Tuesday, March 29, 2011

South America Here We Come! Three Days in Santiago...

We booked this cruise quite a while ago, a bit of a repeat of the South America cruise we did a few years ago, but that's fine with us. We were leaving from Santiago, Chile going around Cape Horn and making our way back to Fort Lauderdale. We are travelling with Barb and Ed, our cruising friends whom we met on a China cruise in 2005, and then cruised again with them from Australia to Los Angeles in 2007.

We started off with a little fear and trepidation. We were in Las Vegas last week and Jim developed a cough shortly after our return. After our African cruise that ended early in December, I was very nervous about heading into foreign countries with a sick husband.

But away we went! We booked a sweet deal through a Cruise Critic contact…3 nights at Hotel Galerias in Santiago, pick up at the airport, a tour of the city on one day and a winery tour on the next day, and transportation to the cruise pier in Valparaiso—all for the amazing price of $400 per person.

The flag of Chile....


Here we are with Barb and Ed enjoying our first meal together at the hotel.

Jim was feeling a bit under the weather the next morning, so I headed out on the city tour with Barb and Ed, and Shirley and Stuart from Australia. Jim and I had been in Santiago two years ago, so most of the city tour was familiar (which was a good thing because I really missed Jim as my note taker). This is the beautifully restored post office.

We were in luck! We were in Santiago on a day when they were doing the “changing of the guard.” Here is the Presidential Palace in the heart of the city.

Gorgeous architecture…

Shirley and Stuart with Claudio, our tour guide. Many times that day we were thankful for Shirley’s pink hat in the crowd!

Here come the new guards in their spiffy uniforms…

And a band…

The new guard goes in, and the old guard comes out…


video

The band and the guards left and it was back to normal in the Square.


Our little group (minus Jim)…we "met" Shirley and Stuart on Cruise Critic.

Women police officers…I was a little nervous about taking photos after our experiences in Africa, but Claudio assured me that it was OK.

This was the National Congress building, but former President Pinochet came from Valparaiso, and moved the Senate there. The Chamber of Deputies is now in this building.

I remembered this statue from the last time, but at least this time I got the meaning of it. The land is represented by the portion on the left, and the native people (Mapuche) are represented by the head on the right. The statue is meant to show how the people were separated from their land.

The Metropolitan Cathedral built in 1748…

With its lovely stained glass windows…

Alberto Hurtado, popularly known as Padre Hurtado, was a Jesuit priest, lawyer, social worker, and writer. He was canonized in 2005 by Pope Benedict becoming Chile's second saint.

The ceiling is a work of art…

Wow...that makes you think...

Jesus and his disciples…

There are so many stray dogs in Santiago…it’s so sad to see.

A reflection of the old in the new…

The marketplace was very quiet...

Santiago is full of beautiful parks and green spaces…

And, sadly, full of smog…

Gorgeous tree! It looked like a giant umbrella!

Ed and I walked up the stairs to visit the Blessed Virgin Mary statue on top of San Cristobal Hill. It was donated by France in the 1920s.

A shrine as you near the top…

Santiago, a city of 6 million people, is built in a bowl surrounded by mountains, so the smog rarely lifts.

Ooohhh….a halo of sun! The statue is 22 m tall.

You can barely make out the Andes Mountains in the background.

And with our city tour over, it was back to the hotel for a little sun and a drink, and to catch up with Jim…

The hotel was very nice…not fancy, but good food and great people.

A beautiful mural of the native people…

Jim still wasn’t feeling well, so Barb and I ventured to a nearby pharmacy to see if we could get some portable oxygen. Try explaining that in pantomime and Spanish! We didn’t have any luck as we needed a doctor’s prescription. Jim decided that if he wasn’t feeling better in the morning, he would ask in the hotel about a doctor.

The next morning he was feeling pretty good, but decided not to do the winery tour. The rest of us headed out to the Concha y Toro winery. I was quite excited about this as we often buy their wine at home.

We stopped here for a photo opportunity. Henry, our driver, with a person who nicely clomped on by on his horse…

The beautiful scenery was sort of marred by the excavations going on below.

This monument marks the spot where five bodyguards of despised President Pinochet lost their lives in a 1986 ambush. Rebel fighters waited in the trees, and then ambushed the President and his motorcade as he made his way to Santiago. He survived, but five of his 16 bodyguards did not.

Many, many small and large wineries in the area…

And here we are at the Concha y Toro winery…

Chile’s national tree, the araucaria araucana, commonly called the monkey puzzle tree. Because of its great age, it is often called a living fossil.

Ed had his hands full trying to look after Barb and me!

Beautiful grounds…

We're making our way to the house of the original owner Don Melchor Concha y Toro, who was a local politician and businessman. In the the late 1800s when the wine industry in Chile was just beginning, he brought grapevines from the Bordeaux region in France to plant in Chile.

We should have known this tour might not be the best, when we asked our guide what kind of trees the flowering ones were, and he said he didn’t know because they weren’t there when he went on vacation two weeks ago. Sigh…

The original home of Don Melchor Concha y Toro and his wife, Emiliana...

Not a bad view to wake up to each morning!

The moon!

A lone worker…

A pond with lovely pink lilies…


Each grapevine has its own watering system slowly delivering a steady stream of water.

Our guide…

You can still see the smog in the background although we were about an hour from Santiago.

In the wine cellars…here the tour went from bad to worse…

Heading into the dungeon of Casillero del Diablo…

Once inside, they told us the legend of the devil living in the cellars and then turned out all the lights. I think an image of the devil was supposed to appear and scare us all, but it didn't appear and seemed pretty childish. It wasn't what I was expecting from a world-renowned winery.

These bottles were supposed to house the crème of the winery, but by this time, I suspected they were a bunch of empty bottles. Aren’t I sounding a bit jaded now!

The wine tasting consisted of their two cheapest ones, the red poured into the same glass we tasted the white out of. We were interested in some of the more expensive wines, but were told they were $5 each to taste. Ridiculous! I am not such a fan of Concha y Toro anymore.

All of a sudden, our tour was cut short when Claudio got a call saying that Jim was in the hospital and would be there for a couple of days. What the heck??!! He wasn’t that sick when we left! We took the highway back to the hotel and a driver took me to the private clinic. It turned out that Jim had gone there looking for oxygen and got more than he bargained for. The doctor admitted him as his oxygen level was at 77, dangerously low.

Jim was determined to get on the cruise the next morning, but the doctor wasn’t too pleased with that idea as he had determined that Jim had pneumonia. Oh dear…this was becoming déjà vu of Dubai, only we didn’t speak the language this time. They started Jim on prednisone and antibiotics and it was a waiting game to see if his oxygen would improve. After a restless night, the doctor agreed to let Jim go once he signed a waiver saying it was against the doctor's wishes. They took a $20,000 deposit…oy, what a nightmare! But the best thing to come out of all this was that Jim bought an oxygen concentrator.

So we got the hotel driver to take us to Valparaiso to meet the cruise ship. As an aside, the hotel was amazing. They offered to let me stay for free for as long as Jim was in the hospital. Amazing, amazing people.

We couldn’t get to the ship fast enough! We whizzed by more wineries…

This one looked pretty up on the hill…

And here we are arriving in Valparaiso…it looks like a huge wind blew a bunch of garbage into the town!



Not sure what this is…interesting though!


And at last, we were on the ship. I was never so happy to get on board. Our view of Valparaiso from the ship...the San Francisco of Chile!

It has several funiculars to take people up and down the hills…

And we’re off…we are realizing this will be a very different cruise. Jim is not going to be able to disembark in any of the hot countries as the hot, humid weather is completely doing him in. I just want to get home without a stay in another foreign hospital! Keeping our fingers crossed...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your trip and pictures of Chile with us. Chile is the amazing place for visiting. Presidential Palace is the heart of the city. Hope you liked that.

    ReplyDelete