San Cristóbal has the iconic Virgin Mary statue on top at the Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción. I initially mis-read the first word as "Sanitario" or the "Bathroom of the Immaculate Conception." Hilarity ensued.
In defense of my roll-y bag strategy, we saw a very together-looking guy on top of San Cristóbal with his roll-y bag. Backpackers who carry actual backpacks are few and far between. And all of them are younger than Fred and me.
Santa Lucía was topped with a castle or perhaps it's a fort... Cerro SC has the funicular, but cerro SL has an elevator.
We also really enjoyed the Museo de Bellas Artes. The highly regarded Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos was brutal but was an important glimpse into the human rights violations during the Pinochet years (1973-1990).
The smog in Santiago is unreal.
The vegetarian food in Chile rules. Be sure to try "Porotos Granados" - beans with corn, pumpkin, basil and red pepper. Mmmmmmm.
On the 17th, we took a bus to the port town of Valparaíso for the day. What a cool little town with such interesting history! When we arrived at the bus station, I was convinced it was just another dirty, hectic port city. We found our way to the train and went a couple stops to the surf break that was supposed to be small but clean that day. No dice. Surf report said three stars and 2.5 feet. My report: FLAT. Not to mention that it's icky port surfing. You could get an infection by just looking at the water.
Since the surf didn't pan out, we took a 3pm walking tour with a group called Tour for Tips. Our guide, Erica, was fantastic. She showed us a unique, beautiful, historic city, and recommended a great restaurant where I could get a nice vegetarian Chilean dish. (Yes, more Porotos Granados!) We learned about Arturo Prat, the Battle of Iquique and its significance. We traveled up and down the hills, appreciating the architecture, street art and history of the place.
The street art in Valparaiso is inspired. Erica told us that even the graffiti taggers have respect for the street art murals. These guys will write all over your freshly painted walls, but won't touch tag the street art, no matter how banal the painting.
Then once we were back in Santiago, we watched a movie set in Valparaíso called Aftershock. Seriously? If you've seen the movie you know what I mean. If you haven't, please don't watch it! I know they were going for shock value, and trying to be so grim it's "funny" but watching it may deter you from visiting this great little city. That would be a shame.