The final part of our trip around the bottom of South American began as we disembarked the “Golden Princess” in the seaport city of Valpraiso. It’s an interesting old place established around 1536 by Spanish explorers. From the harbour, Valpraiso (see picture) stretches up the side of a hill but fortunately there is an ancient funicular to convey you to the top. We took the slow ride up for an excellent bird’s eye view of the old town, the bustling harbour and the blue Pacific stretching to the west.
After a tasty, typical Chilean meal in an intimate restaurant tucked away in a dubious side street, we headed to the beach resort town of Vina Del Mar. I found it in some ways reminiscent of the hotel strips along Waikiki Beach. I would have definitely liked to have stayed a little longer in the area just to see the Easter Island museum (see picture) and the town’s famous floral clock. But time was limited, so we were soon on our way inland to the capitol city of Santiago.
Even though we knew a little about the city from family and friends who have lived there, its cosmopolitan flavour came as a complete surprise. Of course, as in most Latin American cities, there are areas of great poverty; still as a welcoming tourist destination it ranks high. The downtown area boasts both beautiful modern skyscrapers and 17th century Spanish architecture. For a start, I recommend a visit to Cerro San Cristobel Park where, once again, you ascend a steep hill in an old fashioned funicular railway. (pictured) At the top you can get a wonderful vista of the entire city with its backdrop of the Andes Mountain chain. The park also contains a zoo and a Japanese style garden.
One of the ways to see the buildings and get a sense of the history of Chile is to take one of the many walking tours that are offered. The tour we took was tailor made for us as one of our very good friends here in Canada is the great grandson of Benjamin Vicuna Mackenna, an important early Chilean politician and journalist. We wanted to visit both the Vicuna Mackenna museum and the small park which contains a mausoleum where his mummified remains are kept. Being friends, of Jean Claude Vicuna, we were treated like royalty by both our tour guide and the museum’s curator. Of course, there are other fine museums in the city with many artefacts of early Chilean history.
In our next instalment we are driven into some of the wonderful productive valleys of Central Chile and visit their local wineries. I love wine and I think it is one of the great gifts given to us by our Creator. Even the Bible promotes the judicious use of red wine which is now known for its many health benefits.
This week, wine becomes even more important as Christians around the world observe the last supper and the death of Jesus. Wine is significant to this occasion as red wine symbolizes the poured out blood of Christ and the great sacrifice he made when he laid down his life in our behalf. I don’t often get religious in this blog, but this is definitely an important week to my family as well as to many seniors I know. So please make allowances.