This quaint town in the middle of Illinois is one of the best replicas of life in the 1850’s. Located on the banks of the Mississippi river, this small town has homes fully restored with volunteers that re-enact the times of Pioneers. There are pioneer crafts, games, horse-drawn wagon rides, and live entertainment. Explore the Pioneer History in Nauvoo Illinois.
Located just across the Mississippi River from Fort Madison, this historic town is the location of the a former U.S. Military outpost, Fort Madison. This was an active trading post between the US Military and the Native Americans between 1808 and 1813.
It was also the site of the Chief Blackhawk’s first battle against the U.S. troops. This fort was one of three Army posts established to maintain control over the Louisiana area. There were so many trade disputes between the natives, especially the Sauk Tribe, that the trade treaty of 1804 was considered invalid. The quality of goods that were being offered from the Fort vs what was being offered by Britain and France were considered to be far inferior.
The Blackhawk’s Biography relayed their point of view of this military settlement as follows:
“A number of people immediately went down to see what was going on, myself among them. On our arrival we found they were building a fort. The soldiers were busily engaged in cutting timber, and I observed that they took their arms with them when they went into the woods. The whole party acted as they would do in an enemy’s country. The chiefs held a council with the officers, or head men of the party, which I did not attend, but understood from them that the war chief had said that they were building homes for a trader who was coming there to live, and would sell us goods very cheap, and the soldiers were to remain to keep him company. We were pleased at this information and hoped that it was all true, but we were not so credulous as to believe that all these buildings were intended merely for the accommodations of a trader. Being distrustful of their intentions, we were anxious for them to leave off building and go back down river.”
The Fort location was a poor choice due to being at the base of a bluff where the local natives could safely fire at it from a distance. After multiple attacks, attempted seiges, threat of cannon fire against the natives. The War of 1812 expanded, British allied with the Sauk and other tribes in an effort to eradicate the Americans and regain control of the important trade along this major river.
Conditions became so dangerous that bodies of the dead were left outside the fort, and troops were unable to leave the fort to recover lost supplies. Instead of allowing nearby towers to fall to the natives, they were instead…burned. The Army eventually abandoned the post in 1813 and burned it to the grown as they left.
The early setters built around the ruins of this fort and a large monument was erected in the early 20th century where you can see how these early forts were built and manned.
Mississipi River Boat Tours
For those wanting to sail along the Mississippi there are several river boat cruises available. Here are a few options:
After a brief interlude in Fort Madison, head over to the Nauvoo Visitors Center. There are several things I want to mention before you do though. The basis of this town is from when the Mormon Pioneers (or Latter-Day Saint Pioneers) settled in the area. Because of the religious significance this town has for them, it has been well preserved and very well restored.
While some may be aversed to visiting a place with such religious significance, I would like to persuade you otherwise. It has been said that it is the best restored Pioneer type village you will see in the United States. Here is where you will learn how trade happened for the community here along the Missisippi River. There are multiple shops where uplifting messages are shared on how people during that time survived. There are restored blacksmith shops, where they are still used in the same fashion they were used during that time. There is a Brick Masons yard where they explain the different types of bricks. An Apothecary shop that shows how illness was signaled to neighbors to not visit, herbs were used, and how bees were caught.
The messages provided are uplifting, and teach nothing of hard argumentative doctrine of their religion. I found the community to be warm, kind, helpful and most of all inspiring.
If you start out at the Visitors Center; it will give you an overview of who these people were and how they cleared the swampy area to make it into a thriving trade community.
This Mormon Temple has been restored to it’s grand and original design. A Temple to the Mormon’s is a house in which they believe the Spirit of God resides if those who enter are worthy. There are prayers offered within this building, and a reverence in which it’s members talk about it because of the peace they feel when entering this Temple.
I feel the reverence in which they talk about this building is compounded by the fact that despite it being destroyed by mobs so long ago; the original structure has been fully restored and is fully operational for their worship. It is thought as sort of a memorial in addition to a place of worship for those who sacrificed so much for what they believed in, in the mid 1800’s.
While those who are not members of the Mormon, or rather the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, are not allowed to enter. There are plenty of their members who have black name tags pinned to their shirts to show you what the inside looks like and answer questions about what goes on inside. They want me to emphasize, that while they do not wish to exclude anyone or make those who are not members feel like there are secrets being withheld from them; there is a certain sacred nature that needs to be upheld for those who come there to worship instead of it being a tourist center.
To learn about the struggle the founding members of this church experienced when trying to establish their community and build their temple. Be sure to stay for the free shows offered during the summer. These include the story of their Prophet Joseph Smith, and about those who immigrated from overseas to this city and then how they were forced out by angry mobs.
Joseph Smith Historic Properties
Learning about another religion can be a touchy subject for many, but it is important when understanding where another person’s point of view comes from. The history that shaped them, and how to explain things in ways that they can relate to and understand.
So for those who would like to know more about the Latter-Day Saint Prophet Joseph Smith; be sure to visit the homes where he and his family stayed. They are the original height, size, and layout of the home. It shows how meat was stored, where they went to the loo, and how they preserved food.
The town’s gathering place where square dancing, sermons, and now nightly shows of the city during its ‘Golden Age’ occur. If you go up to the second floor of this building you can see a pioneer quilt museum. Learn about the different patterns, how they made their fabrics, and what a pioneer bedroom set would have looked like.
It was fun to imagine the room full of shy young women and men who were attempting to dance around here. The show was quaint but entertaining, and I was very grateful to let my feet rest for a bit and escape the humid summer air.
Family Living Center
You can learn how to make rope and barrels at the Family Living center as they did in the day of the American Pioneers, who trekked across the great plains. You can also get a recipe for pioneer bread, and make your own candlestick and so much more
I was surprised at how much I felt like a child discovering something for the first time when I was here. Participating in these activities, learning how to be self sustaining during a time when technology didn’t run their lives. How they entertained themselves. But what struck me the most, was how much of their day was dedicated to creating, and survival for the winter months. Volunteers are there to help, dressed in time period clothing and full of historical knowledge of how things were done and made during the early 1800’s.
The best part is that you get a free memento in this shop, where you get to take home the rope that you make and a slice of the bread.
Jonathan Browning Gun Shop
Jonathan Browning was a Tennessee native, who started out as a Blacksmith and then later started to make guns. It wasn’t that he just made guns, but invented different types and mechanisms of the gun. His most notable inventions were the sliding breech repeating rifle, or the Harmonica gun. The army took note of his invention and utilized his guns for many years. Each one of the Harmonica guns took 2 weeks to make, and sold for $24 (today this would equate to $456.96 per gun).
Some of his guns are on display here, and you can also see how rifle barrels in the 1800’s were made.
Lyon Drug Store and Herb Garden
Medical care before 1820 was mostly by trial and error, with apprenticeships passing down knowledge increased and collected year after year. Medical schools didn’t emerge until the 1840’s, and so most of the medicines used were strictly herbal.
So for common ailments or for symptoms of a disease process that is more insidious, any member of the community could come into the Drug Store or Apothecary and request a concoction to help alleviate certain symptoms.
There were, however, some very interesting concoctions that were used then that are quite shocking to us today – now that we have science to back up the dilitirous effects. One of these concoctions was Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, used to sooth teething toddlers. What was the key ingredient? Morphine. Opium was commonly used to treat coughing fits and diarrhea – it was used as an all purpose drug back in the day. It was also common to treat syphilis with arsenic and mercury. Blood letting was used to break fevers, and calomel was used to induce vomiting that would help expel the bad blood and toxins from the body.
Much of what you see in this Drug Store is herbal based; though these would often be mixed with water or alcohol.
This store was by far the most fascinating for me, given my medical background. It made me chuckle and at the same time horrified what the people here likely endured. To be situated right near the Mississippi River, where Malarial mosquitos roamed during that time. Yet I was thouroghly impressed at how they made due with the resources and knowledge they had during that period of time.
Brick making will never be so fascinating as when you visit this shop. You have to enter a small room where a brick mason will show you how bricks are made, how they were cooked, how much they cost, and how long it would take to build a home in the 1800’s.
I didn’t realize that the different color of bricks signified their relative strength due to the placement in the fire. The sturdier bricks also cost more and possessed more color. If you are the type that likes to watch the show ‘How it’s made’ then Historic Nauvoo is the place for you!
Once you are done learning about how the bricks are made, you are given a brick, made in the ovens at this location with a memorial stamp on it for free. Just one more free memento of the plethora here.
Walking into the Blacksmith shop was VERY warm, as it should be when your trying to bend and melt metal. An elderly gentleman was there with little children crowding up in the front, curious and enthralled by the metal working and instruction. He captivated the children, by telling them (and the other adults in the room) how hot the metal had to be in order for it to bend, what types of things can cause impurities in the metal, and what types of things they would utilize a Blacksmith’s shop for back then.
He then told us a story of how young men who were wanting to wed, but did not have the money for a gold ring would use an old silver nail to propose to their brides. The ring they would use to propose is lovingly called a ‘Prairie Diamond’. Each single woman was invited to come up and receive one of these fire forged rings (thrown in Lord of Rings Meme here), and leave with a smile on her face.
After boiling in the Blacksmith shop, head over to another cook off at the Scovil Bakery. This is a rather small shop, but you get to see how a Bakery was set up, where they would cook items that could be purchased by the community – and they even offer a home baked treat. The Scovil cookies are delicious and packed full of love from the elderly women in this store. Best part is, the cookies are free!
Trail of Hope
Once called the trail of tears, you walk along a dirt road leading from the town to the river. Every ten feet or so is a new sign, with a story of how the pioneers of that time were persecuted by mobs for their beliefs. For those who are part of this Latter Day Saint Religion, this is a very moving trail – as it tells a story of courage, loss, and ultimately hope for a future free of torture, death, and constant re-establishment in new country.
This town for them, was the last town before making the trek out of the – at the time- United States to a land out west. Through storms, rain, snow, starvation, disease, and summiting mountain passes with wooden wagons and handcarts – they were able to live in freedom, and peace in a place now called Utah.
No matter if you are a member of this religion or not, their story of courage in the face of adversity is inspiring. With so much hate then, and even now – it is important to remember the lessons of our past – and learn from them.
So if you find yourself in Illinois on a road trip, or want to see how the West was truly won and explored. Visit Nauvoo Illinois and see just how courage in the hearts of Americans was truly forged.
Sleep can be elusive for many people throughout the world. It tends to be even more elusive when you are traveling, due to being in a new environment. I see this in my elderly patients all the time who are admitted to the hospital. A new environment can disturb your sleep patterns due to noise, ambient light, bed width or firmness even in the best of circumstances. Yet there are a few over the counter sleep aids that I commonly recommend to patient’s and that I frequently use during my travels. I would highly recommend trialing these at home first and checking with your primary care provider before trailing any of the recommended sleep aids below.
While this is a supplement, it is commonly used as a sleep aid by many. It tends to work in those individuals who may have too much ambient light in their room. This chemical is released in the brain at night, when in complete darkness. There was a study that was looking at Night Shift workers and their release of melatonin, and if it was somehow related to having an increased propensity to breast cancer.
This is also an over-the-counter supplement utilized to help both sleep and mood. Emotional distress or high levels of cortisol released when traveling can disturb sleep and this supplement can help calm the body and aid in more restful sleep. 5-HTP is made from L-tryptophan, a substance absorbed from our food; after being absorbed it is converted into 5-HTP which helps regulate the serotonin cycles within our bodies. Seratonin is a chemical that helps with mood regulation and in turn sleep patterns.
3: Sleep Mask and Ear Plugs
This may be tailored to the individual, but having a sleep mask to block out ambient light, and earplugs to block out noise can greatly improve the quality of sleep an individual could get on a plane, in a hotel, or other accommodation.
I recently purchased this sleep mask that had eye pockets that are velcro adjustable. The eye pockets are elevated from the strap so your eyelashes don’t brush against the cloth. This particular velcro doesn’t catch my hair in it and pull it all out either, which makes it really nice when you wake up and don’t have to pull out half of your hair to take it off. I really like the adjust-ability that this eye mask has; each eye pocket can be taken off put either closer together or farther apart depending on the width between your eyes. While on my Red Eye flight to Florida I used this eye mask, and just felt as if I was tucking my eyes in under a warm blanket. It almost felt like I was getting ready for a spa treatment 20,000 feet in the air.
The only things I would say about this eye mask is that if you are a side sleeper it presses on the side of the face and can become a little uncomfortable when you try it for the first time. The other part, which could be good or bad for you is that it does get warm if you pull the strap too tight. I have a warmer body temperature at baseline, so I adjusted the strap accordingly and had a little more airflow coming to my face. Although, on my red-eye flight it was very nice to have the extra warmth on my face because the plane tends to get quite cold when it reaches cruising altitude.
Now I can’t travel anywhere without using this sleep mask. This sleep mask seems to meet all my needs, and exceed them with the adjustability with the eye width, complete light blocking ability, and won’t make me bald from the Velcro catching my hair. So should you need a sleep mask, may I humbly suggest purchasing this one.
4: Checking Hormone Levels
While this isn’t an over the counter supplement per se, it is imperative that if you have changes in your sleep patterns to see your Primary Care Physician. Low Progesterone levels in Pre-menopausal women can lead to anxiety. Hypo or HyperThyroidism can affect mood and in turn sleep as well. Low Testosterone can make you overly fatigued, causing you to feel you need to take more naps and then interrupt the circadian rhythms your body has. Lack of sleep can also affect your mood, appetite, and even your hormones.
ginger tea with mint and lemon
5: Herbal Tea
There are a plethora of teas out there that are both natural and soothing. Having a warm beverage with these calming herbs can help you sleep better at night. I personally use Sleepy Time Tea, Yogi’s Breathe Tea, and Peppermint Tea.
6: Turkey Dinner and Warm Milk
For those Omnivores out there, Turkey has a substance called Tryptophan – which as I mentioned before (see above) can help with your sleep cycle and sense of well being. The same thing can be said of warm milk. While I’m not personally a fan of warm milk alone, a good cup of hot cocoa for those who are not diabetic could be an option for a non-pill form sleep aid.
7: Warm Foot Bath or Shower
Changing temperatures from cool to hot has a natural effect of relaxation on the body. A study on Taiwanese individuals showed that increasing the blood flow through a warm (40 degrees Celcius) foot bath one hour before bed helped improve the skin’s blood flow through the entire body and in turn resulted in a better night sleep for individuals.
8: Keep Your Routine
The bedtime rituals that you have at home are imperative when traveling. If you tend to read a book, do yoga, or do a crossword puzzle before bed then try and do what your particular ritual is, right before bed. It helps let your brain know that you are in a safe place, that things are normal. It tends to relax me to keep my nightly ritual as I call it. I get ready for bed in the same sequence every night, and in the same way.
9: Avoid TV or Phone Use About 1 Hour Before You Sleep
Blue light blocking devices are becoming more popular with research indicating that the blue light can stimulate certain areas of your brain that stimulate wakefulness. Using a salt lamp, installing blue light blocking filters, or traveling with Amber Colored glasses can help with minimizing the blue light effect.
Exercise while traveling to help improve your quality of sleep. While most people argue that, ‘I’m on vacation, I don’t want to exercise’. I promise that you will enjoy your vacation more if you have a proper night’s rest – especially with Jet Lag. We all know the health benefits of exercise for mental health, and physical health, but did you know it can help regulate insulin levels as well? It is a natural way to help improve blood flow, relax those aching muscles after a long flight or ride and will allow you to enter REM sleep more readily while traveling.
11: Don’t Eat A Large Meal At Least 2 Hours Before Bed
Eating a large meal right before bed can decrease your quality of sleep especially while traveling. It can deter blood flow from the brain, from the skin, and goes to where you’re telling the body it is needed…..the stomach. It can also exacerbate issues like GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease which can disturb sleep.
12: Essential Oils
While there is a huge debate in the medical community on the utility and use of essential oils; I always tell my patients that if they feel it works then keep using it. I find that with my Asthma, having Eucyluptus essential oils with me helps my breathing at night (even if it is a sugar pill effect), it calms me and I tend to sleep easier. Lavender has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for sleep maladies and calming emotions. Popping in a tiny two-ounce bottle of essential oils to rub on my pillow at night helps to create an environment that smells like my home.
13: Check with Your Doctor
If you still have trouble sleeping, frequently wake at night, have high blood pressure, or sleep better with several pillows propping you up or have to sleep in a chair – I would recommend going to your Primary Care Doctor and getting a sleep study as these could be signs of medical conditions that require intervention. The key to sleeping well while your traveling is to create an environment that feels like home, make sure you exercise, get a balanced diet, and then supplement with a sleep aid when you can.
14: Play an Audible Book
This is one that is a personal preference but essentially functions in the same way that white noise does. It helps me to sleep by giving me something familiar to listen to when I’m not used to the new environment. I turn on an audible audiobook, and then close my eyes, letting the imagination of the authors slowly lull me into an imaginative sleep.
15: Write Down Everything On Your Mind
As human beings, we try to do so many things while the sun is up. Even stretch the night out as long as we can to finish just ‘one more project’. It becomes harder and harder for our minds to just relax and unwind.
I’m sure you have experienced it, where you are on vacation, and yet you can’t seem to let go of the stress of work. You find yourself sitting on a beach chair, with the ocean waves crashing beautifully into the shore with a vibrant sunset; yet you feel a little anxiety really letting yourself ENJOY the moment. If you have never experience this, then you have found that state of Zen that 90% of the world hasn’t.
For the rest of us who have experienced this, may I suggest bringing a little notebook with you. Write down your worries, your to-do lists, people you want to call when you get home, projects you want to check on when you get home. It helps to purge the thoughts, worries, and to-do lists and helps you enjoy the moment more. I would even venture to suggest that you turn your phone off. This is the only time that you can really disconnect from the daily grind, so take advantage of it.
Bonus: Avoid Caffeine After Noon, and the latest research to support this.
Avoid Caffeine afternoon is a tip I give my patients all the time. It is commonly known to have an effect on mental alertness. Did you know that it also has a direct effect on the stress hormone cortisol, the neurotransmitter dopamine and can induce a catecholamine response that elevates blood pressure?
At a baseline, cortisol helps regulate your sleep cycle, helps consolidate your memory during sleep, affects the function of your kidneys and regulates your energy balances. If you continue to consume caffeine past the time when your natural peak of cortisol happens, it can disturb your sleep cycle by directly altering your diurnal cycle or sleep patterns.
Some may say that they have developed a ‘tolerance’ to caffeine consumption, but research says otherwise. While you may develop a tolerance to be able to go to sleep even if consuming caffeine after noon; research shows that the effect of caffeine on blood pressure never diminishes. A friend of mine had a stroke at the age of 27, he was fit, healthy, and worked in construction. After consuming two red bulls, and a cup of coffee, and didn’t consume much water on a hot day in Nevada. He ended up having a stroke and now has deficits he will live with for the rest of his life.
Having elevated blood pressure, a spike in your stress hormones and neurological function right before you are headed to bed – doesn’t exactly make for a restful night of sleep. So skip the caffeinated beverages and swap it for your non-caffeinated herbal teas I mentioned before.
Goodnight, Sleep Tight
With all of these tips, and the tips I offered previously on How To Combat Jet Lag; I am confident that you will have a good night sleep, or at the very least see an improvement in the quality of your sleep.
If you have any additional tips on how to get a good night sleep or would like to share your night-time routine with the community – please leave a comment below. Happy travels Culture Trekkers.
Searching online for hours on end, I finally decided on the neighborhoods I wanted to visit; the museums and shopping I wanted to see while in Santiago. Preparation is always key when planning a vacation, yet I only had 24 hours in Santiago Chile. There are so many things to do in Santiago Chile, I truly didn’t have enough time to see or do them all.
For those of you here on a shore excursion from your cruise in Santiago, here are a few things to do in Santiago in less than 24 hours. I was able to tour Santiago for $15, and that included food and a few treats.
Gen Hotel in Santiago Chile
My friend Breanna and I had just arrived in Santiago after a 16-day cruise along the coast of Central and South America. We arranged for a taxi from the port of San Antonio to Santiago (about an hour and a half drive), you can also take the bus/metro but this takes 2 1/2 hours. The taxi drivers near the ship wanted to charge $375 to take us into the city.
Luckily, we were able to call for an Uber that would cost us about $87 total (approx $45 per person). While it is ok to take an Uber from the San Antonio Port into Santiago, I wouldn’t recommend utilizing Uber within the city. I was given this warning from the manager at Gen Hotel, who told us that there are a lot of Uber drivers who are not legal. They take their riders to different places than they are supposed to, and then rob them and leave them there. If the cops catch you using an Uber, the fine can be up to $1000 USD, they are really cracking down on illegal taxi’s within the city of Santiago.
The concierge offered to take my friend to the airport for about the same amount that an Uber driver would cost, which I thought was very kind of him. He also changed our money for us (per our calculation based on the current exchange rate). He then suggested a few changes to the itinerary on things to do in Santiago for the short amount of time we would be there.
While Gen Hotel may not be the BEST place to stay in Santiago, only because it is about 20 minute walk to the Plaza De Armas, I would still recommend staying here. The A/C was so nice to have, the room was relatively clean, there is a 24 hour desk, and luggage storage if you need it. I reserved my room via AirBnb and felt like the staff watched out for me like they were my Uncle’s and Aunt’s.
This is not a sponsored promotion of this hotel, or for the Airbnb. I didn’t receive any discount for promoting this, I genuinely appreciated their kindness and quick communication. Even though they didn’t speak English, they utilized Google translate speech to text and we were able to communicate very clearly.
Centro Artesnal Shopping Center
This is a highly suggested place to shop for your souvenirs. A couple we met on the ship, Carlos and Maria, who are both from Santiago recommended a few things. There is a stone, Lapiz La Luz, a blue stone with white marbled flecks in it that is unique to Chile. I was told on multiple occasions that a blue stone with gold flecks in it was the real Lapiz La Luz, I later found out that these stones are cheaper for the seller and are actually from Afghanistan. The Lapiz La Luz is what you see within these penguins, a sapphire type blue with white marble looks flecks in it.
Another tip on what to buy in Santiago is Alpaca fur EVERYTHING! The cost of souvenirs in this market is comparable to other parts, and very reasonable considering it is right across Santa Lucia Hill. There are several types of Alpaca that are sold, and you can only tell which is which by touching it. The soft yet coarse fur is the mama Alpaca Fur, the incredibly soft fur is baby Alpaca.
Santa Lucia Hill
This is one of the best things to do in Santiago, visiting Santa Lucia Hill. Although calling this a Hill is a gross understatement, yet this is what the country calls this fortress/ancient volcano/park with memorials, multiple exits, and fountains etc..
I could have easily spent an entire day exploring this place, and all of its beautiful nooks and crannies. With almost 16 acres of park, rising 230 feet over the city to give you a 360-degree view of Santiago.
You start out by signing into the park, so that the city can keep track of who goes in and who goes out. Likely necessary due to homeless in the area who like to camp in the park, or vandals who go up to these historic sites and scrape graffiti into the walls.
Once you sign in, you head up to Neptune’s Fountain – something that looks like it should be in Italy. It is very intricate, yellow, and beautifully complimented by weeping willows that hanging down like a Chilean secret garden for the glamours and fabulous!
Make your way around the hill until you see signs for Santa Lucia Hill. Follow the steps all the way to the top, you may even get a little lucky and be greeted by some traditional music and a smog free skyline to see the Andean mountains in the distance.
The climb is worth it, but if you have a fear of heights, have balance issues or bad knees please do not attempt these steps. They are very steep, have minimal rails along the sides, and for those with big feet….well….it’s hard to get your foot properly on the step and feel safe.
As you make your way down from the summit of this hill, please be careful, and pay attention to each step. Do not stop in the middle of the staircase on the way down as it causes a traffic jam; step aside, let the people behind you pass, and then take your desired photos.
Reaching the main walkway from the top of the hill, you will run into Castle Hidalgo. This is the old fort that was used to protect the citizens from invaders. If you can’t make it to the top of Santa Lucia Hill, then go to the castles Tower of Santiago, where you can rent binoculars for 100 pesos and avoid the crowds.
Wander around the entire hill and you will find places like the Japanese Garden the Caupolican Terrance, and the memorial to Charles Darwin. There are so many outdoor attractions that I challenge you to find all 31 statues on this hillside and 416 vases of flowers procured for the beutification of Santa Lucia.
Museums are something that, after years of traveling, have become less interesting to me- yet I was thoroughly impressed with The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. The amount of South American history of the indigenous Amazonian people who migrated to the south after the Spanish invasions was incredibly enlightening.
The Museum is laid out in layers, I would suggest starting in the basement where artifacts from before Chile was Chile. There are a few statues there that reminded me of those on Easter Island. They are called Chemamulles, or wooden men that are said to reflect the spirits of the men buried there. They were placed on the graves of those who died. There are also massive ceramic bases and bowls, each with different shapes, patterns, and meanings.
Many of the ceramics, knives, woven textiles are decorated with animals, those things that revere nature and its bounty. There are also a collection of strings, that appear as if they are intricate necklaces but are in fact the way that they kept track of debts, shipments, payments etc. Knots of different sizes, types, and position on the strings indicated certain things.
There are also hats that were worn by these ancient people and indicated their status in the respective communities they were in.
After browsing the belly of this museum, in the cool basement, away from the heat of the city we wandered up each set of stairs. Each floor is an ascension into a different part of Pre-columbian life, where you will see how society was run and how it has shaped the culture of Chile to what it is today.
Be sure to stop by their exhibits, they do change, but when we were there we were able to see the meaning behind the Incan Calendar that was often put into textile form. The Incan calendar was used to track the changing of the seasons when to harvest when to plant etc. It also shows you how they make the textiles dye the wool, and how much talent is involved in making something so delicately beautiful and functional.
Plaza De Armas
This place is an absolute MADHOUSE during the day! Granted I visited just a few days before the Christmas Holiday here so that likely didn’t help, but I couldn’t believe the sea of people! Even the street vendors were running out of food and drink to give the people on the streets.
Ceasar, a gentleman on our cruise who lived in Santiago, was raving about a particular drink/street food item called Mote con Huseillo. It is a drink sold mainly in the summer that has sweet nectar made from soaking dried peaches, then cooked, cooled and husked wheat called mote is added and makes for a very filling treat to help coold down while touring Santiago.
The Plaza De Armas has many of the important governmental buildings, including a beautiful Post Office. This is the congregating place for many individuals to come and shop, tourists, come to see the churches and museums.
As I am not the type to love crowded areas of a city, we quickly moved through this section of the city and went down a nearby alleyway towards the Santiago Municipal Cathedral.
Santiago Municipal Cathedral
You could easily spend over an hour in this Cathedral. As with most Cathedrals it is gilded in gold, with pink marble inlaid into the pillars and beautiful religious paintings adorning the ceilings.
This is the church for the Archdioceses of Chile, and is dedicated to the assumption of Mary. The history of this Cathedral dates back to the 15th century, which I was thoroughly impressed with how new it felt, and how large it was.
It is common to feel small and insignificant in churches like this. Maybe this is a way to help the masses that come to worship in the halls here to humble themselves.
The geometric patterns of the naves, crypts, frescoes, and several alters all combine to make this a beautiful church and place of worship.
Getting to and from the airport
Avoid taking any unofficial cabs (ie/ Uber or Lyft) from the airport and wave down a ‘Taxi Oficial’. Agree on a price before you get in the cab, if they do not agree, or try to change the rate on the meter – get out of the cab and find another one. A fair price is around 15,000 Chilean pesos or US $30. Alternatively, if you’re feeling bold and thrifty, the bus costs even less and stops a few blocks away from the Plaza De Armas.
Getting around Santiago
If you plan to stay for more than a few days in Santiago, a savvy way to save money is to buy a Bip card at any of the local metro stations. It is a reloadable card that you can use for both the metro station and buses. You can also buy tickets from Pullman, Tur Bus or Condor. Buses in Chile can take you anywhere, and there are many roads that provide fantastic views of both the countryside and mountains.
Don’t forget your Travel Insurance which will protect you during your more adventurous activities, electronics, repatriation and more that your personal insurance may not cover. I recommend World Nomad Insurance as I have researched their coverage extensively, and find it extremely customizable and affordable.
Getting off of my cruise from LA to Santiago put me so close to Argentina I couldn’t help but visit. However, 36-hours in Buenos Aires Argentina is not enough time for this colorful and vibrant city.
I arrived at the airport and was immediately impressed with the organization of it, the amenities available and how streamlined their border control was. There was a Starbucks and a McDonald’s as well as some BBQ in the lobby after you left the border control.
I wasn’t meeting my guide until the next day and had accidentally put the incorrect day in the pickup time from the airport to the city center so had to wait for about an hour and a half. This gave me just enough time to stand in a massive line to exchange money from Chilean pesos to Argentinian currency.
We drove into the city center, my Airbnb host met me within 5-10 minutes of notifying her I was on my way. I dropped my luggage off in my room, freshened up, grabbed some coffee at a store down the street right before they closed at 8pm! Then headed over to Virtua Tango Club.
Dance the Tango with Locals
La Viruta Tango Dance Club is in the Armenian Cultural Centre and one of the most authentic experiences I had while in Argentina. I stayed in a fabulous Airbnb, across from a quaint little church. This club is within a 6-minute walk of the Airbnb, the neighborhood is very safe with police regularly controlling the area.
It is a 550 Argentinian Pesos cover charge to get in, and I would recommend having exact change in Argentinian I would call beforehand and reserve a table, as many of the tables are reserved after midnight. Before midnight is when a lot of the dance instruction happens, and around 2am is when the party really gets started.
There are dancing teachers from the local universities that come and give dance instruction to those wanting to learn the tango. If you are a woman, be prepared to be pulled from the audience to learn as the men in Argentina LOVE to learn this passionate dance.
Having experienced many salsa dancing clubs in Texas, line dancing and two-step dancing in Utah and Nevada. This was different in the fact that no matter what size, shape, intelligence level or physical ability you are – there is a place for you on the dance floor. It isn’t that people pair off and then you are left the ‘last pick of the litter’ for a dancing partner. You stand in three different circles depending on your level of experience in tango. Then rotate around to different partners after the completion of each new step introduced and practiced.
Trying local flavors is a great way to really immerse yourself into a culture. Not only does it help you experience something authentic, it also will improve your own home cooking styles. Empanadas Argentinian style are so delicious with the beef, veggies, and type of dough they use.
La Virtua Tango Club has some great Empanadas, which is perfect to eat right before a night of dancing. If you can’t get to Argentina, try this Argentinian Empanada Recipe.
Memory Park or Parque de la Memoria
This was one of the most moving, startling, and horrifying things I have witnessed in my travels so far. The message of this park comes in second to the Holocaust Museum in Israel, with the impact it had on me.
The park was built for the 30,000 Argentinian nationals who were being massacred during the ‘Dirty War’. Bodies were burned under bridges in day-light with cars being able to drive by and see this happening. Small graves now line the area in memory of those who were killed. Those who asked questions about the Presidents brutal dictatorship were taken and tortured in various areas around Buenos Aires.
Torture rooms were found within a mile of the university, where students would suddenly disappear. The students were taken for no other reason than they would ask questions, or were intelligent and sought an education. The church at the time was just as corrupt as the government and would be paid for their silence. The CIA of the United States knew what was happening, and Argentinians feel they partially contributed to it. We don’t learn about this history in the United States, but maybe we should – so we can learn from our mistakes of the past. Learn how to hold a government accountable that contributes to terrorism instead of defends against it.
They are still finding individuals who were killed during this dirty war, where the president sponsored his terrorism with the State money. The only reason that it was discovered that this was happening was when the World Cup was held in Buenos Aires. There was a subdued tone to the city, people didn’t want to talk to the reporters for fear of being taken. Reporters started to hear things mentioned, rumors, and then the investigations into disappearances started.
If you are in Argentina on a Sunday, I would suggest joining locals on the side of the road to drink Mate, eat BBQ and Alfajours. As you drive down the freeway you will see hundreds of cars, families and people on the side of the roads eating, talking and drinking Mate. Mate is a drink that is traditionally consumed with just hot water. It is Yerba plant tea leaves, with some caffeine and hot water served with a metal straw and a traditional ceramic cup.
Where ever you go you might see ‘hot water’ or ‘aqua calor‘ at the pop up food stands, even in the heat of summer they sell hot water. This is for this very popular and traditional drink they believe originated from the indiginous people of the Amazon, when they were fleeing Spanish invadors and migrated sout. I had the opportunity to try some while in Argentina and the mix of herbs used for this drink was very refreshing and relaxing – even on the hot day.
We had just finished at Memory park, and saw a couple on the side of the road, under a tree with their shirts off. Howard walked up to them, asked them if they were drinking Mate, and asked if I could try some as I was a tourist. They looked at me, smiled, finished off the remaining water and poured me a full cup. I thanked them both and sipped gingerly on the drink. It was refreshing, warm, like drinking a mild mint tea but without the mint flavor – more of an earthy warm flavor. It was very good, and I couldn’t believe how warm and kind the people were – even just randomly walking up to them and asking them for a spot of tea.
BBQ is part of the food pyramid of most Argentinians. BBQ there is an art form. Anywhere you go in Argentina there is a soft delicious smell of BBQ being cooked. I don’t want to recommend any ONE particular place, because part of the joy of traveling is trying new things and making mistakes. So get on Yelp when your in Argentina, look at reviews, and see where the locals recommend you go based on where your staying.
Alfajours are another delectable delight to try while your in Argentina. It is a type of cookie that is frequently eaten for both breakfast and for dessert. It is like a sugar cookie chocolate filled Oreo, that is either dipped in chocolate, or rolled in coconut/sugar or something else. This is also a great gift idea to bring home to loved ones or friends.
Take a dip in Holy Waters at Tierra Santa
While I didn’t have time to personally go to this spot, it is such a unique place that I couldn’t help but put it on this list. This is the only Christian Water Park in the world. The entire place is geared towards teaching the children that come to play about all things to do with Christianity. Including having Christ rise up out of the waters from the mountain and pour water down to the children below.
The outside of the park is decorated in the manger, the three wise men and the shepherds of the field. An angel stands guard over the entrance, and the current Pope is displayed for all to enter to say a prayer of thanks and thanksgiving.
So if you want to be able to say you have stepped foot into Holy Waters, stop by Tierra Santa water park.
Stroll through Bosques de Palermo – the Central Park of Buenos Aires
Have your guide take you to Basques de Palermo, a 1,000-acre park in the center of Buenos Aires. This is where their New Years concerts and celebrations take place. This is also where they hold plays, create hybrid roses and where most Quinciera and wedding photos are taken.
This park had a little bit of everything, for all types of travelers. We started off just outside the poet/writer sculpture park (really a circle of statues of famous writers/poet’s. Grabbing some water from Howard (my guide’s friend) as a precaution, because of the hot day in December.
Walking towards the heart of the park, we saw the stages being set up for their New Year’s Celebration, and headed towards the rose garden, or Rosedal de Palermo. There are over 18,000 roses in the park from 93 different species of roses. I could have spent at least 3 hours here smelling the roses. I secretly wished they had a perfume parlor there where you could bring the name of the rose smell you liked the most to a booth and then had that perfume made for you. What was really interesting was that the hybrid roses don’t actually have any smell to them, only the natural roses had the most plesant smells.
Walking through the roses we came to a small lake with the cutest ducks that were so excited to see Howard. Whenever he brings clients to this park, he always brings them bread, and he lovingly calls them ‘his ducks’. It was so fun to see the ducks compete with the fish in the pond for the bread that he dropped in there.
Moving along we came to several statues, gazebos laced with flowers, and then saw the small outdoor theater on a pond where plays are performed year round. During the warm summer months they perform tango in the theatre on the small lake. Keep in mind that on Mondays the park is closed for pruning.
I found out later that anyone can rent a paddle boat, roller blades, bikes etc.. in the park. I would suggest that if you have more than 48 hours in Buenos Aires, that you bring a picnic and do all three activities.
Recoleta Cemetery or Cemetario de la Recoleta
This cemetery, established in 1822, with 4,691 vaults (with anywhere from 1 to 200 coffins inside). There is over 14 acres of this labyrinth cemetery, and definitely requires a guide if you want to know the stories behind the families here. It is also recommended to have a guide because of how confusing it can get wandering around this place, it is easy to get lost, it gets very hot because of all the stone work reflecting the heat, and if you needed to use the restroom facilities your out of luck.
There is also the trouble of being able to see the more popular graves that really put this Cemetery in the Recoleta neighborhood on the map. Two of these graves are Napolean’s Grand-daughter and Eva Peron’s Vault. Eva Peron’s Vault is still worshiped and revered by so many Argentinians that there’s often a line in order to get a photo, and the people behind you only allow time for a quick photo before badgering you to move on.
I highly recommend utilizing Buenos Aires Taxi’s, the gentlemen that run this company are locals, have been taking visitors on tours for years and are highly reliable and reasonably priced. While I did receive a very small discount when utilizing their services, I would not recommend them if I did not feel they would take (not just great) but EXCELLENT care of you.
Tigre is a town on the Prana Delta that was once used to hunt Jaguar’s, and thus was named Tiger (Tigre). Now it is a main tourist destination for water activities like rowing, fishing, naval museum, and plenty of waterways and boat tours.
There are plenty of antique shops, a fruit market, restaurants, picnic areas and luxury cabins you can rent out. Buenos Aires Taxis’ also do tours in this area, and can pick you up anywhere in the city.
Plaza de Mayo and La Casa Rosada
As with most cities in South America, this Plaza was formerly the Plaza de Armas, and Recova building was demolished creating the massive Plaza Mayor.
This is where most of the national banks, federal agencies are located and also where many demonstrations have taken place since the 15th century. The most notable of these buildings is the Casa Rosada, or the pink house of the Argentinian President. The arched balcony on the left is where Evita gave her famous speech to the citizens of Argentina.
It is still used for government functions to this day, but is open for tours on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays but it requires you to reserve a tour online prior to coming to the building. There is a Museum located at the back of this house, that resides on the site of the former fort for the Plaza.
Corrientes Avenue and Avenue 9 De Julio
Avenue 9 DeJulio is the widest in the world with 18 lanes it is one of the largest avenues in the world, and stop lights at every block. It looks like a massive freeway lined with ice cream shops, massive monuments with twisting bodies encircling it, buildings with advertisements and even one with the face of Evita Peron on it where they held her funeral. This is where millions of Argentinians, especially the poor who she gave a voice to, lined this street to pay their respects.
Corrientes Avenue is the Broadway street of Argentina, where you can go to see plays, theatres, shows and so much more. In the spring, you will get a special spectacle of purple when the trees lining this avenue bloom and create a stunning setting for a perfect Sunday drive. If you look closely on each of the 40 blocks of this thoroughfare, there are plaques that commemorate notable people that contributed to the history of Tango in Argentina.
You can come to this part of town at any time of night and it will look just as busy as it did during the day. If Buenos Aires is the City of the Night, then Corrientes Avenue is the Street that never sleeps.
Stroll through La Boca Neighborhood in El Caminito
This is by far the biggest tourist attraction in Buenos Aires, the colorful neighborhood of La Boca. It is the perfect area to buy trinkets, souviners, gifts, the famous Argentinian leather, and even your own Mate cup and metal straw.
This is another area that you can watch people tango on the streets, grab a drink or a meal. Just be careful when looking for a place to rest your feet, as the restaurants have a table charge for even sitting down at a table to drink some water. This is so they can pay for the performers, the rent here and the staff – but Howard took me around to a local BBQ hideout that is typically filled with people.
The BBQ is cooked over briquette fires and you can pick out the type of meat you would like before you even sit down. They provide salad, some bread sticks, dipping sauces, salad, and water. The water does cost money, but with how much you walk around here you won’t care. I think after the whirlwind of 36 hours in Buenos Aires I was so parched I drank four bottled waters.
Book a Tour with Buenos Aires Taxis
The things I listed here are not even all the things I was able to visit of my tour with Buenos Aires Taxis. Howard and John were and are such wonderful hosts, answered all my questions and helped me understand just how resilient the people of Buenos Aires are despite what their country has been through in recent years.
I received a minimal discount to take a tour with their company; but I can say with all the confidence in the world that I have never felt more safe, educated, and informed than I did when I took a tour with them.
Where to Stay in Buenos Aires
Useful Words for Buenos Aires
Please know that if you speak Spanish, it will be difficult for you to understand their slang pronunciations. A good rule of thumb is that if you hear a ‘jah’ sound this usually indicates they are using it in place of the traditional sound of ‘ya’ or ll in Spanish spelling.