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Santiago

Written on: Monday January 21st, 2008

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Santiago, Chile 

Author: Julie 

Hola! 

We woke up this morning to the sound of cars and traffic coming through the large open windows in the hallway outside our door. We were excited to be in Santiago and quickly descended for our breakfast and were out the door. We had made plans to meet our friends Thomas and Joris at two o?clock in front of the Palacio de la Moneda but we still had a couple of hours before then. 

As we walked up the narrow street that would take us to O?Higgins and the central district of town, I heard Kevin say ?No way!? and whistle loudly. I had no clue what was going on till I saw walking towards us were Mark and Maxine, the British couple we had travelled with in Bolivia. We had sent them an email a few days earlier wondering where they were. Just out of chance, they were staying in hotel across from us and had arrived the day before. They were planning on checking their emails that day to see where we were. We sat down at a little café and spent a couple of hours catching up before they had to run some errands and we needed to meet up with the boys. So we made plans to re-meet for drinks that evening. 

Off we went and arrived at La Moneda a few minute early in Barrio Civica, which gave me time to look around quietly. The sun was shining and there wasn?t a cloud in the sky. We later learned this was the typical weather of Santiago during the summer months. During the day it would get as high as 30C and at night a nice 15C. Once the summer was done, the rain clouds would come back and they would have rains for the next few months. To my left was the Palacio de la Moneda (Spanish for "Mint Palace?),  the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile. It was originally a colonial mint and was opened in 1805, while still under construction. The production of coins in Chile took place at La Moneda from 1814 to 1929. During the military coup d'etat, on September 11, 1973, the palace was partially destroyed by aerial bombing. President Salvador Allende killed himself in the palace as it was under assault by the armed forces. Reconstruction and restoration projects were completed on March 11, 1981, although some bullet marks have been preserved and can still be seen nowadays. During the dictatorship, it was closed to the public and for Chileans the re-opening in 2000 was a proud moment. 

The boys arrived and we headed north along O?Higgins to Cerro Santa Lucia, a site of great historical importance. It was once a hermitage, then a convent, then a military bastion, it has offered respite from the city since 1875. It has an altitude of 629 m and a height of 69 m. We entered the entrance and were greeted with a sight of a hill adorned with ornate facades, stairways, and fountains. The stairs led higher and higher up the hill till we were within the old fort Hildago (built 1820), which was restored and reopened to the public a few years ago. Traditionally, a cannon is shot at exactly 12:00. However, it caused problems with noise pollution, as a result the decibels produced by the shot, were reduced in order to avoid the noise pollution. At the very top, a look-out afforded us amazing views of the city around us and it is said that Charles Darwin himself climbed to the top during his visit to the city. Once the heat of the day reach it?s peaked, we descended and sat under the shade of a few large trees in the park next to the hill. The boys each had flights in the next day and had to head back to their hostel to pack for their return to France, so we bid them good-bye and promised to see them in less than two years.

Kevin and I continued to explore the city with a stop next at the National Library. The building was another fine example of restored architecture in this city and we walked it halls full of modern and classical art, we climbed its curving stairs and looked into its various reading rooms and research rooms. There was one room that was absolutely gorgeous with wood paneling everywhere, historical artefacts in display cases, wooded ladders to access the higher material and soft, dim lights to provide ambiance. We took a couple of photos quietly before a research assistant asked us to move along.

The next stop on our city tour was the business district where we walk along post-modern buildings mixed with restored colonial buildings. We saw the entrance to the Chilean stock market, offices for some of the bigger South American businesses, a few department stores, and lots of quick lunch restaurants for business men. Our walk looped us back to La Moneda where a large crowd had gathered. We though it was maybe for the changing of the guard but it was actually something totally different. It seems a national late-night television show was filming a segment with the country?s most famous glamour girls, so they were busy putting on a show of taking off their clothes, down to their g-string bikinis and oiling themselves up much to the admiration of the mostly male crowd. We stuck around for a while, wondering if something more would happen but it mostly remained a case of the girls picking very willing participants out of the crowd to dance with while the porn-moustached presenter asked questions to the participants. (Note: Included in the blog are a couple of photos, but beware they are probably not considered safe-for-work).

It was close to 6 PM by that time so we headed back to our hotel but never quite made it. At the little café near our hostel, Max and Mark were sharing a beer so we decided to join them. It turned into a very nice evening of beer for the boys, full-to-the-brim 1.50$ glasses of Chilean red wine for the girls. We were a bit hungry by 10:00 PM so we had supper at a really great and cheap pasta restaurant around the corner. The evening continued with us returning to the café after our meal and further indulging in their wine and beer selection till 2 AM. At the stroke of midnight, they toasted my 31st birthday. A year ago, who would have known that I would be in Chile, in 30C weather, drinking with good friends for my birthday? Fantastic night!

 

From Joe Jodoin on Mar 9th, 2008

Hey hey!! Guess what, we were both in Antofagasta at the same time but didn't know it!! I called a few hostels looking for you guys and no luck :( It's March8th, and I am flying home today. Could you send me your email address? I'm at jodo0003@gmail.com so I can send you my photo blog. If you get the chance, check out Argentina. The people are great and your dollar goes a long way.