Wednesday, February 19, 2014

S America/Antarctica - 1/08/2014 - Valparaiso & Santiago - Going Home

Our final port is Valparaiso, Chile.  We boarded buses there for our tour of Santiago and then the trip to the airport for our flight home.  We only got a glimpse of Valparaiso as the bus passed through town.  It was a another gloomy day on the coast of Chile.  The city has one of the oldest and most important sea ports in Chile.  Nearly 300,000 people live here and many have European roots.  The city has some vibrant and historic areas but we did not get to see any of those as we rode the bus.  Oh well, you can't see it all.

The city market was busy with all kinds of foods and dry goods.

Once we were over the coastal mountain range, the weather turned warm and sunny.  The haze you see is from forest fires and smog.

Wine production is a major industry in Chile's central valley.  We also saw large farms with fields of olive trees.

The Chilean palm trees are only found  here in South America.  The fruit is similar to but smaller than coconuts.  The fruit is used to make a fermented beverage and a syrup sold locally.

Santiago is a large city with a metro population of about 6 million people.  According to Wikipedia:

"Founded in 1541, Santiago has been the capital city since colonial times. The city has a downtown core of 19th century neoclassical architecture and winding side-streets, dotted by art deco, neo-gothic, and other styles. Santiago's cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing Mapocho River, lined by parks such as Parque Forestal. Mountains of the Andes chain can be seen from most points in the city. These mountains contribute to a considerable smog problem, particularly during winter. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards, and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
Santiago's steady economic growth over the past few decades has transformed it into a modern metropolis. The city is now home to growing theater and restaurant scenes, extensive suburban development, dozens of shopping centers, and a rising skyline, including the tallest building in Latin America, the Gran Torre Santiago. It includes several major universities, and has developed a modern transportation infrastructure, including a free flow toll-based, partly underground urban freeway system and the Metro de Santiago, South America's most extensive subway system. Santiago is the cultural, political and financial center of Chile and is home to the regional headquarters of many multinational corporations. The Chilean executive and judicial powers are located in Santiago, but Congress meets in nearby Valparaíso."

Siesta time.

It must be contagious.

Street vendors are pretty brazen with red flags to stop cars to make sales.

This entrepreneur washes car windows as you wait for the traffic light.  He also pauses to wash himself in the heat.

It seemed like there was a university on every street corner.  Each one had its own specialty.

Ceremonial guards at La Moneda, the building that houses the presidential offices as well as other government functions.

The plaza across the street from La Moneda.

La Moneda.

European influenced purple hair?

An interesting building.  The facade of from an old building that has been expanded with modern architecture.

Another victim complete with mattress.

The Cathedral of Santiago.

Lunch at a local restaurant.

Of course we had to have Chilean Salmon.

A European style desert.

We went to to a city park in the hills above Santiago to get a panoramic view of the city but the forest fires and smog ruined the view.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent at the Centro Artesanal Los Dominicos shopping village which sold native craftsman items.

The Gran Torre Santiago (the big tower of santiago) it's the largest building in Ibero-America and is part of the complex Costanera Center.

Our bus dropped us off at the Santiago International airport around 6:00 pm,  Our flight wasn't scheduled until about 11:00 pm.  That sounds like loads of time, but it wasn't.

The airport is not large for a city of 6 million.  I guess that says something about wealth distribution in Chile.  Two cruise ships off loaded passengers on the same day and we are all trying to get on planes at the same time.  The airport wasn't prepared for this many people all at the same time.  You would think they would know but they didn't seem to have a clue.  Long story short, we didn't get to our gate area until after 9:00 pm.  All of the time between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm, with the exception of a quick meal of 30 minutes or so, was spent standing in a line.  Once we got to the gate, there were no seats left at our gate so we had to find a place several gates away from ours.

Of course, once we got on the plane and prepared to push from the gate, the crew found a problem that had to be repaired before we left.  It was the old familiar luggage compartment door again.  That set us back about 30 minutes.

We only had two flight coming back which was nice.  We left lots of time between flights in Dallas so we could absorb delays and going through immigration and customs.  The flight home was on time and so was our limo waiting for us at the KC airport.

We are tired after another 30 hour day but hey, that is what you do when you travel to far away places.  We are glad to be home and are now looking forward to the next trip later this year or early next year.  We haven't decided where we will go yet, but Africa would be high on the list.  That would be our last un-visited continent.

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