For singers, their song would be "Amazing grace…how sweet the sound".
For travelers, their song would be "Amazing place...how sweet the town."
Since I am an inveterate traveler, I will sing you my song. So here I go…with my amazing places…some of the sweetest towns in South America.
LIMA, PERU: Peru's capital city, founded by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in 1535, has a population approaching 9-million.
Plaza Mayor, also known as Plaza de Armas, is center-pieced by an impressive bronze fountain (circa 1651) and surrounded by the Government Palace, Archbishop's Palace of Lima, the Municipal Palace, the Palace of the Union, and the Cathedral of Lima.
Lima reflects the majority of the immense wealth of Peru. Orient Express Hotel's fabulous Miraflores Park Hotel, precariously perched on a cliff overhanging the Pacific Ocean, is set in the suburb of Miraflores…one of Lima's most fashionable neighborhoods.
VIEW FROM MIRAFLORES PARK HOTEL
Lima's Indian Market is a short drive Shops and stands offer silver, antiquities and contemporary artworks, by some of Lima's best artists.
Also in Miraflores is Casa Garcia Alvarado, an impressive, 1912 house constructed when Lima's upper class began to move their homes away from downtown Lima to Miraflores. The owners now host private lunches or dinners to small groups of visitors seeking exclusive travel experiences in Peru.
When dining in Lima you must try ceviche, the Peruvian national dish, made from fresh raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice, and spiced with chili peppers, chopped onions, and seasonings. Of course, it must be washed down with a Pisco Sour, the national drink of Peru.
CEVICHE AND A PISCO SOUR…WHAT A PAIR!
SANTIAGO, CHILE: Santiago has become one of the great places to visit in South America. Back-dropped by the majestic Andes Mountains, Chile's capital is a bustling, vibrant metropolis of 6-million people.
In Santiago, Colonial structures abut soaring Tangled electric lines, resembling those seen in third-world countries, are reflected in the facades of sleek glass skyscrapers. Horse-drawn wooden carts click-clack along the same tourist routes as Mercedes limos.
For those whose taste in hotels runs to elegant old-world decor, the Ritz Carlton should be your hotel of choice. If a avant garde lifestyle is your choice, head for the W Hotel. Both hotels are located in the upscale El Golf neighborhood that is resplendent with its displays of street sculptures and decorated park-like benches scattered along the avenues.
Downtown Santiago is the city's center of In the blink of an eye, the historic Plaza de Armas will transport you from Colonial times to the present. The Plaza de Armas is framed by the National History Museum, the Cathedral of Santiago, the main Correos de Chile (Chilean Post Office) and the Presidential Palace. Carbineros (policemen on horseback) sit at attention on well-groomed horses; children jump over silvery rain puddles; and dogs splash in the circular granite fountain.
CARBINEROS ON HORSEBACK IN THE PLAZA DE ARMAS
San Cristobal Hill (Cerro San Cristobal) offers a spectacular view of the city. At the bottom of the hill is the Metropolitan Zoo. You can walk, run, bike, or drive to the hilltop. If those options don't work for you, there are always the telefericos (aerial cable cars) that will zip you up the hill.
ATOP SAN CRISTOBAL HILL
The Central Market (Mercado Central), founded in 1872, is a most popular attraction in Santiago. Evoking the spirit, warmth, and hospitality of Chile, it is surrounded by fish markets and restaurants.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL: "River of January"...like a sensual woman…the mere mention of her name connotes romance and excitement. Before you even arrive you'll feel her anticipatory magic under your skin.
Rio de Janeiro. What remains to be said about a city of fantasy and dreams? "God," say the Brazilians, "made the world in six days. On the seventh he made Rio." Rio is unquestionably one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
APPROACHING RIO (AND SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN) BY SHIP
Exuberant pleasure- loving cariocas will wrap their warmth around you. Exotic siren-like Guanabara Bay, among the most beautiful harbors in the world, will wrap its beaches around you. For cariocas, the native inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro, the beach is their living room. Copacabana...Ipanema...umbrella-studded crescents of sand where beauty meets the beach. Where the bikini swimsuit of the legendary "Garota de Ipanema" ("Girl from Ipanema") was reduced to the string, and the string gave way to a minimalist swimsuit called fila dental (dental floss).
BEAUTY AND THE BEACH
Rio de Janeiro...where one mountain, called Sugar Loaf, res Corcovado (Hunchback), is the jagged lofty perch from which an immense statue of "Cristo Redentor" (Christ the Redeemer) outstretches his arms above the city.
The carioca's Rio is one of the few remaining large, cosmopolitan cities that has managed to hold onto its soul. Its traditional customs, sport, music and festivities have managed to survive in the form of Candomble (the African religion of Bahia); futebol (the sport synonymous with Pele and Maracana Stadium); samba (the pulsating beat in which the music of Brazil reaches its zenith) and Carnaval (the greatest show on earth).
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Hola! Welcome to Buenos Aires (aka B.A.), Argentina's capital city that has been dubbed "The Paris of South America". Literally translated, this city of "good airs" is eclectic and elegant, seductive and sophisticated, formal and informal, brilliant and shabby, lively and laid back.
This captivating port city of some 15-million people is much more than gauchos (cowboys), portenos (fun-loving locals), and slinky black-garbed tango dancers. It is a heterogeneous taste of Europe on an American continent.
TOURIST TRYS A TANGO…IGNORED BY MIME
The legendary Alvear Palace is B.A.'s true palace and undisputed symbol of the Belle Epoque. The hotel's magnificent architecture and its Louis XIV and XVI décor put the Alvear Palace in a class of its own. This jewel in B.A.'s crown enjoys the city's most enviable location in the posh Recoleta neighborhood.
Cementerio del Norte, or Recoleta Cemetery, is the exclusive burial ground where all portenos would like to be interred. The cemetery's most visited tomb is that of Eva Duarte Peron. Evita (Don't cry for me, Argentina) Peron died of cancer in 1952 at age 33.
Plaza de Mayo is the square on which The Mothers of May Square met to mourn the loss of some 10,000 children who disappeared during the bloody military regime in the 1970's. Casa Rosada, the pink government house, stands on the eastern end of the square. Here, too, is the Cabildo (the colonial town hall-turned-museum), the main Bank of Argentina and the Cathedral.
El Obelisco, the towering granite obelisk, the most photographed symbol of Buenos Aires, is the tour bus driver's most joked about landmark. "El Obelisco," they quip, "is Argentina's monument to the suppository."
La Boca, with corrugated tin and wood houses in a riotous splash of color, is the city's most picturesque place. At night, San Telmo metamorphoses into a blazing, brightly lit string of tango bars. However, if you're looking for the city's most sophisticated tango show, head to the Hotel Faena for their Rojo Tango, the dinner show.
LA BOCA IS THE CITY'S MOST PICTURESQUE PLACE
Go see for yourself. Argen-times are good times!
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer, and International Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Mariemont, Ohio. She is the winner of 40 national Travel Writing Awards.