Day 9: Santiago
With no set plan for the day, we slept in and convinced ourselves to get up primarily in order to make it to the breakfast buffet before it closed. Turns out Holiday Inn has a pretty good breakfast, featuring entertaining and delicious attractions such as a single-button pancake press with a cartoon-like conveyor belt and honey straight from the comb. Plus, they had all the fixins’ necessary for our traditional meat and cheese pile sandwich-making operations, which were subsequently put in motion.
Following breakfast, we walked thru the bar area and discovered an opportunity for another vacation tradition – watching the Tour de France! (Looks like the Belgians are trying very hard on the early stages this year to impress the home crowds.)
Rather than lounge around all day (which had a non-zero chance on the list of our potential activities), we decided on an exploratory adventure into the city. After gathering the necessary intel from the front desk, we ventured into the airport and found the small counter that sells the particular SIM card we wanted (mostly for maps) “€ and communicated a bit in Spanish to get the card active. As loyal readers know by now, completing the SIM card challenge is another trip tradition.
Next we found the Centropuerto shuttle bus from the airport to the city (with a few stops in between). It is very conveniently located just outside the hotel. We bought our ticket, found some seats, and rolled out of the terminal toward downtown Santiago.
From the Los HÃƒÂ©roes bus stop, we walked northeast towards the Museum of Precolumbian Art. Along the way, we passed the Moneda Palace (sort of like the Chilean White House, although no longer a residence) and the biggest flag I have ever seen.
Turning north on Bandera street, we encountered a heavily-decorated pedestrian street featuring colorful street and wall murals, which paired with the newer glass construction certainly helps liven up the generally-drab colors of the neo-classical stone buildings.
Soon we reached the Museo Precolumbino. Before entering, we stopped in the courtyard outside the museum to have lunch. We noticed many dogs along our walk, that appear to be stray, but also have little sweaters on. Turns out, the people of Santiago take it among themselves to care for the street dogs. Many people feed them, give them clothes, take them to the vet, and even house them. They also seem to know when to cross the street. We met Rambo, who was very friendly, and must have been well fed as he wanted no part of the apple we offered him. The pigeons on the other hand were all about our bread crumbs.
Inside the museum (which was free today, bonus!), the rooms display art from the different civilizations and cultures of South America dating back thousands of years. They also had a small interactive section (designed for kids but highly-enjoyed by these adults), where you could learn more about the ancient cultures. We learned how to count using a system of knots, and followed a traditional native dance.
After looking through each of the sections of the museum, we ventured east through the Plaza de Armas with vendors, people statues, real statues, and found the National History Museum. Smaller and with no English translations on the plaques (although fun to interpret with limited knowledge of Spanish), this visit was pretty quick. Also, the Museum’s last room abruptly ends with a series of newspapers from September 1973 and quickly sends you to the exit. Probably need to go to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights for the rest of the story in the immortal words of Paul Harvey.
Next we walked to Cerro Santa Lucia in the Barrio Lastarria district, a small hill with gardens and Castillo Hildago, a castle built in 1816 to protect the city. It is now a popular lookout spot (and event center). We went up the hill and climbed the uneven stairs to the very top where we had a view of the whole city (as the hazy air allowed).
Once we found our way down from the maze-like paths of Santa Lucia Hill, we followed Alameda road west all the way back to the bus stop. After paying for a couple ~$3 bus tickets, we enjoyed our dinner sandwiches and a smooth ride back to the hotel. Figuring out the public transportation systems in new cities is quite satisfying. With a couple hours to relax, we’ll be asleep soon and ready for our early flight to Rapa Nui in the morning.