Days 86-90: Santiago to Valparaiso

Trip Start Oct 15, 2013
1
14
35
Trip End Ongoing


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Sunday, January 12, 2014

As much as we have loved some of the cities and towns on our trip, I think it is safe to say that Santiago is our favourite stop so far. It's a very livable city and while it is very spread out with many different districts, each is just as beautiful as the last and all felt comfortable and safe to wander around. The downtown centre is surrounded by the market district and several small artsy neighbourhoods like barrios Brazil, Lasstaria, Bellavista, and ParisLondres. The first three are bohemian districts with Universites and lots of small cafes, pubs, and jazz clubs with live music. They are all marked by incredible architecture. You would be hard pressed to find one ugly building, or one that didn't fit among the rest. The last, barrio ParisLondres is a small section of streets that were built to be perfect replicas of streets in its namesake cities of Paris and London. It felt more like an exhibit at Epcot Centre than a part of a major city.

Another highlight of Santiago was Cristobal Hill. Almost like a huge park, it is situated right at the edge of the city so you don't even have to leave the metropolitan area to go on a nature hike. We hiked to the top through what felt like a secluded forest (you can also take a gondola up if you want to avoid the 1 & 1/2 hour walk), all the while getting an incredible view of the city. At the top is a look off, as well as chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary complete with a huge white statue in her likeness. Another in the string of Christian monuments that overlook towns that we have visited as we work out way toward the big one, Christ the Redeemer in Rio.

As much as we loved Santiago, after 7 days we were ready to get out of the city and jumped at the chance to take a bus to the seaside town o Valparaiso. Although it used to be a port city, Valpo is mostly a tourist town now after being named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004. It is an extremely artistic place with some of Chile's most famous authors and poets making it their second home over the years. The really neat thing about Valparaiso is that their extremely easy going city council never put any by-laws into place about how you are allowed to paint your house. This means you can use any colour, or combination of colours, that you like to paint any one house or building. They even allow graffiti to stay as long as it is okayed by the owner of the building. In fact, a lot of people commission artists to paint huge murals on the sides of their homes. With all the different colours you see looking out over the city, it feels more like you are looking at a painting than a town. The pictures that we got don't even look real.

During our time in Valparaiso we also got to spend an afternoon in the neighbouring town of Viña del Mar. It's a big contrast from Valparaiso having no graffiti, no colour, and much more modern high rise buildings and condos. It does however have beautiful beaches which we enjoyed for a few hours and was packed with Santaguinos trying to escape the heat of the city.

We spent two days out of the city before having to return to meet up with our group and start our tour down through Patagonia. Once we got back to Santiago we spent our last day in museums checking the last couple things we wanted to do off our list. The museum of fine art, or Museo Belle Artes, was fun and we both really liked an exhibit of a Chilean painter from the 60's named Carlos Faz. The best part may have been the museum itself which was beautiful and had a huge front hall that held all of the sculptures under a huge glass dome. If money and inconvenience weren't an issue we might have been changing the venue for our wedding reception.

The Museum of Memory is really more a memorial than a typical museum. It was built in 2010 to help remember the atrocities commuted under the dictatorship that ruled Chile from 1973 to 1991. It was a pretty heavy experience with newsreels playing video from the day that they bombed the presidential palace and took over from the communist government. They also had the clip that aired that night of general Pinochet, along with other military personnel, declaring that they had staged a coup and were now in control of the country. Seeing the footage that looked like such a recent broadcast really made it sink in how it wasn't so long ago that this happened. The rest of the tour included lots of tributes to the thousands of people who were disappeared during these 18 years and finished with video of the inauguration of the first democratically elected president following the dictatorship. All of it was pretty moving stuff and as we didn't know a lot of the history of what happened, it was something we were glad to learn about.

When we left for South America we didn't expect to have much contact with home, so we were pleasantly surprised when we found wifi almost everywhere we've been. This is probably about to change as we head off to start our tour of Patagonia. Between how isolated and undeveloped the land is and the fact that we will be camping for 40 of the next 49 days, we figure that we will see a lot less Internet coverage. It's a small price to pay for visiting and hiking in a place that we thought we would only see in video and pictures, but will probably mean less frequent blog updates and ones that come 3 and 4 at a time. Hopefully what we lack in consistency over the next couples months we will make up for in beautiful pictures and some great stories.
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