shoulder, told him to call her senorita and not senora and was promptly removed.  She then continued to have her pissy pants party at the front door.  Freaking hilarious addition to a cool gallery.

 Next up was the token “Plaza del Armas”, which every South American city needs to have.  Santiago’s was pretty average – nice and big, but nothing crazy special.  We did check out the National History Museum, which was good for a bit of a distraction.  It was fun reading the descriptions of the War of the Pacific, where Chile took Bolivia’s coastline, from the Chilean perspective.  Bolivia basically says Chile made an aggressive land grab, but Chile claims that Bolivia was exploiting Chilean workers and it was a freedom project.  Fun to hear both sides.

Plenty of Sunday preachers on the square, too.  Megaphones in hand, yelling their stuff.  There was also a local comic doing a routine in front of the church and, being a gringo, I became part of his act for about twenty seconds.  Not sure what was going on, but hey, if I brought joy to a few people, then who cares?

Next was a trip to the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, which was REAL impressive, as it housed art from every early American civilization from Mexico on down through South America.  Inca, Maya, Tiwanaku, Nazca – every civilization was represented in one way or another.  Plus, you could actually take pictures inside, a rarity for South American museums.

This guy on the right was definitely a freaky highlight.  Basically, it’s a god wearing the torn flesh of a human.  Delightful stuff, really.

We also hit up the Palace of Government, wandered on one of the many pedestrian streets, a couple of churches and had lunch at a Dunkin’ Donuts.  Hey, it was one of the few things that was open.

We’re doing a quick warm-up before heading back out into the cold to find something to eat – might have to walk to a nearby neighbourhood since everything here REALLY shuts down in the evening.  There’s supposed to be some rain tomorrow, which could make the proposed day trip to Valparaiso interesting.  We’ll see what happens.

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