Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile

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March 8th 2015
Published: March 8th 2015
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Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile

This started out as a long day for us and got even longer ;-) We had to be ready to go at 5:50am, which we were. Bleary-eyed we headed to our tour meeting place to be told that they were having trouble with cranes on the dock that needed to be moved before the Ruby Princess could dock, so they were moving the time to 6:30am. Fine, time for another cup of coffee; International Café, here we come. At 6:20am there was an announcement that the crane that needed to be moved (you know those gigantic cranes on docks that move the huge cargo containers around), was broken and they had to get someone to fix it or push it out of the way….hummm. We were told to please be patient one hour more to 7:30. No problem. Off to our cabin to get our books and back to the café to visit and read. 7:20am…announcement: “Please don’t report to your disembarkation station until we tell you we are docked and cleared by customs.” Seems they can’t get the crane moved yet. We’re on vacation, okay. Our day is definitely going to get pushed as we are going 2 hours inland, one way, to Santiago. The ship is supposed to leave at 5:30pm. You do the math ;-)

Finally at 9:30 we have docked, cleared customs and are heading for our bus. We have to take a shuttle bus 2 miles to the main terminal, and then go through security and onto our tour bus.

10:00am… we’re off like a herd of turtles ;-) Beautiful day, great tour guide: Patricia. All is well. We first turn north heading through Valparaiso to Vina del Mar. It seems back during the time the Panama Canal was being built, Valparaiso was a hopping city as all the ships going around Cape Horn east or west would stop here for fuel, food, and repairs. The wealthy of the city were worried that if the Panama Canal were to work out and ships could go through, the city of Valparaiso would go downhill with all the money coming in from the ships gone. So, instead of leaving the country they simply moved a few miles north and created their own lovely city of Vina del Mar. This way they were close enough to their commercial holdings to still take care of them but… if the city went downhill because of the canal opening, they would be removed from it.

Well, as we all know the Panama Canal was a great success. However, since the wealthy had left Valparaiso only the poorer folks were left and finally the city went into bankruptcy. So today, Valparaiso is a really nice town, but Vina del Mar is the “place to be”. Beautiful beaches, museums, cafes, stores, homes. The avenues are lovely. Makes you want to get a cup of coffee and just sit out at one of the sidewalk cafes. But… not today for us…

We are off on our bus to Santiago, Chile! As we look out the window we keep forgetting that we are in Chile. The landscape, hills and towns could be anywhere from Santa Barbara, California to northern Mexico. There are avocado and orange groves, good highways, lovely farmhouses and lots of eucalyptus trees. The hills are rolling. We realize we are at the same latitude as Los Angeles…well no wonder this looks so familiar!! As we get closer to Santiago we see rest stops in the middle of the highway that look like stopping at Flying J’s across America. There are tract homes with big billboards saying to turn here for the models. The traffic is getting heavier as we enter a valley that looks just like the San Fernando Valley in California. Expansive, with homes, neighborhoods, small ranches and farms.

Because we started out so late we are going to lunch first, but first we stop at a racetrack, the 3rd largest money maker after mining and tourism and, of course, Jean spots a horse she loves. We then head over to a fun part of town where we dine at Los Buenos Muchachos (The Good Guys). This is a gigantic restaurant with a stage, long rows of tables set with wine glasses and linens. It is set up for dancing and for shows. Because one of the largest income sources for Chile is salmon fishing, we are having grilled salmon with salad, rolls and a lovely raspberry frozen dessert of some sort. The best part of lunch however is the Pisco Sour drink along with local red and white wines…..all included. Sorta takes the edge off the late start LOL. We also love the bathrooms which are adorned with life-sized images of “Chippendale” type hunks. I took pictures for you ;-) Cope said his bathroom was the same only with, of course, women. We are treated to a full blown show of Chilean dancers from the mainland as well as dancers representing the history of Easter Island. It’s now 2:30pm and nobody really wanted to leave but…more tourist attractions await us.

We leave Los Buenos Muchachos and make our way across Santiago for a bird’s eye view of the city from high up in Parque Metropolitano de Santiago. As you may remember, in 2010, in Chile, 33 coal miners were trapped and the distance underground is the same as two of the tall building standing end on end. It is shocking to see how far down they were. We understand that Antonio Banderas is going to make a movie abut the 33 miners. From the Parq, we can see all the way to the mountains across Santiago and down below us is a funicular that takes people up and down this mountain. Far below us is a round building with a rectangular compound of buildings attached. It is the United States Embassy. In this park high in the mountain, there are joggers out on this nice day, couples with their arms around each other, kissing (this is the first country where we have seen lots of open displays of affection), photo buffs, hikers and “city folks” enjoying the outdoors.

To the west of Chile, and in the distance through the smog, are the Andes Mountains, which separate Argentina from Chile. There is an uneasy peace between the two countries. As some of you may recall, during the Argentine/Falklands (UK) war, the Chileans allowed the UK troops to use Chile as a base. They did not want the Argentinians to take over the Falklands. This did not sit well with Argentina. Also there have been some disputes about where the actual border is between Chile and Argentina through the Andes.

Back into downtown Santiago we go to the Plaza de Armas, founded in the 16th century. Originally these were not plazas throughout South America but armory’s where the public would store their guns as it was illegal to own guns. Later in the 1800’s the armories were torn down leaving a “square of rubble”; these squares in the middle of towns and cities were made into central meeting places, parks and plazas. Each town, except Valparaiso, has a Plaza de Armas. Around the plaza in Santiago are a Catholic church, statues of important people, the Correos (post office), vendors and cafes.

Today Chile has come a long way. There is free education all the way through college depending on where you go to school, no individual income taxes (there is a high sales tax 11% and a high tax on business and industry). Chile has a high standard of living for South America and they do not have the abject poverty of 25-30 years ago as there are government jobs and private jobs available.

We scoot a few blocks away to see the governor’s offices, the finance offices and all the important government buildings. The buildings surround a plaza where school kids cross in their uniforms headed for home, mothers with their children in carriages gather to visit, businessmen and women with briefcases are walking quickly to some meeting or other, and stray dogs are sleeping, visiting, wandering the day away, never bothering anyone. We are told why these dogs are around all of Chile and why people “somewhat” take care of them and they aren’t rounded up or hurt in any way. As the history goes, in the early 1900’s the Chilean people were in dire straits. They had no food, clothing or shelter. They were eating anything they could find including (as much as they hated it), their dogs. Times were horrible. Through the years as things started to improve the Chilean people never forgot how their dogs had literally sustained them through the darkest of times. So in Chile the dogs are now revered and treated with respect. They are thought of as Guardian Dogs.

Next Port: Coquimbo/La Serena, Chile

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8th March 2015

Loving the blogs
Can't wait for the next instalment Jean as we are visiting these places in December so you are preparing us for the way!

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