January 11 Vancouver to Santiago
January 12 Santiago
We arrived in Santiago about 6 am local time, just before sunrise. By the time we had cleared customs and immigration it was after 7 am and it was full daylight.
We took a taxi to the hostel we had arranged, not far from central Santiago. Its name was SCS Habitat and it was run by an American named Scott. The hostel was a little run down, but it was clean and Scott was a great help in getting us oriented for our first day in Chile.
The area around Scott’s hostel was a lower-class area, but we didn’t see any grinding poverty and there were no hostile people in the streets. There were heavy trucks delivering to the fruit warehouse, but there were also pedlars with hand-pulled carts.
Up to now people in Chile have not usually learned English in school, but that appears to be changing.
Although we were rather tired from the long overnight flight, we decided not to sleep, but to go out on a walking tour of the city instead.
Central Santiago has all kinds of buildings. It is a typical Spanish colonial city, so it has a lot of churches. This particular church is more attractive than the cathedral, which is not far away from it.
The main street through downtown Santiago is named after Bernardo O’Higgins, the national hero of Chile, but it is generally called the Alameda. Two lanes in each direction are devoted to public transit, meaning a continuous stream of yellow buses. People seem to know where the buses are going based on the cryptic signs on the front; if you get off a bus that isn’t in the curb lane, you just dodge between the buses that are in the curb lane.
La Moneda is the presidential palace, the centre of power in Chile. When Pinochet was president he lived here, but since then the building has been used only for offices. However the presidential flag still flies over the building.
Santiago of course has a Plaza de Armas, with the traditional statue of military hero on horseback. In this case the hero is Don Pedro de Valdivia, the founder of Santiago.