Chile – Day 4 – Valparaiso & Vin Del Mar

Today we decided to sleep in a bit until 8am. We ended up having a buffet breakfast down in the lobby of the hotel since it was only $9 and included coffee. After breakfast we got ready and started walking along the waterfront to Vin Del Mar. The waterfront was very relaxing and was a mix of a modern reconstructed boardwalk and old decaying train depot buildings with abandoned trains along the side. We noticed a ton of homeless dogs and with a quick Google search we determined that there are an estimated 2.5 million stray dogs in Chile and the canine population is growing faster than the human population. A sobering statistics is that with 17 million Chilean’s; the canine population is slated to surpass the human population in as soon as 6-10 years. Something needs to be done about this.

Half way to Vina Del Mar we came to Portales, where there was a small beach with some food booths setup. We were not quite yet hungry so we decided that we would come back here later on. At this point in time it would have been nice to walk along the waterfront more but I had drank way too much water and needed to find a bathroom.

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We boarded the train to Vina Del Mar and found a Starbucks to go to the bathroom and we ordered some Frappuccino’s. Catherine had Java Chip Frappuccino and I had a half sweet Cookies & Cream Frappuccino. I was starting to run low on money so we stopped in at the bank and picked up some more money before continuing our walk along the waterfront. The beach in Vin Del Mar was very beautiful and packed full of people, including some people fishing from the boardwalk. After walking along the beach we explored the city of Vina del Mar. We saw a flower clock that had real moving hands, a magician that appeared to be floating, a castle, and an old Palace.

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After exploring Vina Del Mar we took the train back to Portales, where we both got delicious freshly made empanadas for only $4 each, which is about double the going rate they were in Santiago, but this is more of a touristy area. I had pulled beef, chorizo, mushrooms and cheese; while Catherine had chicken, mushrooms and cheese. After eating our food we took the train back to the hotel, where we relaxed for a few hours before venturing out back into the cerro’s of Valparaiso.

We head back out at 6:00pm to explore the cerro of Artilleria. This was definitely one of the more dodgy areas of town and has a rating of “orange” on the scale of neighbor safety. The scale includes the colours from Red, Orange, Yellow and Green; with red being the least safe to green being the safest. I’m glad we visited it though because it was quite the unique community with beautiful views of the port and entire city, as well as some unique art. While we were up in the community we met this family that was visiting from Montreal. The dad was originally from Valparaiso and moved away when he was only 12 years old. This was his first time visiting since he moved away. He told us that practically nothing has changed since he was a child, but they were trying to do a better job of preserving some buildings and the funiculars.

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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.

Jungfraujoch

On the last day of my Africa / Europe trip I visited the beautiful mountain saddle called Jungfraujoch situated in the Bernese Alps. Jungfraujoch connects the two peaks of Jungfrau and Monch and is situated at an elevation of 11371 feet (3466 metres) above sea level.

I started my day off by being picked up by Gray Line Tours at Zurich Central Train Station at 8:30am. The tour coach drove to the beautiful city of Interlaken via a quick stop in Lucerne to pick up people, which is also a very notable place to visit in Switzerland. In Interlaken we stopped for a quick coffee and bathroom break before continuing onto Lauterbrunnen, where we boarded a cog-wheel train to take us to Kleine Scheidegg. The train ride up from Lauterbrunnen was amazing as you could see the nearly 300 metre tall Staubbach Waterfall that towers over the entire town. This town seems like it is something out of a fairytale.

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Once we reached Kleine Scheidegg we switched cog-trains to go to Jungfraujoch. Once we arrived in Jungfraujoch  we toured the “Top of Europe” building which includes several panoramic restaurants, tunnels, the Sphinx (one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world), and a viewing platform. The tour lasted approximately 2.5 hours at the top and was one of the most magnificent things I’ve ever seen. I have to admit when I first arrive in Jungfraujoch I was feeling some mild hypoxia effects having come from Zurich only a few hours before and gaining nearly 11000 feet of elevation gain.

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We returned on a cog-train at about 3:30pm to Kleine Scheidegg and then took a different cog-train to Grindelwald, another beautiful town situated in the Bernese Alps with a beautiful crystal-clear river running through the middle of it. In Grindelwald we boarded our tour coach to take us back to Zurich, via Lucerne to drop off some people.

This day, albeit an expensive one ($350 CDN), was completely worth it and a very magnificent experience. I highly recommend going to see Jungfraujoch.

Stay tuned for my next adventure which will be quite soon!

2018-05-19 – US Route 66 Day 3

Today we drove 156 miles from St. Louis, Illinois to St. Robert, Missouri. We ended up staying at Studio Z, a pretty swanky chic hotel in St. Robert for only $60 per night. We ended up having a beer in the bar and chatting with the woman running the hotel. We saw the following sights today:

  • Chain of Rocks Bridge, Illinois
  • St. Louis Arch, St. Louis
  • Ted Drewes Frozen Custurd, St. Louis
  • Musuem of Transport, St. Louis
  • Assured Automotive, Eureka
  • Hot / Cold Towers, St. Clair
  • Meramec Caverns, Stanton
  • Circle Inn Malt Shop, Bourbon
  • Bourbon Water Towers, Bourbon
  • Mural in Cuba, Cuba
  • Missouri Hick BBQ, Cuba. Dad had St. Louis Ribs with Mustard Potato Salad and Baked Beans. I had a Brisket Sandwich with Salad.
  • Wagon Wheel Motel, Cuba
  • World’s 2nd Largest Rocking Chari, Fanning
  • Mule Trading Post, St. James.
  • Stonehenge Replica, Rolla

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2018-03-18 – Montserrat & Barcelona

Today I woke up at 7:00am with the help of my alarm clock. Since it was the weekend the only breakfast place that was open near me was McDonald’s so I walked there and had an Egg McMuffin for breakfast before catching the metro and regional train to Montserrat. I arrived in Montserrat at around 10:00am.
Montserrat, whose name means ‘serrated mountain’, is ideally located to play an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Catalonia. The Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey was built on Montserrat in 880AD. Having survived two fires, and the Spanish Civil War, the basilica still stands strong, and is currently undergoing restoration as i write this.
When in Montserrat I visited the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey as well as taking the funicular up to the top of the mountain to overlook the entire Montserrat complex, as well as complete a small hike.
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I returned to Barcelona at approximately 3:00pm, and scoped out some food since I was hungry. I noticed a Japanese restaurant called Takumi Ramen Restausant while walking yesterday so I decided to visit there for lunch. I had a spicy chicken ramen dish with vegetables, and it was delicious!
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After finishing a late lunch I took a number 24 bus to Park Güell. The park was another one of Gaüdi’s masterpieces. It’s a total shame that it never got finished.
Eusebi Güell and Antoni Gaudí conceived this park and housing complex in 1900. They imagined an organized grouping of high-quality homes, decked out with all the latest technological advancements to ensure maximum comfort, finished off with an artistic touch.
The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926 after Gaüdi died and the project was deemed as a failure due to lack of transportation and amenities to the main city, as well as lack of oversight and funds.
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After visiting the park I decided to walk around town to discover more architecture including Gaüdi pieces of work such as Casa Calvet before stopping to have a chicken and brie baguette for dinner.
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After dinner I went back to my hotel at around 8:00pm and prepared for bed as I was fairly tired. Tomorrow is my last day of my trip and includes a trip to Sagrada Familia before hopping on a flight back to Paris.

 

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2018-03-12 – Mont Saint-Michel

Today I went to see Mont Saint-Michel. I woke up at 6:00am. I took the Metro to Montparnasse Station to catch the 7:40am TGV to Rennes. Upon arriving in Rennes I transferred to a coach which took me to Mont Saint-Michele. I explored around the complex, including the Abbey, which was absolutely incredible. When I arrived it was raining fairly heavily and was very windy, but by the time I left the skies were blue and the sun was shining. It was great being able to see the contrast between the morning and afternoon!
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I had a baguette with egg, chicken and cheese, as well as a beer for lunch at a small café at the base of the abbey. I took the 2:05pm bus back to the train station where I purchased a train ticket back to Paris in the 3:45pm train. I had some difficulty with my TD Aeroplan credit card yet again, so I’ll have to look into getting a different card when I return. It rarely works when I travel even though I’ve told TD I travel a lot and they should know that. It worked this morning for a coffee on the train, but apparently a train ticket is a fraudulent purchase…
When I arrived back in Paris I picked up some took the Metro back to my hotel. I had to pickup some Band-Aids on the way because I noticed my toes were rubbing together quite badly due to the fact I’ve been walking so much the past few days. When I got back I showered and tapped up my toes with Band-Aids.
I went out for dinner to Las du’ Falafel and had a lamb Shawarma, which was delicious! I head back to my hotel again and fell asleep around 9:00pm because I was so tired.
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Thailand – Day 4 – Death Railway & Hellfire Pass

Today I woke up at 4:00am because my internal clock is still messed up. I laid in bed listening to music and talked with a friend over the small amount of cell coverage I had.

Breakfast was at 7:00am, and included two eggs, four slices of toast, 1/4 of a pineapple, two slices of tomatoes, potatoes, a slice of ham, and coffee. The staff were very friendly.

While waiting for my 8:00am long bag back to the pier on the main land I saw an elephant in the water. The kitchen staff grabbed some food and went over to it and starting feeding it pineapples and watermelons. I asked if I could feed them to the elephants and they gave me some scraps. I got another hotel guest to take a video of me feeding the elephant, and I even got an elephie (elephant selfie).

I boarded the 8:00am long boat back to the pier on the main land where I met up with the same driver as yesterday. He drove me to the Hellfire Pass Death Railway museum. I walked through the museum exhibit and then walked through Hellfire Pass. The place was very somber and I learned a lot about the sacrifices and horrible conditions the workers had to go through. The Death Railway was built during the Second World War. To sum it up quickly 60000 prisoners of war and about 200000 labourers built this Railway from Thailand to Burma for the Japanese during the Second World War. They had horrible living conditions, almost no food, almost no sleep, and were beat. 20 percent of the people ended up dying. If you want to read more about it you can here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma_Railway

After visiting the Hellfire Pass museum my driver came and picked me up and took me to the train station where I had some green Thai curry for lunch before boarding the train to Kanchanaburi.

When I arrived in Kanchanaburi I walked around the town a bit before heading to my Hotel, the Felix River Kwai Hotel. The hot is very beautiful and sits right on the river embankment overlooking the famous Kwai River Bridge. The hotel is almost completely empty so I was able to sit and drink beer watching the sunset at the “Bar by the River” all by myself until an Australian couple joined about an hour later. I took some long exposure shots and some time-lapse videos. I even got to watch two Thai people do some welding without any PPE equipment and dangling precariously close to the river!

After watching the sunset I walked across the bridge to a restaurant called the Floating Raft. I ordered something that resembled Red Thai Curry but I regretted it afterwards. It tasted and smelled like garbage and made me feel unwell. My friend Kirsty told me it was probably durian, which now to me makes sense as it has the smell, look and texture of durian. I decided I will try a different restaurant tomorrow evening.

Check back soon for my next blog post, where I will be going to an Elephant Sanctuary to bathe elephants and cuddle with them.

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