December 8-9, 2012: Thanks to the religious procession that closed the road from Valparaiso, I only spent one night in Santiago, although since my flight to Miami left at nearly midnight I had a day and a half to check out the city. The Yellow House had recommended the Rio Amazonas, and it was well situated just south of the restaurants in Bellavista (although I had to skirt a small riot on the way back from dinner). The friendly staff even let me shower after my day’s sightseeing. But my room was London-small, and without AC, and I had some doubts about the sheets.
Unfortunately, the one place I really wanted to visit in Santiago, the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolumbino, was closed for renovation, which is why I had already decided I should start my next trip to South America back in Santiago. Meanwhile, I checked off the Museo Historico Nacional – missable aside from a temporary exhibition of fancy dress – and the Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos – definitely NOT missable. I spent much longer in the second museum, absorbing an excellently presented history of the horrors of the military dictatorship, which lasted from 1973 to 1990, before wandering through part of the neighboring park, full of families enjoying themselves.
I also wandered around a fair amount of central Santiago, enjoying a varied collection of buildings that ranged from Spanish baroque to very modern. I made it up the smaller of the two hills, Santa Lucia, noted the parlous state of the river Mapocho, and tried to avoid the lunchtime crowds in the huge Plaza de Armas. I had thought about staying in the Barrio Paris Londres and was disappointed to find how small it was. I approved of the metro, but didn’t try the buses. I even bought the first and only souvenir of the whole trip, although the copper fish I found in the Rio Amazonas’ gift shop was intended as a present.
As a last extravagance I took a taxi out to the airport. US-bound passengers were sent to a separate security area, where we had to take off our shoes. Then, after we had handed in our boarding passes and were headed for the jet-way, we all had to undergo a second check of hand luggage. No liquids, none, nada, aside from the quart bag, could be carried on to the plane. The water I had bought after clearing security was firmly, if politely, confiscated. Good thing I hadn’t bought any duty free alcohol or perfume! This security theater has become beyond ridiculous.
At least the plane was only one third full, allowing us the almost forgotten luxury of spreading out, and I did get some sleep on the way to Miami. I had enjoyed visiting South America, although the scenery easily out-shone the cities, and already planned to go back to Santiago to travel through the northwest section – Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia…