Travel Journal

Santiago – where in the world is Carmen?

(Sunday 3 April 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 235-7 3/30-4/1/11
We arrived at the big terminal in Santiago around seven AM. With my not-so-trusty compass I headed off to a reasonable priced hostel about a kilometer away from the station. I figured I could do without any luxuries for awhile but the hostel was full. The next closest in the book was a couple kilometers away so I headed that way looking for other possibilities on the way. Nothing looked promising and I arrived at the next hostel only to see it was closed down – and from the looks of it, it had been closed down for quite awhile. One of the problems with Lonely Planet is they seldom check on places that have been in previous editions when they update their guides which is the whole point of UPDATING the guidebook. The prices quoted in the books are often several years old and hotels and especially nightclubs and restaurants are sometimes out of business. That said, their maps are great and they usually give good reviews on local sites. Next door to the ex-hostel, I found a hotel with $25 rooms with a bath which I paid for one night thinking I may check out if it was bad. There was only one other guest that night so I stayed two more nights but the placed filled up and was noisy at all times of the night with thin walls but the earplugs saw me through. Breakfast was instant coffee or tea and a mini-french loaf of bread so really not a great value.
Santiago is much like Los Angeles with a lot of people and spread out except for a few high rises downtown. There’s not much green except a few bumps of hills and the sky is brown with smog. A rather boring town. The Plaza de Armas has some interesting colonial buildings and a refreshing open space in this crowded city. The Placio de Belles Artes is nearby and holds a contemporary museum. No photos allowed inside but the exterior and one shot I could take of the inside show it is a beautiful building. There were quite a few sculpture reproductions and I was delighted to recall seeing the originals.
I considered going to see a movie but nothing on the marquee appealed to me so I browsed some shops and called it a day.
The next morning I caught the metro to the Cementerio General which the guide says is a ten minute walk from the end of Line 2. It’s a good thing I checked the map because the line has been extended to include a stop for the cemetery and there are additional stops after it. Get your act together Lonely Planet! I had tried to call the previous day to arrange an English tour but there wasn’t one available. It a shame because I know I missed some important things here and did not get the history of the place. There are almost apartment like tombs that hold the remains of thousands of people. I guess there is not a lot of space here. Other tombs are very elaborate and of course there are interesting statues throughout the grounds. It was interesting to see coffins displayed above ground through glass windows. I assume they must put a lot of flowers in there the first couple of months.
I thought it would be a good idea to take in a futball game so I walked to where I thought the Estadio National was but couldn’t find it so I talked myself out of that idea. Perhaps I’ll go in another country.
I was going to take the metro back and go to San Cristobal but I could see the mountain from the cemetery and walked instead. Distances can be deceiving and it was a bit of a hike there. I took the funicular up and saw the large statue to the Virgin Mary. There are some additional hikes up at the top but I had gotten my exercise for the day. The view was very smoggy so I didn’t miss much cutting my time down on the mountain.
Next was Cerro Santa Lucia which is a small hill nearby with the fabulous Terraza Neptune with its fountains. Walking back I happened (okay, I looked up the address) upon the CODELCO building shown in the Amazing Race which is a beautiful building that holds the main offices for the largest copper mining company in the world. Lunch was a couple of hot dogs from street stands at the Plaza de Armas. The hotdogs are regular size but the Chileans heap on loads of toppings. I got tomato and mayonnaise – it was rather a bland affair even adding hot sauce.
The next day I thought I would go to the Hipodromo or the horse track. I think the last time I went was with Perry and Julie a few years ago. The guidebook mentioned that races were held every Friday but after checking the website, the races are on Saturdays. Another point against Lonely Planet. I just wandered around a bit. I saw an Apple store but as I suspected the prices for IPods are outrageously high here. It looks like I’ll pick up one at the Miami Airport or a store in town. I made reservations for Galapagos Island on May 2nd I believe so I know I have to be in Ecuador by then so I have a deadline now. I’ll probably fly to Miami shortly after I return, rent a car, visit Vizcaya, and then drive over to see my father.
My ATM card is in Valparaiso although the hotel has not responded to my numerous emails requesting they hold on to it until I arrive. Valparaiso is only an couple hours away and with time ticking for my remaining time in South America and Santiago being rather boring, I planned to leave the next morning so I got to bed early and woke up the next morning and caught the metro to the bus station.
The main terminal does not service Valparaiso I discovered and hoofed it a few blocks away to where I could buy tickets and found the platform and waited for my bus. At five minutes till (that’s my panic threshold) and no bus, I asked an attendant who told me I should be at another terminal. Fortunately it was just across the street so I ran over in time to catch my bus. Whew!

 


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