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Chile News Travelling

Santiago de Chile, a summary

Santiago is a wonderful city. I would love to go back, and the longer I stayed, the more I liked it. This is not always the case for every place that I have visited, especially huge cities.

So what do I like about it? Perhaps it's the slightly crumbly Colonial architecture, with its plant-ridden façades, ornate doors, and the palazzo-style buildings. The beautiful museums, including the most mentionable Museum of Memory and Human Rights which depicts the terrible train of events during the time of Pinochet. I have never been moved by a museum in such a way before now. The view of the Andes beyond the high-rise buildings of the city is a constant reminder of the amazing situation of the city in the landscape.

The Santiago Metro is fantastic. It's less than £1 for a journey, and many of the stations are more like modern art galleries, yet designed to cope with thousands of people efficiently and pleasantly. The cathedral is a wonder in its own right, founded in the first half of the 16th century.

Santiago Cathedral
The nave

 

The pedestrian areas around Plaza de Armas are fun to explore, as well as the entertainments and museums around the square itself. And did I mention the incredible views, wonderful gardens, and historic buildings of Santa Lucía Hill?

Fountain at the foot of Santa Lucía, Santiago
View towards the Andes from Santa Lucía Hill

 

I've also eaten in the most eccentrically decorated restaurant that I have ever come across. Ocean Pacific is like a set from a wild imagining of Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The food was a bit hit and miss but worth it for the theatrical setting.

 

It's not all good; there is a huge pollution problem, and those very same mountains help to keep the pollution hanging above the city in the form of smog. There are lots of stray dogs. The food, on the whole, wasn't amazing either (or maybe I was just unlucky). The earthquakes of 1985 and 2010 have made ruinous many fabulous old buildings which continue to decay, propped up with bits of wood, whilst nature tries her best to reclaim them.

Earthquake damage on the western side of Basilica Del Salvadore, Santiago

But the people of Santiago have risen up above the challenges, and it seems that the city is undergoing much needed redevelopment. Artists are helping to brighten up the 19th century Downtown area. Debates are happening on national TV (TVN) as to the future of some of the larger damaged buildings, such as the huge Basilica del Salvadore. Things are moving on.

Tehmina being interviewed for Chile's TVN (Televisión Nacional de Chile)

We packed a lot in to the week we spent in Santiago. Tehmina gave a paper and a conference and was interviewed for TV. I went to a day of the World of Welsh Copper conference and found it to be deeply interesting, considering the economics and logistics of this vast global trade in the 19th century. If I was phased by the long journey, considering how people from Swansea and London managed to trade, travel and run businesses put me in awe of what they achieved.

I'm writing this from the comfort of our next stop, in the middle of the Atacama desert in northern Chile, at an altitude of 2500m. The experiences here have also been positive, if not completely different. Some more photo posts about Santiago and Atacama are on their way, time and wifi permitting.

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Chile News Photography Travelling

Graffiti and Murals in Santiago de Chile

Parts of Santiago de Chile are rather run-down, made worse by the earthquake in 2010. Crumbling buildings and broken walls are de rigeur as they wait their turn for reconstruction or demolition. Artists have helped to add some welcome splashes, and often, riots of colour to the downtown area.

Here are some photos to give you a taste of the Santiago graffiti talent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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News Travelling

Adventures in Chile, Part 4: Exploring Santiago and Valparaíso

We have been in Santiago for four days now, and are getting to know the 'Centro' area a little. We have also taken an excursion to the city of Valparaíso and I have had my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. I have also got a head cold, which is rather annoying when the temperatures are around 25C.

Santiago architecture

Santiago is a great city. The mix of old Colonial architecture and shiny new offices seems to work. Many of the older buildings are crumbling, which adds a pleasing genuine feel to the city. Some grand old buildings are covered in peeling paint, with plants eking out the bare existence of life in the cracks, and they're rather pleasing to look at through a romantic western lens. I'm sure not everyone shares this view, not least the locals.

Our lack of Spanish is a little problematic, but through a phrase book and determination (mainly by Tehm, admittedly) we are able to get the basics that we need to survive. Very few people speak English here, and why should they?

There is a shop close to the hotel which sells basic groceries and water, which we are grateful for. Although we were told that the water is drinkable, it tastes horrible. One of the conference organisers recommended that we don't drink it “just in case”.

We also discovered that the large church that we thought to be the cathedral definitely isn't. Yesterday we navigated through the grid system to Plaza Armanas, the place where Santiago was founded in 1541. It is flanked by what is very definitely a cathedral!

 

We have also visited the Santa Lucía Hill which affords absolutely stunning views over Santiago and, if the smog allows, a glimpse of the Andes.

Our trip on Saturday to Valparaíso deserves a blog post all of its own. It is a place unlike any other, and colourful in every way. A heady mix of colonial architecture, ruins, docks, the stench of sewers, the heady smells from the fruit and vegetable markets, the butchers, and heavy traffic. We jumped in at the deep end by arriving by bus at the bus station. More later!

 

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News Travelling

Adventures in Chile, Part 3: Santiago

Today I made my longest journey so far, travelling the 10,000+ kilometres to Santiago in Chile. Apart from learning just how hard it can be to try and sleep on a plane, I also learned that the in-flight entertainment system runs on Linux. It rebooted randomly and the plane was full of penguin logos which in mid-flight boredom, amused me somewhat.

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Then there were the views of South America. Jaw dropping views, as our second flight of the say from Sao Paolo in Brazil to Santiago passed over Argentina and crossed the Andes.

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And who needs the Nazca Lines when modern massive agricultural practice produces shapes in the landscape like this (not far from Cordoba).

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After landing at Santiago it took us about two hours to leave the airport. We first had to fill in the immigration forms, stand in a huge queue for security, the after retrieving our luggage, then fill out more forms declaring that we weren’t importing animal or vegetable products. At this point, our baggage was subjected to yet another scan, and the machine broke with my bags inside…

Once retrieved it was into the chaos of booking a transfer to our hotel. As we ripped along the freeway, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” blared from the taxi’s stereo, and I sincerely hoped that she was right.

We arrived intact and quite relieved after what was in fact a smooth journey, and checked in. The hotel is beautiful inside, like an old Italian palazzo, close to the centre of the old city.

A quick explore once we had freshened up has helped is to find our bearings and already see some of the sites. The baroque cathedral is beautiful and serene inside compared with the press of the crowds and loud traffic outside.

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Now it’s time to relax, and get our body clocks back into sequence. Chile is currently 4 hours behind BST – where it ought to be 5, but the government have apparently decide to delay the time adjustment which threw us at first.

So we’re here, we know where we are, and we know what time it is. All is good!