Monday, March 2, 2015


This is the first of two blog posts describing our visit to Chile.  This post will cover our preparations and the time we spent in Santiago.  An upcoming post will describe our fly fishing experience.

The trip was scheduled to last a bit more than two weeks.  In Bonaire, it is not permitted to leave a boat unattended on a mooring, so we arranged to move Callisto into Harbor Village Marina.  This is quite a pleasant marina, and very reasonably priced.  We don’t have all that much experience bringing Callisto into marina slips, but we accomplished it without drama (and a little help from the marina staff).  The  marina manager gave us a letter that said they would be responsible for Callisto while we were gone.  We had to give this to Customs as part of leaving Bonaire.

We took a short commuter flight to Curaçao, and then started south.  Our first leg was on Avianca, the Columbian national airline, to Bogota.  We were very impressed with the sparkling clean Airbus 320 and with the very modern Bogota Airport.  The shopping area, including duty free, was amazing.  David was taken with the scantily clad young ladies who stood outside each shop and encouraged customers to come in.

It was a long over-night flight from Bogota to Santiago, but we got to experience Avianca’s brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Extremely quiet and comfortable, with a very up-to-date entertainment system.

In Santiago, we were met at the airport by an English-speaking driver who gave us some tips on the city while we were riding to the hotel.  We were relieved that our room was available even at 8:30 in the morning, and took advantage to catch a nap.

We really liked Santiago.  It was simply a very comfortable place to wander around.  Lots of people on the streets, nobody in too much of a hurry.  Despite some practice, our Spanish is still not too good, but the people we met were patient, and many knew some English.

Santiago is roughly the same distance from the equator as Charleston, SC.  February is high summer there, and we experienced daily high temperatures around 30C, or 85F.  It got much cooler over night, with lows below 10C (50F).  The altitude is just about the same as our home in Meggen, 520 meters above sea level.

There are two big hills in the center that have been made into city parks.  We visited Cerro Santa Lucia on one day, and Cerro San Cristobal a couple of days later.  San Cristobal has a funicular railway to the top (felt like being in Switzerland).  We chose to walk up and take the train back down.  The views from both hills were excellent, and we met lots of locals enjoying the parks with their families.
Reflection of Cerro Santa Lucia in a modern building

We visited a couple of museums, one specializing in pre-Columbian art and the other in paintings by Chilean artists.  Both were very good, with interesting objects well presented.

One of our favorite places was the fish market.  Fish is a very important cuisine in Santiago, and the market supplies fish to all the restaurants.  We saw lots of fish laid out for examination by potential buyers.  The building also houses numerous restaurants, and is a favorite place for Santiago residents to get lunch.  We had a really good meal in one of them.

One day we took a bus tour to the cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso.  Valparaiso was once the jewel of Chile, since it was the first really good harbor that ships came to after rounding Cape Horn.  The harbor was greatly affected by the opening of the Panama Canal, and the city has been in a long decline, with a population only half of its peak.  There is a tradition in the city of asking art students at the university to paint murals on houses and buildings, and many of these were quite spectacular.

We had a brief boat tour of Valparaiso Harbor, which still seems plenty busy to me.


Viña del Mar is a thriving resort city very near to Valparaiso.  Many Chileans come there for holidays.
After only a few busy days in Santiago, it was time to head south.

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