South America Cruise – Our Journey to Santiago, Chile

We had thoroughly enjoyed the past 16 days…2 days in Buenos Aries, Argentina and then 4005 nautical miles in 14 days, on the Star Princess. Our ship card was scanned for the last time at 6:45am.

Our final port was San Antonio, but our flight was out of Santiago and not until 9:00 pm.  So we booked an all day tour that would drop us off at the airport.  They would also transport our luggage separately and it would be waiting for us curbside at airport check in. San Antonio is a new cruise port.  Valparaiso was the old port, but due to security issues, the cruise ships now dock in San Antonio.  It was an easy process through customs We grabbed some very quick (not great) pictures

We found our tour guide and driver (and for some reason we didn’t write down their names) and settled in for our ride to Valparasio.  We are thinking that given San Antonio being new to cruise ships, that the tours are set to explore Valparasio, so not a lot of San Antonio.  You travel up and over the coastal hills and the marine layer had set in, so not alot of views.

Valparasio is 3rd largest metropolitan area in Chile.  It was one of the South Pacific’s most important seaports for ships rounding Cape Horn. It is still a very active port both for cargo and fishing.

It was founded in 1536 by Spanish explorers who named it after the captain’s town in Spain.  It remained a small town until 1810, when a wealthy merchant built the first pier in Chile.  There was a large land reclamation project which extended the coastline five blocks.  The city is known for it’s neighborhoods built on the steep hills surrounding the city.

We drove past St. James Cathedral, with it’s large tower. It is the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Valparaiso.

We also saw an old “elevator” known as a funicular elevator.  The first was installed in 1911, and at one time there were 31 scattered around the city.

We were early in the day, so many of the shops had not yet opened.

The city is home to electric Trolleybuses which began service in 1952.  They were built by the Pullman-Standard company and are the oldest trolleybuses in regular service in the world.

The other “novelty” of the city is that there are dogs everywhere.  You really had to watch where you stepped.

There were numerous statues and monuments…the Arco Britanico or British Arch is made of large white marble.

The bus stopped at Plaza Sotomayer. It is a square occupying 2 blocks, and is surrounded by the headquarters of the Chilean Navy and the National Council of Culture and Arts. This area is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The focus of the plaza  is the Momument of Heroes Iquique that honors Chilean sailors who died during the Battle of Iquique and the Battle of Punta Gruesa.  Much like the eternal flame in Arlington in the US, the monument has a guard on duty at all times.

We then headed to the “national” monument of South America.  Every town and city has one…the soccer stadium., Eastadio Elias Figueroa Brander and is home to the Santiago Wanderers.  It was built in 1931 and accommodate 20, 500 people.

We stopped for a brief picture in the Victorian neighborhood.  These houses were built in the late 1800s.  The neighborhood was “the place” to live at the time.

Since our guide had recently retired from the Chilean Navy, he was especially excited to see some military maneuvers occurring along the coast.

As we left Valparaiso in the late morning, there was a noticeable difference of activity on the streets.

The cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar are only 4 miles apart, but they are worlds away in terms of atmosphere.  Valparaiso is for the locals, where as Vina del Mar caters to tourists. Vina del Mar means Vineyard of the Sea.

We stopped briefly at the Vina del Mar flower clock.  It was originally built for the 1962 World Cup.  The original clock was built in Neuchatel, Switzerland.  The flowers are allowed to grow no higher than 4 inches to avoid impeding the path of the clock hands.  The original mechanism had to be replaced in 2013 when vandals damaged the clock.  The new timepiece is controlled by GPS and is very near perfect.  There are more than 7,000 flowers and bushes in the over-all display.

Vina del Mar is famous for it’s beaches.  We made a brief stop at Playa de Renaca.  It was the beginning of fall so not many people, but during the summer we were told this beach is packed with tourists.

We drove by the original Moai (Easter Island) statue located at the Museum of Archaeology and History.  The museum contains numerous documents and wood tablets containing ancient Easter Island hieroglyphics.

We then drove past the Naval Academy, noticed the gas prices, a few churches, and an outdoor market. Jim was quite intrigued with the jumble of electrical wire on each pole.

We made our way to the city of Olmue where we would have lunch.  It is located on the edge of La Campana National Park.  The park is home to numerous species of flowers and birds.

The resort is called Las Montanas de Olume.

We were treated to appetizers of empanadas and “scones” with salsa as well as a wonderful barbecue and buffet.

After lunch we had a few minutes to walk the resort. /we climbed the tower for a better view. Since it was the beginning of their fall, the resort was closed, but it looks like it would be a popular place.

There were oranges to pick and beautiful flowers.

We hopped back on the bus for our final leg to Santiago.  We traveled over the coastal range which was very dry to due to an extended drought.

The back side of the hills are covered in cactus.

As we neared the valley, the area became agricultural, a few orchards but mostly vineyards.  The wineries are known the world over.

Santiago is the capital and largest city in Chile with a population of 7 million.  It is located at the base of the Andes mountains.  However, the smog was thick and we couldn’t see the mountains. It was founded in 1541 by the Spanish, but the outskirts have a very  modern feel.

The downtown is filled with churches and drove past a few…Basillica de la Merced

We drove past La Moneda Palace is the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile.  Construction began in 1784 and the building was opened in 1805.  The country’s coins were produced here from 1814 – 1929.

The Plaza de la Ciudadania is a public square located on the southern side or back of the palace. It was constructed in 2004 to celebrate 200 years of independence.

Santiago is a city that loves statues…

We drove by Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral. Construction began in 1748 and was finished 52 years later.   It faces Plaza de Armas and is the administrative center for the Catholic Archbishop of Santiago.

It has been a fast and furious trip through Santiago, but it was time to head to the airport, where our luggage was waiting on a cart at the curb…wow, that is service.

Even with a 10 hour flight we tried to relish every last moment of this trip and watched the sunset over Chile.

We enjoyed dinner and breakfast.  We know, some people don’t like airplane food, but we think it is nice treat.

We watched the flight path on our monitor… then landing in Dallas and going through US customs.

Then it was onto Salt Lake City

It had been a fabulous 19 days.  We went to places, we thought we would never have the chance to visit.  Missing out on the opportunity to visit Antarctica was disappointing, but made us resolve to find a way in the future to visit. This truly was a BAM adventure.  We can’t wait to create more memories in the near future.

1 reply »