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Thursday, November 23, 2006

ADVENTURES IN CHILE: EXPLORING THE BARRIOS

WED. NOVEMBER 22/06

TOURING AROUND SANTIAGO:

Santiago is a city of lovely parks, plazas and tree'line boulevards. The weather right now is like Greece in June or late summer in Vancouver : hot but not reall unbearable although today I regretted not bringing my sun cap, and of course the sun screen is necessary as well as the important bottle of water (mostly the fizzy mineral kind here).

Cecilia´s barrio, where we are staying, is called Recoleta and it´s quite near the edge of the city, a humble older part of town with little houses that remind me of the old parts of Athens, and sidewalks with wonky, uneven pavements. There´s a lot of character in both the narrow alley'like streets, the little houses with the inner courtyards, and the pleasant folk who live there. Patrick and I both felt immediately comfortable being there and have been made to feel like visiting royalty by both Cecilia and her adorable little mother. I said it reminded me of Greece, and if you have been to the villages in Greece you will understand my fondness for it, and why I feel so comfortable here. It has that ´village´flavour which I love.

Today we decided to stop first the Cemetary of the Generals which is nearby, but when we got there and saw what an awesome place it is, we decided instead to wait til we could get a tour around it.

So we set off on the metro to tour around some of Santiago´s ritzy districts starting with Las Condes, the city´s financial district where there are ultra modern buildings, some skyscrapers, though none higher than 30 stories, condominium buildings, fancy restaurants and upscale hotels. The world´s embassies are located here as well as Chile´s World Trade Centre.

When we got out of the metro station we followed along the avenue stopping for the many ´Kodak moments¨there are in this city. I was amused to find a display of painted horses placed in various places all along the avenues in the same way we in Vancouver have the spirit bears and orcas. I took a nice collection of photos of them as they were very pretty.

There´s quite a different atmosphere here than in other parts of the city. It´s a very elegant, exclusive district. The people on the street are well'dressed and stylish, obviously the ´monied´class of Santiago. As Cecilia remarked, "The people look different, their clothes, even their skin....even the GRASS is different in Las Condes.

We spent a lot of time walking around there before taking the metro to a different part of town, one we had visited yesterday, Barrio Bellavista the bohemian district. This time we were heading for Cerro San Cristobal and the Parque Metropolitano. First we stopped to visit the Jardin Zoologico which houses a collection of exotic animals and birds.

Cerro San Cristobal is Santiago´s largest open space. A 14 m. statue of the Virgin del la Immaculada Concepcion towers on top of the Cerro San Cristobal. We took the funicular up to the top, a climb of 485 m. from the Plaza Coupolican at the north end of the Pio Nono, a treelined street where there are a lot of craft shops and sidewalk cafes popular with the young crowd.

The climb up the mountain stops at the Terraa Bellavista where you get amazing views of the city. Today Los Andes were visible though still smog shrouded. We stopped to rest our weary feet at one of the concessions on the terrace then took the funicular back down and walked through the barrior, across the river to the metro station.

By the time we reached Cecilia´s home it was after nine and she had stayed up to greet us, and had prepared a delicious chicken and rice dinner for us.

It was a rather exhausting day. I don´t think I´ve ever walked up so many flights of stairs as I have here in Santiago, nor put in as many miles per day trudging around the city streets, but it´s worth all the effort. Tomorrow we´ll do some more touring around another barrio. Time is passing so quickly and we´re only just getting used to the idea that we are actually here!

NEXT: ANOTHER BARRIO AND A BEAUTIFUL PARK

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