That is what I asked Raj about 10 minutes ago as we sat by the pool enjoying recounting everything that we have already experienced…
So, our flight arrived in Santiago, Chile yesterday (March 10th) at 6:30 AM. We easily got through customs/immigration and hired a taxi to take us to our hotel. As you can imagine, the hotel wouldn’t allow us to check in at 7:30 am, but they were very nice and were willing to hold onto our bags so we could explore for a bit. So, without the opportunity to change or freshen up from our 16 hour journey and red-eye flight, we set out to see what Santiago had to offer. Fortunately, our hotel was centrally located and we easily stumbled toward the most obvious of Santiago’s tourist destinations, Parque Metropolitano. Since we arrived there before 9 am, and the Funicula (a tram that takes you up/down the steep hill) didn’t open until 10 am, we ventured out on the one hour hike up the very steep hill (I was not wearing the appropriate shoes or attire for this, and poor Raj was still carrying his heavy backpack with our Netbook and everything else he had carried onto the plane). The beginning of the path was not clearly marked and we initially took a wrong turn. During this short walk going the wrong way, we were enthusiastically greeted by two stray dogs, who seemed insistent upon escorting wherever we went. One of them, stayed by our side when we realized we needed to back track.
This sweet little girl (picture attached)
guided us all the way to the top of the hill, and an hour later, plopped down beside us at the steps of the statue and took a little nap as we sat, rested and took in the view. We named her Mira (because she was so excited to be showing us “her hill” and seemed to constantly be saying “look!”). She stayed by our side until we took the Funicula down the hill (my feet were starting to blister in my inappropriate shoes and couldn’t bear to walk back down). We wandered back toward our hotel around 11:30 am, and were very lucky and relieved to find that they had a room ready for us (3 hours early!). So, we took much needed showers and a very nice long nap until about 4pm. We woke up hungry but unwilling to eat a large meal because we wanted to explore the nightlife. So, we strolled down the street in the opposite direction as in the morning and quickly came across a little cafe. Our waitress did not speak any English, and my Spanish is very limited (generous), but she was incredibly patient and we eventually ended up with an interesting and yummy sandwich to share and two beers.
A few hours later we walked to the Buena Vista district (known to be more Bohemian and young and randomly chose a lovely restaurant for our first dinner. By now it was after 10 pm, as we had read that the nightlife doesn’t begin until around 9:30. However, we found that the nightlife consisted of drinking on patios and the restaurant was actually empty except for 2 other tables. We had two waiters, but neither spoke any English. They were slightly less patient with our lack of Spanish than the waitress earlier, but mostly nice and our food and bottle of wine was not only delicious, but cheap! It was definitely worth suffering through awkward ordering!
First impressions of Santiago: an energetic city, very pedestrian friendly (sidewalks were wider than the street), friendly and helpful people, clean roads, but surprisingly bad air pollution, stray dogs everywhere, but seemingly well fed. Second impression: not enough going on to stay more than one night.
We had only reserved one night in the hotel in Santiago, but we have a flight out of Santiago to Puerto Montt on Friday, so we decided to take a couple of days to explore the Chilean wine country. Although there are a few wineries that can be visited as day trips, we wanted to get a bit farther away from the typical tourist locations. We got a solid suggestion to check out the Santa Cruz in the Colchagua Valley. So, this morning I called a B&B highly recommended on TripAdvisor and booked us 2 nights. Then the fun began because Santa Cruz is about 3 hours south of Santiago. Short notice transportation was a very expensive option, so the hotel assisted us in renting a car (they brought it right to our hotel). Now, for those of you who know the story about my parents driving through England, I have to say that for the first 20 minutes of our road adventure, I imagined titling this blog, “Bloody hell, give way!!!” But honestly, once we found our way to the main highway, the drive was incredibly pleasant and was a great opportunity to see more of the Chilean lifestyle and scenery as we drove through tiny towns and through valleys, corn fields and wine orchards. We arrived at our 6 bedroom B&B much earlier than we expected and were greeted by a helpful staff who im
mediately made us a reservation at a nearby winery called Lapostolle (voted Best Winery in the World by Wine Spectator Magazine last year). We really enjoyed the tour of the modern facilities and the detailed information about their production (like they are the only winery in Chile to hand separate the grape from the vine, and the owner lives in France and also owns Grand Marnier – she only visits here about 4 times a year). The wines we tried were good but not good enough for to buy any and lug around… or even to drink tonight really – we’d prefer to sample something new. As soon as we got back to the hotel, we rested by the pool in the sun and shared a sandwich as we realized we had missed lunch altogether…again. We also arranged for tomorrow’s adventure, which will include a full day of wine tours (3 wineries) and wine tasting, but with a twist – we get to do almost all of it on horseback! Woohoo! Apparently, not too many visitors are brave enough for this so we don’t have any feedback on what to expect – we’ll get back with you on that. The guide was very pleased to learn we have horseback riding boots with us though. And we are happy to have another day to use them so that hopefully we won’t resent the extra weight they add to our bags 😦
Anyway, we are having so much fun already. We’ve had a perfect balance of exploring, relaxing and adventure. We feel like time is moving very slowly for now; it feels like we have been here several days. It is very hard to believe we have been here only one night! We will try to post another update on Friday because we leave for our week-long horseback trip in Patagonia on Saturday and won’t be posting anything until we get back.