Czech Republic – Prague

I spent the last two days exploring the beautiful city of Prague. Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, has an extremely rich history dating back to 1306 BC. I’m going to dive into the history of how the Czech Republic came to be, and then go into detail about the sights that I saw.

Prague’s History

The city was founded as Boihaem in 1306 BC by King Boyya. Around the 4th century BC a Celtic tribe appeared in the area and setup settlements, which eventually became suburbs of Prague. The region was named the Region of Bohemia, which means “home of the Hoii people”.

The Celts were eventually driven away by Germanic tribes. In the late 5th Century AD, during the great Migration Period following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes living in Bohemia moved west and the Slavic’s moved in. During the next three centuries the Czechs and Zlicanis built several fortified settlements in the area, and eventually the fortified settlement where Prague Castle now stands today was built towards the tail end of the 9th century. The cathedral construction began in 1344, but wasn’t completed until the 20th century, but more on that later on. The area was an important trading center, where merchants from all over Europe came together.

In 1805, Vratislav II became the first Czech king. In 1310 the Holy Roman emperor john of Luxembourg became king of Bohemia. The city blossomed in the 14th century under Luxembourg ruling during the reign of Charles IV. Prague became one of Europe’s largest and wealthiest cities. In 1355, Charles IV was elected as the Holy Emperor and Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.

During the 15th century there were religious conflicts between Hussite and the Roman Catholic Church in Bohemia. This was caused by Jan Hus’s church reform movement, which eventually led to his conviction and his death. This provoked Jan Zelivsky, a Hussite preacher, to rebel. Catholic councillor were thrown from the top of the New Town Hall, and Prague was then ruled by the Hussite’s. Unfortunately many historical monuments were destroyed and Prague Castle also became damaged.

In 1526, the Habsburg dynasty began ruling Prague. Prague Castle was reconstructed. In 1575, Rudolf II was crowed as the Holy Emperor. During the Habsburg Ruling Prague became known as the center of science and alchemy. Many famous scientists were attracted to Prague during this time.

The 17th Century was known as the Dark Age due to multiple uprisings starting in 1618. In 1620, the Battled of White Mountain took place and the Protestants were defeated leading to the loss of Prague’s independence. The Saxons began occupying Prague and the Swedes moved into Hradčany and Malá Strana in 1648. The city’s population started to decline, and roughly 50% of the population decided to leave.

In 1784, the city was divided up into four independent urban areas by Jospeh II; Staré město/Old Town, Lesser Town/Malá Strana, Hradčany and Nové město/New Town. During this time, the National Revival, a Czech nationalist movement began that brought the Czech language, culture and identity back into existence.

The Industrial Revolution was a booming time in Prague, with many industries setting up shop. In 1845 a railway was built between Vienna and Prague. There was a massive influx of people moving into Prague.

Prague became the capital of the independent Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918. During World War II Prague was occupied by the German Nazi’s. After the war, Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent state. In 1946 the communists became the dominant party and formed a coalition government with other socialist parties. In 1948 the communists seized power. In the 1950’s the country suffered harsh repression and decline, and many Stalin style practices were adopted by the Communist Part of Czechoslovakia (KSC). Eventually these people in charge of the KSC were executed.

On November 17th 1989, the Velvet Revolution occurred, which ended communism making Czechoslovakia a democratic country. In January 1990 the first democratic elections were conducted, with Vaclav Havel becoming the president. On January 1st 1993 Czechoslovakia was split into two independent countries; Slovakia and Czech Republic, with Prague becoming the capital of Czech Republic.

Petrin Tower

The Petrin Tower was built in 1891 and resembles the Eiffel Tower. It was built for the World’s Jubilee Exhibition and was completed in only four months. It was used as an observation tower as well as a transmission tower. The tower sits in the centre of Petrin Hill, about a half hour walk up steep paths. There are two observation platforms accessible via 299 stairs for 150 CZH ($8.50 CDN) or via an elevator for 210 CZH ($11.85 CDN). The stairs are setup in a double-helix structure allowing visitors to travel up and down concurrently. At the top you’re gifted with some beautiful views of Prague Castle and the surrounding area below.

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Prague Castle & Surrounding Area

Prague Castle is a massive castle complex that was built between 870 and 1929. It is considered the largest ancient castle in the world and occupies over 750,000 square feet of space. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic and was a seat of power for numerous kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room somewhere inside of it. It’s history began in 870 when the Church of the Virgin Mary was built. Eventually a Romanesque palace was erected during the 12th century, and numerous expansions and fires have occurred since.

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Charles Bridge & Old Town Bridge Tower

Old Town Bridge Tower was built in the late 14th century during the ruling of Emperor Charles IV. It was designed by Petr Parléř. It is on the south end of Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge was built between 1357 and 1402. It was the replacement for the damaged Judith Bridge that was built between 1158 and 1172, which was washed out in a flood in 1342. It was the only means of crossing the river Vltava until 1841. Many people congregate on the bridge and live music often occurs here.

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Dancing House

Dancing House, also known as Fred and Ginger; a nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building, was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot. The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996. The building recieved its nickname after the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, as the house resembles a pair of dancers.

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St. Wenceslas Church

St. Wenceslas Church was built in 1930 as a commemoration of the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia. This was one of three buildings built for the commemoration. The Art Deco style church stands fairly tall at 50 metres tall.

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The Church of the Most Sacred Heart

The Church of the Most Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic church that was built between 1929 and 1932. It was designed by architect Jože Plečnik. This was one of the other buildings built to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia.

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Church of St. Ludmila

The Church of St. Ludmila is a neo-gothic Roman Catholic church at Náměstí Míru (Peace Square). The church was built between 1888 and 1892 to honor St. Ludmila of Bohemia. The church has two 60.6 metre tall towers with bells and a tall cable with a portal above the main entrance, which is adjourned with sculptures.

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Narodni Museum

The Narodni Museum (National Museum of Prague) was originally founded in 1796 by the first president of the Society of the Patriotic Museum, Count Sternberk, who served as the trustee and operator of the museum at the time. The museum’s original focus was that of natural sciences. The museum became too small and the current location was built in 1818, but it didn’t actually acquire any historical objects until the 1830’s and 1840’s, when Romanticism arose. Today the museum houses over 14 million items in its collection. This is a must see if you’re into museums!

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Žižkov Television Tower

The Žižkov Television Tower was built between 1985 and 1992. It was designed by architect Václav Aulický. The tower is constructed of steel tubes filled with concrete. The tower was built for a fairly low cost of only $19 million. The tower stands at 216 metres tall and has an observation deck at 93 metres, a hotel room at 70 metres, and a restaurant at 66 metres.

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Astronomical Clock Tower

The Prague Astronomical Clock Tower is a medieval astronomical clock that was built in 1410. It’s the third oldest astronomical clock in the work, and the oldest clock still in operational use. The clock was made by clockmakers  Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel. The clock mechanism has three main components; 1) the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details, 2) an hourly clockwork of figures of the Apostles, 3) a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.

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Stone Bell House

The Stone Bell House is named after the stone bell embedded in the outside corner of the building. The bell is said to be a reminder of the arrival of John of Bohemia to Prague in 1310, after the city was seized and occupied by Henry of Bohemia. The house was renovated to a Baroque style during the 15th and 19th centuries and lost most of its original Gothic image. The house underwent extensive renovations from 1975 to 1987 to restore much of this image, with the original Gothic façade being uncovered and restored.

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Old Town Hall

The Old Town Hall was built in 1364. The site where the Old Town Hall tower stands today technically was used as a town hall since 1338 when the councillors of the Old Town bought a large house from the Volfin family and adopted it for purpose. This was largely disassembled and the current tower was built in its place in 1364, with only the Gothic stone portal on the western side being the only remaining original piece. The Old Town Hall had numerous expansions as well as fires over the years.

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St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church was built between 1732 and 1737 on the site of a Gothic church from the 13th century that was dedicated to Saint Nicholas. An interesting thing to note is that during the Prague uprising in 1945, the church was used by the Czech partisans as a concealed site for Radio Prague, as the main building was attacked.

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Prague Metronome

The Prague Metronome is a 23 metre tall functioning metronome in Letna Park, which overlooks the Vltava River. It was erected in 1991 on the plinth left vacant by the formerly demolished 1962 monument of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. At the top of the Metronome you can see the absolutely amazing views of the city below!

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Expo 1958 Pavilion

In 1958, Brussels hosted the first World’s Fair after World War 2. Different countries have the opportunity to shape the Expo by contributing interesting buildings. In that year Czechoslovakia was the winner. The building was designed by architects Frantisek Cubr, Josef Hruby and Zdenek Pokorny exclusively for the world exhibition. The L-shaped complex had an extension for restaurants and consisted of three windowless areas, which were connected by two glazed aisles.

After the World’s Fair came to an end, the building was completely dismantled and taken back to Prague. Since 1961 only the former restaurant building still exists. The building is currently being used as an office building. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire in 1991, but could be reconstructed again.

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Industrial Palace

Prague’s Industrial Palace, also known as Výstaviště Praha is an exhibition area that is used for exibitions, concerts and other cultural events. It was built in 1891 by Bedřich Münzberge in an Art Nouveau architectural style. The building is built of glass and steel and is divded into 3 independent parts; the left and right wings, as well as a middle hall with a 51 metre tall clock tower. In 2008 the Palace caught fire, which destoryed the left wing. The left wing is currently being rebuilt.

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Subway System

Prague’s Metro system has some particularly beautiful stations located on the “A Line”, which are worth seeing. The Metro system is comprised of 65 km of track and 61 stations. The system includes the A, B, and C lines, and started operations in 1974 with the A Line. Prague’s Metro is the fifth busiest metro system in Europe, serving over 1.6 million people daily!

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Various Photos

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Belgium – Brussels – Day 2 of 2

Today I woke up at 8:00am and had some coffee in my room before venturing out to explore more of the city.

First stop was Hôtel van Eetvelde, which was sadly under construction so I couldn’t get any good pictures of it. Hôtel van Eetvelde is a town house designed in 1895 by Victor Horta for Edmond van Eetvelde, the administrator of Congo Free State.

Second stop was Maison Saint-Cyr was built in 1903 to serve as a mansion for the painter Georges Saint-Cyr. The façade is about four metres wide, and is rich in finely worked ironwork that forms a set of lines, curves and geometric figures. Each balcony has a railing with different patterns.

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Third stop was Stoclet Palace, after a few quick photos of some various things along the way. Stoclet Palace was built in 1911 in the Viennese Secession style by architect Josef Hoffmann. It was built for Adophe Stoclet, a wealthy industrialist and art collector.

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Fourth stop and fifth stop was Arcades du Cinquantenaire and Autoworld. Arcades du Cinquantenaire is a triple arch in the centre of Brussels and is topped by a bronze quadriga sculpture group with a woman charioteer, representing Brabant raising the national flag. Autoworld is a substantial collection of vintage vehicles in extremely well preserved states.

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The sixth stop was the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a beautiful Art Deco church that was completed in 1970. Construction began in 1905 in Neo-Gothic style, but only the foundations had been completed before World War 1 broke out. Construction of the actual basilica began in 1919, with the architectural style changing to Art Deco, and was not completed until 1970.

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The seventh and eighth stops were Mini-Europe and Atomium. Mini-Europe is a miniature park that was started in 1989 and represents over 80 countries and 350 buildings. Atomium was designed and constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo by architect Andre and Jean Polak. It is 102 metres (335 feet) tall and has nine 18 metre (60 foot) diameter stainless steel clad spheres which are connected by escalators and stairs. 3 metre (10 foot) diameter tubes connect the spheres. The central tube had the world’s fastest elevator at the time; allowing people to reach the summit in only 23 seconds at 5 metres/second. The Atomium, was designed to last a mere six months and was slated for destruction after the 1958 World Expo, but due to its popularity it made it a major element of Brussels landscape. A weird piece of history about Atomium is that SABAM, Belgium’s society for collecting copyrights, claimed worldwide intellectual property rights on all reproduction of the image via the United States Artists Rights Society (ARS). There are numerous censored images circulating the internet, but finally in 2016 there was a bill enacted to allow pictures to be legally distributed.

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I then stopped for dinner at the same restaurant I stopped at for lunch yesterday; Tonton Garby, before heading to get a new power adapted, because I somehow forgot mine at home. After getting a power adapter I visited the Brussels Comic Strip Museum, and then went to Beer Planet and picked up a few authentic trappist monk beers that were recommended to me.

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I went back to my hotel room to edit photos and write my blog before heading out to take some night time photos of Atomium.

Belgium – Brussels – Day 1 of 2

Today was the start of another travel adventure. This adventure involves Belgium, Luxembourg and Czech Republic.

My first stop was Brussels, Belgium via Amsterdam. I boarded my KLM Airbus A330-200 flight to Amsterdam at 2:20pm. The flight departed on time at 3:10pm. Flight time was roughly 9 hours gate to gate and went quite smoothly. There was free WiFi in the flight so I ended up chatting with a few friends. The flight arrived at 7:30am the following day.

I was supposed to have a quick 50 minute layover before boarding my next flight, but it ended up being almost 2 hours due to a technical fault. The original plane (an Embraer ERJ-190) was swapped for a Boeing 737-800. Flight time was roughly 45 minutes gate to gate.

After landing in Brussels I caught the train to the inner city for €8.90 ($11.70 CDN). After arriving at Brussels Central Station I visited St. Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in Gothic architecture style. The Cathedral was started sometime in the 9th Century but wasn’t completed until 1519.

The next stop was the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert, a spectacular covered alleyway built by architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer completed in 1847. The gallery includes shops auditoriums, cafes, restaurants and apartments. I decided to visit Maison Danboy, a renowned bakery chain, where I ordered some delicious lemon and ginger cookies.

Next up was the Grand Place and surrounding Grand Square. The history of the Grand Palace started in the 11th and 12th Century, when a building was built on Coudenberg hill to house the Dukes of Brabant. Over the next few centuries the building was rebuilt, extended and improved to align with the increased prestige of the Dukes of Braband and their successors. The complex was destroyed in 1731 by a large fire and was eventually rebuilt in 1775. During this time excavations of the site unearthed various remains of different parts of the original palace as well as surrounding town. The monumental vaults still remain under the square and can be visited.

Next stop was a quick stop at the Brussels Stock Exchange, a beautiful building designed by architect Léon-Pierre Suys. The building was completed on the site of a former butter market in 1873 and housed the Brussels Stock Exchange until 1996. The building has since been transformed to a museum.

I then stumbled upon the Brussels Les Halles Saint-Géry, a former covered market that was completed in 1881. The market now houses Brussels Vintage Market, which is a collection of 40 vintage and second-hand merchants and more than 20 designers.

At this point in time I was starting to get hungry so I started to seek out some food at the well renowned Tonton Garby, but more on that in a minute. On my way to Tonton Garby I stopped at a famous fountain of a young boy peeing called “Manneken Pis”. Okay now onto Tonton Garby; the best way to describe this place is it has the most delicious sandwiches being served up by one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. I was recommended this place by numerous blogs and YouTube videos, so I figured it had to be good; I was not disappointed. While I was eating my sandwich I met a wonderful couple from the Rochester area in the US. They had just recently gotten married and are travelling the world together. We chatted for a bit before going our separate ways.

Next up was a few other sights before visiting the Place Royale and Royal Palace. Place Royale, also known as the King’s Square, is a historic neoclassical square in the Royal Quarter that was completed in 1782 as part of an urban project.

The Royal Palace is situated in front of Brussles Park and was designed by multiple architects including Chislain-Joseph Henry, Charles Vander Straeten, Tilman-François Suys, Alphonse Balat, Henri Maquet, and Octave Flanneau. Construction started in 1783, but wasn’t completed until 1934 when the new facade was finally completed. The impressive facade is 50% longer thatn that of Buckingham Palace in Great Britain, but it has less than half of the square footage of Buckingham Palace.

My energy levels were starting to dwindle so I walked towards my Hotel; Hotel Retro, a cozy mid-range boutique hotel. Before checking into the hotel I checked out the beautiful Le Botanique conservatory.

Check-in was very seamless. I was placed in Room 501, a penthouse room at the top with wonderful skylights overlooking the city. I decided to take a 3 hour nap before continuing on my grand adventure.

After waking up from my nap I was feeling much refreshed and ready to do more exploring. I walked to the nearby Metro station and boarded a train to the University area where I took a bunch of pictures of some beautiful buildings; one in particular caught my eye; Villa Empain. Villa Empain was built in 1934 by swiss architect Michel Polak in the Art Deco style. As many of you may know from reading previous blog posts of mine; I’m a huge sucker for Art Deco.

It was time to get some dinner so I walked towards Flagey square, where there was a beautiful building and somewhere I wanted to eat called Frit Flagey. Unfortunately at this time is when a group of men tried to rob me, but I managed to escape through some alleyways. Never in my 38 countries of travel have I had an attempted robbery. I’m a fairly careful person but they surrounded me so quickly as I was trying to take a photo of the Art Deco style Flagey building.

I walked around for a bit and came back to Flagey square about 45 minutes lated to eat at Frit Flagey; I was not disanointed. I then obtained some beers from a local beer store called Melting Pot. The gentleman recommended me a few beers to try.

I then took a bus back to my hotel where I enjoyed my beers, edited photos, and typed up my blog.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I explore Brussels in further detail!

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Chile – Days 10 & 11 – Travel Day, Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales

Today we both woke up at 6:45am. We finished packing our bags and had our complimentary buffet breakfast. Today the breakfast was much better than the previous two days with a better variety of food. Perhaps its because we went a bit earlier than previous days.

We drove to the airport and I returned the rental car to Budget. It actually went quite quickly without any issues. We went through security, which took about 2 minutes since we were the only ones in line. After heading through security we purchased some bottled water for the plane and then sat in a coffee shop and had some coffee’s before boarding a Sky Airlines flight to Santiago.

Upon arriving in Santiago we purchased some McDonald’s for lunch. I had a 1/4 Pounder with Cheese, while C had a Big Mac and fries. We both shared a cola. We had a few hours to burn at the airport so I did some photo editing, and C did some drawing. We purchased some sandwiches from Starbucks for dinner on the next flight. While waiting for the flight we noticed 8 PDI (Investigations Police of Chile) surround an incoming LATAM flight and wait for the passengers to deplane. They surrounded a guy and took him away from the plane. We were not sure what it was all about but I suspect he was a wanted person of interest.

The next flight was a Sky Airlines flight from Santiago to Punta Arena’s. The flight was one of the smoothest flights I have ever been on and the sky was completely clear with beautiful breathtaking views of Torres Del Paine National Park prior to our arrival at Punta Arena’s.

After arriving at Punta Arena’s airport I went to the Europcar rental check-in desk and the experience was a night and day difference to my experience with Budget in Calama. I was upgraded to a very nice fully loaded Nissan NV300 diesel truck and the whole check in process took less than ten minutes.

We loaded our bags into the truck and drove to our accommodation for the night; Hostal Ventisqueros. It was a cute B&B style accommodation run by this very nice lady who didn’t speak any English but we got by with Google Translate. One humorous thing to note about the hotel was the extremely small bath tub.

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After checking in we purchased some groceries for the morning breakfast and then went for a walk along the Punta Arenas boardwalk. The sunset was absolutely beautiful and we took many photos. Sadly it was then time to head to bed because we had to get up early in the morning for a Penguin Tour!

The next day we had to wake up at 5:00am, as the Penguin Tour started at 6:00am. We drove to a nearby coffee shop to get some coffees and we ate the food that we had purchased the night before. We drove downtown to the Solo Expediciones tour office. The tour was a bit late starting because of numerous late arrivals, but the buses eventually set off at around 6:45am. During the bus ride the girl next to me got sick and yacked all over the floor, getting a bit on my jacket. I felt really bad for her because she was about to be getting on a boat. Her dad took everything in good stride and helped to clean it up the best he could.

The bus arrived at the dock at around 7:30am. We boarded two large zodiac style boats and heat towards Magdalena Island. Before we head to the island we took a quick stop close to Isla Marta where there was literally thousands of sea lions and birds bathing in the sun. It was an incredible sight to see.

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The next stop was Magdalena Island. We were only allowed one hour on the island as they want to try to minimize the amount of distress that we cause the penguins. This was especially important at this time of the year because they were just having their baby chicks. It was such an amazing experience to see thousands upon thousands of penguins on the island. The average amount of penguins on the island is said to be about 300,000! Most of the island is roped off and people follow a set route that takes about one hour at a snails pace. This gives everyone ample opportunity to take photographs of the penguins.

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After boarding the zodiacs to head back to land we were greeted with pisco sour’s, cookies and coffee. The pisco sours were very strong! The seas were extremely calm today and we were told we were pretty lucky to have such a beautiful and calm day. We arrived back on land, boarded a bus (different one this time because we wanted to avoid the bus we took where the girl had her episode), and took the bus back to the Solo Expediciones tour office. We arrived back at the office at around noon.

When I went out to my truck I had a panic because I saw what appeared to be a parking ticket, but it turns out it was just a parking slip that I had to pay for parking in a paid zone. I wasn’t sure how this worked so I was a bit panicked. At first I decided that perhaps I would ignore it, but then I didn’t want to get into trouble. I decided that we should go for lunch and that I could ask one of the people there how the parking system worked in Punta Arenas.

For lunch we went to La Marmita. The server explained to me how the parking system works; basically you have to find a person that prints the slips to settle up the tab. I ran out to go find one of the people while C stayed behind at the restaurant. Turns out its actually harder to find these people than I would have thought. I spent a good 20 minutes literally running around to find one of these people. I eventually found one and settled the tab. While I was gone C ordered me a pisco sour because she could see that I was a bit stressed out. Upon my return I ordered a guanaco (llama) stew and she ordered some seafood soup as well as a delicious ravioli. We both agreed that this was one of the best restaurants that we’ve ever eaten at. The price for this reflected that at nearly $80 CDN.

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We spend the afternoon walking around Punta Arenas, before purchasing groceries at the local Unimarc. Punta Arenas has numerous very well preserved Art Nouveau and Art Deco style buildings, which excited me as both are my favorite styles of architecture. Art Nouveau was prominent between 1890 and 1910, and Art Deco was prominent between 1910 and 1939. I have wrote about these in detail in numerous other posts but two that come to mind with lots of photos are my USA Route 66 trip in 2018 (link), and my New Zealand trip in 2016 (link).

We purchased enough groceries for the next 3 days in Puerto Natales. Groceries down here are a lot more expensive; 3 days worth of food cost nearly $80 CDN.

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It was time to start our 3 hour drive to Puerto Natales. The drive was long and boring, but about 15-20 minutes away from Puerto Natales the scenery changed and became extremely beautiful and we were getting excited for what was the come for tomorrow!

We checked into our accommodation; DT Loft (Dorotea Loft), which is run by the local ice cream store in the front. The ice cream store runs four of these beautiful mid-century modern lofts. The price was actually very affordable at $360 for 3 nights. We both agreed it was the cutest place we’ve ever stayed at. The loft had a beautiful blue 1950’s themed kitchen and living room area. From the living room you step up into the bedroom loft area, which houses an exceptionally comfortable king sized bed. At the very back of the loft is a gorgeous well appointed bathroom with a rainfall shower.

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After settling in we made some gourmet nachos for dinner. After dinner I messed around on my computer for a bit while C messed around on her iPad before we both head to bed.

Check back tomorrow for our adventures to Torres Del Pain park!

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Chile – Day 2 – Santiago

Today we woke up at 7:00am. We got ready fairly quickly and then walked to a nearby Starbucks. I had a regular drip coffee and C had a Chai Tea Latte. We then walked back to Santa Lucia Hill and explored the hill. Santa Lucia Hill sits on top of a volcano that last erupted an estimated 15 million years ago. On top of the hill is a beautiful park, chapel, and Fort Hidalgo. Fort Hidalgo was recently restored and reopened to the public and traditionally a cannon shot is fired at exactly noon.

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After exploring Santa Lucia Hill we walked over to Plaza De Armas. Plaza De Armas is the main square of Santiago. It is the centerpiece of the initial layout of Santiago and the square grid pattern of the city was laid out from here. Santiago (officially known as Santiago de Chile) was originally founded in 1541 by the Spanish conqueror Pedro de Valdivia. Santiago has a population of 6.3 million people and is home to 40% of the entire population of Chile.

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Right across from Plaza De Armas is Cathedral Metropolitana de Santiago which took 52 years to build and was first opened in 1800. Previous cathedrals stood in its spot but were destroyed by earthquakes. Chile is known to have some of the world’s largest earthquakes in recorded history, with the largest being the 9.5 magnitude earthquake on May 22, 1960 near Valdivia, Chile. That particular earthquake left 2 million Chileans homeless, killed approximately 6000 Chileans, and created Tsunami’s that reached as far as Honshu, Japan. The 18 foot high waves reached Honshu about 22 hours after the earthquake and left 1600 homes destroyed and killed 185 people.

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After visiting the beautiful Cathedral Metropolitana de Santiago we walked through the nearby Central Market and over to Centro Cultural Estacion Mapocho, which was a former railway station (built in 1913) that was converted to a cultural center/musuem. The beautiful semi-restored train station is built in Art Nouveau style architecture, which is some of my favorite architecture, alongside Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern. You can refer back to my France blog posts, among others to see some other beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture.

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We continued exploring the area and came across a hip modern area called Eurocentro, and narrowly avoided a protest in front of the University of Chile. There were about 30-40 armed military personnel with riot shields ready to pounce if things got out of control.

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After that we took the Yellow Metro line from Santa Ana station to Departamental station. Santiago is home to one of my favorite style of Metro systems; the rubber-tyred Metro. There are only about 25 systems like these in the world and I’ve been on about 1/4 of them. The rubber-tyred Metro was first applied to the Paris Metro in 1951, and is also used in Montreal, Canada. The benefits are better grip, quieter, and a better ride.

After exiting Departamental station we walked to the nearby community of San Miguel, which is a rundown lower income community with many tenement buildings. The appeal of this community to us was the huge open street market and the massive murals on the sides of the tenement buildings.

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We were getting hungry and were in search of Arepas, which is a Venezuelan & Columbian food that is fairly popular to Chile as well. Arepas is made of ground maize dough and is cut in half and stuffed with cheese, meat, tomatoes, etc. You can have it in many different styles. We took the Metro and walked to numerous places on google maps that supposedly sold Arepas, but sadly they were closed or didn’t sell them. We settled on some amazing freshly made pizza at a nearby restaurant. We ordered a Neapolitan style pizza, which absolutely delicious.

After eating we explored the rustic community of Varrio Italia, before walking back to the hotel and calling it a night. Originally we were supposed to stay one additional day in Santiago but we opted to go to Valparaiso a day early starting tomorrow.

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2018-05-22 – US Route 66 Day 6

Today we drove 230 miles from Clinton, Oklahoma to Vega, Texas. We ended up staying at The Days Inn. We saw the following sights today:

  • Glancy Motel, Clinton
  • Bess Rogers Drive, Clinton
  • Route 66 Museum, Clinton
  • Y Service Station, Clinton
  • Cotton Boll Motel Sign, Clinton
  • Canute Service Station, Canute
  • Tallest Oil Rig, Elk City
  • Old Town Museum, Elk City
  • Beckham County Courthouse, Sayre
  • Western Motel Sign, Sayre
  • Town of Erick
  • Water Hole Mural & Tumbleweed Grill, Texola. We had food here. Dad had Liver & Onions, and I had a Jalapeno Burger with Homemade Fries. Masel, the wonderful woman who owned the place, cooked us lunch and told us stories of her purchasing the place, fixing it up, and expanding it. She also purchased the bar next door and is going to fix it up.
  • Hot Rods Pizza, Shamrock
  • Big Verns Steakhouse, Shamrock
  • Conoco Tower Station and U Drop Inn, Shamrock. This beautiful gas station. Built in 1936 by J. M. Tindall and R. C. Lewis at the cost of $23,000. With its Art Deco detailing and two towers, the building was designed and constructed to be three separate structures. The first was the Tower Conoco Station, named for the dominating four-sided obelisk rising from the flat roof and topped by a metal tulip. The second was the U-Drop Inn Café, which got its name from a local schooolboy’s winning entry in a naming contest. The third structure was supposed to be a retail store that instead became an overflow seating area for the café.
  • Magnolia Gas Station, Shamrock
  • Devil’s Rope Museum, McLean
  • Cactus Inn, McLean
  • Phillips 66, McLean
  • Red River Steakhouse, McLean
  • Kiser 66, Alanreed
  • Leaning Tower, Groom
  • Chalet Inn, Groom
  • Cross of our Lord, Groom
  • Bug Ranch, Panhandle
  • Big Texcan Steak Ranch, Amarillo. This is the home of the 72 oz free steak if you can eat it in one hour or under.
  • Paramount Sign, Amarillo
  • Downtown Amarillo
  • Taylors Texaco, Amarillo
  • Helium Plant, Amarillo
  • Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo
  • Bonanza Motel, Vega
  • Magnolia Station, Vega

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September 2nd 2016 – New Zealand Day 13

Today I was woken up at 4:37am by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. The van was shaking slowly from left to right, but I couldn’t hear any wind. This odded me out, so I tried going back to sleep, but the shakes kept happening. At first I thought it was some punks who thought shaking my van would be funny, but I looked outside and saw other campers also shaking. I thought to myself earthquake, and then went back to bed because I was in no immediate danger.
I woke up again at 7:00am to a message from my father stating that there had been an earthquake in New Zealand. I looked on the news and it was a 7.1 magnitude, which is a fairly reasonably sized on. It occurred over 300 km away from where I was, so I was surprised to have felt it. Upon talking with others throughout my day they also confirmed that they had felt it too. Some areas of New Zealand, specifically around Gisborne, where temporarily evacuated because of concern over a 1 metre tsunami, but were allowed to return later in the day.
I started my day by having a quick breakfast of yoghurt, and cheese on toast before hitting the road. Today was mostly a driving day. My first stop was the town of Waverly where I saw a war memorial tower.
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My next stop was Patea, where I saw a piece of artwork; a Maori canoe on top of an arch.
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The next stop was Hawera, which had a water tower that I paid $2.50 to go up. Hawera is Maori for “burnt place”, from fighting between two local sub-tribes, which culminated in the setting ablaze of the house of the tribe under attack. The name became apparent in 1884, 1888, and 1912 when extensive blazes occurred. It was decided that a water tower was to be built in the centre of town to increase its water pressure for fire fighting duties. The tower was closed to the public is 2001 after falling into disrepair, and after a vote to keep the landmark instead of tearing it down, it was opened again in 2004 after extensive restoration. The tower stands 55 metres tall and holds nearly 700,000 litres of water, but is no longer required due to having an adequate water supply now.
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From the top of the water tower I could see Mount Taranaki, albeit a bit a cloud cover. It looks like a mini Mount Fuji.
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My next stop was New Plymouth, where I walked around for a bit admiring more Art Deco architecture, and a mix of Victorian and Art Nouveau, the predecessor to Art Deco. I then made a special stop at Market Patisserie and Cafe to see Kira and her husband Chris, who own the place. My very good friends Marc and Jennifer at home told me I should visit them when I was in New Zealand. Jennifer and Kira went to school together in Calgary, before Kira moved to New Zealand. Chris wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but Kira and I talked for a bit before I ordered a grilled chicken wrap, and a coffee. She brought them over to my table, along with a delicious donut that I could choose how much cream I wanted to put instead. The food was very good! The lunch time rush was coming in so I said my goodbyes and went back to my camper.
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I had a fairly long two hour drive along a windy road to Waitomo, where I choose this adorable little place that has cute hotel rooms in an airplane, a boat, a train, a little hobbit houses. The camping was free for the time being because the site was currently being built and had no power, toilets, showers, etc.  I ended up finding a lot more about the site the next day, but more on that tomorrow!
Tomorrow I will be visiting the Waitomo glow worm caves!
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