Reminiscing about my trip to Patagonia and the southern tip of the Americas, I think about what I didn’t get to see… Somehow, 7 months later, Patagonia’s grasp on my mind and my spirit is still very strong. I don’t know if it is the remoteness, the “unspoiltness” (though there is tourism there), the closer-to-how-it-used-be, or just a magnificent nature landscape. But Patagonia has got hold of me. I long to return. I’d thought I’d write down those things I would have liked to have time for in case I can go back again – then all I would have to do is look up this entry and, voilá, my travel plans are ready! And perhaps help a fellow traveler or dream-of-traveler…
Towards the top of the list is that I never actually made it to Tierra del Fuego proper. I thought I was going to TdF by going to Punta Arenas but it turns out TdF is the island across the Straits of Magellan from Punta Arenas and my itinerary had me going NORTH and SOUTH of Punta Arenas but not EAST… Now, I am not sure what I would have seen there that would have been worth the trip but, definitely, I would have liked to explore it. (The thought that I went SOUTH of Punta Arenas but didn’t make it to TdF is somehow mindboggling, n’est-ce pas?)
In TdF, Ushuaia would have been the thing I wanted to see the most. A few travelers told me that it was way more beautiful than Punta Arenas and I can imagine that it would be as Punta Arenas as a town was not necessarily scenic nor quaint for the most part.
While I got to navigate a fjord near Puerto Natales and saw plenty of lakes and a couple of glaciers, I would have liked to go further west and north of the area navigating fjords up the Chilean coast. THAT would be a dream. Going to TdF would be about checking it off. Going to Ushuaia would be special. But spending time up and down all those fjords… well, that would be like something.
And, while at it, a cruise through the southern/eastern side of the Straits of Magellan all the way down to Cabo de Hornos would have been a cool thing to do – but taking some dramamine along as I hear the waters can be quite choppy (and that may be soft-pedaling the water conditions from the stories other travelers told me…). Lowest in my priorities for this return trip but worth noting.
Finally, I would go back to the nice hotel in between Puerto Natales and Cerro Castillo called Hotel Posada 3 Pasos (http://www.hotel3pasos.cl check it out but don’t DARE tell folks about it!!) and spend a few days in the quiet and the beauty that now I understand to be the essence of Patagonia. This would be my TOP priority if I go back…
View from the grounds of Hotel 3 Pasos
Tasmania was an enchanting place to visit. The greenery, the remoteness, and yes, something different about the Australia and Australians I had seen so far. The natural beauty was impressive. We stayed at the Cradle Mountain Lodge, which we greatly enjoyed, and hiked up to the lake on a winter day in June of 2009. I wrote about the trip back then in the entries below, but I thought I’d highlight again Tasmania by sharing some photos from the visit.
Getting to Tasmania and the plan – read more here.
Going to Cradle Mountain and beyond – read more here.
Around Wineglass Bay and ending in Hobart – read more here.
(Captured with Canon EOS Rebel)
(Captured with Canon EOS Rebel)
Around the lodge
The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia is a fabulous building (actually a series of connected buildings, one of which is the “real” Hermitage). The museum contains, of course, great pieces of art. It is also a historical site having being built in 1764 by Catherine the Great as the Winter Palace (more about the Winter Palace: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermitage_Museum). But it is definitely an architectural jewel.
In another post I shared pictures of the spectacular chandeliers. Here I would like to focus on theceilings. I do not think I have seen ceilings like these in other European palaces, though perhaps it is more that the style of these ceilings is more to my taste not because other palaces’ ceilings are not spectacular in their own right.
While I am not obsessed with chandeliers and the like, I noticed after getting home from visiting St. Pete (as I call it), how many pictures of chandeliers I took at The Hermitage (and of the ceilings). They are definitely elegant but their designs were not too stuffy. Not being a connoisseur, but still having opinions, I would say they were made to be interesting not over-bearing. (Click on the picture to see a larger version.)
Any experts out there who can enrich the readers??
A lot of my international travels have been part of or enabled by work. Whether is being asked if in 24 hours I could leave for Helsinki to spend 3 weeks there in the middle of winter, or whether the miles accumulated by years of sometimes-weekly travel have allowed me to go out of the country for vacation, work has always been a key factor in my exploring. I would say it is second only to my zest for travel and exploring!
As part of this reflection, I thought it would be cool to capture where all have I been to related to work whether for a one-day meeting to year+ assignments. Here it goes!
In Germany, my discoveries were how great German food is (not just the ones I had known like wursts). Also, my colleagues made it a point of making sure they were showing me places like beer halls and good restaurants and that hospitality -no offense intended- took me by surprise, especially when compared to other countries where I had expected a warmer culture.
Sulzbach/Bad Soden (outside of Frankfurt, Germany)
I have been to a good bit of France but for work these two sites were it. In the Riviera, I enjoyed being by the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean and yet seeing the Alps at a distance, staying in Cannes or Nice, depending on the week and the mood! Paris, well, what can I say. An incredible city even if it was hard to develop social contacts due to the long hours at work and perhaps the language barrier (I spoke basic French then; medium after I left there and focused on learning the language).
View from the terrace of the apartment building where I lived in Paris!
Basically shuttling between client offices in both towns. I was amazed at how small the country is and yet how exotic it felt to me. Den Haag much more subdued than Amsterdam. Amsterdam, just phenomenally interesting. Getting to work with the Dutch allowed to see how their cultural traits are unique and how some of the stereotypes I had heard of showed up in work settings.
Den Haag (The Netherlands)
Amsterdam (The Netherlamnds)
The rest of the European work sites were of shorter durations than the ones above with the longest being 3 weeks. But they all allowed me to explore each of the places and/or visit with friends who lived in those places. Work definitely gave me a good opportunity to see more of Europe. How else would I have spent 3 weeks in Helsinki had it not been for work?!
View of Oslo Fjord
My experiences in Latin America have been phenomenal. Perhaps the cultural affinity or the approach to life, especially in Brazil, but I have seldom been disappointed or failed to enjoy my stay.
Chile trumps all other places in L.A. by sheer duration of my work experience there (over a year). I had worked there many, many yrs before (check my other blog entries) and I got to see more of the country in that year. What a beautiful country!
In Peru, I got to explore more off the beaten path locations by the nature of the work assignment. I got to see many places the average tourist sees and many they would never get to. And, I got to enjoy the food of Lima which is just outstanding!
Brazil offered me good food and great fun besides the work. Spending weekends in Rio or going out for the nightlife of Sao Paulo, Brazil never disappointed.
Sao Paulo (Brazil)
Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Panama City (Panama)
Church in Barrio Bellavista, Santiago
Here I definitely got to see some diverse places from Muslim and Arab Egypt, to deep Africa in Tanzania, to cosmopolitan cities in South Africa (I visited Cape Town too but not for work). I have enjoyed the unique experiences each offered whether it was visiting HIV/AIDS patients in the rural areas around Mwanza, to going for food in very local places in massive Cairo, to getting into the history of apartheid in Joburg.
Johannesburg (South Africa)
Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Stone Town (Tanzania)
At the Apartheid Museum in Joburg
I got to spend a LOT of time in Toronto and had a lot of fun with a great crew of Canadians whose key contribution to my skill sets was to have me start calling a puck “puck” and not “the thing”. I also learned that I needed better pacing drinking Canadian beer as it was stronger than the American variety. Finally, I learned how to curl (as in the game/sport).
What has been your most interesting and rewarding international work experience??
Santiago de Chile may be, as Chileans themselves could be thought to be, understated; but the city -again like Chileans- has a wealth and depth that you may miss initially if you don’t look for it!
Santiago likely offers many places to stay in every budget range so I will leave that part to other websites. What is harder to get from a hotel/accommodation website is the various parts of town. Life is very different in Santiago depending on which sector you stay at. The closer to the mountains, the less traditional things get and the more U.S.-like (if that is a fair comparison which it may not be). For example, the eastern suburbs sport the fancier and more standard malls, like Parque Arauco (expensive but an interesting place to hang out on weekend afternoons people-watching!). I stayed next to Parque Arauco at the Santiago Marriott which offered incredible views of the Andes. My favorite rooms were high up (earthquakes aside!) and facing the Andes. But I never said no to a corner suite facing elsewhere
Office buildings near Parque Arauco
The Centro – The Old Heart of Santiago
The closer to the centro, the more colorful and traditional the city becomes. The centro will tend to be of more interest to someone wanting to explore and get to understand how Chile is unique and how Santiago evolved over time. No matter which end of town you enjoy more (notice “north” and “south” did not enter this discussion), one thing you can be certain of is that the majestic Andes will be your faithful compass as you move around the city…
The centro is the only area in Santiago that suffered to any significant extent during the February 2010 earthquake (which I missed by one and a half days, something I am VERY thankful about!). The structures in the centro are old and pre-date, by a good bit, the great building code currently in place (which likely saved countless lives in this earthquake – following rules pays off; other countries need to learn from Chile…).
Santiago offers some really interesting sights, starting from the imposing like Cerro San Cristóbal which one can visit by taking a funicular or by hiking it. The views of the city from there are unparalleled. But, to me, the best part of Santiago is the part that you walk around and discover on your own. West of the centro but still in the centro are very picturesque neighborhoods like Concha y Toro (yes, named like the winery) with old buildings with architecture of the period and also some still bearing the marks of the February 2010 earthquake. Walk around early in the morning when the light is best and bring your camera if you want some really neat shots.
Driving around Santiago’s Interesting Neighborhoods
One Saturday morning, I hired a taxi to drive me around to whatever the driver thought was worth seeing. It was a great way to view Santiago from a local resident’s eyes and gave me many great photo opportunities!
A picturesque neighborhood I discovered this way was Barrio Patronato. An older part of Santiago with lots of life and charm, normally overlooked probably due to being close to the more popular Barrio Bellavista.
Barrio Patronato architecture
Church near Barrio Patronato
Street scene near Barrio Patronato
Another discovery was the Cementerio General de Santiago, one of the largest in Latin America with over 2M burials and many former presidents!
Statues in front of the Cementario General de Santiago
Mausoleum in the Cementerio General de Santiago
Other parts near the centro, like near the university, are great areas to walk around during the day. Sit down somewhere and watch life go by. Perhaps even chat up a local – I have never been disappointed at the thoughtfulness of their opinions be them political, cultural, or otherwise. In fact, taxi drivers in Chile have helped me understand the events of 1973 much better than any history book as they lived that history.
The Mercado Central
Near the centro is the Mercado Central. This is a place to be observed and discovered with just about all senses.
Walk around the seafood stalls and marvel at the freshness and color of the catch. Stop at one of the local places and have lunch and perhaps a pisco. An experience!
Some unlucky fellas…
Parque de los Dominicos
El Parque de los Domínicos is an arts and crafts market in Santiago on the east side of the city where many artisans still make their crafts and then sell them. It is a historic site and worth seeing (the metro drops you right there on its last stop) even if you can find better bargains elsewhere.
The Barrio Bellavista district is the home of Pablo Neruda’s home, many artistic murals, nice architecture, and some good eateries. It is also home to Patio Bellavista which felt too forced for me but it may be to your liking as it has a good amount of open dining areas and shops. I prefer to spend the time outside of Patio Bellavista in the neighborhood proper (Santiago Colonial was a good choice for dining).
And that gets me to dining… I had plenty a good meal in Santiago, whether Japón or Osaka for sushi; Cuero Vaca, Don Carlos or Ox for beef; Tiramisu for pizza, etc. I have a whole list and if you are interested, just drop me a note and I can send. Again, lots of local input in building the list and I greatly enjoyed hitting as many of them as possible. Rarely disappointed and plenty of repeat-visits to the ones listed above!
The question for someone coming to Chile to explore the entire country is how much to spend in Santiago. Yes, it has some very good dining but so do many other cities, so is that what makes it special enough for you to linger longer?
(Photos taken with Canon EOS Rebel)
Old world charm in the new world. Streets that have seen a lot of history and major empires fighting for them. Old San Juan’s charm lies in its setting by the water, in its history, and in its well-preserved architectural jewels (including the “adoquines“, the cobblestone used to pave the streets a few centuries ago). The wavey adoquines resemble the sea around Old San Juan, reminding us of its place in the Spanish Empire as a key port.
Cobblestoned streets with their modern load