Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

The Most Beautiful Place on Earth

Dateline: 7:36 pm January 31, 2018 Filed under:

“This is the most beautiful place on earth.

“There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment, high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio or Rome-there’s no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment. Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of interstellar space.” – Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Allow me to add the city of Santiago, Chile to Edward Abbey’s list from his wonderful opening lines of Desert Solitaire. Cactus Ed, of course, is talking about the area around Moab, Utah, reflecting on his first morning looking out over the canyonlands, the slick rock desert, the burnt cliffs and red dust and lonely sky he saw, sitting with a cup of coffee watching the sun rise. As I sat on the little patio of our apartment on that first morning in Santiago last month, those words immediately came to mind: this is the most beautiful place on earth.

The most beautiful place on earth – Santiago, Chile

There is much to like about Santiago, and our arrival the previous day was a bit of a tell. Having traveled via Houston and Lima, we were a bit haggard. But as our family stepped out in to the evening’s blue hour following a wonderful meal, the streets were alive with people out strolling, sitting at sidewalk cafes, and enjoying the evening. We returned to our 10th floor apartment overlooking the skyline and nearby park, Cerro Santa Lucia, to watch the sunset from our patio. I was immediately hooked on the serenity of the view. The following morning, well-rested, cup of instant coffee in hand, I returned to the patio to watch the city come to life.

Blue hour on Jose Victorino Lastarria, Santiago de Chile

As Edward Abbey writes, that most beautiful place could be anywhere, and sure enough, I awoke early on many days on vacation in Chile and his words echoed in my head. The sunrise over the coastal range as I stood on the verandah with a cup of coffee and looked out across Valparaiso Bay is one I won’t soon forget. Hell, the sunrise in thick fog was just as wonderful. Perhaps the novelty of a new place heightens the senses, makes you want to get out of bed! However, I don’t buy that. Everywhere you go has the potential to be that place. It can even be your own home, and sure enough, I occasionally have that feeling when I awake to the subtle beauty of a midwestern morning.

Sunrise over Valparaiso Bay

It’s a blessing to travel and see beauty from a new perspective, and make no mistake, I milked that time in Santiago. We spent two nights there at the beginning of our trip and one at the end, and most of my time in the apartment was spent on that balcony, both at sunrise and sunset.

A final sunset in Santiago

The final bittersweet sunset was presented to us on our last night there. Having enjoyed our last dinner after three weeks in Chile, and by stroke of crazy luck watching the Pope’s motorcade pass by, we returned to our apartment and I to the balcony with a Patagonia Calafate to watch the evening roll in. Not quite velvety smog, and the alley wasn’t too greasy, as Edward Abbey describes some cities, but for a few days Santiago (and Valparaiso, and Valdivia, and Puerto Natales, and the Elqui Valley!) was the most beautiful place on earth.

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