Santiago

OK, so the Travel With Alan plan was, we leave for Santiago on the 27th, arrive on the 28th, do some sightseeing for a couple days, then take a couple hour bus ride to Valparaiso where we would meet our ship on the 30th. The day we flew out of Cleveland was the day the east experienced one of its string of blizzards. The positive effect this had on us was that the plane going to Dallas was 1/3 empty and, more importantly, the plane going from Dallas to Santiago was 1/3 empty also! The two seats behind us were empty so Dianne went back there and we both got something like sleep!

We arrived in Santiago about 10:30 am local time and were promptly met by Alan people who, after we got our bags, directed us to a tour bus. We were immediately impressed by how toasty warm it was. 

Because our hotel rooms were not ready, Alan booked us a four hour tour of Santiago right off the plane. And, while we were all excited to see the sites, none of us, regardless of the routes we took to get there, were quite up to another four hours of captivity. Yet off we went. That is, some of the buses went. Ours, unfortunately was involved in a matter of miscommunication and we sat on the bus for an hour waiting for it to be settled. Then, vamanos!

After cruising around a while we arrived at our first destination, the Plaza de Armas, or central square, which features the national historical museum, the post office and the Metropolitan Cathedral:

Yellow building is national museum, next the post office, then, to left, with scaffolds, a cathedral.
Yellow building is national museum, next the post office, then, to left, with scaffolds, a cathedral.

The cathedral, not much to look at on the outside is quite beautiful on the inside…

Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral
Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral

From there we were off to the center of government, La Moneda Palace and the Plaza de la Ciudadanía (Citizenry Square).

Here is a young military dictator planning to take over the government.
Here is a young military dictator planning to take over the government.

Some of you history fans will recall that back in the ’70’s Chile elected a guy named Salvador Allende’ as president. Well, as it turned out Salvador was quite the leftist and soon a close bud of Fidel Castro. As you might imagine, a certain Richard Nixon took a rather dim view of this arrangement and was not at all bashful about getting the CIA involved in local politics. Well, one day Salvador awoke to find a multitude of army tanks parked about where I’m standing in the above photo, with their guns pointed in his direction. Like most of these guys, it was not as if he hadn’t been warned. And, before the day was over he either, a) committed suicide, or b) was assassinated. The result was the same.

Where Allende spent his last hours under considerable stress.
Where Allende spent his last hours under considerable stress.

And, as is typical on this continent, Allende’s successor, Augusto Pinochet, wasted no time at all in rounding up, torturing and killing Allende’s supporters, sympathizers, and suspected supporters and sympathizers. Thousands simply disappeared. Note to self: stay out of South American politics.

The Tale Begins…

First, to explain how we ended up going to Antarctica. A couple years ago Teri Stoner told us about a guy in Seattle who offered fantastic trips at incredibly low prices. To find out what he offers you have to subscribe to his free e-mail called Travel With Alan. So we did. And, sure enough, about every two weeks we received e-mails with incredible deals, all tied to the cruise industry.

In 2010 we took a cruise to Alaska, which was a fantastic experience. But, generally when we travel, it is just Dianne and me and we go at our own pace to places we have checked out on line many times over. Traveling with large groups on tight time lines has very little appeal. We travel for the experience, not just the sights.

Last year Dianne retired and, in addition to the many blessings that retirement brings, we how had the opportunity to look at travel over the winter months when prices are generally lower. After some discussion, we decided that this would be a perfect time to plan a trip to Hawaii, a place we have never been. So, I began the usual research, we talked to people who had been there, and we were literally within hours of nailing down plane trips and making reservations, when all of sudden we get an e-mail from Travel with Alan offering a huge discount for a trip to Antarctica!

Prior to receiving this e-mail we were not even aware that such a trip was possible, so it was nowhere on our “must see” priority list. Dianne and I received the e-mail separately, but we quickly agreed that this would be the trip of a lifetime and it was within our original budget for Hawaii. Within 24 hours after receiving the notice, we booked it.

Now, this is not just a trip to Antarctica. It begins in Santiago, Chile at the end of January, stops at a number of ports, rounds Cape Horn (a sailor’s dream) and proceeds to the frozen continent. After three days there, we head north to the Falkland Islands, then to Montevideo, Uruguay and finishes with two days in Buenos Aires, ending on February 18.

Well, not only was Antarctica not on our radar screen, the same could be said of almost all of South America. Our interests have long been in other places, especially Europe. At the time be booked the trip we knew almost nothing about Chile and the Falklands and very little about Argentina, except we had seen Madonna in the movie version of Evita. That was pretty much it.

These places at this time of year are in the last throes of summer, so we would be going from summer to winter and back to summer all in the course of a few weeks. Packing is never easy, but in this case it was a twisted puzzle. When we go overseas we just pack a carry-on, but we knew we’d never get away with that on this trip. It was too long and covered all four seasons. Plus, in a cruel twist, the cruise ship has formal nights. So, to the carry-ons we added one larger bag each. These were barely enough.

In spite of very short notice and all the other challenges, though, on January 27 found ourselves at the Cleveland airport, bound for Santiago.