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Day 2 – Santiago

(Friday August 23rd)

Although the bed was comfortable, jet lag did not help us to sleep. We had a very restless night, which meant that the next morning I was a grumpy as hell!

Another advantage of ‘the Infinity Apartments’ was they were right next door to the supermarket, so the night before we’d stocked up on a few essentials. One absolute essential is water – we’d been warned to avoid the tap water like the plague (which we’d probably catch if we drank it). Plus, we’d bought UHT milk (yuk! But no fresh anywhere that we could find), orange juice (more like squash), bread, cheese triangles and ham. So with our minimal kitchen utensils and tea bags from New Zealand, we could prepare breakfast.

Tip 3: One major issue – the Chilean guide books say that you can use European plug sockets. They lie. In our apartment all the plugs are three prongs in a row going downwards – we’ve never seen a socket like it. None of our travel sockets fitted, and we couldn’t charge up our many electrical gadgets without one. So we had to buy one. We eventually found one in an electronic/phone accessory shop.

Santiago Catherdral

We were booked onto a half day city tour at 3:00 pm, so had the morning to explore. We headed for the Plaza de Armas again. It was quieter than in the evening, but now was full of groups of tourists. Also on the Plaza is the tourist information centre. I wanted to see if there were a larger scale map and found one on a leaflet for a free walking tour. These seem to be popular walks – your guide meets you outside the cathedral in the Plaza de Armas, and you tip him whatever you think is suitable. I expect there is a ‘suitable’ tip, but I have no idea what it is… Anyway we’d missed the tour so we decided to follow the map ourselves.

After a cup of coffee. We found a café that opened onto the square and asked for a ‘Café con molto leche’ (coffee with lots of milk). Well it was nearly a cappuchino – but made with UHT milk! (Yuk!)

One place well worth visiting is the cathedral. It’s free, and very ornate. There was one fantastic photo opportunity that we didn’t have the nerve to take – a priest fast asleep in the confessional box.

Another photo opportunity we chose not to take was the two dogs copulating on the cathedral steps. There are a lot of roaming dogs here, but all seem quite healthy. There’s very little dog mess around. And considering the lack of gardens and parks there are also a lot of small ‘house dogs’. If everyone has an apartment that’s similar in size to the one we’re in, life must be very cosy!

We attempted to follow the route on the ‘free tour’ map, which would take us around central Santiago. This proved to be more difficult than it should have been – everything was being renovated. Streets were closed, pavements were taken up with scaffolding. Many of the government buildings were swathed in boardings and plastic. We assumed it was because it was mid-winter, and they were being tarted up for the start of the tourist season. On the Avenue Bernard O’Higgins we found the reason why. They were making the place pretty for Chile’s bicentennial of independence in 1814. There was a boarding around the Chilean flagpole that showed the vision of the places that were currently cut off from view. It should be lovely.

Talking of flags, by this time we were also beginning to flag – with jetlag. We decided that an early lunch was in order, followed by a siesta before our tour.

Tip 4: Look out for the ‘Menu del Dia’ – the menu of the day. You’ll get a 3 course meal with coffee for a very reasonable price – about $5,000 Chilean ($15 NZD approx.).

Half Day City Tour

We were picked up at 3:00 pm from our apartment. We had a very nice guide, from Siantiago, but he’d spent 28 years of his life in Los Angeles so spoke very good English.

The starting point was the top of the XXXX, a hill of steep rock that was just next to our apartments. This was one of the earliest places where Spanish forces set up a fort. They also used it as a place to display the bodies of native Indian that they had killed in retaliation for various misdemeanours. There is a statue of a dog, which is one of the animals that was introduced by the Spanish – and used to attack the local Indians. So the statue was to frighten them. We came to the conclusion that the Spanish Conquistadors were not very nice people. At the top of the fort is a good view of the city – but the day was misty (smoggy?) so the mountains could only be seen hazily in the distance.

Santiago

Our guide drove us round the old city, and was going to stop at the cathedral. But as we’d been there that morning, we skipped that and carried on driving. He took us round some areas further afield, where the rich and privileged used to live – but the buildings are now crumbling. Many have been taken over by the Universities, and are being done up now. So it’s a peculiar mixture of ruins and young people.

Stop 3 was on the opposite side of the river (not very pretty – more of a drainage ditch), at a Lapis Lazuli factory. Or to put it another way, an opportunity to sell you overpriced jewellery. I started at the really expensive 18 ct gold necklace end, worked my way to the tiny sterling silver earrings end telling them at every step ‘it was all beautiful and when I won the lottery’…. And bought nothing. I didn’t tell a lie though – it was beautiful. And I would have loved to have bought some. But at that price?? No!

Then we drove round the business district (new towers) and a shopping district. We came to the conclusion that the guide was struggling to find us any interesting places to look at. By 5:30 we were back at the hotel. So – two and a half hours for a half day city tour and we’d seen everything that Santiago had to offer!

Our conclusion: one day in Santiago is enough.

With jetlag kicking in, we had an early night. Well attempted to – it was a Friday night and the apartment down the hall had a party going on.

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