Tuesday, September 13, 2016

* Celebrating Chile's National Day

The "Cueca", National Dance of Chile.
The "Cueca", Chile's National Dance - Photo: lasegunda.com 
     Fiestas Patrias, popularly known as "el Dieciocho", is the National Day which takes place in Chile every 18 September, depending on what day of the week the date falls, the celebrations can also include from 17 to 20 September. What it is actually commemorated is the creation of the First Government Junta on September 18, 1810, the first autonomous form of government emerged in Chile. The next day (19th) is celebrated "The Day of the Glories of the Army", with a Military Parade that takes place every year in the O'Higgins Park of Santiago, in the presence of the highest authorities of the country and people in general.


"Ramadas" and "Fondas"


 
Celebration of "Fiestas Patrias" (National Day) in Chile.
Celebration of the National Day with typical garments, Chile- Photo: 24horas.cl
   Without a doubt, the Fondas and Ramadas are the most popular meeting places to commemorate
 Fiestas Patrias. These venues are a kind of improvised restaurants, especially decorated for the occasion, usually with branches or leaves of typical trees and where the birthday of the country is celebrated enthusiastically. The "Cueca Chilena" is the main protagonist of all celebrations, since it is the National Dance. 

     Besides the typical Cueca of the central zone of the country, there are other variants such as the "Cueca Chilota", "Cueca Nortina", "Cueca Brava", "Cueca Chora" which is especially identified with the seaports of Central Chile, etc. But all have the common feature of being very lively and festive. During these parties as well as in all the folklore presentations you can see many people dressed as "Huasos" (countryman of the Central Zone) and "Chinas" (female Huaso) with their typical dresses dancing the Cueca. Also in these celebrations other dances are also popular such as the Cumbia ("imported" from Colombia, Panama, etc.) and other tropical sounds like the Salsa and even Mexican "Rancheras", very popular in Chile as well. As for gastronomy, the Chilean "Empanadas" are the most famous and traditional food. It consists of a dough either fried or baked stuffed with ground beef, onion, raisins, boiled egg and an olive. Also famous are the "Cazuela de Ave", a very filling chicken or hen soup, the "Anticuchos" ( Chilean style Brochettes) with beef, chicken, sausage, chorizo, onions, peppers besides the Chilean Roasts, Barbecues and the Choripan, a combined word to describe a chorizo in a piece of bread. Apart from the different types of wine, of which Chile is a major producer, the most requested drinks by those attending the Fondas and Ramadas are the Chicha, the Vino Pipeño (special kind of wine fermented in barrels), the Terremoto (Earthquake) a drink prepared from Pipeño wine, pineapple ice cream and grenadine, invented shortly after the earthquake in Chile in 1985. Its name refers to the effect produced after drinking it...., even another drink is the "Replica" (afterschock).  Another activity within the National Day (18 September) is the Te Deum, liturgy of Thanksgiving which takes place at 11.00 AM at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, with the presence of the highest authorities of the country, led by the President of the Republic.

Other activities


Military Parade, Santiago de Chile.
Military Parade at Parque O'Higgins - Photo: 24horas.cl
       On September 19th is celebrated the Day of the Glories of the Army, with a great Military Parade in the Ellipse of O 'Higgins Park. Chile is a country that stands out for having very disciplined and professional Armed Forces, and although this day was established in 1915 to commemorate the glories of the Army, military parades in Chile have been a tradition since 1832. That day (19th), the Army receives the homage of the rest of the armed institutions: Fuerza Aerea, Armada and Carabineros de Chile, with the presence of invited delegations of neighbors and friendly countries.   

     There is also fun for the family, in many schools are organized fund-raising events known as the Kermeses, in Parks and Avenues you can also you see the children raising their kites, taking advantage of the spring breeze that is already coming. Another traditional activity of this period, which for decades has been considered the National Sport, is the Chilean Rodeo (although lately has been questioned by the animal abuse that this sport might imply). This traditional activity is practiced in Chile since colonial times, so it is considered among the most typical Chilean festivities, at least of the Central part of the country. Another Chilean typical game, especially at this time of year, is the "Rayuela", which consists of throwing metal circular discs towards a stringline placed across the width of a small clay square.  


         




















Saturday, August 6, 2016

* Tourist attractions in Santiago de Chile



Monument to General Baquedano in Santiago, Chile.
Monument to General Baquedano, Santiago - Photo: Pixabay
      Santiago,  also known as Santiago de Chile to distinguish it from other cities of the same nameis the capital of the country. The population in 2014 reached just over 7 million.  Although founded in 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia, it was not until the late 18th. century that Santiago acquired the category of major city and especially the last few decades, have marked a great period of expansion. Today, Santiago is considered the most sustainable city in Latin America, -said by the Inter- American Development Bank-, and one of the most important tourist destinations in the South American Continent. 

    "Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez" is the International Airport of Santiago, also connected to the major cities of the country, meets the highest safety standards and is the most important point of arrival of international passengers. By land, there are  many border crossings connecting Chile  to the neighboring countriesthe most important and closest to Santiago being "Paso Los Libertadores", also known as "Cristo Redentor", 153 km from Santiago, in the Cordillera de Los Andes (Andes Mountain Range), altitude of 3,200 Mts., connects with the province of Mendoza, Argentina.


Santiago, Chile's capital city.
Santiago, the most sustainable city in Latin America according to the Inter- American Development Bank
     The Metropolitan Subway, known as Metro de Santiago, is recognized for its efficiency, advanced technology, cleanliness and safety for users. For the price of one ticket (about U.S. $ 1.2), you can do all the combinations you need through its 5 underground lines that go through the city. The surface transportation system known as "Transantiago" is constituted by a fleet of thousand buses, and has been slowly overcoming serious shortcomings from its start in 2007. It is expected that in the near term, it can meet  the expectations that were set from the beginning. On the other hand, the railway system, that in past decades played a great role  in the transport of passengers and cargo, today focuses its departures and arrivals only from Estacion Central of Santiago, covering the stretch to the city of Chillan by the South. From the bus terminals, which have now almost completely replaced the trains, there are departures and arrivals to/from almost all cities of the country and neighboring nations. Below I give you a list of places to visit in Santiago.


Places to visit in Santiago



 Palacio de La Moneda  



 
"La Moneda", Chile's Presidential Palace.
"La Moneda" Presidential Palace, Chile - Photo: Pixabay
     
 Seat of the Presidency of the Republic of Chile, building that marks the civic heart of the city of Santiago, normally open to pedestrian traffic through an inner alleyway that runs between Bernardo O'Higgins Av. and Moneda street.  The palace is much visited by national and foreign travellers, not only by virtue of being the seat of  Government but also due to the historical events it has witnessed.  It was bombed and partially burned in 1973, being promptly rebuilt with the same exterior architectural characteristics with which it was created, only modifying certain interior rooms. This Italian neoclassical palace, is also known as La Casa de Toesca (The Home of Toesca) recalling its designer Joaquin Toesca. It was inaugurated in 1805, this was the building where the coins ("monedas") were minted, hence its name. The Palacio de La Moneda can be internally visited each year for the "Dia del Patrimonio Cultural", celebrated every last Sunday of May when the most significant buildings for the country's history and culture are opened to visitors.


Plaza de la Constitucion


     The Plaza de la Constitucion is located in the Barrio Civico of Santiago, surrounded mostly by buildings intended for government offices, and a minority for trade. Until the early 1900s the place was a residential area, in 1925 began the construction of two large buildings, which until today belong to Ministries. Other buildings around the Plaza belong to "Palacio de la Moneda" (the Government Palace), the Municipality of Santiago, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, the Central Bank of Chile and the Minister of Labour. It is located within walking distance of the Metro Stations Universidad de Chile and La Moneda.


Catedral Metropolitana


     The Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago is the main Catholic temple in Chile. Its current building dates back to 1748, but before this church there were other edifices, destroyed by fires or earthquakes. In fact, the current building is the fifth erected on the site for the same purpose. The Cathedral is located in the heart of Santiago, on one side of the Plaza de Armas, place today known as the "Km. 0 of Chile". Since 1952 the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago de Chile is a National Monument, it also has an incalculable historical value for the country because here lie the remains of many bishops of the Chilean Catholic Church, other great personalities and is the place to celebrate the most important commemorative ceremonies of the Nation, as the "Te Deum Ecumenico" of the Independence Day.


Mercado Central  


         One of the most traditional places to eat in Santiago, declared Historical Monument, 3 blocks away from Plaza de Armas, much visited by tourists. This is one of the most representative places of Chilean popular culture, you can go to many typical restaurants that specialize in serving both national and international travellers, with rich gastronomy based on fish and seafood. There is also a large variety of handicraft stores, meat, fish and vegetable stands, etc.


San Cristobal Hill and Metropolitan Park 


 
Metropolitan Park, Santiago de Chile.
San Cristobal Hill - Photo: Pixabay
   
      Parque Metropolitano de Santiago i
s a large urban green space, under the jurisdiction of the Ministerio de la Vivienda y Urbanismo, with more than 720 hectares that make it the largest in Chile and also in Latin America. Made up by hills San Cristobal, Chacarillas, Los Gemelos and intermediate sectors, the heart of this urban park is Cerro San Cristobal, on whose summit can be seen from any point of  the city the image of the Inmaculada Concepcion, huge statue of Virgin Mary brought from Paris in the early twentieth century. At its base is the Sanctuary from where Pope John Paul II blessed the city and the country during his visit to Chile in 1987. Near is located the Terraza Bellavista (Bellavista Terrace),  viewpoint  from where you have a good panoramic of Santiago  and where  is also located the Estacion Cumbre (Summit Station of the Funicular). Further down the hill, the Funicular also stops at the Zoo Station, where visitors to the National Zoological Park get down to visit   a wide variety of native and exotic fauna. There is also the Cable Car, currently undergoing repairs, but it is expected that by the 2016 it will start functioning again.

     
A relic and Historical Monument of the Metropolitan Park is the  "Manuel Foster" Astronomical Observatory, more than 100 years of existence (since 1903) with its almost original equipment. Other attractions in the park are the Tupahue and Antilen swimming pools, Restaurants, Convention Centers, Anfiteatro de las Naciones y las Artes "Pablo Neruda", Plaza de Juegos de Niños "Gabriela Mistral", botanical gardens, lookouts,  numerous trails frequented by sportsmen, etc. 



Cerro Santa Lucia  (Santa Lucia Hill) 


      Situated at the center of the city, very close to the metro station of the same name. It is a small hill (69 mts. height) called Huelén by the pre- Columbian natives, the History of Santiago is reflected here from its birth until now. Its main importance lies in the fact  that precisely here, under the shelter of the hillock, was founded the city of Santiago on February 12, 1541. On the southern slope of the hill, carved in stoneis the reproduction of the letter sent by Pedro de Valdiviafounder of the city to the Emperor Carlos V, reporting enthusiastically about the new conquered lands  and the advantages of settling in Chile. During the colonial period, the hill served as a watchtower and fortifications with their defense batteries were built atop the summit. In 1872, on the initiative of the Mayor of Santiago, Benjamin Vicuña Mackenna, begins a complete remodeling plan to transform the area into a public promenadeFrom then until today, the Santa Lucia Hill is one of the most visited places in Santiago for its easy access, exceptional location and beautiful environment. An old tradition is the  cannon shot  fired daily exactly at twelve o'clock to announce noon.


Parque Forestal


     This urban park has to date over one hundred years of existence since it was created in the early twentieth century, however it continues to be one of the main green lungs of Chile´s capital. It is located in the northern area of the commune of Santiago, flanked on the North side by the Mapocho River. On the south sidewalk of the park there is a continuous facade of elegant buildings, these residences of the fifties and sixties are today highly prized for its view of the park and its central location. Along the park, from the Pio Nono Bridge on the East to the Mapocho Cultural Center, you can tour significant and emblematic places such as Lastarria and Bellas Artes Quarters, the Centro Historico, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Fuente Alemana (German Fountain) and other important monuments of the city. One of the biggest attractions during the tour through the Parque Forestal is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts). The neoclassical building designed by the Chilean- French architect Emile Jequier displays an interesting sculpture collection made by Chilean artists. Behind the Museum is located one of the sites of the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art.


Barrio Bellavista


Barrio Bellavista (Bellavista neighborhood), Santiago de Chile.
Loreto St. in Barrio Bellavista - Photo: latercera.com
     Barrio Bellavista, created in 1920 as a residential area, nowadays has become the bohemian and artistic neighborhood of Santiago par excellence. Currently, pubs and clubs abound which liven up the capital's nightlife, as well as theaters, art galleries, craft shops and a variety of international restaurants. Famous places are the Patio Bellavista, ideal site to buy gifts and souvenirs of Chile as it has a wide range of fine handicraft shops, textiles, jewelry, copperware, books and other souvenirs of Santiago, and very especially "La Chascona", one of the houses belonging to Pablo Neruda, Chilean Nobel Prize for Literature.


Museums, Culture in Santiago 


  The Chilean Capital is not just a busy city, of great economic dynamism but there is also a good space for a diversity of Museums and cultural activities. Santiago offers a wide variety of galleries to learn more about the culture of the country, its people, history, art and natural wonders. For information about culture in Santiago visit my page Museums and Culture in Santiago.



Chilean National Zoo  


     Occupying an area of 4.8 hectares on the SE slope of Cerro San Cristobal (San Cristobal Hill), Metropolitan Park of Santiago. It is the main Zoo in Chile, with more than a thousand animals.  For almost a century, since 1925, it has been a traditional place to visit, among others, for its beautiful natural surroundings and prime location within the city. It is worth mentioning that the complete tour of the Zoo is quite tiring, as the hill has many different levels and one is going up and down continuosly. In summer you should be prepared to beat the heat (in my first visit when I was a child I suffered severe sunstroke).  
Summer Hours: 10:00 to 18:00 Hrs.
Winter hours: 10:00 to 17:00 Hrs.



 Buinzoo Zoological Park   


Zoo near Santiago, Chile.
Buinzoo, near Santiago - Photo: Pixabay
      Address: Km 32 of the Panamericana Sur, commune of Buin. 12 hectares with over 2000 specimens belonging to 400 species, separated according to their places of origin make up the largest Chilean Zoo. Shows and spectacles that delight both children and adults are often offered.  This zoo was created almost unintentionally, for the dedication of the Veterinarian Ignacio Idalsoaga who owned a pig farm in the place and spent part of his time healing sick or injured animals which were brought from the surroundings. After decades, BuinZoo has achieved great reputation for its conservation initiative, care of endangered species and improvement programs for optimal animal health. In fact, in April 2016, the Zoo celebrated the birth of its first baby giraffe, 1.70 mts. in height, in a completely natural birth and under the watchful eye of the veterinary team of the park that did not need to intervene.
Hours: Monday to Friday: 9:00 to 18:00 hrs.
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays: 10:00 to 19:00 hrs.


Parque O'Higgins  


     76 Hectares urban park in Santiago's downtown, with picnic areas and artificial ponds, formerly called Parque Cousiño. Here each September 19 are commemorated the Glories of the Army  with a large military parade in the "ellipse" of the park. During the days of Fiestas Patrias (Independence Days) September 17, 18 and 19  many popular celebrations  are held in dozens of venues that open especially for the occasion, called "fondas" and "ramadas". This area of the Park is known as the "Pueblito del Parque O'Higgins". The gastronomic offer here is varied, although the most representative product is the "Chilean empanada", either fried or oven, of meat, shellfish and other varieties, also the different types of wine, "chicha" and prepared drinks, some of them wittily called according to the national idiosyncrasy as the "Terremoto" ("Earthquake"), the "Replica"  ("Aftershock") or "Tsunami". Other attractions of what was the "Pueblito" (Little Village) are the Feria y Plaza de Artesanias (Crafts Fair), the "Museo del Huaso", a complete  exhibition dedicated to the countryside man of Central Chile and his environment, the Aquarium (Acuario del Parque O'Higgins), showing the underwater world with more than 1,000 specimens of over 70 species. There is also the Museo de Paleontologia (Paleontology Museum of Chile) to learn from the past of life on earth through a fascinating display with replicas of dinosaurs, fossils of leaves, stems and marine life, a small sample of amber, resins into which there are insects of forty million years, remains of bones and dinosaur eggs, part  of a meteorite that fell in Russia in 1933, etc. A few meters away  is the Museo de Insectos y Caracolas  (Museum of Insects and Conches) that offers a very interesting exhibit of the entomological diversity throughout Chile and other parts of the World, with more than 1,500 native and exotic species like giant Butterflies, Rhinoceros Beetles, large Phasmatodeas from India and many others, all with didactic explanations and where one can appreciate the complete metamorphosis process.

     Another icon of Parque O'Higgins is the multipurpose events center "Movistar Arena",  a World class facility, famous for the artistic shows, Rock festivals and all kinds of Cultural and Sport activities that are performed there.  Also a great attraction in Parque O'Higgins is "Fantasilandia" Amusement Park,  just in front of the "Movistar Arena", with its 7.5 Hs. and more than one million visits a  year is the largest in Chile and one of the most important in Latin America. 
     There  is also the "Centro Deportivo y Recreativo" (Sports and Recreation Center), with excellent facilities for the practice of various sports and the recently inaugurated heated Olympic Swimming Pool, with a really wonderful infrastructure, this being the first of many  innovations expected for the coming years.


Parque Bicentenario 


Parque Bicentenario (Bicentenario Park, Santiago, Chile).
Parque Bicentenario at sunset - Photo: radiozero.cl
     30 Hs. green belt, located in Vitacura Commune, one of the areas known as the "Barrio Alto" (district of the wealthiest people), north east of Greater Santiago. This park is of very recent creation, its maintenance and facilities are excellent, in its central part is located the local government building. It has grown into one of the attractions of Santiago since it is a very good option to enjoy nature, it is like an oasis in the big city. Though still young, there are over 4,000 trees, many of which are native species, there are two artificial ponds, in one of which live flamingos, black-necked swans, ducks, herons and fishes, in the other pond exotic aquatic plants are cultivated. Parque Bicentenario de Santiago is exceptional for relaxing, picnicking, doing sports, with places for pets and for the little ones to have fun, music, movie and theater performances, on the northeastern end of the park there is a restaurant called El Mestizo,  which provides an amazing natural sight.
  

Parque Ines de Suarez  

 
     Address:  1510 Antonio Varas St., Providencia Commune, the name Ines de Suarez reminds the companion and mistress of Pedro de Valdivia, conqueror of Chile, and with whom he founded the city of Santiago in 1541. It is a 5 Hs. enclosed green area, considered a very safe place for visitors, small Park but very entertaining, of very easy access, special for doing sports, picnics, with playgrounds, hiking and biking trails. This part of Santiago is also famous for the "Fondas"  and "Ramadas", venues where Chile's National Days are celebrated every year on September 17, 18 and 19th. 


Fantasilandia Amusement Park    

 

 
Fantasilandia Amusement Park, Santiago, Chile.
Photo: latercera.com
   This recreational area of about 8 hectares was opened on January 1978, situated in the famous Parque O'Higgins, just at the back of the Movistar Arena, not far away from Parque O'Higgins Metro Station. Today Fantasilandia is one of the most important amusement parks in Latin America, receiving annually more than one million visits. The park has fun for all ages, even for the little ones, because apart from having the thrilling Suspended Looping Coaster known as Raptor, the Boomerang Roller Coaster, the Kamikaze Ride, the Evolution Ride, the Tsunami and many others, there is also an area specially equipped for children called Fantasilandia Kids, with more than 14 children and family games, so that kids either alone or accompanied by their parents can enjoy a healthy and exciting fun adapted to their age.  
Location: 938 Beaucheff Av., Santiago.


Ski Centers in Chile 

     
    The Andes Mountain Range has been generous  to provide fantastic natural settings for the practice of winter sportsand the Chilean Ski Centers have taken advantage of this opportunity provided by Nature.  The season begins in mid-June and extends to mid-October. High season usually runs from early July until the end of August. In the south of the country there are also other important ski fields and resorts mentioned in post Southern Chile.  The most important Ski Fields near Santiago are:

* La Parva Ski Center
* Farellones Ski Center
* Valle Nevado Ski Center           
* El Colorado Ski Center
* Portillo Ski Center (Province of Los Andes, Region of Valparaiso)
* Lagunillas Ski Center