Sunday, March 12, 2017

Santiago, Chile

Santiago, the capital of Chile, is a vibrant metropolis. We stayed at the Singular Lastarria and thoroughly enjoyed the neighborhood's assortment of street vendors, trendy restaurants, and abundant bars. Dined at a few restaurants in the Central Market as well, and would recommend blue crab and conger in particular. The city is virtually surrounded by the Andes and is quite beautiful.

A view of Santiago from San Cristobal hill. To the right is the Gran Torre Santiago, part of the Costanera Center, and the tallest building in Latin America

Palacio de La Moneda, the office of the President and other administrative officials. The city has made great strides since returning to a democratic form of government in the 90's.

                           A view over the city from the Gran Torre. Note the tree-lined boulevards.

A view of San Cristobal hill

                                                                    Sunset Santiago

Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso is a fascinating city of colorfully painted homes, cobblestone streets, and stunning views of the Pacific. The second largest city in the country, after Santiago, it is Chile's major port.  

The beach at popular Vina del Mar, just north of Valparaiso

                                                                           Sea lions

Chilean Naval Headquarters on Plaza Sotomayor in Valparaiso

Monument to the soldiers who fell during the Battle of Iquique and Battle of Punta Gruesa during the War of the Pacific, a conflict between Chile, Peru, and Bolivia in 1879.

Graffiti is common in Chile and, to combat it, the authorities in Santiago simply asked that the graffiti artists produce quality work. The result is some of the most inventive, colorful, and engaging street art you can imagine.

A view over the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built on dozens of steep hillsides, Valparaiso has a series of unique funicular lifts, although several have now fallen into disrepair.

A keyboard staircase was a whimsical end to our tour.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Torres del Paine, Chile

The Singular Hotel in Patagonia is truly unique. Each room has a stunning view of the lake (below), but what is truly interesting is that the hotel is situated in what was once a sheep slaughterhouse. The hotel acquired the site from the government, after agreeing to preserve and maintain the property.

Exterior view of the hotel. The guestrooms are in the branch to the right, the brick buildings once processed sheep but now house a fine restaurant, a bar, and reception area.

Torres del Paine is one of the largest national parks in Chile. Horseback riding on the historic Estancia Puerto Consuelo is but one of many options tourists may select to enjoy the park.  

Fishing remains a major economic factor in the village of Puerto Natales.

St. Andrew the Apostle, Patron Saint of Fishermen

Wildlife is abundant throughout the park, and we observed a flock of flightless rheas. Condors were frequently spotted, soaring high above on powerful gales.

Guanaco are plentiful. Usually, hunting is allowed only in Tierra del Fuego, where there are no natural predators. Recently, however, hunting has been allowed in Torres del Paine to help control the population. Guanaco steaks are justly popular.

                             The three soaring granite 'torres', or towers, which give the park its name.

A spectacularly beautiful area.

El Calafate, Argentina

The touristic town of El Calafate, in Patagonia, serves as the gateway to Argentina's glacier region. El Calafate is named for a dark blue, delicious, berry that is common to the region and has an intense, blueberry like flavor.

The Perito Moreno glacier is a magnificent wall of ice. When it calved, the sound was reminiscent of an approaching train.

After crampons were fixed to my boot, it was a fine day for ice trekking! An eerie, stark beauty.

Thick ice often appears blue. Colors of longer wavelength, such as red, are absorbed. Blue, of shorter wavelength, is allowed to pass through the ice.

At the end of the hike, we were rewarded with single malt scotch served over 400 year old ice, chipped fresh from the glacier. I like ice trekking!


                                  Icebergs floating in a lake on the way to the Estancia Cristina.

Aged boat ashore at the estancia. The Estancia Cristina, now owned by the Argentinian government, was originally settled in 1914 by a couple from England. They were attracted to Argentina by incentives the government used to induce immigrants to develop remote areas of the country. The ranch was named for their daughter, who passed away during childhood.

Glacial etchings in the rock on our way to the thirty-one mile wide Upsala glacier, the largest glacier in South America.

The winds are so powerful in this region that the excursion to view the glacier must sometimes be cancelled, and is never available during the winter. A vast, empty, and hauntingly beautiful region.

El Tigre, Argentina

El Tigre, named for the jaguars that once populated the area, is a town in the Parana Delta consisting of several islands linked by serpentine canals. Located about 45 minutes from Buenos Aires, the town has several year round residents and boasts its own schools, a hospital, and police and fire departments. Above is a supply vessel docked at the mainland port.

Typical docks. The region is very popular with those who live in Buenos Aires and eagerly escape the city heat on summer weekends.

An amazing variety of structures exist in Tigre, from large, sprawling complexes to very modest get-a-way homes. There are many boat clubs in the region and the waters are dotted with every type of pleasure craft.
Ranching remains common in Tigre, focusing on cattle and other livestock. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch with our guide, who owns a ranch on one of the islands. He prepared some fine empanadas which were, of course, enjoyed with a bottle of Malbec.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Buenos Aires, Argentina

We've posted about Buenos Aires in the past (see entry of 12/12/10), but the city continues to delight. This time, we were able to visit the inside of the lavishly renovated Teatro Colon, pictured above and below. Renovation costs topped $100 million.



The concert hall seats nearly 2500 people, with standing room for 1,000. The acoustics are considered to be some of the finest in the world, and the venue was a favorite of Luciano Pavarotti.

Ceiling fresco
The famed obelisk on Avenida de Julio

Interior of La Biela, an historic café near La Recoleta cemetery. Below are some images from the cemetery, including the Duarte family mausoleum, final resting place of Evita Peron. Even today, flowers and mementos are routinely left on the gates.

The beautiful Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes houses a spectacular collection.

                                       The noted painting, "Without bread and without work."

Below are a few photos of the San Telmo district, which we visited for its popular Sunday market.

The steaks and wine were as delicious as we remembered and we'll look forward to another visit to the incredible city of Buenos Aires!!

                                                                         Tango away!