SANTIAGO 30 YEARS ON
Mar 3, 2011, 11:52:13 AM | by
It is just amazing how fast time flies. Thinking back the other day I realised this is my 30th year covering tennis and the journey has always remained absorbing, interesting and at times it has seemed overwhelming....
It is just amazing how fast time flies. Thinking back the other day I realised this is my 30th year covering tennis and the journey has always remained absorbing, interesting and at times it has seemed overwhelming. Whatever the state of mind, getting tired of life on the tour is never dull. It was also 30 years ago that I made my first trip to South America and Santiago de Chile was the first city on the continent I stopped in. In those days it took what seemed like an eternity to get here from Sydney. The routing was like the milk run as it took you through Auckland, Papeete and the Easter Islands with a single runway and two primitive buildings, more like shacks, which was the airport. Nowadays there are two options; Lan Airlines via Auckland into Santiago or Qantas non-stop to Buenos Aires and then a reasonable connection. The latter was my chosen route and it was probably about six hours faster than those days three decades ago. The last time I was in Santiago, General Pinochet was firmly in charge with his dictatorship and I was only here a couple of days as I made my way to Rio. This time the visit was for the first round tie between Chile and the USA in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. I don’t remember too much of the last visit but I do remember staying at a glorious hotel operated by Sheraton. There was a grand staircase that dominated the lobby and at the top of the stairs was a massive glass mural that depicted the Conquistadors. This was the hotel used by Eva Peron when she visited Chile. I went looking for the place and even looked for it on the internet but alas no luck. No one could even tell me about it, so looks like a piece of history and historical architecture may have disappeared. Santiago is a city of architectural contrasts. There is the glistening, modern part with the high rise glass and steel buildings of clean lines which is essentially the financial heart of the country. The other side of things is the old part, the beautiful structures that ooze character and that could tell a million stories. Places like the national Cathedral that looks across Plaza de Armas which took over 150 years to complete. The same square is surrounded by other impressive buildings from the City Hall to the museum and the post office. The National Theatre is about to re-open after a major facelift and it looks magnificent. The first performance is Man of La Mancha. The Palacio la Moneda which is sandwiched between Plaza Constitucion and Plaza de la Ciudadania, is the parliament, each morning there is a changing of the guard, and that part is quite pristine. Connecting the two extremes are dozens of parks. There is so much lush green in the city with glorious trees, water features and fountains and dotted through the parks and plazas are statues of men from Chilean history. Climbing to the top of Cerro Santa Lucia was worth it because from Iglesia de la Vera Cruz at the top you get a panoramic view of the city and on a clear day it is very expansive as approximately 6million people live here. Santiago, which seems to have a pre-occupation with banks, universities, cafes and shoe shine stalls, is pretty much surrounded by mountains, so many snow capped and dominated by the Andes. The view is so breath taking that the pilot on the flight from Buenos Aires had to tell people to remain in their seats because they were rushing to the windows to get a view. Well said because I didn’t want to get any closer than I was.