Thursday 30th August 2012
Our flight arrived on time at 21.25 and 30 minutes later we were checking into Saint Lucia Green House. We had a simple double room with shared bathroom and breakfast included. The family that run the hostal were very welcoming and live on site, which was good for a late check in. I would say that it was originally a family home and the children have grown up and away so Mum and Dad have converted into a hostal at some point.
Friday 31st August
After a good nights sleep we go down for breakfast which is fresh rolls, buter and jam with tea or coffee. Self service style. We are told by the hostal owners that they are running a free City tour this morning, it will take an hour or so and would we like to join the group. We choose to do so and to our delight it lasts four hours and takes us to all the major sights. The reason it is free is that the guide is newly qualified and has just started work for the hostal so they want to see how it goes.
Santiago rests on an inland plain, with the Andes glimmering in the distance. It is the capital of Chile and is the fifth largest city in South America.
The conquistador Pedro de Valdivia reached the Mapocho valley , on 13 December 1540. Wich summoned the chiefs of the area to a parliament where he explained his intention to found a city in the name of King Carlos I of Spain, which would be the capital of his governorship of Nueva Extremadura. The Indians have accepted and even recommended him the foundation of the town on a small island located between two branches of the river near a small hill called Huelén.
On February 12, 1541, Valdivia officially founded the city of Santiago del Nuevo Extremo in honor to Apostle Santiago, patron saint of Spain, in the vicinity of the Huelén, renowned for the conqueror as "Santa Lucia".
On September 18, 1810 was proclaimed the First Government Meeting in Santiago, the fact which began the process of independence for Chile.
Today, it is one of the most modern cities on the continent, home to nearly 5 million inhabitants--over a third of all Chileans.
The city is bisected by the Rio Mapocho, which gently weaves through from East to West, before descending to the flood plain below. The Mapocho marks the northern border of the city center, which is defined on the west and south by the Via Norte Sur and the Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins (known to Santiagans as the Alameda). Within this area can be found all the major museums, monuments, and architectural sights the city offers.
The very heart of Santiago is the Plaza de Armas, which lies along the Alameda about five blocks south of the river. The city's European heritage is evident in the Parque Forestal, designed by a French landscaper on the model of Parisian parks. Walkers pass down tree-lined paths along the Mapocho, past small squares and the Museo de Bellas Artes.
First stop on the tour is the Londres/Paris quarter. Here there are many historical and cultural buildings including Chile's Stock exchange, Santiago's first skyscraper and a Torture house used by the dictator Pinochet in his heyday, it is now a museum and memorial to the 'missing' of that era. Also the first skyscaper built in Santiago in 1919.
We then walk to the Plaza de Armas and The Cathedral of Santiago which was declared a National Monument in 1951. Its location dates from the original layout of the city, ordered by Pedro de Valdivia and 1541. In 1745 the present temple begins and later Toesca changes to the facade imposing the classic and baroque style. Its two towers were constructed just by the end of 19th century. Here rests the mortal remains of the first Chilean cardinal, Jose Maria Caro. The cathedral houses the Museum of Sacred Art.
The great wood inner doors that face towards the square are made of cedar and were carved before 1765 in the Jesuits factories of Calera of Tango. The interior consists of three naves of more than 98,43 yards in length.
The Central Nave - the great altar, constructed in Munich in 1912, made of silver is 9,84 feet in length. The magnificent carved wooden seats in front of the altar are where the priests are located who compose the Metropolitan Town hall, called the Choir of the Cathedral. Under this esplanade are buried Diego Portales and President Tomás Ovalle.
We walk towards the Presidential Palace, government buildings and the University buildings. Finally ending our tour at: Cerro Santa Lucia. This is a small rocky hill that was originally called Huelén by the Mapuches inhabiting the region. The Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Valdivia later changed its name to Santa Lucía. It was at the foot of this hill that Pedro de Valdivia founded the city of Santiago on February 12th, 1541.After the founding of the city, the Spanish conquistadors used Santa Lucia hill as a lookout point for the planning of the city according to the traditional Spanish checkerboard layout.
Between 1814 and 1817 royalist troops under General Casimiro Marcó del Pont (the last Spanish Governor in Chile) added two defence fortifications, La Marcó and Castillo Hidalgo (Hidalgo Castle). At this time, part of the hill was used as a cemetery though it was later moved to the Cementerio General (General Cemetery).
In 1872, Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna decided to make the hill a new attraction. Different types of trees, plants and other vegetation were introduced to make the 'big rock' more inviting and not so much of an eyesore. Plazas (squares) with fountains and numerous lookout points were connected by a labyrinth of stairways and paths to make the hill a lovely place for a stroll.
The Alameda entrance was designed by the Architect Victor de Villenueve which was eventually finished in 1902.
Cerro Santa Lucia was declared a national monument on 16 December 1983.The only major change since then is that the Castillo Hidalgo (Hidalgo Castle) has been converted into an events center.
Traditionally, a cannon is fired every day at midday from the top of Santa Lucia Hill.
The tour lasts 4 hours in total and is very informative, the guide has a good knowledge of English and is passionate about his city. We ask him for a recommendation for lunch, he suggests a typical workers cafe and takes us there. E agree to meet him again tomorrow for a tour of the local markets.
We have lunch at a typical workers cafe, it is very simple, filling and cheap. We then head back to the main pedestrian street leading to Plaza de Armas, where we enjoy watching street performers, including a mime artist and a balloon artist, both of whom are very talented and keep the attention of the crowd for long periods of time all for free.
We have coffee in a typical cafe called 'Coffee on legs' as the waitress stand on a raised levels behind the counter and are dressed in short dresses, most of the customers are male.
We have dinner at a local restaurant, which could be compared to a pub meal back in England. It is very interesting watching the people interact.
There is supposed to be a 'Blue Moon' tonight according to astronomers, but other than it being a full moon we can not see the difference.
Back at home the Paralympics start.
Saturday 1st September
Today we are met at 10.30 by our guide who will show us the fruit & veg market and then the Fish market. We travel by metro to the markets, there are some wonderful murals painted on the stations of the metro. We stroll through the fruit and veg market with the guide pointing out some items that we may not have seen before. We make our way to the Sea Food Market, which is very busy, round the outside are traditional stalls and then in the middle are restaurants. The Mercado Central is of British design, with wrought-iron ceiling parts that were imported from Birmingham, England in the mid 19th century. It is a replica to that in Covent Garden apparently. Today the market sells a wide variety of fresh, exotic produce. We chose to eat lunch here as the fish looks good and very fresh, there are also lots of opportunities to people watch. We then make our way to what was the Railway station up until 1930, but is now used as an event centre, it is a huge Victorian structure.
We head back to the hotel at about 3.30, this tour yet again was free, although we felt compelled to give a good tip as it was very informative and enjoyable.
Sunday 2nd September
Today is the start of a month long celebration in Chile for independence. This means in Santiago that a lot of private buildings are open to the public for free viewing. This includes the Parliament Building or Congress building as it is called, Former Presidential Palace, The Mayors Office and The Stock Exchange (Bonsal Building). We visit all of these buildings and the History Museum.
The Former National Congress Building (ex Congreso Nacional) is the former home of the Chilean Congress. Congress met in this building in central Santiago until Salvador Allende's socialist government was overthrown by Augusto Pinochet's military coup d'état on September 11, 1973.
During the Pinochet dictatorship, Congress was moved to new premises in Valparaíso; the old building was declared a national monument in 1976 and between 1990 and 2006 housed the ministry of foreign affairs. The Senate moved its offices in Santiago to this building in December 2000. On January 26, 2006 the Chamber of Deputies recovered its old offices.
Work began on the original building under President Manuel Montt Torres (1851-1861), but the construction was not completed until 1876, during the presidency of Federico Errázuriz Zañartu. The building was destroyed by fire in 1895, rebuilt, and reopened in 1901, during the Parliamentary Era. It stands on Morandé 441 near the Blvd. Liberador Bernado O'Higgins, amidst a gardenthat contains a variety of exotic trees and plant life.
While visiting The Congress Building we were lucky enough to meet the present 'Speaker of the House' and have our photo taken with him, he explained a little about his job and the politics of the country. It is a beautiful building with lots of history, what an amazing opportunity.
Palacio de La Moneda was declared National Monument in 1951. It is the seat of the government of Chile and is in placed downtown Santiago, located between Moneda (North Side), Morandé (East), Alameda del Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins (South) and Teatinos street(West).
The construction began in 1784 under the direction of the architect Joaquin Toesca y Ricci. It was the greatest building constructed by Spanish Corona in its colonies during 18th century. Its construction was delayed by 15 years (1784- 1799). Toesca died in 1799, without seeing it finished,the engineer Agustín Cavallero pursued his task.
After Independence, in 1846, the President Manuel Bulnes arranged it to be the residence of the Presidents of Chile until 1958.
After the bombing of 1973, the House of the Moneda had serious internal damage. In order to solve the problem the great restoration began and finished in 1981.Today it is rejuvenated according to the original style of Toesca and is the Palace of Government and seat of the Presidency of the Republic.
Main patio in Palacio de La Moneda.
The entrance is by the North door, where you can see the Patios of the Naranjos (orange trees) and the Cannons, the O'Higgins, Montt-Varas and Pedro de Valdivia halls and the Chapel.
Nearby attractive sights:
Plaza de la Constitucion, an ample cleared public space that frames the Moneda by the north. Between 10 and 10:30 hours, the change of the Guard of the Palace takes place.
The surroundings of the square are occupied by important buildings, the majority constructed prior to the Civic District. In Teatinos corner Moneda Street, is the Treasury Ministry (1933) and in the same street corner Agustinas, the Chancellery, occupies the building of the ex- Carrera Hotel (1934), both works of the architect by Solar Smith. In Agustinas street stands La Nation Newspaper, property of the government and in the corner with Morande Street, the building of the South American Bank (1930) of Art Deco style. In the orients flank of the square - Agustinas with Morande - is the imposing and monolithic Banco Central (1927) and, in the corner of Moneda street (South sidewalk), is the seat of the ex- Illustrated Newspaper, declared national monument, of 1914, present seat of Metropolitan Intendance; it has hall of access with an imposing scale crowned by a cupola with stain glass windows.
After a full day we make our way to the airport for our flight to Aukland, New Zealand.