Thursday, April 26, 2018

Santiago - April 18-21, 2018

In 1978 - the last and only time I had previously visited Santiago, I was working in Washington, DC which had just gotten its light rail metro a few years earlier - and I was fascinated to see Santiago's metro propelled on rubber tires.  So I snapped a photo and was immediately detained by local police -- and taken to an interview room where, thankfully, my boss, fluent in Spanish, explained my innocent photo intent.  That 40-year old lesson - during the rule of the repressive dictatorship of Pinochet (1976-83) - quickly reminded me that dictators don't take kindly to the photography of public facilties.  I'm pleased to tell you that I ran into no problems recreating that 40-year old "mistake" - in a Santiago that is a very different place - a thriving home to 7 million that transitioned to democracy in 1990.

And Santiago's metro, the 3rd largest in Latin America, still uses the French-designed, metro cars with rubber tires (though some of it now runs on steel wheels).

Getting pesos (about $600 Chilean Pesos to $1 USD), finding the inexpensive bus to downtown, and arranging the Uber ride were superbly easy and comfortable -- but because it was still early in the day, I proceeded to the home of the "mother of a friend of a cousin" who I had only briefly met when we were both visiting Switzerland last August.  I had kept up texting-correspondence with "Marta" since our meeting in the hopes of crossing paths in Santiago.  She had explained that she didn't have a large enough apartment to host me -- but that we could share meals and tourist activities.  From our short visit in Switzerland I could tell that she was a very youthful 83 year old -- and spoke perfect English.

Her apartment - like the nice Airbnb I stayed at - is located in the thriving downtown -- so we immediately set out on her introducing me to the local area and food - and later a delicious salmon lunch at her apartment.

For the next 3 days Marta was my tour guide in visiting some of the sites/neighborhoods - including the impressive Cerro San Cristobal with expansive views of the city.

And on one of the days, Marta's friend took us on a driving tour of the city with a lunch time stop for a massive hot dog loaded with avocado - at the local, long time favorite cafe Fuente Alemana (Trip Advisor rated #33 of 4,450 restaurants in Santiago).

I also did some afternoon sightseeing on my own - including visiting the very interesting Museum of Memory and Human Rights which provided a close examination of the horrors of the Pinochet rule.

I didn't write about everything I saw, did, and ate -- but it was a wonderful visit to Santiago -- followed by my pre-planned trip to the beautiful, coastal city of Valparaiso (next posting).