Thursday 21.05.15

 

Santiago (Capital Chile, population 8million)

 

Arrived yesterday evening at 22:00 shattered. It never ceases to amaze me how doing absolutely nothing sat on a plane can make one so tired. Anyhow, the first morning was spent “lozzing” but by the afternoon decided to dive out into the melee and take one of the 3 free city walks available to the visitor. We hooked up with our guide Alfonso, who would take our small group on a walking tour of the main points of interest within the city centre.IMG_0289

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Public artwork in Santiago

Public artwork in Santiago

“Ahhh!!..Perchance to dream,…to rest, to contemplate the machinations of mankind on this mortal coil”

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He explained that Santiago only really opened to the tourist market ten years ago, prior to that it was considered a tourism backwater. Its history is a study in Spanish colonial rule from the C16th century onward. Latterly brought to international notice by the despotic rule of the left wing socialist antics of Salvador Allende (1970-73) then the far right wing “Coup d’etat” led by General Augusto Jose Ramon Pinochet of a military Junta. The walk encompassed the various administrative centres built in the style of the early colonial Spanish powers which are visually very pleasing. Later we visited the student quarter where the story told by some students that when asked what they propose to do after exams they reply that they want to go to Oxford or Harvard. Studiously neglecting to say that these are the names of riotous bars downtown. There are also a number of Coffee Houses that boast service provided by extremely scantily dressed “hostesses” that serve “coffee only” during a 9-5 working day. The overall impression is of a society that takes life in its stride and is at peace.

The walk was supposed to be three hours, however due to Alfonso’s youthful enthusiasm, it lasted a good four hours plus an hours stop for a snack and chat in a local bistro. The walk as I said was free however, I thought it definitely warranted a discretionary payment as self evidently this was a practiced protocol. Besides the guy deserved it as he was everything one would want in a guide, attentive, courteous and informative.Friday 29.05.15 Arrived in Valparaiso after an hour and a half journey west from Santiago through a gap in the Andes mountain chain.Valparaiso is girdled with high hills set slightly back from the coast.

View over Valparaiso.

View over Valparaiso.

The topography is reminiscent of San Francisco. On first impressions, one is somewhat taken back with the state of atrophy that many of the buildings appear to be in. However, once one has spent a few hours wandering the streets and alleyways, a slow seduction of the senses takes place by the ambiance, the graffiti, shabbiness and ultimately a certain type of  charm that the environment engenders.

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