Today we had time to walk around the city as part of a walking tour and also on our own. Santiago has many parks and neighborhoods and without the current troubles it would be a beautiful city in which to spend some time.
However the demonstrations have resulted in many buildings being covered in graffiti, many stores and restaurants near the protest areas are closed, large areas have no operating traffic lights as they have been damaged and all the museums have been closed indefinitely. We walked by some buildings which had been burned.
We started the morning by walking to Plaza de Armas, the meeting point for our 10am walking tour with www.freetoursantiago.cl.
On the way the destruction from the protests was clearly visible.
As we walked on the sidewalk we became the target of a pickpocket attempt. Suddenly a large amount of mustard fell on John and I from the building above. My first thought was that it was crap from a very ill bird but then I could smell the mustard. It was in my hair, on my backpack and on my jeans. I saw a woman coming towards me with a kleenex. I just looked at her, put up my hand and forcibly said "No". She quickly backed off.
You see, this is an old trick that we had read about. Someone throws something on you and a different person supposedly comes to your aid with a tissue but while they are wiping you off they pick pocket you. There are various versions of this scam such as 'accidently' spilling a drink on the person etc. John and I continued walking a few blocks and then stopped and wiped each other off before continuing.
Our walking tour started from the historical Plaza de Armes. John and I had time to look inside the Cathedral before starting the tour.
We were unable to even glimpse the Presidential Palace and Constitution Plaza because the streets were cordoned off by police for several blocks around and neither people or vehicles were allowed inside.
We went into the beautiful old financial district. All the museums we passed were closed because of the protests or being on strike.
Santiago has some beautiful parks. A lot of them are in temporary ruins due to the protests...the grass and flower gardens are totally trampled and then there is the graffiti all over everything.
We went to an area filled with special cafes whose customers are mainly older men. Young, pretty girls in very short and tight black dresses and high heels work as servers. The counters inside the cafes are made of clear glass so that you can still see their legs. Creepy, old men frequent these cafes. The girls talk to them and give them kisses on their cheeks and for all the attention they give the men they expect big tips.
We stopped in the trendy Lastarria area for a drink and quick snack before continuing our tour.
We crossed to the other side of the river, where we walked through the Bellevista area which is filled with attractive restaurants and cafes that were actually open. This neighbourhood seemed unaffected by the demonstrations and we felt like we were in a normal city again.
The tour ended in Bellevista. My ankle was killing me.
After the tour we took a funicular up to the top of Cerro San Cristobal which is a very large hill in the centre of the city. The park on top is said to be twice the size of New York's Central Park.
We walked around San Cristobal taking in the great views of the city spread out below. After taking the funicular back down, we went for drinks and supper at Galindo. I had a Caipirina drink which was rather strong...which was probably a good thing because we had to cross the protests to get back to our Airbnb.
One thing about travel is that you get to have new experiences. Well John and I can now say that we have experienced tear gas.
Today's protests were themed around bikes. It was a peaceful protest, in that they were only driving their bikes around and around the square but still the police were there with their armoured vehicles unleashing water cannons and tear gas on the bicyclists. John and I saw a big puff of smoke go off and the next thing I know is that we are both coughing and sneezing with a burning feeling in our nose and throat.
We got back to our place no problem and checked out what was going on with the protests from our window whenever things got loud.