Of course, when we arrived in Santiago itself, we anticipated seeing much damage from the recent 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked the country last month. And we saw practically nothing except for a few cracks in some buildings. Now, its could be that our hosts tried to steer us clear of the damage but, from at least what we saw with our own eyes, the country looks no different than it did when we visited less than year ago for TravelMart Latin America in September.
We began our first full day at a small restaurant in the heart of one of Santiago’s busiest shopping areas. We ate at El Galeon, which served a gluttonous amount of seafood from Chile’s trademark seafood dish of salmon to everything else from eel to lobster meat and shrimp to fish.
Next, we made our way to Santa Lucia Hill, a small area on top of a hill overlooking the entire city of Santiago and home to several historical and quite beautiful statues with the best coming in the form of the Palmera de Canaria. After a small hike that requires moderate fitness to the top of the Santa Lucia Hill, we took in views of the city, which reminded us of our trip to Havana, Cuba last year.
Myself and the nearly 20 other operators then made our way back on the bus for a ride through Alameda and Republic avenues, where we saw such landmarks as the San Francisco Church before stopping for an up close look at the Presidential Palace.
This historical building once housed the president of Chile back from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century. However the president of the country now resides in the home he lived in before being elected president.
The area surrounding the Presidential Palace is called the Constitutional Square, an area that is home to other buildings such as the treasury building, banks and other government facilities.
Our last notable stop of the day was at Santiago’s most famous cathedral, the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago. Of all the sites we’ve seen during the day, this was hands down the most beautiful. The statues inside were gorgeous and, unlike most churches we’ve visited during our travels, you are in fact allowed to use flash photography. The building was around since the early 1900s, with just a few refurbishments on the way.
After the full-day tour, we arrived at the Grand Hyatt Santiago. Although I literally just plopped my bags down and started writing, I can already tell this is probably one of Santiago’s classier hotels. It combines business with elegance and the room we are staying in, #508, is spacious, has a nice living area, terrific views of the city, a decent television and a king-size bed.
We are now off to dinner and then have to be up at 6 a.m. Friday for a flight to Patagonia.
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for more updates from our stay in Chile including reports from the USTOA meeting.