Day 1 SANTIAGO 12-28

This starts my posting of the trip to Antarctica.  Little did I know reaching my seventh continent would be almost anti-climatic.  The islands of the South Atlantic are packed with animals and of course, birds.  Five kinds of penguins in huge—read that HUGE—colonies.  Plus sea lions elephant seals, leopard seals, reindeer (honestly!) many other birds, whales and the scenery.  Gorgeous.  Being next to 100 ft icebergs in a little zodiac at midnight.  Not the least of the experience was following Shackleton’s Endurance voyage and their awe-inspiring self-rescue.  More to come on all of that, with some pictures of amazing things.

To set the stage, we left the States late December, 2012 and began our trip touring the Santiago area before flying to the Falklands and boarding our ship into the South Atlantic. 

Immediately upon landing in Santiago, we are struck by a countryside that resembles southern New Mexico, it has a definite desert feel.  There's lots of open land with mountain vistas all around.  To be more precise, these aren't just mountains, these are the Andes!  And in every direction! 

We hop a taxi into downtown Santiago.  There is a glorious mix of architecture with modern multi-story glass buildings juxtaposed beside ancient history, with some buildings dating back to the conquistadores.  Touring Downtown Santiago

Our first stop touring downtown is the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at the Plaza de Armas.  It sits amid brilliant glass skyscrapers.  The ornate 12th century building (1075-1122) is the reputed burial-place of Saint James the Creater, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ.  

Santiago CathedralThe Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela at the Plaza de Armas in Santiago Sits Amid Brilliant Glass Skyscrapers

The church is on one side of the Plaza de Armes.  This is a gathering place for police in cars and on horses, with locals and tourists everywhere.  The Chile mine disaster and the successful rescue effort still is a source of national pride.  In Santiago's downtown, a woman is 'chatting" with Chilean miner "street art statue" during one of his position changes.IMG_5032-1

In the Plaza, this old man was thrilled to pose for a picture.  He looks great against an iconic Chilean Palm. His beard looks like Spanish Moss.Old Man in the Plaza de Armas Park, Downtown Santiago, Chili

The plaza is filled with flower carts massed with colorful blossoms--this is their summer.  And we see more Chilean Palm Trees.  They look a bit like a baobab trunk with a swelled middle reaching to an elongated skinny neck, topped off by date-palm like palm fronds.  Some are over 80 feet and are thought to be the same variety as the extinct trees of Easter Island.  Colorful flower carts framed by Chilean Palm Trees and evergreens dot the Plaza de Armas in downtown Santiago

Old and young play chess in th park at Plaza de Armas.  They all use game clocks--they're very serious about their play.

Chess in the Park at Plaza de Armas, in Downtown Santiago, Chili

This is a modern first-world country.  We can eat the food, drink the water, and find anything we need in the stores.Touring Downtown Santiago

We head for Cerro Santa Lucia, a park built on what is left of a 15 million year old volcano.  The Circular Garden is lovely with its ornate gardens and walkwaysTouring Downtown Santiago It has the oddest tree...with strange branches filled with sharply pointed leaves, each culminating at a rosette end.  I can't tell if it's an evergreen or succulent.Touring Downtown Santiago

Climbing the mount we get a truly spectacular view of the city.  We are looking over the Provedencia area of Santiago with the Andes ringing the city in the distance.Touring Downtown Santiago

To the left we have a view of the other high point in the city, Cerro San Cristobal, topped with the statue of the Virgin Mary.  Not as well known, this is similar to the Christ statue in Rio De Janeiro.  A cable car runs up the side of the mount. 

Touring Downtown Santiago

Near the top of Cerro Santa Lucia is the Jardin Darwin, with a small chapel...

Touring Downtown Santiago

and a plaque dedicated to Charles Darwin's visit in 1835.

Touring Downtown Santiago

At the top of the gardens is a stature commemorating the native indigenous Indians originally used to mine copper.  Framed by the skyscrapers, it underscores the transition this country has undergone.Touring Downtown Santiago

Walking around the city we found we HAD to use crosswalks (my bad--not my usual mode, but there are no options here).  And we watch the signals carefully-no jay-walking here. Cars, busses and taxis jam the streets and traffic lights provide the only reprieve.  Beyond the hubbub, this city has a definite European feel.Touring Downtown Santiago On the way back to our taxi pick up, we stop in the Basilica de la Merced, another beautiful old church.
Touring Downtown Santiago And pass the bright pink Museo La Merced.  A beautiful old building with a skyscraper in the background.  We want to come back here when we have more time.  The Easter Island exhibit in the museum is a top destination.  We just have flat run out of time!Touring Downtown Santiago Tomorrow we'll begin our actual expedition, meeting part of our group.  We begin with a guided tour including several stops as we head for the coast to find our first type of penguin--the Humbolt penguin.  More on this unique trip's group make-up and itinerary tomorrow.



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