The weather is pleasant in this city of over six million people. There are tall buildings you would expect to find in a city of this size along with structures from an earlier age. Huge gothic like Cathedrals the Spanish were so fond of building and modern sky scrapers. Under construction is a huge shopping and hotel area that will have the tallest building in South America. The Ritz Carlton is a high service hotel with elegant interior furnishings. The hotel restaurant is one of the better in the city and the service is impeccable. Very little opportunity to practice my bad Spanish here.
We arranged a car and driver. Juan Carlos speaks excellent English, but with the annoying habit of ending every sentence with "right?" It’s too close to a style of cross examination for me as well as creating an impulse that I am required to answer with "yes." Anyway we started out from the hotel on our sight seeing adventure.
The Andes mountains loom up over the city. Their size is such they seem to be just on the outskirts of the city. Unfortunately, their view is obscure with a heavy Los Angeles like smog that hangs over the city. Of course our driver tells us that this is a temporary situation, like the fishing guide who says "you should have been here last week." However, the smog never clears over the few days we are in Santiago.
We drive in heavy city traffic (not unlike Rome) to the Plaza de Armas which is the main square. Among other structures is the Cathedral which is an enormous church. Along the sidewalk outside are a couple of dozen men who ware leaning against the wall or sitting. These are men, almost all from Peru, who are looking for day labor. Most are illegal’s who are paid in cash for their work. In fact, while standing there waiting, a truck pulled up, stopped and blew the horn. The driver held up one finger to indicate he only needed one worker and a man jumped in the truck. There must be a n understanding or system as they others didn’t fight him for the job.
The inside is a dark and highly ornate church with very high ceilings. After a brief stop we moved on.
We visited the Mercado Central, the main public market in Santiago. The fish section was enormous. I’ve never seen so many fresh fish anywhere in the world. Many were varieties I’ve never seen before and looked like something prehistoric. Every kind of seafood you can think of was on display and being sold in a very large market. The vegetable section was also huge, but we were primarily interested in seeing the fish. We walked through the entire market with Juan Carlos protecting my rear as I was carrying a small purse like pack with my camera and he was concerned about my losing it to quick hands. We also visited t he Pergola de las Flores or trellis of flowers. A much smaller market this one sells fresh flowers and colorful arrangements of flowers. Wonderful colors everywhere.
We visited the tiny Barrio Paris-London. This small neighborhood borders Paris avenue and London avenue. It is very French in construction and appearance. I wanted to stop at Donde Golepo el Monito, men’s store which primarily sells hats of every description. It has been in business for many years in the city, but I saw no hat I wanted to buy. We drove through the Bellavista neighborhood which is also very unique. This Bohemian area is filled with cafe’s shops, theaters and bars. It comes alive at night and is the popular night time place to go for dancing, drinking and entertainment. In the daytime it looks like an old woman without makeup. Buildings painted in garish colors and a lot of graffiti..Obviously best seen in the dark.
We drove up San Cristobal which is the highest point in the city. A long winding road takes you to the top of the small mountain with a view over the city in every direction. The Andes can be seen through the haze of the smog and you know that if it were clear this would be a spectacular sight. However, even Photoshop won’t fix the photos I took of mountains through the haze. The city is huge, flat and sprawled out in every direction. It is a wonderful view spot. We took the funicular down the mountain and met our driver there. We drove on to Vitacura, an area of upscale shopping with small boutiques. We had lunch at an excellent restaurant. While there a man drove up in an older red Corvette, like you see often everywhere. Nothing special about it. He got out and went inside to eat. Soon there was a parade of restaurant employees who came out to admire the car and peek through the windows to the inside. They even had photos taken leaning against the car as if they were the owner. This went on the entire time we were there. I still don’t know why an ordinary Corvette would cause such a reaction. The driver said it was because the import tax for a car like this is so much money they are rare, but I don’t know if this is true or not. While in the area we visited a large wine store and Lita bought wine which we shipped home.
From there we went back to the hotel and began packing for our early morning flight. We went down to the bar for a drink, but decided to have dinner in the room. We ended up having a sandwich and went to bed early because the wake up call was at 5:30 am.The next morning we were driven to the airport for our flight to Argentina. Santiago is a beautiful city and one with much history. Neither Lita nor myself are fond of big cities and that includes New York, so I’m glad I saw it, but even though mechanical problems with the airplane cut a day off of our planned stay there, I was ready to leave.