Chile: Parque Quinta Normal & Museo Artequin

Okay holidays are over –  it’s back to Chile posts..    On our 3rd day in Santiago we headed off to the Parque Quinta Normal by metro.  The 96 acre (39h) park was initially established as an “acclimatization”  park for imported trees and animal breeding site.  Now it’s a gorgeous park of sweeping lawns and a lagoon.
IMG_1862as well as home to several museums including the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (Natural History Museum)  IMG_1856 an outdoor Railway museum  (Museo Ferroviario) and the MOD (Contemporary) on the outer edge: IMG_1911
As we walked through the park we were drawn towards an impressive blue building just opposite one of the entrance gates.  It was the Museo Artequin which is in a building first used as the Chilean exhibition hall at the 1889 Parisian Expo.    IMG_1867a
The building was designed by the French architect Henri Picq who won the competition to build a collapsible building of iron, steel and zinc for the Expo. Built by Moisant, Laurent Savey & Co the building consists mostly of glass and riveted steel. It is wireframe (mechano).  (The Eiffel Tower, by architect Gustave Eiffel, was built for the same exhibition using the same materials).  At the Paris exhibition the building was named “The Chilean Pavilion” and demonstrated Chile’s accomplishments in Trade, Education, Agriculture and the Military.
At the conclusion of the expo the Pavilion was taken apart and shipped to Valparaiso and then put on a train to Santiago.   It was reconstructed on its current site in 1894, renamed the Pavillion Paris, and housed the Exhibition of Mining & Metallurgy.  The building became an Aeronautical Museum for the Air Force at some stage before being completely renovated in 1992, including being repainted in its original colours, and reopening as the Museo Artequin.  This is mostly an educational facility for children but adult workshops & classes run by professional artists are also held here.
Copies of famous artwork hang on the walls at child’s height:      IMG_1876
And there are small tables & drawing materials:
IMG_1881The building is 10m x 10m and 10 metres tall (33′) then topped with a large central glazed dome with 4 smaller domes in the corners.  The metal frame/glass panels are collapsible; the interior is decorative plaster and cement fillings.  The perimeter fence on the upper interior level is made of gypsum plaster with sand added.  The coffered panels and decorative motifs are plaster moulded.  (click on photos to see larger size).

Chile: Cerro San Cristobal


Chileans seem to have a “thing” for the Virgin Mary.  We ran across her in many places during our trip;  in churches, in parks and in paddocks in the middle of no-where.  The largest one we saw was 14m (45′) tall sitting on an 8.3m (27′) pedestal and weighing a hefty 36,610kg (80711 lbs) !!    This Blessed lady sits on top of Cerro San Cristobal –  an 880m (2,887′) hill where she can be seen blessing the city from just about every corner of Santiago.  She was made in Paris but I do not know how she was transported to Chile or how & when she was installed at the top of the hill.

Cerro San Cristobal was named after the San Cristobal family which had a quarry on one side of the hill but its original name was “Tupahue”  (Mapudungun for “place of gods”).   The largest green space in Santiago is on Cerro San Cristobal  –  the 722h (1,784 acres) Parque Metropolitano.  Within the Parque is also a Japanese-style garden (Jardin Japones) and two municipal pools – the Piscina Tupahue and Piscina AntilenPiscina Antilén (where you have panoramic views of the city while you swim).

To get to the top of the hill one can either walk (this apparently takes about 90 mins),  cycle, or take the Funicular train which I heard described as being like a very slow roller-coaster.  The funicular started operating on April 25, 1925.  There are two, and one goes up as the other comes down.  The entrance to the station is much fancier than my DC metro!   IMG_6266

I hate rides so I ventured onto this with some trepidation.   The  “cars”   reminded me of coal cars and you just stand in them and hold on:       IMG_6337The funicular climbs 485m  (1,591′) at an incline of 45 degrees at 110m per minute (360′ per minute).    Half way up is the Chilean National Zoo but our funicular did not stop there and actually it looked closed so I’m not sure if that’s an “attraction”  or not –  reviews I read of the zoo were rather harsh though one said it might be the only place you’ll see Chile’s national mascot, the tiny pudú deer. IMG_6272

You “land”  at the summit station which is not really the summit as you have to then climb further to get to the top.   There are great views of Santiago smog at this level and you can just make out the Andes in the background.  IMG_6316.IMG_6276.IMG_6308

There is another “level” with Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción del Cerro San Cristóbal  (the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception)

and various other religious things:   .

Then you climb a bit further towards Mary:   IMG_6288And a bit further still …..   IMG_6324  Inside the pedestal section there is a small chapel where John Paul II prayed & blessed Santiago on 1st April 1987  and the open air amphitheatre is used for Masses and ceremonies.IMG_6304.

IMG_6325aOn the way back down I noticed a sign on the funicular car which says (according to Google translator):  “In the car, on April 1, 1987, rose to the feet of the Virgin Mary Mother of God and Our Sea, His Holiness John Paul II, to give, from the sanctuary, his apostolic blessing to Santiago and throughout Chile, in his pastoral visit by the country ”   IMG_6269aIt had been a long day for us starting with the Cementerio General de Santiago  so once we left the Virgin we felt we deserved a late afternoon drink  –  a Chilean white wine for me and pisco sour for the manservant:  IMG_6392


Chile: The Palace and a bit of African culture


After the cemetery we headed downtown to the Palacio de la Moneda.  The neoclassical style building was designed by Italian architect Joaquin Toesca and originally built to house the mint  (moneda = currency/coin).   Construction began in 1784 and the mint opened in 1805.  In 1846 the building became the national headquarters of the government and residence of the president.

We weren’t aware of it but you can tour the building.  You have to book it at least 10 days in advance and if I ever make it back to Santiago I’ll definitely do that.

There is a changing of the guard ceremony at 10am on odd-numbered days.  (I wonder if the dog takes part).   


The north facade of the palace was badly damaged on September 11, 1973 when the Chilean Air Force dropped missiles on it at the request of the army during the military coup, when President Salvador Allende refused to leave.   The palace was restored between 1973-1980 and completed by March 1981  – though it is said that some bullet marks have been preserved!  It is also said that a “bunker”  was built under the front square to provide an escape for then-President General Pinochet.

In the square now is a statue of Allende: IMG_6133a

To celebrate the bicentenary of Chile’s independence, a new public square called the Plaza de la Ciudadania was constructed on the south side of the palace.  The plaza was inaugurated in December 2005.  It was designed by Undurraga Deves Arquitectos and paths lead down from the plaza to the underground Palacio de La Moneda Cultural Center which opened in 2006 in the Palace’s basement.    This is a huge art space with exhibition halls,  a media library and a cinema as well as some shops & a cafe.   We saw an exhibit of  African figures and masks.   The program was written in Spanish but most of the curator notes beside the exhibits had an English translation. The exhibition was split into 2 sections;  one showing art as power and the other showing artistic representations of the human figure as it reflects society and behaviour.  There were 180 pieces covering 4 centuries on display but no photos were allowed.  It was a bit strange to go to Chile & see an African exhibition but it was a great venue and we both thought the exhibition was really good.



Chile: Cementerio General de Santiago


I wanted to see the Memorial del Detenido Desaparecido y el Ejecutado Politico (Memorial of the Disappeared and Executed for Political Reasons) which is in the Cementerio General de Santiago close to the Cementerios metro station.  I’d have liked to have seen Patio 29 also but it is on the other side of the cemetery and a combination of sore feet, heat and a little run-in with the cemetery police put me off……

The Cementerio General was founded, on land that was a Dominican estate,  by Bernardo O’Higgins on 9th December 1821, and he was buried there until removed by General Pinochet in 1979.  O’Higgins is considered to be one of Chile’s founding fathers – he was Supreme Director of the independent Chile 1817-1823, The cemetery covers 86 hectares (212 acres) and around 2 million people’s bodies or ashes are here.  In the 1870’s Santiago’s Intendente (Mayor), Benjamin Mackenna began a public works program which included beautifying the cemetery with boulevards and trees.

Every President of Republican Chile is buried in the cemetery except O’Higgins, Gozalex Videl (President 1946-52, and later, a supporter of Pinochet) and Pinochet.

We went off straight after breakfast.  Not sure why the manservant didn’t tell me to move a bit to the left!  The sign means enter only for funerals:

Just outside the gate:   IMG_6095
These are the 4 photos I’d taken before being stopped by the cemetery-police.  None of them of a sensitive nature I would’ve thought:
Shortly after I’d taken the above photos, which were taken just inside that entrance, a policeman arrived on a bicycle and gestured that I could not take photos.  He said something about “permisio”   which we didn’t have and had no idea how to get. Perhaps he thought I was doing something commercial as I had my “big” camera…  there were a few (failed) attempts at communication about permisio before he became exasperated and blew his whistle.  Another policeman rode up on his bicycle and this is where I imagined being handcuffed and led away!  Instead, in stilted English this second policeman asked what we were doing and reiterated no hay fotos. I had written the directions to the memorial (the cemetery has streets) on a piece of paper that I had in my pocket.  I gave that to him and he thawed a little but then led us to the memorial with a “come, come, seguir” command.  Once we got there he stood astride his bike observing us!   There are 4,000 names on the memorial and I thought we were going to have to read every one of them before he got sick of watching us and left!
I don’t know if they were special cemetery police or normal Carabiniers; I don’t know if someone  called them or if it was just bad luck that they came across me and my Canon.   I’ve taken photos in cemeteries and graveyards across the world and have never had anyone tell me I couldn’t take a photo in one before!
Once he left I took some photos of the Memorial but I felt uncomfortable doing it –  I kept expecting him to reappear with those handcuffs!
There are 4,000 names surrounding Salvador Allende Gossens (Chile’s first socialist president – Presidente de la Republica 1966 – 1969) on the memorial.  The first stone of the memorial was laid in September 1990 and it was inaugurated in February 1994 with only minor Government officials present.   Below the plaza there are two lower walls which hold the remains of the detenidos-desaparecidos (disappeared while in detention) on one side and ejecutados-politicos (killed while in detention for political reasons) on the other.   These walls have 400 niche vaults but only 185 have been filled.    There is no curatorial note to explain anything about the Memorial but it’s assumed there are at least another 1,000+ bodies which were never found or identified.

As we wandered back to the metro I was careful not to flash my camera about so I didn’t take many photos.   We came across this mausoleum which seems to hold deceased members of the Chilean 1962 World Cup team (I’m guessing at that):      IMG_6115And this mausoleum with a lovely door:    IMG_6113
There are rows & rows, and levels & levels, of wall niches which are rented for periods of 5, 10 or 25 years.  Families can sell or sublet their niche – though I’m not sure what happens to the occupant –  perhaps they squish them in with another relative.  The casket is slid in feet first and then the niche is sealed and capped with a plaque bearing the deceased’s name and date of death.   The date of birth is not always included.

I’m sorry now that I felt intimidated into not strolling about taking more photos.  I definitely intend to go back here and next time with a guide of some sort so we can thoroughly explore all the historical inhabitants.   We might even go to the main entrance!

Chile: Mercado Central – 1st visit


While the Mass was being conducted we were lunching in a restaurant in the  Mercado Central de Santiago.  

I decided on calamari  – mostly because I could identify it on the menu –  calamares.   I asked if it was “frito”  in one of the 4 sauce options listedThe waiter said a lot and I heard “frito”  a few times so what I imagined I was going to get was crumbed/battered, deep fried calamari drizzled with a tasty tomato-based sauce.   What I apparently asked for was plain grey-blanched calamari sans crumbs or batter and not a skerrick of sauce!  

Not only was it not attractive, it did not taste good.  At all!  So I did what any loving wife does;  I offered to swap meals with the manservant!  He had ordered Ceviche which he was *really* looking forward to and which he declared to be “delicious”  after his first mouthful. But as most husbands know a happy wife is a happy life …….

I must say he chose very well –  the Ceviche was really very good!   You might start to notice that often, when I’m not the photographer, I’m photographed holding something alcoholic!   When traveling in Chile one really must sample their great wines and also Pisco Sours.  I think we had alcohol at every meal except breakfast and that was probably only because we weren’t offered any…..


IMG_1728The building is gorgeous –  it’s constructed of cast-iron parts which were fabricated in Britain and shipped to Chile where it was assembled for the National Exposition of 1872.

It’s primarily a fish market with restaurants.

but it also has stalls of bits & pieces

We enjoyed the market so much we went back later in the week.   If we’d lingered this day we would’ve missed the Lord of Miracles procession that we didn’t know was about to happen…….