Santiago de Chile.

I managed to sleep on the flight and woke up to absolutely mind boggling views of sunrise over the Andes from the plane.

It is summertime here. It is jarring to leave a city held firmly in winter's grip, and disembark in a city filled with sun, warmth, flowers and ice cream.

But that is how it is here. Cafe culture is in full swing. The trees have leaves.

I took the bus from the airport into town, found my hotel without incident, and spent the afternoon walking around this seething metropolis. It is a giant city, sprawling between the Andes and the coastal range. Modern, but with graceful colonial neighborhoods as well. Much of the time Santiago is shrouded in a layer of smog. I lucked out and had a decently clear day. Despite its vastness, Santiago can offer up surprisingly intimate cityscapes. In Barrio Bellavista, where I was staying, there are a number of small, shaded squares, surrounded on all sides by graceful colonial buildings.

 I made my way to Cerro San Cristobal and took a funicular which is a sort of 45 degree angle elevator/train. From there I could look out over the city, to the mountains beyond. I made friends with the subway, which is a great way to get around. I spent time people watching in the Plaza de las Armas, and then retreated to the Piojero, a very nice little bar tucked away down a side alley. There I had my first official Chilean Pisco Sour. A lovely commingling of lemon juice, sugar and pisco, a potent brandy that is the de facto national tipple of Chile.

On an interesting side note, both Chile and Peru claim to be the owner of "true" pisco, to the point of enacting myriad laws, regulations and treaties.
 Chile even renamed a village "Pisco Elqui" to solidify their claim over the beverage. The debate rages on in the halls of the World Trade Organization.

Inescapable dichotomy of Latin America: Old/New.

This city stomping is all fine and good, but we mustn't linger. In order to truly begin, we must go to the end.

The end of the earth, Patagonia, about 1300 miles due south.

Copyright Estate of Anthony Vail Sloan 2009