Part 11 - Valparaiso, Chile, Santiago de Chile
March 15th, 2015 – Valparaiso, Chile
This morning, the rising sun was shining on Valparaiso from a clear blue sky. The colorful houses on the hills of the old town were glowing in the warm light like a sea of spots of color. This panorama was the first on this trip which corresponded to the idea we had had of South America before our departure.
Again, we were met by the smell of burnt wood hanging in the air, and we learned – again – that in the past few days people had been fighting heavy bush fires raging just outside the outskirts of town. It was time for us to disembark and say goodbye to our ship. Over the past two weeks, the Infinity had become a beautiful home for us, and we would travel with her again any time. At the exit we heard a last familiar “bing” when our sea passes were scanned before we swiftly went through immigration controls. We found our suitcases just as fast and, therefore, had some time left before the departure of our transfer, which we spent using fast and inexpensive Wifi in the terminal area.
At the agreed time we met at the exit with a few other passengers, with whom we had booked a tour transfer through CruiseCritic to Santiago de Chile.
Our first stop wasn’t far. We got off at Plaza Sotomayor in one of Valparaiso’s historic quarters, in the center of which a naval monument commemorated the deceased sailors.
On one side, the prominent building of the Navel Headquarters marks the border of the square.
To us, the fire station on the opposite side was a little strange. Behind a glass door were two modern, squeaky clean fire trucks with the big German inscription “FEUERWEHR” (Fire Brigade). At closer inspection you could also read “Zweite Deutsche Feuerwehrkompanie Bomba Germania, Stadt Valparaiso” (Second German Fire Department Bomba Germania, City of Valparaiso). After a fire in 1850, the fire brigade was founded by German immigrants and by tradition still carries its name.
The Palace of Justice was right behind the Naval Headquarters. We made a brief stop in front of its portico to take a look at the statue of Justice. This presentation lacking the drawn sword, raised scales and blindfold was quite unusual.
Our young guide asked whether we had any idea why she was presented this way. My guess was that Justitia might have been a clerk and it was probably after 4.00 pm. As a matter of fact, nobody knows exactly. One explanation is that a few hundred years ago the artist who created the statue had come upon an entirely corrupt legal system which he meant to denounce with this sculpture.
Through a barely visible niche between two buildings we entered the valley station of one of the many funiculars. Entering it was like accessing a time machine – the technology of the ancient cable cars is still true to original and was merely converted from steam engines to electricity.
Once at the top, we had another beautiful view of the colorful houses clinging flamboyantly to the hillsides.
Besides the beautiful view we also came across the old building of Palacio Baburizza, which is home to an art museum these days. The gorgeous art nouveau palacio was built in 1916 and has survived all earthquakes to date.
In the pleasant warm light of the morning sun we walked through a few streets of the old town, which I liked a lot. Pastel-colored house fronts, walls with interesting paintings behind every corner and many tiny details as well as vistas of the big picture kept my finger glued to the trigger of my camera.
We made a short visit to Iglesia Luterana de La Santa Cruz, which was founded as the “German Protestant Church of Valparaiso” in 1865. To this day, the inscriptions on the wooden beams are in German.
Through another little alley we reached Passeo Atkinson, a short, terraced street on the slope which offered a spectacular panoramic view not only to the inhabitants of the pastel-colored houses on the hill but also to some strays who hadn’t quite woken up yet.
At the next corner we were picked up by our little bus. I could have stayed for hours wandering through the streets, because from the bus there was so much more to see which I would have loved to photograph.
Another reason to go on a cruise through the Panama Canal from Valparaiso and to add a day or two before the departure.
But our journey continued towards Vina del Mar. The town by the sea is a popular holiday destination for many wealthy Chileans. But they aren’t the only ones spending the season in the parks, on the sandy beaches and on the promenades lined with palm trees. It is also home to the summer residence of the Chilean President.
Our first stop was the “Flower Clock”, Vina del Mar’s famous landmark at the foot of the “Castle Hill” which hosts the castle-like summer residence.
We then followed the coastal road along the clean promenade, where many modern restaurants and bars were lined up like beads on a string. Again and again we saw dapper cadets from the Naval Academy across the street, strolling along the promenade or waiting at bus stops in their immaculate uniforms. A little outside of town, the coast was steeper and at the foot of many pinnacle rocks we could see sea lions and countless pelicans. We stopped not far away at a lookout opposite a huge sand dune. Many sea birds rested on the lava rocks while beneath them the thundering waves surged relentlessly against the cliffs.
On our way back we briefly stopped at “Museo Fonck”, the Museum of Archaeology and History, in front of which we could admire one of the original Moais from the Chilean Easter Islands. It is one of only a handful of original statues that can be found outside the Easter Islands. All the others are mostly replicas.
After our visit to the stone faced man we carried on towards a restaurant where we were to have our lunch break. We were quite surprised when the driver stopped in front of a castle-like building and our friendly guide asked us to get out. In fact, the name of the restaurant really was “Castillo del Mar”.
In the inviting interior, a table had been elegantly set for us in front of large panoramic windows. We happily sat down and admired the view of the beach promenade in front of rocks populated by pelicans.
The food was as good as the exterior appearance. While it wasn’t cheap, the prices were actually adequate.
We had nice conversations with our fellow passengers about this beautiful ending of a beautiful journey. Everything was simply right, and the thought “Saving the best for last” came to mind. This was the impression we had had of this day so far.
After lunch it was time to say farewell to the sea and to Vina del Mar. We continued our journey on a highway towards the heartland. Again and again, fire fighting helicopters flew above us trying to extinguish the bush fires.
After about an hour we reached the wine region of Casablanca Valley and left the highway. The modern, gleaming white building of the Vina Indomita winery was perched on a hill overlooking green vines.
In the shade of a huge white arcade we made ourselves comfortable in comfortable lounge chairs in front of the building’s ultra-modern mirror glass façade. A member of the winery’s staff gave us some explanations on viticulture in Chile and served us different wines to taste, which was highly appreciated by our group.
Unfortunately, soon another saying came to mind: “All good things must come to an end...” Thus, our journey continued to Santiago de Chile, which we reached some 1 ½ hours later and where we were taken to our respective hotels.
We had booked the Marriott for that night, where we had antoher modern and spacious room.
A large shopping mall was only a few steps away from our hotel, and just as we knew from the US, it didn’t only host shops of all the well-known brands but also some restaurants with attractive outdoor seating. The prices were alomost identical with prices here in Germany.
I was delighted to find a Tony Roma’s, where we decided to treat ourselves to a final nice dinner followed by a “small” desert.
We sat there for quite a while and recalled this beautiful journey with this great finale. We agreed: everything was right!
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, and the taxi we had booked the night before took 30 minutes to take us to the airport. Our first leg was with LAN from Santiago to Sao Paulo. When approaching Sao Paulo, we realized what a beast this gigantic metropolis was. For many minutes we flew over a seemingly endless sea of houses before we finally touched down at the airport.
Our connecting flight from Sao Paulo to Frankfurt was with Lufthansa. For our return flight we had booked seats with more legroom for EUR 70.00 each. The backrest and, therefore, the pocket in the seat in front of me were so far away that I had to undo my seat belt in order to reach them. With an announcement at the beginning of the flight, we were made aware of spare seats that were left in Premium Econonmy and could be booked for almost EUR 400.00. While our outbound flight in Premium Economy was good, we didn’t think it justified EUR 400.00 extra, especially compared to the seats we had and which were almost more spacious.
We hadn’t quite settled into our seats that we already missed the friendly staff and some of the passengers with whom we had spent such a wonderful time. We enjoyed Celebrity and the Infinity very much again. We saw great destinations, and small mishaps turned into other, equally interesting experiences.
After all the descriptions of this report, which have probably already given you an impression, I don’t want to draw a lenghty conclusion but can summarize it in one sentence: it was a great trip!
Adios, South America – It was fantastic!
In case you haven’t had enough of the pictures, this is the link to the entire album:
Pictures at Google+
www.travellove.one • www.thecruise.report • www.travelandcruise.net
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