Episode 185 – Santiago. Almost.

February 2, 2022. 80°F/27°C

#myvikingstory

We took a full day excursion into Chile’s capital city of Santiago, and got a glimpse of the kind of tour that “might have been” had we not been under tight Covid restrictions.

En route to the city, driving parallel to the Coastal Mountain Range, we passed stands of eucalyptus (imported, profitable, but horrible for the health of the soil and the water table), orange groves, almond groves, peach orchards…. and wineries – lots and lots of wineries. Chile has over 300,000 acres of land under grape cultivation! The vineyards we passed were by far not the largest in the country, but they were definitely the largest we’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, our overall experience today was disappointing. The artisan market we visited must be wonderful when the vendors are open, and the cafés bustling, but with only the 18 people on our tour on the entire property, and most of the vendors closed, we could only wander around and peer into windows at the handicrafts. “Estamos en vacaciones” was the most common sign we saw on shop doors; “we’re on vacation” instead of “abierto” (open).

A lovely artisan community. Sadly, no one home this morning.

We drove through several of the districts that make up metropolitan Santiago (think boroughs in Toronto or New York City) which showcased that, like most huge metropolises, there is a wide disparity between how the rich and poor live. One third of the entire population of Chile lives in the Santiago region, over 8 million people. Yes, there are homeless people, but proportionately far fewer than we saw in Los Angeles.

The Las Condes district, home to the artisan market, was a lovely middle class South American neighbourhood, with a mix of well-kept single family homes and apartment buildings.

The view approaching Providencia. Once in the city’s core, it was impossible to take photos from the vantage point of inside a bus.

Providencio, the most modern region, is home to most of the financial institutions, and is full of gleaming glass office buildings and lots of traffic. Except for the excellent weather, we could have been in Toronto’s financial district. There’s even a subway network, with big clean stations. Sadly, from behind bus windows it’s hard to get a real feel for the city.

Providencio is also home to many of the foreign embassies in Chile, and Santiago Metropolitan Park (the largest city park in the country at over 1500 acres) which is where we ate a lovely al fresco lunch of soup, Reneita (pomfret fish), rice, and flan (a caramel custard), accompanied by fresh pineapple and mango juices.

Because our bus was leaking hydraulic fluid, we had to change vehicles half way through our day. That turned out to be serendipitous because it meant we had about 40 minutes in the Plaza de Armas, the main square of Santiago, amid the absolutely stunning architecture of the Cathedral, opera house, and national museum, and were also able to walk to Constitution Square to see the mint/Presidential palace building and the very Victorian-looking office of the Intendant (an appointed “governor”). It was not nearly enough time, but it was definitely better than driving past them.

A quick look around the Plaza de Armas. Graffiti is ubiquitous – most of it stemming from the student protests in October 2019.
More of the gorgeous central square, plus a couple of mounted – and masked! – Carabineri (the local police)

Ted did his best to get a few good pictures while being hustled along by our guide, who was determined to keep us bunched in a “bubble”.

The baroque and neoclassical Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral, built between 1753 and 1799, is the seat of the Archbishop of Santiago de Chile and the most imposing building on the Plaza de Armas, even when viewed through the square’s many trees.
A few very rushed pics from inside the cathedral.
It really merited a tour all to itself.
Constitution Square. Top left: the Intendent’s Offices.
Top right: detail of a fountain on one of the government buildings.
Bottom: the Presidential Palace.

We came away feeling a bit frustrated, but knowing that the city was a place it would be worth returning to once independent exploration is again possible.

On the plus side, Ted managed to capture a shot of another of the area’s many cute green parakeets, this one industriously making a nest in a palm tree.

8 comments

  1. Thank you for the whirlwind tour of Santiago. The pictures are beautiful. I especially liked the parakeet. Safe travels.

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  2. We loved Santiago when we sailed from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso about 4 years ago. We were quite impressed with the city although remember the traffic being very bad. Sorry the market was not all open. It was a highlight for us and we even went back the next day to have lunch and spend more time there. Your blog yesterday and today brought back a lot of memories for us. Thanks!

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  3. Your posts are fabulous. How do you keep track of all the facts? I’m booked for next year’s cruise and would like to do something like this but don’t really know how I could keep it all straight! Thanks for all your efforts.

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    • It’s easier than you might think! On sea days, I spend a bit of time researching the place we’re going next so I’m prepared for what we might see, I always listen to the “port talks” Viking gives, and I try to listen carefully to our guides, but most importantly I ask Ted to take pictures of things that might inspire me and use those to shape each blog. It’s a fun team effort!

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  4. I doubt that staying in your bubble did anything at all to improve the health of Santiago, but it may have kept you from bringing Covid back on board after the ship’s been doing so well keeping its perfect rating. Apparently that’s essential for Chilean stops at least so may serve you well for the next places on the itinerary. Thanks for the pictures and enjoy the Chilean wine back on board! I’d wager they are serving some!

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    • Oh yes, lots of great Chilean wine on board. Don’t get me wrong, we’re grateful for all the precautions that continue to allow us access to ports – I just wish today had moved at a slower pace to allow us to enjoy those sites we could visit.

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  5. Disappointment aside, the cathedral was beautiful, and certainly made up for some of the other missing elements. Really too bad about the artisan market, though. Now that looked quite quaint, with the narrow alley ways and old storefronts; and I would have love to see it.

    It is really difficult to get my head around the “age” thing… Not living in the downtown areas here or in Toronto, “old” on a day-to-day basis is only about 150-200 years!

    Now, what on earth is the story about that huge gnarled tree by the market?

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