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26 December - Santiago
Breakfast time. A fairly simple buffet, but very much to our taste with decent fruit, yoghurt and granola, which is not always the case.
On my plate, there's some cheese, guacamole and a folded flatbread thingie; things which Amanda forswears because she's not as bold and brave as me, but they've all very nice. It would be marked down on "Four in a Bed", though: no full English, no points! [Hmm... should I have included that link? Might it detract from our public personas as deep and serious people? Oops...]
Never mind. Here's an arty farty picture of one of the light fittings.
So as I mentioned earlier, we have a city tour this morning. Our guide Tania and driver (whose name I hope I will remember before I publish this blog, but if you are reading this note, then obviously I haven't) meet us at the hotel and off we go.
Tania and me, both of us looking a bit dull and quiet, which is definitely a case of the camera does sometimes lie.
First stop is Parque Bicentario, where they have these rather unusual swans. Not white, not black, but both!
We're now going to walk around some more city-y bits, and Tania is quite worried that my camera will make me a target for muggers, so she persuades me to leave it in the car. I will slightly regret this later, but go along with her as the local expert. Amanda takes her phone, though, so that's where the next couple of pictures come from.
Tania doesn't know what this signifies. There's a sign, but it leaves none of us any the wiser. Ok, it's art. Need we say more?
There's street art and there's graffiti. It's a pity the latter spoils the former. Santiago has a lot of graffiti. Apparently much of it is a few years old now and reflects a period of civil unrest, but there's just no money to clean it all up.
Let's be honest, it's mostly just another city, but many otherwise modest buildings have these amazing art facades. That's got to be our takeaway from this part of the holiday.
According to the itinerary, after our city tour, we have a funicular trip up to San Cristóbal hill included. However, when Tania tries to buy the tickets for us, she's told that there has been a power outage and the service isn't running. She gets us bus tickets instead. We're just finishing lunch when she presents us with these tickets (and an explanation, of course), and while we say "thank you", we're both secretly wondering if we can be arsed. Not, "can we be arsed to go up the hill?", but "can we be arsed to wait for a bus?" I shouldn't really need to tell people that, but I guess if you are a new reader you won't know.
So yes, we walk to the bus stop, see no bus, start walking.
It's actually a nice walk. We follow the road for a bit, then take a footpath that's more direct but a bit steeper. Nothing in the same league - same universe even - as Gros Piton in St Lucia (see earlier story link), but it's still enough to put off 99.9% of tourists.
It makes the cactus plants we grown on our windowsill look a bit, err, well, yes... not that impressive!
This is what we're climbing towards.
When we get to the top, we are not expecting this!
Complete contrast, a fairly traditional Nativity scene. Life-size, though, not a little tabletop model.
If you need a wish to come true, pin something to the wall and light a candle. There are no candles burning as we watch, which means one of three things: a) everyone knows the candles are a waste of time, literally burning money; b) there is such intense demand for candles that the supply has run out; or c) wishes are being granted faster than people can make them, and nobody's managed to come up with a new wish recently.
The cable car is stationary, not running at all. It's from the other side of the mountain to us, so it wouldn't have been practical even if it was operating normally, and Amanda is not exactly a fan of cable cars. On past occasions, she's run or cycled up hills where I've taken the cable car and both of us have been happy that way.
The funicular we were told wasn't running seems to be running now. But although it's not entirely obvious from this picture, the cars are absolutely rammed with people, and as we look down the track, we can see it's heavily wooded on either side so the view of the city will have been pretty much nonexistent.
We'd take it back down, except that there's a long queue and it looks like it'll be just as crowded on the return journey too, so we just walk back the way we came.
Ok, bottom line: one of those places we're glad to have been but wouldn't have been heartbroken if we'd missed. Is it fair to say that about Santiago generally? Well, perhaps so. Really, we're here for the Southern Highway road trip. Let's move on.
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