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.

2018-08-20 – Nairobi, Kenya

Today I woke up at 7:30am. I had a shower and went downstairs to have a buffet breakfast, which was complimentary. The buffet had an excellent selection of cheeses, meats, omelets, sausages, pancakes, etc.

After having breakfast I went and explored the city of Nairobi and bought some groceries as the hotel lunch and dinner menus are exceptionally expensive. I purchased a muffin, yoghurt, bananas, oranges, and a bag of chips for under $5 USD at a local market called Tusky’s!

Since I didn’t have too much going on today I did a lot of reading on the history of Kenya, and the capital City; Nairobi. I’ve consolidated the information that i read into something that you can read in about five minutes.

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Kenya has seen human habitation since the begging of the Lower Paleolithic, back over 3.2 million years ago! In 2011 stone tools were discovered at Lomekwi near Lake Turkana, and these are the oldest stone tools found in the world. Kenya is a very ethnically diverse country with a mixture of African, Arabs, European and Asian individuals. There are 69 different languages spoken in Kenya, with English and Swahili being the most common spoken.

There are over 48 million people living in Kenya (estimated as the last official census was in 2009 and that census had some controversy behind it), and just over 6.5 million people residing in the capital city of Nairobi (including the metropolitan area).

Kenya was colonized by the British from 1888 to 1962. Nairobi was founded in 1899 by the colonial authorities in British East Africa, as a rail depot on the Uganda Railway. The town grew quickly and replaced Machakos as the capital city in 1907. After gaining independence from the British in 1963, Nairobi became the capital city of the Republic of Kenya.

Kenya’s economy relies heavily on Tourism, Agriculture, Industrial Manufacturing, Telecommunication, and Finance. Telecommunication and Finance account for about 60% of the total GDP of the country, and only 20% comes from agriculture even though that over 75% of the workforce is employed in Agriculture. Kenya’s economy is just starting to boom and is it definitely shows when I was walking the streets of Nairobi. You see a lot of economic diversity on the streets. On one street you see wealthier business people dressed in suits with laptops, cellphones, and nicer cars; then on the next street you see slums with tents and people selling textiles and food. 20% of Kenyans live on only $1.25/day but that wage is rising sharply with the economic growth!

As with any developing country with a developing economy there is a rather unwelcome problem of pollution in the form deforestation, water shortage, degraded water quality, and air pollution.

The main source of water pollution in Kenya is the direct and indirect discharge of raw sewage into water bodies. According to the UN Environment over 80% of the world’s water is released into the environment without treatment.

The main source of air pollution in Kenya is from industrial activity and the use of low quality fuels and diesel. Kenya is one of the few African countries that doesn’t use leaded petrol thankfully. According to the UN environment, overall environmental degradation causes 1 out of 4 deaths worldwide. This is an alarming statistic!

Kenya has taken some initiative to try to and solve some of the issues. One of these solutions was to ban plastic bags by imposing some of the world’s stiffest fines. I have noticed no plastic bags so far so I can definitely say this is helping. There is still a huge use of plastic for water bottles as the water in the country is mostly undrinkable due to contamination. Nairobi supposedly has water that is drinkable, but I’m not going to chance it. Another initiative that was taken was to built a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network in Nairobi, where traffic jams plague the city. People on average spend 3-5 hours stuck in gridlock and it has a huge tole on the air quality and economy; as its believed to cost 2% of the country’s GDP in lost productivity! I can believe it as I find the air pollution stifling here; even worse than what I experienced in my travels to Thailand and limited travels in China.

Another positive is that 87% of Kenya’s main grid electricity (not including personal diesel generators) is generated from geothermal heat, water, and wind, which puts it up there with Iceland and Costa Rica in terms of clean energy production. Way to go Kenya!

Continue following my blog as tomorrow I start my 8 day Kenyan Safari trip; so you’ll be sure to see lots of photos of animals in the wild!

2018-03-17 – Lyon & Barcelona

Today I woke up at 7:00am naturally. I had some time to just be lazy and stay in bed. I  left at 8:30am to catch Rhone Express to airport. On the way I stopped at a Paul coffee shop along the way and had a delicious pastrami sandwich, bagel and coffee. The Paul coffee shop chain gets a routinely bad review on Google here in France but I thought they were pretty good. I arrived at Lyon airport 2.5 hours before my flight to Barcelona, Spain so I had a cup of coffee from Starbucks.
I was surprised when it was time for me to go through security because despite it being a new airport it was extremely poorly setup. There was not enough staff, and the security area did not have a large enough area for people to queue so the queues backed up where the escalators and elevators to enter the area are. This prompted people to backup on to the escalators requiring people to hit the emergency stop button to stop people getting trampled to death (I’m saying this tongue in cheek but it was a gong show). Security took about 2 hours to get through in total. Once past security the airport is very nice, spacious, and had an ample supply of shops and food.
The flight to Barcelona was rather turbulent, but was actually ahead of schedule about 5 minutes. I took the airport express bus from the airport to the city centre and then walked to my hotel, which was only 5 minutes away from the bus stop. I checked into my hotel, dropped off my stuff and went out to take some photos. I visited a local street market in the Gothic Quarter (also where my hotel is), Barcelona Cathedral, and a few Antoni Gaudi buildings.
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I was starting to get hungry so I stopped at Coco Vail Beer hall and has a delicious burger and two IPA pints.
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After I was finished at the beer hall I walked about 10 minutes to Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera or “the stone quarry”. Casa Mila was desined by Antoni Gaudi and was built between 1906 and 1912. The facade of Gaudi’s buildings are extremely unique and encompass the Catalan Modern style of architecture. It looks like something that you would see in a Doctor Suess book or movie.
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After finishing Casa Mila I picked up some local IPA beers from a local bottleshop and went back to my hotel. It was getting late and I was getting fairly sleepy. I also saw this interesting use of a mannequin on my way back to the hotel.
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