Day 11 – Santiago, Chile

Valpo Port with Ship in the Background

Valpo Port with Ship in the Background

After three days at sea and nearly 1,500 miles, our ship arrived in Valparaiso, Chile, the closest port to Santiago.  We schlepped our bags off the ship and sadly said goodbye to the cruise part of our journey.  We were picked up by motor coach and given a tour of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.  Valparaiso is the largest port city of Chile and one of the largest on the Pacific. The ship traffic took a huge hit when the Panama Canal was completed in 1914.  Before that time, the port and the city flourished. The opening of the canal brought tough times that are evident even today.

Valparaiso sits along steep slopes at the waters edge. Because the city lies along a steep hill, there are funiculars or cog trains to make getting up and down easier.  On the Pacific side of the mountains, plants and flowers flourish.  As soon as you cross the mountains toward Santiago, you find yourself in the desert filled with tumbleweed and cactus.  The transition is startling.  Valparaiso is the location of the congress for Chile even though Santiago is the capital.  Today the city is a business, education and political center.

Flower Clock in Vina del Mar

Flower Clock in Vina del Mar

Just to the north along the coast lies Vina del Mar, a resort town that is a favorite for people from Santiago to escape the heat and the frenetic activity of the city.  It boasts nice parks and a scenic seascape to enjoy. The waters of the Pacific take the edge off the heat and there are some beautiful views along the water’s edge.  After passing through the resort and casino area we were taken for lunch to a huge estate about a half hour drive toward Santiago.  We were greeted by native dancers and also invited to share a sampling of local wines, other drinks, as well as empanadas and meats. We ate family style passing plates and enjoying the flavors of Chile.  We were introduced to Mote con huesillo.  This is a sweet drink enjoyed in the summer heat made from wheat and peaches and often sold in street stands or vendor carts.  We had never had anything like it.  We learned that the people of Chile like everything sweet!  If the drink is not sweet it does not originate in Chile.  Of course, the German brewers have had a tough time introducing beer because it simply is not sweet enough! Along the way, we learned that Chileans eat more ice cream per capita than anyone else in the west.  There were ice cream shops everywhere, and it seemed that most everyone took a break from work in the afternoon to eat a few scoops.  We encountered flavors we had never seen before and I doubt we will see again, for example, pepper flavored ice cream!  After our very large lunch, we were given an orientation tour of Santiago. Our bus stopped by the presidential palace and then on to Plaza de Armas.  We got off the bus before the tour ended at a place close to our hotel and walked the few blocks on Alameda, the main street of the city.

Ice cream in Santiago

Ice cream in Santiago

As it turned out, our hotel was in a perfect place to explore downtown.  After dropping our bags, we ventured across the street into Santa Lucia.  This hill has two forts that mark one of the earliest places of settlement in the city, dating 1541.  There is steep climb that leads above the lower fort to a vista where you can get a great view of the city.  We were surprised that as we entered the lower fort, we were asked to sign a guest register.  This is a beautiful spot and near the top of the hill there is a small chapel–very nice!  Below there are gardens that seemed to be perfect for photography sessions.

As we learned, Santiago was well defended by the Mapuche indians who claimed this land as their own. They were a fierce people, and for a time took possession of the valley where Santiago lies.  Plaza de Armas has on opposite ends a statue of Pedro de Valdivia, who founded Santiago, and a statue of a Mapuche indian.  Actually, the Mapuche killed de Valdivia in 1550.  The juxtaposition of these two statues tells much about the earliest years in Santiago.   The city gets its name from the patron saint of Spain, Saint James.  After walking Santa Lucia hill, we returned to look for dinner and found most everything closed downtown.  We did, however, stumble upon a small restaurant where we bumped into the Scottish couple we had met on our ship.  It turned out to be a nice time to share dinner.  Fiona and Sandy were headed to Peru the next day hoping to see Machu Picchu before returning home to Scotland.

View from top of Santa Lucia

View from top of Santa Lucia

When we returned to our room at the hotel, we were on a mission.  We knew we had a sister church in Santiago, but we did not know where it was.  We hoped we could track the church down and join them for Sunday worship. We discovered that San Marcos Church is an English-Speaking Presbyterian Church just a ten minute walk from the end of the subway line our hotel was next to.  We made plans to make the 9:30am service the next morning!  What a great day it had been, traveling from the ship into Santiago.  We fell in love with the city right way, and were looking forward to tomorrow!

 

2 responses to this post.

  1. That ice cream looks outrageous !! Did not know about Chile’s sweet tooth !! What a wonderful journey, God’s world is full of surprises !!! I believe you eventually found the sister church in Santiago and shared a lunch together. Thank you so much for sharing your vacation with us, such a blessing (:

    Reply

  2. Posted by Sandy on February 3, 2017 at 3:09 am

    Great memories :-).

    Reply

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