Santiago de Chile or simply Santiago, is the capital and largest city of Chile as well as one of the largest cities in the Americas. Santiago is named after the biblical figure, St. James. It is the center of Chile's largest and the most densely populated conurbation. The city is entirely located in the country's central valley.
You can see the majestic Andean mountain range from almost anywhere in Santiago. We can visit the vineyards of Maipo Valley and sample Chilean wines, marvel over the antiquities at the Pre-Colombian Museum or explore villages in the tranquil countryside surrounding Santiago. Ships may call at the port of San Antonio, a beach town favored by local artists and writers. We found delicious seafood (at least I was told the seafood was delicious. I’ll never know) and arts and crafts vendors along the Paseo Bellamar.
Founded in 1541 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. The city has a downtown core of 19th-century neoclassical architecture and winding side-streets, dotted by art deco, neo-gothic, and other styles. Santiago's cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing Mapocho River, lined by parks such as Parque Forestal. The Andes Mountains can be seen from most points in the city. These mountains contribute to a considerable smog problem, particularly during winter. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santiago is the cultural, political and financial center of Chile and is home to the regional headquarters of many multinational corporations. The Chilean executive and judiciary are located in Santiago, but Congress meets mostly in nearby Valparaíso.
We had planned to just do a “foot tour” of Santiago, but we were informed that would only take two hours because of not much to see. The ship personnel want us out of the way while they attempt to sanitize the ship and that is expected to take four hours. So they made the offer to those who did not already plan and pay for a tour, to give us a free 1.5 hour ride to the town (and second largest port) of Valparaiso which turned out pretty good for all of us, ship and passengers. We spent three hours driving and three hours “touring”.
Valparaíso is a major city, seaport, and educational center in the commune of Valparaíso, Chile. Greater Valparaíso is the second largest metropolitan area in the country. Valparaíso is located about 60 miles northwest of Santiago by road and is one of the South Pacific's most important seaports. Valparaíso is the capital of Chile's third most populated administrative region and has been the headquarters for the Chilean National Congress since 1990. Valparaíso has seven universities.
Valparaíso played an important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age, as a magnet for European immigrants, when the city was known by international sailors as "Little San Francisco" and "The Jewel of the Pacific". In 2003, the historic quarter of Valparaíso was declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. Notable features include Latin America's oldest stock exchange, the continent's first volunteer fire department, Chile's first public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world, El Mercurio de Valparaíso.
Many houses in Valparaíso are colorfully painted. Nicknamed "The Jewel of the Pacific", Valparaíso was declared a world heritage site based upon its improvised urban design and unique architecture. In 1996, the World Monuments Fund declared Valparaíso's unusual system of funicular lifts (steeply inclined carriages) one of the world's 100 most endangered historical treasures. In 1998, grassroots activists convinced the Chilean government and local authorities to apply for UNESCO world heritage status for Valparaíso. Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003. Built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Valparaíso has a labyrinth of streets and cobblestone alleyways, embodying a rich architectural and cultural legacy.
Here’s a piece of the good ole US of A still in Chile -- Trolleybuses. Public transport within Valparaíso itself is provided primarily by buses, trolleybuses and funiculars. The buses provide an efficient and regular service to and from the city centre and the numerous hills where most people live, as well as to neighboring towns while more distant towns are served by long-distance coaches. The Valparaíso trolleybus system has been in operation since 1952, and in 2017 it continues to use some of its original vehicles, built in 1952 by the Pullman-Standard Company, along with an assortment of other vehicles acquired later. Some of Valparaiso’s Pullman trolleybuses are even older, built in 1946–48, having been acquired secondhand from Santiago in the 1970s. The surviving Pullman trolleybuses are the oldest trolleybuses still in normal service anywhere in the world, and they were collectively declared National Historic Monuments by the Chilean government in 2003.
During Valparaiso’s golden age (1848–1914), the city received large numbers of immigrants, primarily from Europe. The immigrant communities left a unique imprint on the city's noteworthy architecture. Each community built its own churches and schools, while many also founded other noteworthy cultural and economic institutions. The largest immigrant communities came from Britain, Germany, and Italy, each developing their own hillside neighborhood, preserved today as National Historic Districts or "Zonas Típicas."
There’s a lot more that could be said about this city and I’m glad that, thanks to a stomach bug on the ship, we were diverted to and got to visit Valparaiso, a town we would not have even known existed.
When we returned to the ship we found more surprises. I thought the ship had done just about everything it could by denying passengers with direct contact with anything to do with food and super cleaning everything touched by a passenger, but there was more. We went to the Buffet and found that everything was covered in plastic wrap. Previously a passenger could “point” and get very close to food they wanted. Now there was another barrier. Makes it a little more difficult for the short crew members to serve the food over the counter as the counter is not that short. Also, the crew stopped automatically bringing ice to the cabin and the passenger had to request ice. Not sure how or if that has changed, but we no longer have any drinking glasses in our cabins. I called and was told that all the glasses had to be sanitized before we would see any. It’s been seven hours and we still don’t have any glasses…..except for the ones we “borrow” from the dining room.