Our tour group slowly disintegrates. We leave S and T in San Pedro de Atacama. S is taking a later flight to Santiago and T is staying for a few extra days. We leave J in Calama as he is taking a later flight also. We say good bye to Liz, our wonderful tour guide, in Calama as she will be traveling back to Sucre, Bolivia, where she lives. Five board the flight to Santiago and when we arrive there, we say goodbye to A, N and J, who are traveling to England straight away. So, our group of nine is now only Murray and me and we are now in Santiago, Chile!
We notice a few things right away. There are TONS of people here! The population is 7 million, so I guess the wide sidewalks should be crowded.
We saw very few smokers in Boliva. Here there are many smokers. Wonder why?
There is a definite police presence in the plazas downtown. Police on foot, police on horseback and police with dogs. They seem to be in place to discourage the pick pockets and petty thieves. They chat with folks who stop and ask questions, so they are friendly, if not the dogs, who look ready to pounce on someone.
In our wandering this afternoon, we discover quite a few pedestrian only streets. The streets are filled with stores, from clothes to shoes to electronics, and the walkways are filled with people, shopping, going for lunch or just out for a stroll.
The gem we find today is the Estacion Mapocho, a train station built in 1912 and decommissioned in 1987. It was designed by Jecquier, a Chilean architect living in France and has that French feeling as soon as we step in the door. It is a grand station with vaulted ceilings in the foyer. It is being used as an cultural center now with a number of restaurants inside. We take a pause to sit on a 100 year old bench and to ponder the grandeur of this structure.
I think Santiago will be more to our tastes than San Pedro de Atacama. Just the architecture lifts our spirits. Two full days here to come, and I wonder what other gems we might discover.